I had the greatest pleasure chatting with Holden Fincher, frontman of the indie-rock band Mansell. For those of you who are late to the Mansell-train, the newly-founded indie outfit has found some quick and sudden success as their first single “A Love Immodest” shot up to #7 on Hype Machine’s most tweeted tracks. But are you really be surprised? Ghostly minimalistic instrumentals set to the vibrantly painted imagery of Fincher’s lyrics makes for a series of instantaneous, pupil-dilating earworms- a compilation that they’ve called their Mantra EP.
Holden and I touched base on Fincher’s personal background in music, some aspects of their upcoming EP, and a closer look at the words that he so vividly paints.
Ouch That Hertz!: Hey, Holden! So, firstly, tell me a bit about yourself!
Holden: Hey! I’m Holden, and I’m a part of the group, Mansell.
OTH!: So, how did you get your start in music? What was it that made you decide that you needed to pick up a guitar and sing in a band?
Holden: I was always an expressionist and needed to be creating something when I was younger, with my nose in books or outside in my own world. That still holds truth today. But, I grew up with artists and musicians as parents who really nourished that, so as I evolved as a person, music was a very natural thing to fall in love with and use to express and expand upon myself. And I was actually a bassist initially. I only started singing and playing guitar as a way to write songs.
OTH!: Out of curiosity, are you studying music at a college/university? Or did you graduate from high school and hit the ground running with Mansell (and, if so, do you regret not studying at a university)?
Holden: No, none of us are attending school as of right now. We just don’t have the time at the moment. Knowledge is secondary to very few things, but where we are right now has allowed us to attain that and grow while achieving contentment as well, so there’s no regret. School will always be there.
OTH!: You’re 19 years old. Do you find that there are any specific hardships in being a relatively young (and independent) frontman and songwriter?
Holden: I think those are both only as big of a problem as you make it to be honest. The only thing that I could maybe say is difficult to being young and an artist is people attempting to demean your words or creations based on the lack of life you’ve lived. Assuming that you cannot feel in the depths that one does because your path isn’t as long as another’s. But every path is different, and all people grow in different paces and ways so there’s no way to truly measure someone’s understanding of themselves and of life by their age unless you, yourself are close minded enough to categorize people in that way. Granted, life only reveals more as time goes on, and there is a lot of wisdom in that, but that should not mean you turn to younger generations and belittle their own journey in comparison.
And the whole independent thing is something Trent, Gray, and I enjoy as it allows a lot more control of every outlet, both on the business and art side of things. There’s a purity there that’s enjoyable. But if there’s ever a time in life where it gets too big to manage, I would have no problem handing off the business aspect to others in order to keep that purity on the artistic side. That’s everything.
OTH!: So, I noticed on Mansell’s Facebook bio that all three of you came together in 2014 after spending time in “many different genres in the Atlanta [music] scene that [you] grew up in.” Can you give me some background on the formation of Mansell, where you all came from (musically), and what you all musically bring to in Mansell’s writing?
Holden: Mansell came together at that time, but we had been playing together for some years before that. We all grew up individually listening to very different things from motown to ska, and we all sort of met during the beginning of those angst years playing Blink covers, moshing to hardcore and hanging in that scene, like how I feel every teenage band does at some point. But even then, we were listening to anything under the sun, in love with everything. All of that later accumulated to us wishing to create music as a form of pure expression or a journal entry, rather than a form of energy or an intentional regurgitation of our favorite sounds, which is where Mansell began. We still listen to everything under the sun though, from Elvis Costello to Jane’s Addiction to Solange, which I think absolutely plays a role in how we create.
OTH!: Let’s delve into your upcoming EP Mantra. I’ve noticed an instrumental theme of minimalism and lo-fi elements that bear some resemblance of late ‘70s/early ‘80s recording styles. What drove you to take this stylistically minimalist approach to this EP?
Holden: I think that it accents the human quality of it all. It leaves the pulse more present. You hear me switch the pickups on my guitar, and chairs squeaking while we are tracking. There’s a few particular albums from that period that the 3 of us admire in their production, and felt that it fit this collection of songs and who we were while making them, as well as creating a good foundation to build off of and grow from.
OTH!: I’m curious, what’s the significance of the street traffic in “Walking On Bank Street?” What’s the idea behind that?
Holden: Its audio from us walking to lunch on Bank Street, where we were recording the album. Again, just capturing that period of time for us. It starts and ends the record to create a constant flow of work.
What is insane is Trent actually ended up getting hit by a car while walking. It didn’t make the album, but we were freaking and then ended up hysterically laughing when we knew he was alright.
OTH!: I’m really fascinated with your single “A Love Immodest.” Not only did it hit #7 on the Hype Machine’s Most Tweeted tracks (congratulations, by the way), but it also takes this really introspective glance into the dual romanticism of “single-life” and “true love.” Is this topic and/or this approach to lyricism something that listeners can expect to see furthered in your future discography?
Holden: Thank you very much! We are very grateful for that. As far as lyricism goes, it’s really just following brain waves on the given subject, so I believe that will stay consistent, as it followed the natural process of how I write.
The subjects of that song have been of human interest for lifetimes. It’s nothing new, and since I was kid, I’ve always had this thing with observing relational dynamics (both romantic and not), and people’s intention and interaction with one another. Because of that, and the fact that I think relationships are pivotal to human way, I would assume that will always be present in our work, in various forms and aspects.
OTH!: I think what I appreciate most out of your lyrical writing is the disjointed, surreal-ist images that your words produce in my mind. They become especially amplified once they’re juxtaposed with this jangly, spacey instrumentation. There’s a line in particular in “A Note 2 Myself” that visually stands out to me:
“Fools are lost behind the sound
Of changing seasons between then and now
Shed a hollow voice in hopes to find
Depth of clarity hemmed in the silver line.”
Do you mind speaking further on this particular segment and giving me a bit more depth and insight to your words?
Holden: Well first, that is a beautiful compliment and I can’t thank you enough for spending time reading into the songs.
That whole song is a discussion on daydreaming. The front half of it being light hearted, talking about the act of me being in my head all the time. The irony of that song is that I’m talking to myself about the act of talking to myself and letting my mind run from reality. A self-dialogue about self-dialogue.
That particular line was written in the midst of this transitional period of life both internally and in the external world personal to me. Societal discussion plagued by tabloids and everyday neighborhood gossip were drowned out by me feeling overly immersed and lost in thoughts and trying to find myself and some sort of clarity in the midst of my world, loves, and contentment expanding and changing.
OTH!: Taking that last question a little bit further, have you ever found yourself caught up in a particular line that you wrote? If so, what are they?
Holden: I think our words are incredibly important, and also incredibly abused, which is why I ramble and stutter on them so often. I get stuck and caught up constantly. There’s so much to say and there’s so much to pack in them. I wish to utilize them to the fullest, although I know I often don’t. I spend a lot time on lyrics as it’s a form of therapy but also to best describe what I have such trouble discussing in any other outlet.
All of the lyrics to our song “Age” took the most out of me to complete. It’s the most cryptic and contrastly also the most personal song on Mantra. Everything is very intentionally worded and delivered. It’s talking about the motions of emotions and thought while going through some catalyst moments in my life.
OTH!: Your EP Mantra releases on November 11th . Can we expect any music videos at all? What about a tour in support of the release?
Holden: We will be playing some random shows around the southeast U.S. following the release of album. We’ve taken a break for awhile focusing on finishing up aspects of Mantra, so we are ready to get back to the live setting. As far as a music video goes, we are in the middle of that discussion. Grayson is very talented with film and cinematography in his own projects. We are all very passionate about that form of art, and have close friends in that field who feel the same that we’d love to collaborate with. It just has to be the right thing and properly convey us or the aura of the song/album for it to be our first video. Not just another visually stimulating video with no meaning.
OTH!: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Holden! Before I let you go, is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Holden: Thank you so much for taking valuable time and spending it on our work. That thank you also lends itself to anyone else who does the same.