Mashing together rock, punk, soul, and jazz might sound intimidating for some, but for Johnny Manchild it comes like second nature. I attended Johnny Manchild’s set at the Replay Lounge on September 17, 2023 – and to say it was enjoyable was an understatement. There is simply no way to describe the raw and chaotic undertones of the three-person band, with strong beats and high-energy tempos. I found myself dancing and head-banging along to the music with my friends often during the 13-song set. Several of the songs were from Johnny Manchild’s new Album, ‘Rapture Waltz,’ which is set to be released early next year.
I found the new music to lean slightly darker than his earlier albums, pushing into punk and grunge undertones while still emphasizing some theatrical piano riffs. A standout song for me was a brief pause in the otherwise electric energy of the set, where Johnny Manchild performed a piano ballad that, although slower paced than the rest of the night’s music, struck a chord with me for its gorgeous musicality and powerful lyrics.
I would recommend this band to anyone who enjoys the alt-rock, punk, grunge, or jazz scene. Johnny Manchild’s music undeniably has a theatrical element to it, which can be seen through the minor keys and emphasis on piano riffs present in his discography. If you enjoy Will Wood, Jukebox the Ghost, Cake, or The Narcissistic Cookbook, I think you would love Johnny Manchild and the Bastards. Standouts in his discography (without including his new album as it hasn’t been released yet) include Gestapo, You Want A Song, and One Big Beautiful Sound (E).
When explaining the style of your band, I’ve struggled to categorize your unique sound. What genre (generally) would you say best represents your music? “This new record is alternative, I’ve called it art rock in the past. My favorite thing I’ve ever said is ‘junk sock’, which is jazz punk soul rock…I view genre the same way I view human emotion, and I just don’t feel the same way all the time, so I write in whatever genre I’m feeling at the moment.”
Where is your hometown?
“Oklahoma City, Oklahoma”
Can you tell me a little bit about each member of the band and their role within the group?
“Well, that’s a tricky question, our members change and have changed a lot. Right now we’re doing the bastard trio and it’s me, Ethan Neel on drums, and Alex Coleman on bass. For the ‘We Didn’t Ask For This Room’ record, that was the last time this band was operating as a “band,” I guess. I’ve always written all the music and the parts, but with this new record coming up, ‘Rapture Waltz’, actually Ethan and I decided to go in the studio as just us two. He played drums, and bass on one song, and I played almost all the guitar and all of the key parts. Right now this band is sort of cemented into a solo project which involves a large cast of members.”
What bands have inspired you most growing up and coming up with your sound, or any specific songs?
“It’s different eras for sure. I think that growing up I was really into The Dead Kennedys, Green Day, Queens of the Stone Age…I’ve always liked grunge. I went through a big grunge phase. Grunge is definitely an important thing to me. I got into jazz in high school, and I started falling in with Esperanza Spalding, and The Bad Plus – Hiatus Kaiyote is one that I loved when it came out. I kinda got more jazzy, and I’ve always liked musical theater, and that came out in One Big Beautiful Sound. With the newer stuff I think it’s going back to the grunge thing, some of the songs on the new record are definitely some of the heaviest stuff I’ve ever done. I’m playing guitar on this record, so it comes from what I listened to growing up, which was a lot of grunge and punk.”
Your 2018 album, One Big Beautiful Sound, has a variety of tempos and instruments, including strings and horns instruments. What inspired you to include these instruments in your music?
“Well, when I started this band I didn’t realize I was going to have horns, and I went on this big two-week trip for my 21st birthday so I could visit jazz clubs…I realized I really want horns in my band. They’ve become less of a staple in the new music I’ve been writing, but at the time I really dug it. Big Beautiful Sound specifically, I had this song on the back burner that was this musical theater kind of bit. It was almost kind of a joke of a song, and that’s the one people like the most…I think it is the song that is most often passed around, and I think a lot of people think that’s where we’re at.”
What is your favorite song from your discography to perform live?
“Lately it’s hard, we’ve played a lot of new stuff, but out of the stuff that’s been released one of my favorites to play is Gestapo…I like The Message too, The Message is always fun to play and it’s one people seem to like a lot.”
What advice would you have for those looking to get into the music industry, or start a band?
“The group we’ve got right now, it’s homies, it’s friends. I’ve been in other bands as a musician, and I know that if you don’t get along, it doesn’t really matter how good the music is…if you want to make a serious thing out if it, I think the most important thing is to be supportive of other bands and collaborate as much as you can. Do show trades with people, or hit up their Instas… I think it’s just about supporting each other, and remembering it’s supposed to be fun. ‘Cause if you’re not having fun doing it, people are going to pick up on it real fast. ”
What is the future for Johnny Manchild & the Poor Bastards? Do you have any big projects coming up (maybe something on December 8th)?
“December 8th we are releasing our first single from the record. The album is called Rapture Waltz, and it’s going to come out in spring of next year. A lot of it was written during Covid, and a lot of f***** up family stuff that happened, so the album ended up revolving around the theme of isolation. I think We Did Not Ask For This Room ended up being a lot about suicide and things like that, and this is not exactly the same – there are definitely pick me up songs, but yeah, that’s coming out in the spring and I’m really excited about it. “
Anything to shout out/ Where is the best place for people to support you?
“Patreon and Merch is everything, and for Patreon I always feel guilty because I feel like I’m not doing enough, but people tell me I post more than most people do. But that is the thing – if you’re talking about how I pay my bills, or how I pay rent so I can do this full time, like that’s it, it’s Patreon. I put out sheet music, I put out pictures, I do this thing called wheel or more wheel. I’ll have everyone on Patreon comment a genre, comment a lyric, and then I’ll spin a wheel to randomly mix them up, then I will write a song for the next week’s livestream that’s in that genre and uses that lyric…so I try to keep it interesting.”