Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life are pleased to bring you an interview with rock band, Amy Mantis and the Space Between.
1. How did you get started as a band?
Amy: I was looking to put a band together. I missed the camaraderie of a band. I had been playing around Boston as a solo artist after my previous band dissolved, and then I turned to Craigslist, which turned out to be surprisingly fruitful. I met our former bassist and keys player there. Then we needed a drummer, and we found Eric in the spring of 2016.
Eric is now the only remaining member of that original quartet. Our keys player/other singer-songwriter moved to LA in 2018 and we became a power trio, which is what you hear on A Place to Land. Then earlier this year our bassist bowed out, leaving just Eric and me to carry the torch. It’s been an interesting evolution, this band of mine. It started off as “Space Between,” and then when we became a trio I stuck my name in front for the sake of continuity. And because I’m very searchable on the interwebs.
Eric: Yeah, I put an ad up on Craigslist, too. I hadn’t been playing the drums much at all because I’d just moved to Brighton and really had nowhere to play. Then I started going to see these local psych and garage acts, like The Televibes and New Highway Hymnal and Ghostbox Orchestra, Quilt, Pile, Guerilla Toss, and Vundabar. Just incredible bands. What a privilege to have been in Boston during that particular moment in its musical history. But I guess there’s only so many times you can stand in the audience thinking, “Man, I can do that.” before you just do it.
When Amy answered my ad, I kind of just went step-by-step. Learn a song. Learn another one. Get through a practice without messing up too much. Learn a set. Play some shows. Contribute to an arrangement. Fly to LA to make an EP. Play some better shows. Record a full-length. I think with every step, we’ve pushed the idea of the band and what it can be forward, which makes it easy to be excited about what we’re working on now, because it feels like another step forward.
2. How would you describe your sound?
Amy: As simple as it sounds, we’re a rock band. I come from a classic rock and blues background, and Eric comes from a hardcore and punk background, and it blends together in a way that is both familiar and unique at the same time.
Eric: We’re like a survey of rock history. We pull from all periods and iterations of rock music.
3. What bands/artists would you say have influenced your style of music?
Amy: I sport a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers tattoo and Tom is undoubtedly a massive influence on me and my approach to my music – right down to having my name in the band name. Bruce Springsteen is right behind Tom. The Rolling Stones, the Who – Pete Townshend’s writing has informed so much of my own. Fleetwood Mac, the Pretenders, U2, Nirvana – I’ve been going back through Nirvana’s catalogue and remembered just how much I worshiped them when I was 14. It’s fun to come back around to a band like that.
For more current artists – the Killers are my favorite band of the 21st century. I think their songwriting is brilliant. John Mayer’s guitar playing is jaw-droppingly good, and someone once came up to me after we played our set and said, “You’re like a lady John Mayer,” and I enjoyed that moment.
Eric: I am also like a lady John Mayer. I’m going to name drummers whose influence I draw on specifically when working with Amy as a drummer, because I feel like I never do that: Joey Waronker, Joey Kramer, Joey Jordison, Joey Image. Basically any drummer named Joey.
No, seriously, Waronker has drummed on some of my favorite songs and records of all time, and Kramer was probably the drummer I listened to most growing up. His playing on those 80’s and 90’s Aerosmith records is choice, especially the 90’s stuff. I draw on Get a Grip quite a bit when coming up with drum parts for Amy’s songs. But I also think Dave Abbruzzese’s drumming on the first two Pearl Jam records was formative. All of the grunge guys, really: Grohl, Eric Kretz, Matt Cameron. Ben Gillies was underrated. Cindy Blackman, too. I think if someone listened to our music and thought I played like Cindy Blackman, that would be incredibly flattering. She’s so aggressive, but steady as a clock. Like Topper Headon. Oh, and Steven Drozd. That guy hits, but he’s got such a sense of touch, still, too. And both of Wilco’s drummers, Glenn Kotche and Ken Coomer.
4. Has the rise of YouTube & music streaming helped or hindered you as a band?
Amy: Helped. I also don’t know a life in music without YouTube or streaming so I have no way of knowing for sure, but both allow more people to hear our music and that can’t be a bad thing.
Eric: Maybe the only thing I’d mention here is that I’m not sure the vision of a democratized music industry promised by the early net has quite panned out. I’d like to see streaming platforms become more artist-friendly. I’d like to see the mainstream music press take its cues from the sources that are steering the zeitgeist right now, like Pitchfork and the Needledrop, and just look at more music, adopt a wider scope. I feel like there have been so many acts and albums and songs that have come out over the last 20 years that would have shifted the mainstream in a big, big way if the mainstream press had been quicker to pick them up. There’s still a disconnect there.
But that said, being able to command an audience with an upload is an incredible boon. When I was a kid, pressing and distributing a physical album was such a huge problem to overcome when putting together a band. Where does the money come from? Who’s going to do all this work? In that way, it’s significantly more democratic than it used to be.
5. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not making music?
Amy: Reading, riding my motorcycle, practicing French, and taking care of myself via a steady exercise routine. But mostly these days when I’m not practicing or writing or whatever else-ing with music, I’m on the motorcycle. It’s the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. I’m also teaching myself how to juggle and it has been very fun. I’m not good at it yet, but I love the process of learning things and progress in general is my favorite thing.
Eric: I write fiction, short stories and novels. I also write about music on my blog (panopticsblog.com) sometimes. Less recently. I read a lot. Watch horror movies with my wife. And I’ve been learning how to cook a bunch of things, too. I recently made some nice Teriyaki braised pork ribs. And chicken mozambique. My garlic bread has gotten pretty good, too.
6. What are your future plans musically? Tours?
Amy: Eric and I have become a songwriting duo as our band has gotten smaller and it’s been a really fruitful and fulfilling creative partnership. We have two EPs coming out next year that are true collaborations in songwriting and we’re very excited about those. And the master plan is to just keep writing, keep recording, keep releasing music, keep connecting with people with our music, and eventually get back to playing shows whenever it’s safe to do so.
Touring has been my goal since I went to my first show (October 2003 – Good Charlotte at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island), and we’ve done quite a few shows outside of Boston, but to do a full blown tour would be awesome. What a way to kick off post-pandemic life.
Eric: I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to put together a band and play live again. We’re going to have so much material to draw on. Thinking of the different kinds of sets we could put together is really exciting. I’d love to get to do one that’s just all of our most aggressive songs just to kick the rust off. Being able to go on the road would be incredible. My first show was Weird Al at the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, MA. I think touring with Weird Al would be maybe the top for me. It’d be all downhill from there. His drummer, Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz, is excellent.