20 Questions: Mansions

Photo: Sarah Cass

The '90s-loving alt-rock of Mansions is quite timely in 2013, what with the ongoing success of Popstrangers and Yuck. Yet Mansions have their own vibe, and in sitting down with PopMatters, they tell us about their academic approach to album listening and their open drink invite to Bill Clinton ...

Doom Loop

Band: Mansions
Label: Clifton Motel
US Release Date: 2013-11-12

It's hard to believe that you haven't heard of Mansions yet.

The brainchild of Christopher Browder, the very '90s-indebted alt-rock sound of Mansions is quite a sound to behold. Recorded in apartments and the his parents' basement (moreso the early years than now), Mansions sound has evolved from the early lo-fi thump of his EPs to his meatier full-band dynamic sound now, moving from focused indie pop to the full-on rock conquest that he's been on, but boy howdy does his third album, Doom Loop, pack a wallop. The album is filled with hooks, has a very strong '90s alt-rock bent, but with the vulgar shout-along chorus to the immensely catchy "Two Suits" in tow, it's obvious that Browder is a unique entity in the pop landscape, and, for lack of a better term, just one hell of a songwriter.

Although the band has had good amounts of acclaim (and a wildly dynamic amount of touring partners ranging from Taking Back Sunday to Hellogoodbye), Doom Loop is very much poised to be the band's breakthrough. To help celebrate the album's release, Browder sat down to answer PopMatters' 20 Questions, and here reveals which Mad Men character he's most like, his academic approach to album listening, and his open drink invite to Bill Clinton ...

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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Blackfish was very very very sad. Now whenever someone waves at me a little longer than expected I get stressed out like I'm about to be eaten.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Whenever I'm not liking myself I feel like Pete Cambell from Mad Men -- just a little bitch who needs to relax. If I'm feeling more positive then it's probably Doug Funnie. Everybody loves Doug Funnie.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Pinkerton by Weezer. Others have tried, but I don't think that one can ever get beat. The songs and production and flawless. That might be becoming a cliché, but whatever it's true.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars easily. Trek never did it for me, but I definitely grew up acting out Star Wars scenes and playing with light sabers.

5. Your ideal brain food?

I like listening to albums I really enjoy and studying them almost academically, trying to spot the secret to the magic trick. Even if there is no real secret, there's usually something in there to get me in the mood to create.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I'm proud of writing and releasing songs because so many people are deathly afraid of doing something that opens them up to criticism. I share that fear, but I'm proud of my attempts to overcome it and contribute something to the world, however small it may be.

7. You want to be remembered for ...?

I want to be remembered for being genuine, both through the band and personally. I want the things I do to mean something to me, and I want that to show in my actions. Even the people who might hate our music, I want them to say "It sucks but at least they're doing it for the right reasons and they mean it."

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Ryan Adams was very formative for me as I got serious about writing songs and performing. Even as he tried on different hats to see what fit best, he was always very much himself, and that -- along with his songwriting, duh -- really inspired me. He taught me that creatively, you should always just do what you want and trust that eventually everyone else will catch up with you.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

The TV show Lost. It would be so cool if I had made that, although I think I would've tried to improve the ending. Dharma for life.

10. Your hidden talents . . .?

Certain types of sports video games I'm unbeatable at, and I'm generally pretty good at picking things up and getting to be reasonably OK at them. I rarely master anything, but I'm alright at a lot of things. Which helps make up for the millions of things I am terrible at.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Hard work is its own reward. I don't know if anyone ever explicitly told me that, but I've seen it demonstrated by everyone I respect. In pretty much every aspect of life, effort seems to matter more than anything: talent, luck, or even results. I just wanna work hard and be around people who want to work hard too. The rest is incidental.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

In the early 2000s, Pro Tools had a free version you could download. It had a ton of limitations, and functioned more like an 8-track tape machine than the full fledged Pro Tools or Logic of today, but the basic functionality was there. I learned to record on that, and at experience shaped the way that I write and record songs today. I seriously doubt there would be Mansions if it wasn't for that.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

Adidas track pants and a Seahawks sweatshirt.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Bill Clinton. My memories of him are mostly from being a kid and now his post-presidential life, but what a fucking weird life he's had. I'm sure he'd have some stories and a unique perspective on the world right now, plus he probably enjoys a good cocktail.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

2035. Not so far in the future that things are alienating, but far enough to get your mind blown by all the cool shit. Probably my neighborhood in Seattle, so I'd have some point of reference.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Vacation, all I ever wanted. Please just figure out my meals for me and I will be happy.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

I just (mostly) gave up coffee, but gin has been with me for a while and has never let me down. That and bread, likea. Great dinner roll. Give me gin and a bread basket forever.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

I like to live in a city but love to visit the country. Especially on tour, the stress of constant cities can be awful. But then you get those late night drives in the middle of nowhere and you'd an actually see the stars, and it can be quite incredible. My south has the smells I know and love, but I don't think anywhere beats the Pacific Northwest for natural beauty.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Communicate better. It's important for people to know the "why," even if it seems unnecessary.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

We're mostly just gearing up for the release of Doom Loop and to get back on tour. I'm always tinkering with song ideas but the well is pretty dry these days. I'll keep at it and hopefully more songs will someday materialize, but for now we focus on these ones that are still new to everyone but us.


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