Introducing Get To Know… Mandrake Handshake

Get To Know... Mandrake Handshake
Photo: Lola Stephen

Ahead of the release of their debut EP, meet the Oxford psych-outfit.

Hello and welcome to DIY’s introducing feature, Get To Know… getting you a little bit closer to the buzziest new acts that have been catching our eye as of late, and working out what makes them tick.

Recently we’ve met Samm Henshaw, West London songwriter Matilda Mann, Peckham wordsmith Pinty, NYC’s Sarah Kinsley, and now we’re introducing you to psych-collective Mandrake Handshake.

With their debut EP ‘Shake The Hand That Feeds You’ arriving tomorrow, the group say of the release, “‘Shake the Hand That Feeds You’ represents the culmination of many strands of thought over the process of several months. It is designed to announce the coming of the Mandrake in all her forms and the ascent into her realm; as it soundtracks the listener coming to know what will be expected of them for all future sonic explorations. No expense has been spared to bring the listener to the zenith of psychedelic high-fidelity and have them fully understand what they otherwise might only hint at knowing. This is ‘Flowerkraut’. This is the beginning. This is the Mandrake.”

We sent the band’s Row Janjuah over some qs to find out even more…

Describe your music to us in the form of a Tinder bio.
We are to rock n' roll what aioli is to mayo...

What’s your earliest musical memory?
I remember going to a Massive Attack gig aged 6 or 7 at the Southbank. The lights came up and the crowd starting roaring when Unfinished Sympathy begun and I was remember being totally overwhelmed and dazed by sensory overload... it was awesome.

Who were some artists that inspired you when you were just starting out (and why)?
For the Mandrake it was really a love of alternative and psych music from the 90s, but in two differing forms. One pillar is the extremely high production and art-poppy style of British bands like Stereolab and Broadcast for their super intelligent and deliberate use of harmonies and rhythms. The other is the psych revival side of the 90s with BJM and the Spacemen 3 - their energy and live shows just seemed to have the perfect blend of druggy blurriness and total empowerment (with also very large bands) so they definitely influence our live performances. Also have to shout out the huge influences of German kosmiche (CAN) and the delightful and delicate musciality of 70s Brazilian songsmith Milton Nascimento.

You’re from Oxford! What do you think of the music scene there at the moment?
It's not a huge music scene and it's been really struggling with a lack of venues post-COVID, but that doesn't do the amount of talent justice. Everywhere you look there are brilliant drummers, bassists, multi-instrumentalists and singers- you name it! We really loved Moogieman and the Masochists New-wave-in-a-toy-box style for ages before recruiting Moogieman himself as our synth player. Keep an eye out too for psych-epics Flights of Helios, whose sets can range from the most intimate to the most maximalist and never fail to dazzle.

Are there any other artists breaking through at the same time that you take inspiration from?
We really like how Squid seem to have such mastery over their dynamic range and are able to go from 0-100 and anywhere in between whenever they ant and usually whenever you least expect. That level of risk-taking is definitely something we aspire to. Also W.H. Lung's ability to be so technical in their kraut-jams yet so expressive and maximal in their songwriting is really impressive and I can't wait to finally catch them live.

Who would be your dream collaborator?
In a weird way, we're kinda lucky that we are working with the Stereolab drummer Andy Ramsay already! He has been incredible for us and really I found a really good working-groove with him. But of course, I'd love to work with so many producers, probably none more than the legendary post-rock drummer John McEntire. His ear for sounds and the precision of his recording make me salivate to be honest... also I reckon he would have some great stuff in his studio to play with.

Musically or otherwise, what are you most looking forward to this year?
Well getting onto the Manchester Psych Fest line-up alone is up there, the fact that Sterolab and Andy will be there means we're all really excited to playa show with them! We haven't played any gigs in 16 months, which is really the time we started to get any sort of attention anyway, so a lot of built up energy will be going into out shows this year, and none more so than MPF. Green Man festival is a also semi-religious pilgrimage in our scene and, after last year, we are just itching to get to that field and plotting our daily schedule of exceptional bands.

If people could take away one thing from your music, what would it be?
Be silly, be loud, be fun but most of all, be brave and never shy away from taking on more than you can chew. I always like to believe I push myself to constantly be at the edge of what I feel comfortable writing, and we believe if we stick to that mindset we will always be evolving and improving as a band. So yeah, making mistakes is part of takes of taking those risks: having a massive group is a risk in itself- it's more things to get right and it can be much harder to blend well- and that's totally fine, much better and more fun for everyone in the long-run to fuck-up and learn than never take the plunge.


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