Workingmen Are Pissed!

“This is the worst I ever got,” says Julian Peeke cheerfully. “I was a truck driver, doing 14-hour days doing pickups for the Salvation Army. I'd do, like, 500 pickups a day. They called me at 5 o' clock, when I was in Palm Springs, and said, 'One more pickup. In Oceanside. A rich guy's house.' So I get back in the truck, drive all the way to Oceanside and pick up the boxes, and I notice they're wet on the bottom. It was his trash. So I went insane. I opened the boxes, threw the trash all over his lawn, and was yelling for him to come out so I could kick his butt.”

He pauses. We laugh. We've been laughing all hung-over morning, through breakfast at Long Beach's Prospector (Julian on about the time he had to drive his date around while she made out with another guy in the back seat, Julian on his 130 mph trip to Vegas with a 40 ounce-guzzling tweaker and a shotgun, Nicole Barker on the time she had to pay $180 to tow a date's car, Drew Eastman waxing wistful and poetic on huge-ass green space titties—yeah, it's all in our notes) to the parking lot of the Prospector to the back seat of Eastman's car, where we sit for, like, an hour doing an interview and laughing and laughing with the windows rolled up. We must look like we're getting stoned. And any time we stop to rest, someone starts a new story.

“I have the worst jobs,” Julian is saying, momentarily matter-of-fact. “Which is why I have to play music. I have to play music or else I go insane.”

Ah—it's funny 'cuz it's true, an equation as simple as it is time-honored. And it's why Julian's band the Manifolds has persevered through (by his dubious count) 300 members in two years, despite intermittent support from the outside world (“All we ever do is open,” he writes. “If we didn't, the world would cease to exist.”) and obstacles both geographical (the current lineup sprawls over at least three far-flung area codes) and circumstantial (the current lineup works, pursues Masters degrees, writes for Mean Street, ladle-jockeys at soup kitchens and slays at karaoke, as well as moonlights in at least three other active bands).

Without the rock, the Manifolds—Julian on guitar, Nicole on bass, Drew on drums, Eric Chirco on the other drums, and the Mae-Shi's Jeff Byron on other guitar—get the crazies. But with the rock, the crazies have somewhere to go: out the amps, in the mics, through your stereo and right to whatever mechanism your landlord has in place to handle noise complaints.

The first album—nameless and sans song titles because Julian doesn't care about that stuff, recorded in one take to a four-track in an actual garage—is the raw one. There's a certain consistency at work: Julian reels off a ratty split-speaker guitar riff, the rhythm section (which quit a long time ago) drops in and backs him up, the song does the verse-chorus-verse flip a few times, Julian drags his throat through some writ-in-stone rock truism (“Get down! Go! Yeahhhhhhhh!”), and it all de-resolves into screamy redlined fuzz. By the next album, it was a new band, with Nicole and Jeff onboard: Julian reels off a ratty noise-fuzz guitar riff, the band lurches after him, the song tips off the verse-chorus cliff into staccato feedback breakdown or (we think) some muted keyboard part, and Julian sputters out overdriven shortwave transmissions from Planet Teenage Hormone (“I want to be a man! But you got to gimme some!” or “I want something that you got, but what you got? Nothing except what's mine!” or “Just goooooooooooo!”). But now there are breath-catching pauses in between the claw-hammering: it's like the first Unwound album, with the gnarly mean parts gnawing on the pretty parts—isn't that what baby guinea pigs do to one another when they go . . . crazy?

Except that's the obsolete old Manifolds lineup, and now they're a new band again—the Manifolds hemorrhage members like an elite paratroop unit. But every time, says Julian, it's a refinement, an iteration closer to the godhead noise rock they're ultimately destined to play: the new double-drummer rhythm section is diplodocus-heavy and tyrannosaur-loud, Julian high-wires his vocals over big snakey guitar-vs.-bass wrestling matches, and they have never recorded this lineup, so all you can do is remember the pound-pound-pound live smash. Julian, who doesn't much care what he sings since it's all part of the noise tornado anyway, says the new songs are about underwear, bears and fame (“You have a Master's degree?” we ask. “Yep!” he says. “Underwear, bears and fame!”). Nicole says it's not gimmick-y enough for hipsters to get into. They seem a little frustrated they don't get to play out more often. But the entire time you've been interviewing them, not one Manifold has gone the least bit insane. Which, you think, means they're doing everything they really need to do.

“Once, a guy said to me, 'You're in the Manifolds? You're really poignant!'” says Nicole. “And I was like, 'Huh? In what context?'”

The Manifolds perform with Parts and Labor, Barr, and Tyronda Braxton at Koo's, 540 E. Broadway, Long Beach. Sun., 7 p.m. $6. All Ages.

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