Mini Mansions – the indie supergroup comprised of Michael Shuman (bassist in Queens Of The Stone Age), Tyler Parkford (touring member of Arctic Monkeys) and Zach Dawes (from Last Shadow Puppets) – spent their first two records weaving narratives inhabited by fictional characters. ‘Mini Mansions’ (2010) and ‘The Great Pretenders’ (2015) are inventive and imaginative, but it’s on their new full-length, ‘Guy Walks Into A Bar…’, that they truly expose their emotions.
“It kinda shows the unravelling of a relationship from beginning to end,” Michaels tells NME, “but was written during the course of that relationship as it was happening. [The scene represented by the title] ‘Guy Walks Into A Bar’ is kind of the starting point”.
Given that Mini Mansion previously played around with characters, was it more difficult to be honest and direct on ‘Guy Walks Into A Bar…’, which was released last Friday? “This was the easiest writing I’d ever done,” counters Michael, “because being in this relationship, everything was just flowing out of me. There was no filter. That was so easy because literally what was going on inside my brain and body, I just put it on paper and then onto our record. I always wanna write like that – if I can.”
Its bright synth-pop is certainly something of a departure from the muted, slightly spacey ‘The Great Pretenders’, which featured ‘Vertigo’, a track on which Alex Turner appeared as guest vocalist. That album boasted a lounge-y, sci-fi feel, yet preceded the Arctic Monkeys’ album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, which draws on a similar sonic template, by three years. Do Mini Mansions feel like taking some credit for inspiring the Monkeys’ musical direction?
“No, no no,” says Michael. I think that we were all friends and we’re all part of the same musical community so I think that we hopefully rub off on each other – all of us. I didn’t get what you’re saying, but no, I don’t think we had anything to do with how Alex wrote that highest.”
Mini Mansions almost split up after recording ‘Guy Walks Into A Bar’. What’s the story there? “Well, making this record was different because we were always gone [on tour with our other bands],” explains Tyler. “So, when we finished this record, there was a point where we were like should we release this and go our separate ways…?”
Yet the trio reconnected in the gap between recording and releasing the album (a period that resulted in their ‘Works Every Time‘ EP).
“That kinda brought us back, “says Tyler, “‘cause you can get into your head. You don’t see your brothers for a long time, and you start developing this other story around what needs to happen. But then you jump in the pool then you realise, ‘Oh yeah! We like to be in the pool!” With the forthright ‘Guy Walks Into A Bar…’, Mini Mansions have a made a real splash.