Mike Denney’s MDM logo on any record usually means just one thing – country music. Yet check out “Hangovers”, the first track on The Mandevilles’ `Windows And Stones’ release and you will know instantly that this isn’t your Mam And Dad’s usual country music album.
Instead you have a straight out anthemic rocker with the band’s lead singer Serena Pryne’s lyrical ode to the workingman getting ready to get loose on the weekend.
“We wanted to launch the record with a song that’s indicative of our band’s new musical direction,” said Pryne over the phone, sounding a little hoarse after four nights of consecutive singing. “I know we are supposed to be on a country label but Mike (Denney) believed in our direction 100%. He was cool with what we are doing and even though the songs are a little more rock n roll than what he probably expected. I am sure some of the people on the label were initially a little scared by what we were doing, but now they’ve heard the record and have grasped the idea we have made a rock record and that we are a rock band.”
The architect behind The Mandeville’s more mainstream rock sound is ace producer Gggarth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, Mudvayne) who encouraged the band’s hard-edged direction. “Initially, we were a little apprehensive because we thought that because we were signed to a country music label, Gggarth would want to push us in that direction,” explained Pryne. “But once we started playing the songs for him, he instantly knew we had a rock record and that was the direction he pushed us in.”
Certainly songs like the aforementioned “Hangovers”, “Runaway”, “Come Around” and “Windows And Stones” have a Georgia Satellites’ country rock quality to them and Pryne’s own blues origins lend a powerful melodic quality to intense ballads like “Don’t Ask” and “The One”. There’s even a flash of humour in “I Stole Your Band” which lends itself to Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”.
“Funny but I never drew that comparison when I was writing the lyrics,” laughed Pryne. “But a few people have pointed out the song’s lyrical resemblance. My dad originally thought the song was called “I Stole Your Van” and I had to say, “No dad, that’s band not van.”
Vocally compared to the likes of Janis Joplin, Pryne personally has an affinity for 1970’s British boozer bands like Steve Marriot’s Small Faces or Rod Stewart’s Faces. “It would be a honour to be compared to those bands,” she reflected. “And yes, I have an affinity for alcohol, I always have one shot for the stage.”
Welland, Ontario native Pryne and guitarist cohort Nick Lesyk had spent some 13 years together trying to formulate a distinctive musical direction. They come by their rock roots honestly by performing in a hard rock band called Oliver Black before gravitating towards a more country music direction. The pair launched Serena Pryne and the Mandevilles, recording an indie album titled “Goodnight Golden Sun” in 2012 which was more in the style of a MDM release.
“We were involved with a number of co-writers who were pushing us in a more country direction and our rhythm section at the time was definitely country and that’s what came out on the record, but we were struggling at that time to find the right direction,” stated Pryne. “Mike (Denney) liked what he heard, initially distributed our indie record and then got fully behind our new project.”
Dropping the Serena Pryne tag and marketing the band as just The Mandevilles, the new lineup, which now featured guitarist Taylor Lasko, Brett Bendo on drums and Waylon Glinz on bass along with Pryne and Lesyk gathered at The Farm Studios in Vancouver with all five members helping in the writing process. “It was something Gggarth encouraged,” explained Pryne. “Whoever came up with the best idea, we’d go with it. As a result there were a lot of co-writes between the band. Gggarth himself said we would get a co-credit on the production because it was a group effort in the recording process. We came out of it feeling that this was a fresh start. It felt like The Mandevilles were a new band and this was our first record.”
Fiercely independent, Pryne and Lesyk, had funded their debut indie record, and for the new project, employed the Pledge Music system to raise additional capital. “We were shitting our pants for a while,” admitted Pryne. “You only have a certain amount of time to raise the funds, and when we went on a tour of England last year, we still hadn’t raised our target. But while we were playing in Manchester, we heard that someone had pledged $1,000 and had taken us over the top.”
The funds raised paid for approximately half of the production costs with the band working with their label the fund the balance. “As much as I hate raising money,” explained Pryne. “It’s important that we retain control of the recording process and do things our way.”
Pryne agrees that it’s currently easier to succeed under a country music banner than being a straight rock n roll act, yet the Mandevilles are quite happy to ride a fence between both country and rock music.
“To be honest, I don’t quite know where we fit in with MDM” allowed Pryne. “When we see and hear all the labels other acts we feel like odd ducks but Mike (Denney) believes in us and has allowed us to pursue a rock music direction. We do feel there is a bit of a country influence in there and what pisses me off is when all these new bands are critical of us, saying we’re a rock band trying to sound country. They don’t know what they are talking about. All the classic rock bands have sung country songs; The Rolling Stones (“Dead Flowers), the Beatles (“Rocky Raccoon”), Led Zeppelin (‘The Battle Of Evermore”), they’ve sung Motown and other influences too. That’s what makes them classic rock bands.”
So if she had a choice, would Serena Pryne rather play the Boots N Hearts country music festival with Miranda Lambert or Kitchener’s Big Fest with Aerosmith. “Good question,” replied Pryne. “I’d like to think we could play either and we could play at Boots N Hearts on the right day, but I’d take playing alongside Steven Tyler any day.”