All of the core members of Gamblers are originally from Long Island or Queens, making them one of the “rare Brooklyn bands that are actually from New York,” according to 28-year-old frontman Michael McManus. It’s not surprising, then, that their single “Corinthian Order,” off of their debut album of the same name, was shot in a Brooklyn DIY venue. Suburbia. We’re debuting the video exclusively here today.
This t00 should establish the band’s NYC cred: McManus met the video’s director, Tyler Walker, while he was working at his family’s bar, the Peter McManus Cafe, which claims to be the oldest family-owned and operated bar in the city. We spoke to McManus about the new album (out September 7 and available for pre-order), love in the 21st century, and his hip hop roots.
What sort of genre of music does Gamblers fall into? How would you describe it?
Just to put a name on it, I guess, we’ve been going with the indie rock thing. Some people call us indie pop compared to The Shins. Blur. The Beach Boys. We just got a review the other day comparing us to the Beach Boys, which is never a bad thing. But I think it’s also got a strong hip hop influence production-wise, in terms of the rhythm.
So tell me about your new EP and its title song, “Corinthian Order.” It’s very obviously about some kind of heartbreak as many great songs are.
It’s a modern approach to being really honest in terms of the sort of things that happen during a breakup that are obvious but not really spoken out loud. You know—when you could just tell that someone’s turning away from you. There’s a line: “I build up the courage just to text you. You don’t reply so fast like you used to.” [Laughs] It’s sort of on the nose, but it’s true, you know? You can tell when someone’s ghosting you or taking their time to get back to you. This new age of fucking phones is crazy. Not to sound like a grandpa—I’m still in my twenties—but it’s just, I guess I was riding on that whole [feeling].
One day, I sampled a loop of the Wilco song “Jesus [Etc].” It was a very hip hop thing. I took a loop of the song. Kind of giving a nod to some of the lyrics and melodies. It’s very much like a hip hop track, in a way. It’s dressed up as like a pop-rock tune, but the sort of approach was a very hip-hop approach. There’s no actual sample in our song—everything’s instrumentation. There’s nothing actually used from the recording. It’s all [of] us playing. Me singing. That’s probably the best way I could describe it in terms of how it was written and produced.
I heard the music video was shot in this Brooklyn DIY venue, Suburbia, which has since been raided and shut down. The camera follows you while you’re going through this very lively bar, but you’re totally disengaged from your surroundings. So talk to me about the making of the music video.
Basically, the idea of putting me in black and white and looking solemn at a party was to be on the nose. Being obvious to the point of comedic value. I don’t want to put words in the director’s mouth, but anyway, we had to speed up the track to double time to get that effect. My lip syncing is wildly off to comedic effect. I basically had a camera rigged to my chest and stomach the whole time. We probably did 30 takes. You can see me trying to conceal the camera in the first shot.
Tell me a little bit about the history of Gamblers and how it came to be?
[Gary O’Keefe and I] met through this band we ended up playing in called Yankee Longstraw. I was drumming in the band [and] he was playing guitar. I guess you could call it a shotgun wedding. We spent a few weeks traveling the U.S. together and became really tight really quickly… He was in college at the time for recording, up in City College in Harlem. So he was like, “Why don’t you come by and we’ll record some stuff for fun? You know, write together.” But it was sort of a side project just for fun. This went on for a couple of years. I had gotten really heavily involved in hip hop music at the time. I ended up working for a couple of major label situations. I started learning the ropes of how to go about working on things on a professional level. Because before that, it was very DIY. It’s still DIY to this day because you have to make shit happen for yourself, you know what I mean? But I gained a lot of experience through working in hip hop, and I thought I can apply it to the band side of things. And that’s when we started taking Gamblers more serious[ly], trying to really polish the recordings and really write the best material we could and put a group together. It’s been a little bit of a revolving door in terms of other people involved in the band. But we have a really good group of core guys: myself, Gary, our friend Boris [Palacios], our friend Evan [O’Donovan]. That’s how it all started.
“We’re Bound to Be Together” [one of the EP’s other songs] is sort of this song about being in love in Brooklyn. How do you reconcile the tonal shifts between these two songs in one album?
I think first and foremost that reflects the reality of being a human being. Even throughout the course of a day. “We’re Bound to Be Together” on first listen is a straightforward and some ways cliche pop song. It was designed that way. [But] it was not about love. It was about my cousin who almost died from being in a heroin addiction. It’s actually an addict’s mind when they’re in the grip of heroin. I just believe life is such a shamble sometimes. It’s such a mess. Everything’s a mess. Nothing is what it seems. Everything is a thousand things. The lyrics [of “Corinthian Order”] are on the nose as humanly possible about breakup in the 21st century and the ramification of using social media. But at the same time, it’s hip hop tracks. It originally came from Wilco beats. But there’s these really lush beats that harken back to the ’60s. But it’s all just a fucking mess.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.