The Manor: “We want to help men speak about their problems.”
An interview with Jon from cult band The Manor about their new Free The Geezer EP and their podcast by the same name which encourages men to open up.
The Manor are the cult band who are beginning to get their overground dues in a Britain which needs as many real voices as it can get. The Beckenham boys are this week releasing a new EP called Free The Geezer which is not just a step forward for their hip hop-garage-house but represents a new maturity lyrically. While the party anthems they are best known for still have a presence there are more bruised and reflective tracks too, as befitting a band who have also recently found a new vehicle in their Free The Geezer podcast. All this freeing geezer stuff comes from a social media call-out in which they asked their fans to share all the un-stereotypically manly stuff they do, which went viral and showed them a new route to explore, both in round table podcast chats, and on record. We caught up with Jon Dutch from the band to find out how it’s all coming together for The Manor.
What’s been going on with The Manor this year?
We had a busy start to the year, we went on tour with The Streets, which was quite an eye opener. Nothing prepares you for 18 dates away with one of your childhood heroes. It was unbelievable and every night the crowds were getting better and better.
Just before we went on tour we made the Free The Geezer EP, and then we’ve been working on the podcast. It’s been really busy and a lot of lessons have been learnt.
How did the podcast come together?
Back last year, Scotty was on holiday in Goa, and when he’s on holiday he likes to do facial and manicures but we didn’t know this. On this holiday he started to broadcast this on our insta-stories, so we started mugging him about it, saying what you playing at? But the more we mugged him off the more support he got from people saying, ‘You know what I like a facial every now and then?’ ‘I’ve gone and got a manicure with my missus’. Me and Dan said, ‘Let’s see how far we can take this, let’s see what people are willing to admit.’ We put a shout out for anyone who wants to admit to anything use the hashtag #freethegeezer and tell us your confessions of what you do that isn’t the regular geezer stuff. And literally for about two days we were inundated with messages from people saying they watched Keeping up with the Kardashians, or Disney princess films, all this stuff. And it got us thinking. We are the archetypal geezers, we do drink too much and we go out too much, and we all do the same things. But we are getting a bit older now and there is this other side of things to us. Personally my missus had just got diagnosed with cancer, and when we started the Free the Geezer EP I was going through that. Dan had some family addiction problems, and Scott was going through a heavy breakup. There was another side that people probably hadn’t seen so we figured the best way of doing this would be to it in the form of an album, because that’s what we do, we make tunes, but also in the form of a podcast, because we are very good at sitting around a table to chat for hours.
We’ve had some amazing guests and the feedback from it has been unbelievable. People who are like us, which I think a lot of our fans are, say it’s good to hear us talking about problems. They’d rather hear it from us, it makes it feel alright for them to say I’ve been going through something quite difficult as well. For a lot of people it’s been cathartic and it’s cathartic for us too.
As a bloke, it’s difficult to say when you’re hurting, so to see other men dealing with it is pretty valuable.
Oh yeah 100%, and its been helpful. It’s been a difficult 6 months for me and half of the reasons we decided to make the records that we did was because I wasn’t in a headspace to write music about partying. I needed to write something a bit more reflective. On the Free The Geezer EP there are still uplifting tracks but there’s a lot deeper and more mature songs on that subject matter.
There’s a transition period after your twenties, life happens and people have problems. Dealing with it in the explicit and upfront way that you do seems like a really important shift.
Me and Dan have been writing music since we were kids, but its always been a form of release, to be expressing something. Writing lyrics, writing verses, has always been the way for us to get stuff off our chest. In our twenties we did have a lot of fun. Dan always said to write a good song he always has to have a good night out. I remember one time he said to write a couple of songs he needed to go to Ibiza. I said you can’t have it where every time you have to write a song you have to go to Ibiza! But it works the other way. What we’ve learnt growing up as men is that you can also talk about not so great things. And that can be therapeutic, to talk about those things and get in the studio to get them off your chest.
There’s one track called The Lottery which deals exactly with the ups and downs we’ve had since being signed 3 years ago by Warners, then getting dropped, then getting another deal, and the ups and downs we’ve had as men, going through money problems and everything else.
Do you feel like this honesty has opened up a new door for you?
Yeah but since we started the whole point of our music has been to be genuine. If we’re going to tell you the story of a night out, it’s going to be warts and all. We’re going to tell you the story of a relationship we’re not going to dress it up and sugar coat it. You’re going to get the real facts. You’ll hear about Dan putting Guinness on cornflakes because he ran out of milk. So I think really this is just a continuation of that.
The podcast has a great feel to it, you’ve all got beers, its not cold group therapy…
Yeah what we had which helped was we asked our fans to share issues that they’ve had. Like domestic abuse even. A guy wrote in saying he was getting beat up by his girlfriend and how could he deal with that? Luckily when we sere sitting down with the producers and working out how we were going to do the podcast, I felt like we needed to give it a bit of context and it’d be good to have an expert to help us to understand and give more advice. So we have a psychiatrist Dr Gareth Thomas in, we call him Dr G on the show, and whenever we stumble o something that’s a little bit sticky, we ask him. We learn a lot in each episode and we learn a lot about each other.
When you’re a group of mates together, with all the piss taking, it can be hard to handle a point where it’s suddenly becomes serious.
There was one episode of the podcast where we were talking about men losing their hair, and Scott was really quiet for a lot of it. We know he thinks about that a lot, he’s got this receding hairline. We realised we deal with a lot of our issues by taking the piss but at certain times you need to use your intellect to go, this is an area he’s sensitive about so we should deal with it in another way.
Has it shifted the relationship you have with each other?
I guess so. We’re still geezers and we are going to do what we’ve always done, but we now feel if there’s a serous problem that we would be there for each other. And I hope this podcast encourages all men like us to. I’m not going to say stop mugging off your mate entirely because that wouldn’t be genuine and not authentic to who you are, but hopefully it means some people will sit down and have a proper chat every now and gain. ‘Them lot are, so why can’t we, as mates?’
Do you think things are changing for men from all walks of life?
100%. I genuinely do. In the last few years there has been a change. It’s a necessity: anxiety and depression has become an epidemic amongst men our age and younger, and there’s some really serious repercussions from that. But it’s come to the forefront and now people know that they need to talk. There isn’t any room for the strong silent man who deals with all his issues himself and buries them. The effects are there for everyone to see. I feel its definitely at the stage where men feel more comfortable revealing their thoughts and feelings.
When you first started out what were you influenced by?
We had so many influences. When we first started The Streets were massive, but me and Dan grew up on indie music which really comes out on the next stuff we’re releasing, which is more indie sounding. But when we first started we were a hip hop band, we rapped over classic old school American production, and then we started going out to Ibiza, get into more house, and the music got more uptempo.
We found our sound somewhere between hip hop, garage and a bit of dancehall and jungle. A mixture of our local manor and our journey so far.
What else can you tell us about the new EP?
Free The Geezer is 7 tracks. It’s got uplifting tracks, a big summer party single similar to Ibiza but we also have one song about addiction on there, a song about a really bad day, an on old school garage beat which is my personal favourite – its called ‘Only Fools and Horses’. It has something for everyone. It’s the most we’ve evolved from one project to another, and it’s the one we’re most proud o,f until our album which is out later in the year.
It seems to be all coming together for you nicely…
Yeah it does. We’ve been doing it for a few years and it’s mad because we don’t usually have a plan. At the start of the year we figured out we had all this music that we were sitting on, and we’re in a position where we could put an album out now, but instead we wanted to be patient. We have a strong plan for next 6 months towards the album. Theres a bit of organisation which isn’t something you could always say about The Manor.
In times of doom and gloom people do look to music for some strong voices.
I remember years ago a kid came up to us at a concert for our fake retirement in 2014 – don’t ask – but a kid came up to us and he was like, ‘Me and my mum got evicted from our house, we’ve had a really rough 6 months, but your music’s got me through it.’ Because we’re real, people have a deeper connection to our music, they feel as though we’ve been talking to them with our songs for the last 10 years. But I think if you have an opinion on thing and you make music for the masses you should share that.
It’s like with Dave – you have a responsibility, because this is your form of expression. Maybe for some people it’s writing an article or phoning up Talksport to express their opinion, but our way is through music. So I feel like you have a responsibility, if you sit there and talk about Brexit and modern Britain, to bring that into music. In one podcast we had Paul Canoville, the first black player for Chelsea and he talked about the racism he faced, which was in the context of what Raheem Sterling was going through at the time. A lot of our fans go to football every week so it’s important for them to hear our anti-racism stance, and our approach to it, to understand it’s not ok to be casually racist. I think it’s important for an artist to express your opinion.
What the big goal in your head for The Manor?
Our own headline show at Brixton Academy but the most important thing is to be releasing a body of work that lasts, that is iconic. I want to release a classic album, that is my sole purpose as a musician. That’s what I’ll be working on for the foreseeable future. And as important is to carry on helping men to speak about their problems. To take stigma away from men and women. If we can have some sort of legacy there, that would be a great achievement.
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