In the Knoxville music scene where bands, fans and venues come and go in the blink of an eye, it is a rarity to come across a rock band toughing it out for the better part of a decade. Indie rock quartet Gamenight is even rarer in its ability to boast sustaining the same lineup for the last eight years.
A band of brothers in both the literal and figurative sense, the Manis brothers (Josh and Brandon), Robby Kerr and Matthew Presley acknowledge that their activity has been sporadic at times, but they’ve never stopped. With their first full-length album since 2006 on the verge of release, the group’s determination is at an all-time high as they look to seize the release’s momentum and increase live performances and recording efforts.
Gamenight’s evolved songwriting approach, which keeps songs hook-rich and accessibly concise, is evident on the act’s new 12-track release “Pets, Pets” and something that has developed with experience. Resisting the temptation to constantly exhibit the full extent of their musicianship, the band opted for a simpler, more straightforward direction with the album. Previously known for sonic habits that often appealed more to fellow musicians than the layman, Gamenight’s latest strives to reach a broader audience.
“There are parts where it’s more interesting to musicians, and there are parts where we lose the ego and play chords to be more appealing maybe to non-musicians,” Josh Manis (guitar/vocals) explains. “We used to appeal more to other musicians than anyone else. Musicians were the majority of the people who liked us. Now I think it’s geared toward more of a mass audience. You do have to drop the ego a little to do that.”
“We were really concerned with writing solid songs from start to finish,” agrees Brandon Manis (drums). “I know a lot of bands do that as they get older. With our older stuff it was a little more of an acquired taste. We experimented more and did some weird, mathy stuff. The new material is more centralized and more marketable to people who wouldn’t have listened to us back in 2007.”
Last recorded for a three-song digital split in 2011, Gamenight describes the seeming lag in production as anything but. With a meticulous songwriting process and a heap of discarded material, the band began initial work on “Pets, Pets” a full year ago. Recorded in three different studios between Knoxville, Johnson City and Haddon Heights, N.J., the band made last-minute tweaks to its initial tracks and spent several months in post-production before deeming the work album-ready. After exhaustive self-critique and shouldering its own physical production, Gamenight’s first full album since 2006 might just prove to be worth the wait.
“It was cool being in an environment where you’re on the clock, and we knew there were things we needed to crank out,” says Brandon Manis of Gamenight’s studio sessions. “We cranked it out and then took time to experiment with it later when we weren’t crunched for time. We didn’t want to compromise anything or have any regrets years later, so we took the time and kept editing and editing and editing until we had it exactly where we wanted it.”
“Even in the studio we found ourselves ironing out parts,” adds Josh Manis. “We thought we were prepared and then came upon things we wanted to change. We added a lot of layers. I did a lot of that at home, adding thicker guitars and things most people aren’t going to notice, but I think it makes it sound a lot better.”
Multitasking has not been a strong suit for the Gamenight of yesteryear. On occasion, the act has sidelined live outings to focus on writing. But invigorated by the new release, the group vows to begin work on another full-length before the end of the year while simultaneously keeping up with the demand for local and out-of-town gigs.
“We don’t want to take nearly as long to write our next album,” Josh Manis says. “We’re going to be writing while still trying to play out. With the past album we needed a lot of writing time. It got to the point where we needed to put out something and wanted to, so we had to stop playing and just write. So there were about nine months there where we didn’t really play out; we just wrote. This time we’re going to try to play out more as we write.”
This weekend Gamenight plays back-to-back nights in celebration of “Pets, Pets.” Saturday the band joins Madre and Rales for a 10 p.m. show at the Pilot Light. Sunday night Gamenight performs at The Well with Lions, Maps Need Reading and Bulletproof Tiger in a show that also kicks off at 10 p.m. “Pets, Pets” will be officially released on CD, cassette and mp3 formats through Amazon.com, CDBaby.com and at local record stores August 27. Look for Gamenight’s debut music video for “Backseat Driving” to premiere on YouTube in the coming months.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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