Mandy, Indiana: “The day we write an album that’s expected is the day this band is dead.”

Neu Mandy, Indiana: “The day we write an album that’s expected is the day this band is dead.”

Manchester’s darkly ecstatic new dancefloor innovators, invested in the social power of the club.

Still sweating from their set at SXSW when they join DIY over Zoom, Manchester’s Mandy, Indiana are bracing themselves to drop one of the most uncompromising, exciting debuts of the year so far. Originally formed of founding members Valentine Caulfield and Scott Fair back in 2017, a decidedly un-Google-friendly first EP titled ‘…’ followed in 2021 before Simon Catling and Alex MacDougall were brought in to elevate their sound with the addition of synths and drums. The result is ‘i’ve seen a way’: an 11-track record that expands on the experimental dance they previously conquered and takes it into bold new realms.

An invigorating mixture of leftfield techno and noise fuzz, Mandy, Indiana make the type of dance music you’d imagine playing if there were any nightclubs in David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Inspired by dystopian sci-fi and everyday soundscapes, on their debut the band were determined to create something unforeseen and wholly original. “The aim was always gonna be to make something that didn’t sound like anything else,” Valentine explains. “We wanted to start a band that very specifically sounded like itself; something different and interesting, that would keep us on our toes. That’s why it took so long to put any music out! We approached it with the idea it would be more experimental than anything we’d done before. The day we write an album that’s expected is the day this band is dead.”

Their persistence in expanding their sonic possibilities led them to some strange places: notably, the Wookey Hole caves and an old crypt. Their goal was that the album would sound like “a collection of moments” and “noise from the world”. “Scott,” who produced the album, Valentine explains, “tried to think of spaces that would influence the way the music sounds, so we recorded some drum parts in the cave. It was very much informed by the songs themselves, it wasn’t just like, ‘Let’s record in a cave, that’s a weird idea!’ It was more like, ‘This song is a cave song and this song is a crypt song’.”

The relationship between the feelings that sound can conjure up, and how they can be impacted by environment, space and everyday life is embedded within the album. The recording process didn’t stop in caves and crypts: there’s also bits from shopping malls, and the synths were taped in local nightclub SOUP. These everyday environments are distorted and spoiled, providing a horrified backdrop to Valentine’s restless depictions of beheading kings and sticking their heads on spears (‘2 Stripe’). Equal parts dystopian and hyperreal, it reflects the horrors of late-stage capitalism like a panic attack stuffed into a box - unruly, uneasy and bouncing around its suffocating cage.

The oppressive atmosphere of the album mirrors the band’s views on modern life. Between the UK’s cost of living crisis and the violent protests in France alone, Valentine notes that, “It’s hard not to look at the world and just see everything as lots of tension”. ‘i’ve seen a way’ sits inside this idea and examines the seemingly eternal bleakness of the world, but Valentine is keen to argue it’s not nihilistic.

“It’s a look at everything that’s not working in the world, which I think is a lot. But if there wasn’t any hope at all that we could make a better world for ourselves, then we wouldn’t be doing this. There’d be no point looking at these things and denouncing them if I didn’t believe that we could change it,” he says. Simon continues: “I don’t know if it’s about having something as bright as hope upon the other end, but for me there definitely is a kind of resistance and a pushback against the darkness and some of the horror that some of the album’s more caustic elements evoke.”

Tension ricochets between the record’s lyrical gloominess and its industrial sound, but it’s also relieved by the persistent techno elements that pulsate beneath each track, recalling the long-established history between club culture and communal resistance. “You only have to look at the history of dance music and where it’s come from to see it’s 100% intertwined with being a political and social movement,” Simon explains. “It’s a way of creating its own space [that’s] all about trying to break free from the constraints of everyday life and trying to find something different. Just the hours of club nights in themselves are somewhat of a stated act.”

“It's important to have spaces for people to come together and exorcise their demons in whatever way is available. I think clubbing and dancing is one of the last ways of diverting yourself from all of the issues,” Valentine agrees. “It’s not considered necessary, but I think that’s bullshit. When you try to preserve those spaces you also allow people to have a better quality of life.”

Fundamentally, it’s about community; about creating environments that bring people together instead of dividing them. With their debut, Mandy, Indiana want to positively contribute to this rich lineage and bend it to their own new shape.

“When you’re being put through these horrible conditions, you see a lot of community building. It's not gonna come from the top - it’s gonna come from the bottom,” Valentine affirms. “That’s something our music tries to do, too. It’s very much linked to dancefloor music and community catharsis. Change comes from people coming together, and as much as I like the idea of a revolution, it probably won’t be a big violent uprising, it’ll be more people organising amongst themselves and making their lives, and the lives of their neighbours, a little bit better. At the end of the day, I think that’s the best we can hope for.”

Tags: Mandy, Indiana, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews, Neu

As featured in the May 2023 issue of DIY, out now.

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