Jack's Mannequin, U. 'Made For Each Other'
Sara Gretina: Let me start off by asking, how do you say your last name? I've heard lots of variations.
Andrew McMahon: ‘McMan.' Like Ed McMahon. I might as well just make it ‘M-A-N' but it's my Irish heritage that gave me that one.
SG: Why not tell me a little about the "Dear Jack" DVD, EP and foundation. Which one came first; what inspired the others?
AM: The very beginning of it was a song called "Dear Jack," which was the namesake of the band, and it was a song I wrote for a friend who was kind of going through a tough time. But he was also — completely coincidentally — a leukemia survivor. So I named the band after him and then when I was sick with the same thing, it was this bizarre — I don't know if serendipitous is the word, considering — but it was definitely a weird, faded deal. I didn't put the song out. I'm putting it out with the "Dear Jack" EP that's going to come out with the ["Dear Jack"] movie. But then when I started recovering and decided I would start a foundation, trying to give back for the sake for that I was here and well, it seemed appropriate to call the foundation Dear Jack. When we started the documentary, that was kind of the working title throughout and it ended up making sense, so we stuck with it. This will probably be the last of anything named "Dear Jack" at this point, but that's how it all came to be.
SG: You have a little tour going on right now. You have screenings, one tomorrow and then out in California.
AM: All the money from the screenings is going to the foundation as well. And some of my [merchandise] proceeds from this tour will also go back to the foundation.
SG: So what can people expect from the screenings? Will it just be a screening or will it be a show also?
AM: No, no. It's just a screening, but I'm not actually sitting in the theaters watching the screenings. I thought it would awkward to be in the theater while, one, I'm watching me, and other people are watching me, and then turn around and see me. You know what I mean. It seemed inverted and weird. But I will come out and do a short Q&A with myself and the two filmmakers.
SG: What was it like to work with Tommy Lee on this?
AM: It was awesome. We were working together quite a bit while I was working on "[Everything in] Transit," which is how Tommy [Lee] ended up factoring into the film and whatnot. Working with him on the music was — I want to say a dream come true — but I don't even know if I had the forethought to dream that dream. When I was in second and third grade, Motley Crüe was all over MTV. And we loved it. It was great. When we realized we would need a narrator, obviously your instinct is to find someone who's going to lend some sort of additional credibility to the project or an additional celebrity to peak people's interest, so immediately — just because Tommy is already in so much of the footage that we were cataloguing — it was like ‘Dude, let's get Tommy to do it.' He's got a big, deep voice, and it's recognizable and he's our friend. So he obliged us and came in. Did the voiceover for a day or two. And it was great.
SG: So do you have plans to collaborate with anyone else in your music?
AM: Collaborations are something I'm always open to. I started recording new music — just the beginning, hatching stages — put my toe in the water and see what's coming next. I did a couple tracks with Steve Ferrone, who's the drummer for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and he was in Duran Duran. He did drums with us on a couple of tracks, which was awesome. So on this next record, I'll probably invite a handful of different people to join us in the studio and kind of provide us with their classic qualities that go into making those great records. So there's some of that. I just recently collaborated with The Academy Is [and] put out a track with them for their record. It's something I'm definitely starting to get into more and more.
SG: Is there anybody that you dream about collaborating with?
AM: Hmm, in truth, I think it would be awesome to step outside myself, outside my world, and collaborate with someone, like a pop artist. You know what I mean? Write songs for somebody who's doing something altogether different to kind of challenge myself. I mean obviously, I'm not going to get a gig writing for Madonna anytime soon or something like that, but I could see it being fun to kind of tap into that world.
SG: Why did you choose to come back to the University for a show last night?
AM: They asked us. I made a point probably since the second Something Corporate album broke. It became an effort of ours to play the colleges. When you go to an all-ages gig, it's always going to be a certain kind of show. When you open up for people in big venues, it's always going to be a certain kind of show. To do the colleges for us is a good way for to inform people who actively listen to and trade music. It gives us a chance to play to those people and people who haven't heard the music already. When you end up doing the college gig, it's a more affordable show and it becomes a campus event, and in that sense, it gives us an opportunity to reach out to people who are online and talk a lot. And that's good for our base.
SG: So what can students expect?
AM: [A] big a** rock show! (laughs) The whole band will be here and we'll be partying. Our goal when we go out to play shows is just to play well, to give a good, entertaining rock show, to give people a good rock concert. To try and conceptualize too far beyond that is a step away from what rock music is to begin with. You know? We don't try to over-think it. Everyone just plugs in and hopefully people are dancing and having a good time, and it's all said and done.
SG: What's your favorite song to play?
AM: I hate to evade the question, but it sort of changes on a nightly basis depending on the crowd. I mean obviously playing the bigger songs is fun, because it's the bigger moment in the set. Especially on a college campus, where [it's]‘My friend's a fan of the band and I can get in cheap, so I'll go.' There are a lot of people at these shows that aren't as familiar with the band say as if we went and booked a proper show in the city and people bought tickets. Playing the bigger songs, songs like "Dark Blue," "The Mixed Tape" and "Resolution," you know the tunes that people have already here a lot of can be the sweetest moment in the sets cause people are most engaged.
SG: How did having leukemia and being sick affect your musical career?
AM: Career-wise, it's sort of the story that haunts me. I can't get away from it. And at some point that bothered but I think I've reconciled that in the sense that it is a part of what I've been through, so I accept it on some levels. As far as the music goes, like anything, it's going to inform your perspective. On the last record, I tried to avoid it, and I realized that trying to avoid it altogether was counterintuitive to the way that I work, which is generally through autobiography and through telling that story that's going on. So I think if nothing else, it has definitely affected this period of my career, but it hasn't changed my process. It changed my outlook — obviously to some extent — which will affect my art. But I think just as many things that have changed there are probably an equal amount of things that have stayed the same.
SG: Are there ways in general that your music is evolving? From your first album to your second, you jam a little more and there are more rock undertones in the second. What would you say your music is moving toward now, in natural evolution?
AM: Yeah, yeah. I think from "Transit" into "The Glass Passenger" in the same sense in the Something Corporate world from "Leaving through the Window" into "North" there was a sort of similar evolution from one thing to the next. There was a very clean, simplistic pop approach to the first record. And, you know, I wear that hat almost every other record. And I like to wear that hat. But I think with "Passenger," I was playing with a group of pro-musicians for two or three years leading up to the making of "Passenger" that it made me want to approach "Passenger" as a little bit more as an expression in the musicality within the songs themselves. How that's going to affect the next thing? I'm not sure. I find myself scaling back a little bit and going into the studio with me and a producer and really kind of trying to hash the songs first, rather than trying to work out that most insane guitar while I'm also writing the tune. I think the next record in some ways will be a hybrid of the ideologies of record one and record two. Really focus on hashing the songs in a succinct way and then bring people in afterwards to close it up and apply that additional level of musicality.
SG: Do you have plans for a new album?
AM: Yeah. I'm making it right now. The perception of the way a lot of people make records is that they write songs for a couple months and record for a couple months, and the record's done. I've always had this feeling that you should live the piece of art you are making. And there's something to be said about having it be sort of a fluid thought, where you start with a song and you go in the studio and see where that song takes you and you see where the day [and the week] takes you. So I've started that idea; it could take a year — I don't know how long it will take. But I'm definitely having fun in the studio, having the heaviness of "Passenger" and the documentary and finally closing that chapter has been a very freeing way sort of way to make music again because I don't have all that baggage to carry around any more. It's been pleasant. (laughs) I'm thrilled actually.