Interview: Mansionair (AUS) on their Australian tour, Shadowboxer and touring with Carly Rae Jepsen

Mansionair cracked the music market with their song ‘Hold Me Down’ in 2015 but took a few years to treat fans their debut album Shadowboxer. Now currently touring the album globally and penning the next, this Grammy-nominated Sydney-born indie electronic trio are only a few steps away from world domination.

We got the chance to catch up with frontman Jack Froggatt to talk about their Shadowboxer Australian Tour, playing at some of the world’s biggest festivals and their upcoming supporting tour for Carly Rae Jepsen. 

Jack from Mansionair, how are you?

I’m doing very well.

Where are you right now?

I am in an industrial area of Sydney, in Marrickville right now, just stepping out of rehearsals.

Oh, nice! You guys all just returned from a North American tour. How was that?

It was very therapeutic. It’s something very fun about playing the entire album you slaved over for four years. Well and add to it a bunch of people you’ve just met and walk on stage to. Yeah, it was really fun and I think we we’re all pretty taken aback by it. Having an audience out there, you know it’s always always an honour as an Australian to be playing to international crowds.

And also playing Coachella. That’s pretty massive. Was that a bit of a pinch-me moment for you guys?

Yeah! Yeah, it’s a nice way to top off the tour. I mean I remember looking at that festival line-up every year since I was about 14. And to be on it this year was something else. We tried our best to not be nervous but of course nerves did get the better of us. But right before we walked on stage we all took a big breath and tried to make the most of it. And I think we all walked away very happy about it.

I think you can be happy with any performance you put up onto a Coachella stage, because it’s just such a big milestone in itself. 

And I also find that the States is pretty microcosmic, in that each city is vastly different from the next. Was there a city in the States that you enjoyed the most?

I mean you said it perfectly, I think they all just have such a distinct feature about them. And there’s something so amazing about driving eight hours to another city.

I think we always try to, every time we return to a city or go to a new city, trying to find a great little food spot, or a nice little coffee shop. And I think we’ve done it a couple of times now, that we’re kind of returning to the same spots. It kind of feels like you’re somewhat, not in necessarily in a new place, but, able to find some kind of comfort in it.

I don’t know if I would have a favourite place. I mean, Austin’s always amazing ’cause we’re huge tacos fans, which I’m sure many people know about us. As well Minneapolis is such an amazing city, and of course you know, Chicago. They’re all, I don’t know we’re such foodies, so it’s always so nice to eat such great food in so many different places.

Did you go for a bit of the deep dish pizza in Chicago?

I made that mistake a couple years ago, and I don’t think I will again. I have been accused of being the one in the band who doesn’t enjoy it, so I would veto it. But I haven’t returned.

I think you just went to the wrong joint then. I love a bit of deep dish pizza. It’s like a pizza cake really.

Yeah, it’s like a savoury cake, yeah exactly. America’s quiche.

Oh yeah, exactly, great way to put it. I suppose we should probably talk about Mansionair and your music! Rather than the States…

So when I was looking back into the history of your band, I saw that your first couple of songs, ‘Speakeasy’ and ‘Pick Me Up’, they have William Froggatt in the credits. Is that your brother? Who’s Will?

Well, yeah, I mean it’s my – it is officially my real name. Legally. It’s always a fun – there’s a couple of people too in my life that don’t know this fact, and it’s one of those things. It’s also nice, it’s kind of another secret identity. But legally, I am William Froggatt. Jack’s my middle name, it’s just British tradition.

Interesting. ‘Cause then I saw that in ‘Hold Me Down’ that your name’s up – well, your name – you know what I mean, Jack is on it. And I was like oh wow, why have they got two different credits names? Must be two different people.
‘Cause it crossed my mind that your real name could be William, and than I was like oh but Jack’s such a strange nickname for William.

Yeah, so it’s my middle name. I don’t know, I’ve been trying to explain it to people my entire life and it never works. But I’ve never been called William. I’ve never been known by it, so if anyone calls me William it’s like, anything official.

Interesting. Okay, so you guys have been in the lime light since ‘Hold Me Down’. And that song, did it come out before you had even met Alex? Was that right? And were you collectively called ‘Mansionair’ at the time that that song was released?

We weren’t. I mean, it’s the nature of how the band started. We were just kind of three – I mean Lachlan and Alex had been working together for a number of months, and I met Lachlan through some mutual friends. We had kind of known each other just through small Sydney circles. We each just said, “Hey look I’ve got a track I’ve been writing with Alex, and I’d love for you to sing and write a melody on it.”

And it was funny, we had no expectations for it, and I guess the way everything panned out we now look back and we’re in such awe ’cause you know, now five years in with doing a full fledged project together.

We were first called Mansions and then there was another band in the States called Mansions, so we’re like ah shit we should probably change our name, and we did. We just like, put a bunch of words together against the word Mansion, and Mansionair was born.

Ah nice, yeah I like it. And I saw that you teased some maybe-future merch with Mansionair-pods, and Mansionair-bnb’s and things. I think it lends itself; it’s pretty good.

I definitely think so, and you know we’re such a pun-based band so that was always a bit of a challenge.

So, I imagine bands – they form, and then they fiddle around and figure out how everyone works, and then they create a hit. But you guys did it in reverse with creating a hit, and then figuring out each other’s work languages and things like that. Was that quite a pivotal – I mean not a pivotal part, but a substantial part of the three year, three/four year making of your debut album Shadowboxer?

Yeah, I think that’s kind of how the album came together. We got to know each other over the course of the last five years, and I don’t think you can manufacture real feelings, and songs unfortunately require real feeling. And we just kind of had to write a whole bunch of shit behind closed doors, and boy did we.

And I think you know after long enough, working together, we began to kind of open up a little bit more and start writing songs that were maybe a little more personal. And I think we all really responded to that quite well. And I think as the audience we were kind of creating as well.

It took a minute, I think… like all good things do, and we for a while too, were a little bit caught up on how to do it again. And, I think once we forgot trying to make something amazing, we just made something raw and honest, and then I think that informed the latter.

That’s a good way to put it. It’s definitely raw and honest. Was it quite cathartic to release it in the end? Or was it daunting? ‘Cause, these things are always such personal projects.

It was of course daunting. I think our expectations for it were just like, we believed in it at the end of the process so much, ’cause it was just us in musical form. I think that kind of helped us lose a bit of care over it. And, now that it’s out, it was such a beautiful feeling, and we’re able to now look to the next thing. And also play these songs to people that hopefully informs their own memories to it.

I don’t ever think like, these songs – as soon as a song comes out it’s no longer ours, and I really think now that Shadowboxer doesn’t really belong to us. So playing it to people now, is a really great feeling to us, ’cause we’ve lost our sense of ownership in a strange, strange kind of way.

Yeah, and it’s now on its own separate journey through the audience. It’s just evolving in that sense. And you touched on it, you’re about to play it to a bunch of people. You’re about to embark on your own Shadowboxer Australian tour. When was the last time you toured Australia?

It’s been a while, we spent most of our time last year in the States. It’s been over, nearly 18 months since our last Australian tour so we’re pretty keen to get back out there. And you know we’ve been playing these songs for a good half of the year now, so we’re feeling pretty comfortable with them. And we’ve taken the leap with our own production. We’ve actually spent most hours of this week actually programming our own light show. So we’re starting to get into all the fun parts of the tour, and it’s also a bit of a last minute scramble to get everything ready on time.

Gone real grass roots with it, I like it.

Yeah we try and do everything ourselves.

I saw on your Instagram you’re saying you’re getting out the solder? What are you doing?

Yeah, no we always have this joke that – it’s probably a pretty niche electronic joke, but, every time we all loved it. Because we’re an electronic live band, we always need these really niche cables. And there’s this joke that we’re going to start soldering our own cables together.

Definitely maybe getting a little obsessive. But always good to laugh at.

Love it, love it. You know your audience. And you’re supporting Carly Rae Jepsen through the States really soon. Are you a bit of a ‘Call Me Maybe’ fan?

We are. Oh how could you not be?

Is it a Guilty Pleasure Playlist sort of thing?

Oh yeah, and look I’ve refrained to listening to it too much, ’cause I know I’m going to be listening to it for four weeks straight.

She’s so cool and we all love a good pop song, so to be going before her every night will be a real fun thing.

Yeah I’m pretty jealous to be honest. I’d love to listen to Carly every night. Be so much fun.

I’ll send you a selfie with her.

Oh my god, can you actually? I would – that would make me die. I’ll frame it.

I don’t even think we’d be able to get a selfie, we’ll see.

I think over four weeks, you’ll sneak the opportunity, for sure. And then you’re back in Australia again for Splendour. Holy crap, have you played Splendour before?

I know, back and forth. We have, actually. This is our third time.

It’s Australia’s Coachella I’d go out and say, and we’re pretty game. We’re flying straight from the States to show day, so hopefully our jet lag jitters will help us put on a great show, ’cause we’re really looking forward to that, honest. We’re all big Splendour fans, as the audience, as well as being the ones on stage. So it’ll be a real treat.

That’ll be a really interesting one. You’ll probably be in two minds by that point – you’ll just run on pure adrenaline.

I hope so.

Jet lag’s the worst coming that way…

Is there anything else on the horizon for you guys?

We’re stuck in writing-mode, so we’re working on a whole bunch of new stuff, and we’ve kind of cracked the code I think on how we work together. We’re just writing as much as we can, and probably going to start writing maybe some happier stuff, maybe a little more light-hearted things, I’m feeling kind of ready for that. So we’re going to dive head down after Splendour and just in deep writing mode, and then probably go back out on tour again.

Yeah, exciting. You need to show your diversity – you know they always say the follow up’s more important because that’s where it solidifies you. Even though I reckon Mansionair’s pretty solidified in the music scene at the moment.

It’s always nice to hear.

I mean you are Grammy-nominated after all.

I know I still think that’s a bit of a joke, but what the hell, we’ll take that. When people say it, I actually, still always get a little like, “I don’t think that’s correct, I need to go back and check that”.

I’m sure your Mum loves saying it though.

Yeah, she does. I’m pretty sure it’s the top of my parent’s cupboard, I haven’t looked at it in a while. They probably stole it.

Fair shout, my parents would do the same.

Well, thank you so much for chatting with me Jack. I look forward to this selfie with Carly.

Yeah, I’ll send it through.

Good, I’ll be sitting by the phone. And hopefully I catch your new Australian tour!

You bet, it was lovely chatting.

Catch Mansionair on their Shadowboxer Australian Tour – head to their website for tickets and more information.

June 7 | Lion Arts Factory | Adelaide, SA
June 8 | Jack Rabbit Slim’s | Perth, WA
June 14 | The Esplanade Hotel | St Kilda, VIC
June 15 | Woolly Mammoth | Brisbane, QLD
June 16 | Woolly Mammoth | Brisbane, QLD

Tait McGregor