Jack’s Mannequin: People and Things

After surviving the breakup of his teen band Something Corporate and a life threatening battle with leukemia, Jack’s Mannequin frontman Andrew McMahon is once again focusing his attention on what he does best, which is making poignant, piano-based alt-rock. On JM’s third album People and Things, McMahon and company (Bobby Anderson, Jay McMillan, with guest appearances by current Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney and Soul Coughing’s Sebastian Steinberg) tackle themes concerning everyday struggles of life and immortality.

Kicking off the set is first single “My Racing Thoughts,” which is a superb piece of piano rock that rivals some of Elton John’s best ’70s hits. Noticeably absent this time around are the usual teen angst lyrical confessions, which have been replaced here with grown-up introspection. This change is most evident in the tracks “Restless Dream,” which is a stripped down slice of musical melancholia, as well as in the surprisingly upbeat doomsday ode “Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die).”

The bulk of McMahon’s lyrics on People and Things mostly dive into familiar, yet highly relatable topics of affairs of the heart, but are delivered with staunch veracity that makes the subject matter seem transcendent. No earth shattering revelations are to be found on this disc, but this latest musical opus is full of catchy hooks and strong melodies galore, which are easily among McMahon’s best offerings to date.

The emotional closer “Casting Lines” provides the perfect ending to this impressive musical jaunt about pondering where we belong and coming to terms with our own fates, as its final refrain states: “You learn to run, you learn to race through life/This unforgiving pace, these lines we’re chasing to the truth.”

Although Jack’s Mannequin hasn’t been able to match the balls to the wall gusto of Everything in Transit, its 2005 critically acclaimed debut, People and Things is easily the most musically cohesive album in the band’s catalog thus far. There is no vexing filler to be found anywhere on this disc, which these days is an unusually rare thing. Dedicated fans will want to download the hauntingly ethereal iTunes bonus track “Broken Bird,” which was questionably omitted on the physical copy of the record and manages to encapsulate all of JM’s best qualities in one song.

© 2011 ForASong Media, LLC

Ben Young: Guitar Tech to the Stars

BenYoung

Middle Tennessee State University alumnus Ben Young has managed to build a respected reputation in the Los Angeles music circle as a successful guitar technician to the stars. Originally from Tampa, Fla., Young relocated to Murfreesboro in the late ’90s to attend MTSU’s highly acclaimed Recording Industry Management program. After graduating in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science degree in audio production and technology, Young ventured out west to fulfill his musical dreams. Currently residing in Burbank, California, Young has managed to maintain an active and successful career in the music industry. During his travels with various artists such as Sum 41, 30 Seconds to Mars, OK Go and Avril Lavigne, Young has visited numerous locales including England, Sweden, Greece and Germany. Currently on tour with rock band Sublime with Rome, Young took time out of his busy schedule to talk with The Murfreesboro Pulse.

Murfreesboro Pulse: Can you explain what specifically your job entails?
Ben Young: As a guitar tech, I’m responsible for making sure the artist’s guitars are tuned before and during a show. I’m the guy you see on stage before and during a concert handing off guitars to the performers.

MP: What is a typical day on the job like for you?
BY: When on tour, whatever time load in is, that’s when my job starts. Sometimes it can be as early as 10 in the morning or as late as 3 in the afternoon. Once loading starts, I grab equipment from the truck and start setting it up on the stage and make sure everything works properly and sounds the way it’s supposed to sound. It’s my job to fix any problems that have arisen. Once everything has been set up, I check everything going through the monitors and the front of house system to ensure everything sounds the way it should sound. Then after the show is over, we tear it all down and do it all again the next day.

MP: What instruments do you play?
BY: I play guitar and bass, and I sing a little bit.

MP: Didn’t you also previously work as tour manager?
BY: Yes, I managed a Murfreesboro band called The Ricketts while I was at MTSU, and that experience eventually set me towards my current path.

MP: Can you take me through your journey from Florida to MTSU?
BY: I found out about MTSU’s Recording Industry Management program through Spongebath Records, which was a local indie label in Murfreesboro. I was a fan of their bands and that led me to MTSU. I didn’t know that major existed until then, but after discovering it, I decided that was going to be my major in college.

MP: How did you get to Burbank from Murfreesboro?
BY: After I graduated, I moved out to Los Angeles in January 2003, and I worked at a recording studio for a few months. My original plan was to become a producer, so I got a job at a recording studio right away. While working at the studio, I met a band called Steriogram, who was recording their debut record for Capitol Records, and I convinced them to hire me as their tour manager and guitar tech. That’s how I ended up on the road and I learned the job as I went. At first I pretended to know what I was doing, although at the time I didn’t know shit, but I learned the ropes pretty quick.

MP: Tell me about your current gig working with Sublime with Rome. Didn’t you recently tour abroad?
BY: Yes, we recently toured South America. We played Buenos Aires and then had eight shows in Brazil. Then we played several festivals and headlining shows in London, Sweden, Austria, Greece and Germany.

MP: Do you ever think back to your radio show days at WMTS and find it difficult to believe this is really your life nowadays?
BY: Back in my WMTS days, I used to work for a band called The Matches. They’re what’s called a band’s band, if you will. While working with them, I got to tour with them and meet a lot of the people I listened to when I was growing up and played on WMTS all the time. Bands like Reel Big Fish, Blink 182 and Less Than Jake, for example. Now I’m on tour with these people and friends with them, which is kind of interesting. Seeing my life come together in the way that it has doesn’t blow my mind, but I’m sure my 18-year-old self would’ve thought what I’m doing now is amazing. Although nowadays I guess I’m somewhat jaded. Ha ha!

MP: What made you seek out guitar technician as a career?
BY: My career has slowly evolved into working as a guitar tech. During my previous experience working with artists as tour manager, production assistant, as well as a guitar tech, it slowly became obvious to me that my talents are best suited to be a guitar technician. Plus the money is pretty good.

MP: Are there any negative aspects of your job that you worry about or fear?
BY: I’m pretty happy about what I’m doing right now, but I do worry about reaching the glass ceiling in this line of work. I’m making a good living at 30, but I don’t want to be making this same amount of money when I’m 45. I’m always keeping my eyes and ears open for other opportunities, but for right now, I really enjoy doing what I’m doing.

MP: Do you have any sage advice to offer current recording industry majors thinking about a career in the music business?
BY: People often ask me how to break into the business, but there’s really no one good answer. It often comes down to a lot of luck, timing and talent. It’s all about networking and building a good rapport with people. It took me a long time of working for very little money, but the relationships I made along the way eventually paid off for me. I never committed myself to following just one path or one dream. I think if you focus on only one direction, you might miss a chance that could lead to even greater possibilities.

©2011 The Murfreesboro Pulse