After eight years as the brainchild behind Jack's Mannequin, singer-songwriter Andrew McMahon still deals with a little identity confusion now and then. Some news story or reporter will accidentally refer to him as Jack, or Jack McMahon. Over the years, the OC-bred troubadour (and OC Weekly coverboy) originally responsible for the band Something Corporate created an identity that, while well-received, has been impossible to shake. That is, until now. On Nov. 11 and 12 Jack's Mannequin plays two farewell shows at the El Rey, closing the book on nearly a decade of lush indie piano pop songs and the chapter in McMahon's life that inspired them.
Formed in 2004, the band started as McMahon's outlet for stripped down solo material that didn't quite fit the mold of Something Corporate. But when he decided to put a full band behind him, it quickly went from secret, unreleased passion project to a real band with a it's first record--Everything in Transit. The day he finished recording the album in 2005, doctors discovered that a supposedly bad case of laryngitis was actually acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Three months before the release of the album, he was forced to cancel the band's summer tour. Miraculously, he was able to get a stem cell transplant that from his sister Katie that saved his life.
In the years since, songs like "The Resolution" and "Caves" are everlasting reminders of the struggles he faced and the way coping with illness effected his life. It's an ordeal that he's talked about endlessly, and one that continues to inspire his philanthropy. He created the Dear Jack foundation in 2006, dedicated to supporting charities that improve the quality of life for young adults stricken with cancer. The last Jack's Mannequin shows fall around the third anniversary of the release of his Dear Jack documentary chronicling his cancer battle from diagnosis to remission. But even for someone who took as much pride in his cause, he's no longer letting it dominate his songwriting or the perception of him as an artist.
"I mentioned earlier this year that we'd probably be retiring the name, but for me, I was really ready to let it go after the second album," McMahon says. "I just started to feel a little forced and the head space of writing and singing about my illness was preventing me from really taking any further steps in my career."
Since the band's latest album, People and Things was released last year, McMahon--who recently moved from L.A. back to OC--is continuing to actively write songs for other artists as well as upcoming TV shows and other projects. While he can't imagine his life without playing live, its the craft of songwriting that he's really interested in. And by no means does the retirement of Jack's Mannequin mean a retirement from music; quite the opposite actually.
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"Honestly, I've been way busier in the past year, than I've ever been," he says. "There's so much out there for me, so many projects that I've been doing sort of under the radar that I've really been able to put my full effort behind. Stepping away from Jack's has really been essential for me to do that."
As far as the show is concerned, McMahon looks forward to giving fans the best cross section of songs from the band's three-album lifespan. When it was originally announced back in September, tickets for the November 11 show sold out immediately, mostly due to scalpers. In response, McMahon decided to add another show the following Monday, which is also sold out. Backed by long time members Bobby "Raw" Anderson, Jay McMillan and Mikey "The Kid" Wagner, McMahon's final bow promises to be a memorable one.
"We want to leave people with a set of about 20 songs or so that really put a stamp on what it is this band was really about, dealing with struggles, finding confidence in yourself and in the people around you that make your life worth living."