Interview – Phil Manansala from Of Mice & Men

The metal music landscape has seen some significant shifts in power over the past five years. Coming from Costa Mesa, CA, Of Mice & Men has been a dominate force in the ever evolving shift. With a unique blend of melody, heaviness, and atmosphere attached to their music; the band continues to grow with each album and are making their biggest statement yet on the recently released Restoring Force. Living your dreams through music is not a easy road to travel though, where most fail, only some persevere.  Of Mice & Men’s possession of sheer will to succeed has elevated them to tremendous heights, making the band one of the hottest in metal/rock. Now on ‘The American Dream Tour’ with Bring Me The Horizon, the guys are ready to take things to the next level and show no signs of slowing down. Recently we caught up with lead guitarist Phil Manansala for an in-depth look at the drive behind the band, their uncompromising desire to progress, touring, and much more. – Of Mice & Men have been together now five years.  Over that time you have really developed a strong following which grows constantly.  Having come from other bands prior what do you think you took into this project that has made it such a success?

Phil Manansala – The constant drive to want more. Definitely from when I was younger at 18 or 19 years old, touring with Static Lullaby taught me the tricks of the trade of touring when I was young.  If I didn’t have that knowledge I probably would have snapped and just gave up. Luckily that helped me figure out the road. It is a hard road out here. – Yes definitely, like anything in life, the road is never easy.  You have sustained line-up changes including the departure and reunion with founding vocalist Austin Carile.  It is really a testament to the band’s strength that you have held together through it all.  What do you think was the key to keeping Of Mice & Men on track through all the detours and bumps in the road?

Phil Manansala – The thing with that, between Tino and I, was we wanted to do music because we loved music. It didn’t matter who was playing with us in the band. We believed in our music and just continued no matter what. It is that determination and drive that we still continue to possess today, and just continue to want more.

Rise Records
Rise Records
Rise Records
Rise Records – Exactly, and it is a testament to the band’s will, because not many bands can have that drive. Now on your latest album Restoring Force the band seems to take a giant progressive leap forward which began with The Flood (2011).  You have further distinguished yourself among the metalcore scene and put together a well-crafted record.  What was the writing and recording process like for this new album?

Phil Manansala – It was actually pretty crazy. It was the first time our band has ever written together as a band, including Aaron. Usually when we went to the studio we would have the songs that we wrote on the road or songs that we put together real quick, and those were the final songs. In the studio with David Bendeth, we had the opportunity to listen to the songs and change things around on multiple songs; configuring them to be the correct way for us. It was an awesome experience to finally write together as a band, the five of us. – Yes, and it really worked out well.  As stated the album demonstrates a dynamic range of styles, sounds, and emotion.  How important was it for the band to make a statement with this record and step away from the metalcore masses and not be pigeon holed to a genre?

Phil Manansala – Yes, we definitely wanted to do something different than the metalcore genre. It is not us anymore even though we do like that music obviously; we just can’t do the same thing as a band. We have to change, we can’t release to same Of Mice & Men record three times in a row. We can’t do that to the fans, we wanted to write something completely different and give them something that still embraces Of Mice & Men and has different characteristics of rock and roll styles.

Rise Records
Rise Records – Yes, it definitely shows in the album. Like any scene whether it is grunge rock, glam metal, or metalcore sometimes things become stale and limiting.  There does seem to be a turning of the stone of late with Of Mice & Men, along with Bring Me The Horizon and Motionless In White to name a few, taking bold steps in different musical directions.  With change also comes backlash from some fans.  Does the band approach the changes without fear and is it all frustrating at times when you are expected to sound a certain way?

Phil Manansala – Yes a lot of fans sometimes say, after hearing the first song, that they don’t like the new Of Mice & Men. Then they give it another listen and realize that we still have characteristic of our old style, but had a totally different style chorus. Then obviously when we released “Bones Exposed”, which is kind of vintage Of Mice & Men, and has another huge chorus that is a lot more captivating than other stuff we did before.  Then fans felt it still does sound like us. Then we hit them with different songs on our album that are just totally different sounds, and they are kind of ready to hear that. – Yes, and like you said, it is good to challenge your fans and keep them on their toes. Your guitar styling is clearly influenced by the big thick sound of nu-metal.  You definitely have a keen sense of atmosphere and tone in your playing.  How important do you feel this is to the music?

Phil Manansala – It is huge. Every single song has a different tone. Every song was dialed in every time for each part for the album to really show if it was an aggressive part or a soft part, the characteristics were there for everything. So it was a really cool experience actually. – It surely sounds like a lot of thought was put into the sound.  You are currently in the midst of the two month long American Dream Tour with Bring Me The Horizon.  How has the tour been thus far and how do you find fans reacting to the new material?

Phil Manansala – The shows have gone insanely awesome, and the new songs have been so good, it is awesome to see kids singing along with “Would You Still Be There”, “You’re Not Alone”, and “Bones Exposed”. The kids are really showing they like the songs so it is good.

Bring-me-the-horizon-tour-2014 – Yes, it is a great tour between Of Mice & Men, Bring Me The Horizon, Issues, Letlive, and Northlane so I imagine you are getting really great turn-outs for this. Being on the road a lot has to be tough on your mind and body.  How do you keep yourself mentality and physically healthy while touring?

Phil Manansala – Actually I have had to stretch a lot more, because my back has been killing me. Lately I have been stretching a lot, eating healthier, and trying to keep up a consistent work-out plan. – That is a good thing to do. I think a lot of times people don’t realize that it is not a non-stop party, especially if you are going to make a career out of this; you need to keep yourself healthy.

Phil Manansala – Exactly, it is not what everyone thinks. It is not all about the party, sometimes it is about the coconut water and hydrating. – (laughs) Yes, well that is good and that will obviously help to make the band last longer. What are some of your musical influences?

Phil Manansala – My musical inspiration… I really like Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin, I even like Trivium a lot; riffier bands like As I Lay Dying and stuff like that.

Warner Bros. Records
Warner Bros. Records
Roadrunner Records
Roadrunner Records – It definitely reflects in your style of playing. As stated earlier, you have that thick guitar sound such as those bands have.

Phil Manansala – It is all about a thick sound. I even still have to dial up my amp every day to make sure it is good. Just to make sure (smirks). – (laughs) That is good. My last question for you is regarding films. is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres.  If you are a fan of horror films and what are some of your favorite horror films?

Phil Manansala – My favorite horror films… the original Psycho (1960) was really scary and I Spit On Your Grave (2010) was fucked-up. I love scary movies; I get freaked out all the time.

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment – You mentioned the original Psycho, that movie is great. It seems you have an appreciation for the older stuff too by mentioning Psycho.

Phil Manansala – Yes, it is good, and Nosferatu (1922) was good too. – Yes that was good too. If you like the remake of I Spit On Your Grave, you should check out the original because it is pretty vile. The rape scene in the movie is very hard to take, especially since the actress portraying the victim is so frail and skinny; it is just so violent that it is emotionally disturbing.

Phil Manansala – The newer one is fucked-up so I bet the older one is even more fucked-up. I have tried to watch all the devil conspiracy type of films. The Purge (2013) was terrible. I have been watching American Horror Story, which is pretty good. 

Catch Of Mice & Men on ‘The American Dream Tour’ on the following dates:
2/28 New York, N.Y. – Best Buy
3/02 Philadelphia, Pa. – The Electric Factory
3/03 Silver Springs, Md. – The Fillmore Silver Springs
3/04 Clifton Park, N.Y. – Upstate
3/06 Atlanta, Ga.– The Tabernacle
3/07 Nashville, Tenn. – War Memorial Auditorium
3/08 Memphis, Tenn. – New Daisy
3/10 New Orleans, La. – House of Blues
3/11 Houston, Texas – House of Blues
3/12 Mission, Texas – Las Palmas Race Park (Never Say Never Fest)
3/13 San Antonio, Texas – Backstage Live
3/14 Austin, Texas – SXSW
3/15 Grand Prairie, Texas – Quik Trip Park (South By So What?! Fest)
3/16 Oklahoma City, Okla. – Diamond Ballroom
3/18 El Paso, Texas – Tricky Falls
3/21 San Francisco, Calif. – Regency Grand Ballroom
3/24 Seattle, Wash. – Showbox at the Market
3/25 Vancouver, British Columbia – Vogue Theater
3/26 Portland, Ore. – Roseland Theat

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