ATWN Interviews: Arlo Aldo’s Dave Manchester
Alt-folk. Alt-country. The new Americana. Some of my favorite recent music finds have been dancing around somewhere between those labels. Neko Case, The Avett Brothers, The Low Anthem, and The Lumineers to just name a few.
A new discovery is Arlo Aldo hailing out of Pittsburgh. We were lucky enough to get in touch with David Manchester to get to know a little about the band and to catch up on books and music.
Arlo Aldo’s album, Zelie, was released this past February and you can buy it (and give it a listen) right HERE.
First things first, tell our readers a little bit about Arlo Aldo. I’m certainly getting a taste of the new Americana upon listening to Zelie.
Well… we’re a down-tempo, melodious, extremely attractive, intelligent, and modest band based out of Pittsburgh, PA. We like long walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, and can easily be bribed with bottles of good whiskey.
Give me a book that lines up well with the themes/stories that you’re speaking to in Zelie.
That’s a great question. I don’t’ know if I can come up with just one book. Perhaps “Welcome to the Monkey House” by Kurt Vonnegut? Our songs cover so many different themes involving love, loss, growth, birth, hope, and a man walking across a high wire in New York City. I feel like Vonnegut’s collection of short stories does the same?
Let’s get right to the nitty-gritty, if we are snooping around your house (or tour van) and start to peek at the books you have lying around, what are we going to find?
I’ll be honest, you’d be way better off snooping in our drummer, Brandon’s, house. He’s way more literary and is a writer himself. I’m terrible at reading. It’s one of those things I wish I had more diligence for. I love Haruki Murakami and have read almost all of his books. I went through a Nick Hornby phase, Tom Robbins was a popular one on my night stand, too. My largest collection, though, would be by Joeph Loeb and Tim Sale. They collaborated on several Batman graphic novels. Yup… I’m a comic nerd.
Haruki Murakami, hands down. His depiction of depression in Norwegian Wood was one of the most accurate and beautiful things I’ve ever read. Havingstruggled with depression myself, it seemed to reflect my own experience amazingly. I’d really hope that he would bring his ability to capture emotion and a person’s internal struggle. Those are pretty universal themes throughout a lot of my songwriting.
As aspiring writers, our readers are always looking for people to commiserate with through the struggles of telling stories. Can you give us some insight into your writing process and then how does that eventually translate into a finished song?
Writing lyrics has always been a source of pride for me. Probably because I can’t write anything else worth a damn. My poetry is abysmal, and I don’t think I could even comprehend what it would take to write an actual story. As for my lyrical process, though, I usually start with singing along to whatever chord pattern I’m fiddling with. I find the notes themselves help guide me as to what the theme of the song will be. Once I get an idea of my subject, I just sing. I see what comes out, what feels right, and then when something seems to click, I frantically search for any kind of scrap to write my ideas on. After I have a first draft, I give it a day or two and then look at what I’ve written. That’s when I really start to think about what I’m trying to say. What words are better suited? What sounds more intelligent, less obvious? Is there a better way to say what I’m trying to convey to the listener? That’s when things really get flushed out and perfected. Sometimes this happens quickly. Other times, the process leads me to realize that it’s just a bad song.
What are some of your struggles as a songwriter?
I’m constantly afraid I’ll run out of songs. I’ll run out of chord patterns, transition, and nothing original will come out anymore. I’m worried about my lyrics being trite and obvious. But I think those are normal concerns with anyone involved in any kind of creative endeavor.
For our readers who are working on writing books for younger readers, what is a book that really stands out for you from your childhood?
Honesty time… I was a horrendous reader growing up. I was “that guy” that was too lazy to even read the Cliff Notes and just fudged my way through tests in junior high and high school. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to suck it up and read. He’d be better off for it.
What was the last book that you bought?
Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. I’m a stay at home dad, so my reading priorities have shifted a bit.
Who is an author that you find yourself consistently going back to?
Haruki Murakami, hands down. For some reason, his style and quirkiness just appeals to me.
What do you think that aspiring writers can learn from musicians such as yourself/yourselves? And, to piggy-back on that idea, what do you think that musicians can take from writers?
What can writers learn from me? Hmm… Do it because you love it. Don’t worry about how many people have read your piece or how many places you’ve been published. If you enjoy writing, write. Don’t’ take yourself so seriously and don’t necessarily be too focused on the end goal. I’m on my 6th album and have yet to receive my phone call from Sub Pop, but playing and writing music is too much fun, and too much of a passion for me to stop just because I haven’t hit the “big time.” As far as what I can learn from writers, that’s easy. Read more. Learn from other people’s writing and experiences. I’ve been trying to do that more with my song writing, but I believe that there is so much more out there that I can glean, and I respect writers that can really get into someone else’s head to create a story.