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An Interview With Nick Manka

A new single release from Nick Manka brings out a great combination of what feels like a 90s indie rock style, and a more current pop-rock approach and brings those two worlds together for something that has edge but also danceable catchiness with a bop that becomes quickly addictive along with some quirky guitar riffs that service hooks which is definitely something I've missed in rock music for a long time. Musical hooks as opposed to just big choruses.

"You Know" also comes along with some unique changes that you don't really expect so there are some surprises around the corners, but this is a straight-up rock soiree that's meant for you to dance around the living room too and it does hold true to that almost nostalgic 90s rock undertone because that's the feeling it gives me.

You can tell that Nick has a true love for his craft and that the songs that he writes and releases are ones that come from someplace real or genuine because that honesty is there lurking just beneath the surface of all that catchy rock.

There's a lot of attention to detail here and there are some layers that you can peel back on this track, but it never loses that heart that it was built from in the first place, and I think that's really important.

There's a lot about this song that stays bouncing around in your head for hours or even days after the song has ended and the only way to satiate that is to listen to the song again which in my opinion is just smart songwriting.

I do think that this is partially done on purpose because he knows how to write a good single, but I also think it's something that comes naturally because it just feels that way.

You can tell that Nick is someone who has a maturity in his songwriting but a youthful approach to how he performs them.

Upon listening to this release, I had to dive into some of his back catalog and upon doing so I found some great gems including a release that was from earlier this year called "This Game".

There's also an EP from 2020 and with all of these songs you can hear bits and pieces of the evolution of himself as an artist and probably as a person as well.

This is definitely someone to keep an eye out for because I have a feeling there's going to be some more music coming from him before the end of the year or at least I hope so.

It also kind of makes you wonder when an artist like this puts out such big rock songs if he has a band that he performs with live.

Either way, at least we have these songs to keep us at bay so, start with this track and then work your way back through some of the other songs because it's definitely worth taking a swim through.

This is a genuine rock song maker that knows how to deliver a single that sticks with you and with its release, we wanted to have a chat with Nick to find out where it came from and more!

Here's what happened.

Buzz Slayers: Okay, let's start with "You Know"! This track captured a great 90's pop rock feel but with some added layers! How did this release come about?

Thanks so much! I started writing You Know a few years ago during the pandemic. I wanted to write some melodic rock music because to me, it's a genre that manages to be catchy while being subtly complex, and I think from a lyrical and emotional standpoint, rock music has a lot to offer the world in times of turmoil. My goal with You Know was to write an earworm of a song. I wanted it to be catchy and accessible, but also to have a unique message lyrically. I aimed to adhere to the structure of a typical pop rock song, while also adding interesting vocal harmonies, dynamics, ambient textures, and surprises in the song to keep the listener engaged.

Buzz Slayers: How did this all start for you as an artist?

When I was 12 my step father Lee (who happened to be a drummer) brought a yamaha keyboard home. The keys lit up when you were practicing the songs that were on it, so it would tell you the next note/chord to play. I got fascinated with it and started teaching myself Beethoven and other songs that were on the keyboard. From there, I developed a decent musical ear and started trying to learn songs by ear. The next year at age 13 my grandma Annette bought me a guitar. So I started learning that. Then at 14 my uncle Mike bought me a drum kit. So I started learning drums and became really obsessed with them. At 15 my grandparents put me in a private music school called the Rochester Contemporary School of Music, under an amazing teacher named Sean Jefferson. While attending I studied drums, music theory, songwriting, and how to be a professional musician. I worked for years to become a professional drummer, so I focused on drumming in many projects in my hometown of Rochester, NY and then later in Austin, TX. During that time I was kinda secretly writing songs, trying to figure out if I was ever going to have my own project. When 2020 happened I finally started working on my own material, and this year I released 2 singles: This Game in January of 2023, and most recently You Know in September of 2023.

Buzz Slayers: What kind of things really inspire songs for you?

Things going on in the world inspire my songs. I'm fascinated by current events and human psychology. You Know is about the manipulation of language by people in positions of power - there are some people lower on the power totem pole who think if they speak the language they'll get in positions of power themselves... but they don't realize they're being manipulated by those who have more power. That's why the song's artwork is puppet hands being puppeted by other puppet hands - it's showing that just because you're pulling someone's strings doesn't mean your strings aren't also being pulled.

My previous single, This Game, looks at the destruction of our planet through the lens of a failing relationship with the people running our world. A lot of the metaphors I used for a relationship falling apart (such as ice getting thin, ground caving in, skies opening, sinking, etc) are things that actually happen around the world on a daily basis - so I sort of combined those two ideas for the song. It explores the idea that the people in power, with lots of money to gain, are playing a game with our planet as the punching bag... and regular people are tired of that toxic relationship.

Buzz Slayers: This single has some great approaches to it! Can you give us some of your biggest influences musically?

Thanks! My biggest influences are melodic hard rock bands. I love Chevelle, Deftones, Filter, Stone Temple Pilots, Failure, Third Eye Blind, Bender, and Nirvana. I'm also into a lot of progressive music. Some examples are Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Tool, Pink Floyd, Devin Townsend, and Radiohead.

Buzz Slayers: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?

I hang with my girlfriend, play with our cats, play video games. I've been on a huge Star Wars kick lately, so I'm watching a lot of that.

Buzz Slayers: Who's in your headphones right now?

I've been listening to Vertical Horizon, Remy Zero, Smashing Pumpkins, and Polyphia lately!

Buzz Slayers: Are you doing any live performances right now?

Not at the moment - for now it's solely a recording project where I write, sing, and play all the instruments. Maybe if I figure out how to clone myself I'll play some shows!

Buzz Slayers: Do you record these at a big studio or do you have a home studio set-up?

I have a home studio that I do my work out of. I hired an amazing engineer/mixer/producer named Kris Copley, and an awesome mastering engineer whom I've worked with for years named JRose (Justin Rose). Kris Copley and JRose both helped my other band Lady Chops & the Goddamn Jam (which I drum in) with our debut record, and they made it sound great - so when I wanted to record You Know it was a no-brainer to go to them both again. Kris helped get a huge sound out of my modest home studio, and helped inspire a number of the production elements in the song. Kris also helped get the best performance out of me on each instrument I played. JRose mastered the song to perfection, making it sound competitive with songs I love listening to.

Buzz Slayers: What can your fans expect from you in the near future?

More music! I already have another single recorded called Spiraling Out that's in the process of being mixed.

Buzz Slayers: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?

Thanks so much for listening! I'm excited to make more music for you!

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