armed with just a handful of songs and providing only the scarcest bit of biography, mannequins on 7th street have nevertheless made a lasting impression in the online music community over the past few months. their tracks are pristine and polished; each subsequent offering has been a subtle refinement of their melancholy sound, which feels right at home with british heavyweights the xx and darker, brooding electronic music. i caught up with alexandre lambrecht and tim de fontaine, the forces behind the band, to learn more about the origins of mannequins on 7th street, the history of the band’s name, and their plans for the near future. check out the transcript below.
aside from the fact that you have a trio of really well-crafted songs, i realize that i don’t know too much about the history of your band. can you give me some background on mannequins on 7th street?
we met each other in the fall of 2012 at the jazz studio in antwerp, belgium. we lived in the countryside right at the outskirts of brussels. whilst at school, we quickly realized we had a lot in common as to our musical influences as well as to our ambitions. we started playing together and found out we also wanted to create the same atmosphere; that there was a whole universe of music we shared. we wrote “wailing of hesione” the first time we played together and moved to london at the end of the school year.
your project’s name comes from a poem by tamar yoseloff of the same title. what drew the two of you to her work, and why is it fitting for your band?
i found her collection of poetry, the city with horns, quite randomly. i bought it without looking much into it but rather because i liked the title. when came the time to find a band name, i looked through all my books to find something interesting that would depict the essence of our music. “mannequins on 7th street” seemed to do it. the meaning is not to be taken literally, but rather as an ambience. we are very much inspired by the chaos in cities; the way people race by without giving much thought to what surrounds them; people’s looks lingering in the void, avoiding each other’s eyes; people being alone among an immensity; personalities blurred by consumerism and advertising; to a stereotype of the body and way of life imposed by society; how meaningless and powerless we feel; “all dressed up, and nowhere to go.” mannequins are a kind of metaphor for this life that we look up to in the western world, but perhaps there isn’t much to look up to after all.
you’ve developed a dark, minimalist pop sound over your first three songs, but one aspect of your music i admire is the melodic interplay you achieve, such as the guitar and keyboard lines on “out of sight.” who and/or what have been some of your influences while writing music for mannequins on 7th street?
we’ve only known each other since last year. we’ve had quite a different childhood and therefore grew up with a very different sensibility for songs. what we have in common is definitely our love for jazz and melancholy.
alex – chet baker, the do, velvet underground, pulp, and sky ferreira
tim – polka, bonobo, four tet, chet faker, shohmo, and russel malone
how has relocating from belgium to london been beneficial for your band?
we came to london to get more opportunities, get into the hype, be aware of all the new stuff coming out since we are both very passionate about the london music scene. we are also studying music here, taking songwriting (alex) and production (tim) classes, courses that are very hard to find in belgium.
you released “wailing of hesione” and “sofia” within weeks of each other, and then were quiet for a few months before “out of sight” dropped. should we be expecting more new music from mannequins on 7th street soon, perhaps in the form of an album?
yes, we’re actually working on releasing an ep at the moment, which will probably be ready by april. we’re finally starting to gig around a bit as well, which we’re quite excited about. we have a gig in cambridge on friday; come and see us!
if you’re an avid reader who happens to live across the pond, attending tomorrow night’s show in cambridge might be a pretty good idea. each song mannequins on 7th street delivers leaves an audience yearning for more, a situation that should be rectified with april’s ep released. keep your eyes and ears peeled.