The guys from Like Leaves quite possibly have to be the warmest and most genuine local musos I've ever had the pleasure to meet. I don't say this lightly - I see a lot of people who often put up with the superficial front of paying lip service to them by bands. Many of these are people are only solely involved in the shameless self-promotion. Many of these people are assholes of the worst calibre. There ain't any sincerity, or passion - ya understand? Like Leaves deserve all the trimmings that come with success; but they're just that little bit too left of centre (supporting bands and individuals as diverse as Tame Impala and Damo Suzuki) for overall acceptance. Writing this now, I'm not sure if they'll ever be more than our little secret. But that's kinda awesome too. The psychedelic rock parallels to W&C are undeniable sonically, but LL haven't sold themselves down the river just yet.
One of those extraordinary gents to I spoke was Like Leaves' Ryan Manolakis about the future of the group, an M.I.A Mr. Wednesday album and some particularly insane multitasking.
Name: Ryan Manolakis
Record out: Released- Mr. Wednesday ‘In The Garden Where Parties Grow’, The Mandala Project split EP w/ Full blood Commandos, Cookie Baker ‘Gala Day’, Spine ‘The Sound Before The Symbol’. Upcoming- Like Leaves debut full length is due around November/December and Mr. Wednesday’s second album ‘So Happy Yet So Out Of Breath’ will be digitally released before the year is out.
On repeat: The Beatles ‘Rain’, need I say more?
Anything else we should be into: I bought an electric blanket for my bed recently, no regrets.
Best song you’ve got: ‘Mercy Sound’. A Like Leaves song with Juliet on lead vocals, I love the way it goes from this minimal folk guitar tune and builds into this groove heavy chaotic psych jam. It is a very fun song to play on my part because of all the dynamic changes.
Ryan, you're known around town as a talented drummer who has played in a variety of experimental, post-rock and folk influenced outfits. Are you the first guy people go to in the phonebook? It's an impressive work load.
Drumming is something that I can never get enough of. I’m always looking for something different to do whether it’s a new drumming style/technique or playing for an act that is thriving to step out of the box. I teach drums 2 days a week and on the other 5 days I play music. I am first guy to go to in the phonebook? Yes, if I was Mitch Mitchell but I’m not.
You were a pivotal part of Mr. Wednesday (and the previous collective known as the Mandala Project). How did the creative process differ from that to your current band, Like Leaves?
All 3 bands have a completely different approach to the way they go about creating music. The Mandala Project was a band that would just completely improvise whenever we played together, so the nature of the music would come out according to the moods that we were in at the time. It was always exciting going to a Mandala gig because you would never know how it was going to fold out. I recall one gig where a member of the band did a percussion solo with an angle grinder on a steel stool frame. The whole front row the audience instantly cleared out because they were getting hit in the face by the sparks flying towards them.
Mr. Wednesday was (or is) a concept band that would create sounds according to the story they were telling. An example of the bands inspiration was Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’. So every note that was played was to enhance the mood that we were creating. Our lead singer Moon would write a lot poems, lyrics and scripts and would present them to the rest of the band and it would be up to the rest of the band to create the soundtrack. On some rare occasions the process was reversed.
Like Leaves has always been a process of sharing different musical ideas and working on them together as a band. On some occasions a member might have a whole arrangement prepared or the band would get together just to jam and sometimes ideas will form from those jams. Our tracks tend to have a set structure with areas to improvise within. To get back into the section will consist of either a member initiating a sound to mould into the next part or it’s the token wide-eyed musician’s nod.
Like Leaves brings together a collection of very like minded musicians. How did you all begin working together; and what was the aim?
I met Dan [Varricchio -vocalist/guitarist] 5 years ago at a Mr. Wednesday show and from there we started to jam together once every few months over 2 years. We then agreed that a 3rd member was evident and that’s when Pat [Saracino - vocalist/guitarist/bassist] came in and from there the musical ideas started to come out. The other 3 members of the band live under the same roof and Juliet [Hunter - violinist/vocalist] was usually home at the time of our practices as a 3 piece. There was one rehearsal where we were working on a song called ‘Falling For A Fleeting Moment’ and Dan felt that the track needed some female vocals and as they say the rest is history. Juliet joining was the band’s icing on the cake. From the beginning we all just wanted to do something musically that we hadn’t done before.
When is the debut Like Leaves album coming out? It seems like it's been forever.
Yes this is very true. The recording process has taken much longer than expected unfortunately with obstructions coming from all directions but now things are moving along nicely. The album will be mixed and mastered before the month is out and will be due to be released around October/November. I’m itching for people to hear it. It's sounding incredible already.
You've played with (and supported) a variety of artists. Who is in your personal opinion the most compelling and favourite band you've played with, and who would you like to work/play with in the future?
When Bjork was last in the country back in early 2008 Like Leaves supported her drummer Chris Corsano who played a solo show the night before the BDO. Chris is deemed as one of the best free-jazz/experimental drummers in the world and at the time I wasn’t very familiar with his work and just assumed that it was just going to be slugging drum fest. By the time his set was over every member of audience was completely in awe. Working with someone like Chris or a musician in a similar ball park would blow my mind. I guess I can dream the dream.
Like Leaves have a strong relationship with another Adelaide export, Wolf & Cub. Brothers in arms, or mutual appreciation of each others music?
Both. Our former bands (Artax Mission, Headress Of Neon Flames and Mr. Wednesday) had a lot of association with Wolf & Cub back in the earlier days. Also Dan, Pat and Juliet have been within Wolf & Cub’s circle of friends since the beginning. As for myself, I was a usual gig attendee who would get upset if I miss out on a show of theirs. When it comes down to it both Like Leaves and Wolf & Cub are inspired by similar music and that what brings the two bands together.
We were talking the other night about the future of intelligent music in the face of mediocrity. Do you think that more and more local bands try to 'dumb it down' to get that all important Transmission gig?
Yes definitely, the market for it is huge so therefore there are lots of opportunities for success. I know musician friends who have had little to no success with their ‘serious’ bands and then decide to start an indie/dance/electro project just for laughs and to be put on high rotation Triple J within weeks.
You gig around the traps all the time.Tell us about a local band that deserve more recognition than they're currently getting.
I would have to say Diplomat. They have been around for years and are still one of the hardest rocking bands in Adelaide. It shocks me they haven’t got more attention.
What's up next for Like Leaves?
An album release before the year is out followed by some interstate touring. A possible 12” vinyl pressing and depending on how things go, some overseas travels (fingers crossed).