To the Manx music scene the TT festival is a rite of passage. The island population doubles over TT fortnight, and the once quiet streets are littered with leather wearing petrol heads from all over the world. If there’s one thing that these visitors have in common (other than their need for speed) is their love for a good beer and some live music, and our much-loved pop up venues are more than happy to accommodate them, hiring only the best of the best of island musical talent to fill their stages over the fortnight. For this reason, it seems that there would be no better prize for the winner of The Original Quids Inn’s Battle of the Bands competition than a chance to play at these venues, a prize won by none other than Manx quartet Man in the Woods, Marc Vincent (bass/vocals), James Oxtoby (guitar), Dave Murray (guitar) and Christian Hardman (drums).
The four-piece specialise in heavy, sludge stoner rock, and their powerful debut EP ‘Badlands Part One’ has just been released online. Opening track Icarus Landing slowly builds from a melodic intro that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Pink Floyd record, and develops into an eruption of noise as Vincent’s throaty vocals lay over the heavy bass and drums. The guitar work over the entire EP grounds each song with satisfying melodies, whilst the beefy vocals and drums drive each song forward with the sort of rugged aggression that will make you want to down a bottle of Jack Daniels and go outside to chop some wood. For a debut EP, ‘Badlands Part One’ is a complete success, and I’m certain that the band’s music will go down an absolute treat with all our inebriated Manx locals and visitors.
I caught up with Man in the Woods vocalist Marc Vincent before their first gig of the fortnight at Bushy’s to see how the opportunity arose…
So lets just get straight into it, how did you guys start making music together?
Originally the band started off with myself and James, me and him got together and started a band with the idea of it being a stoner sludge band. Then we went through a few musicians before we got the full line up as it is now. We had one or two songs already written and then we got the other two members who were friends of James. It took a year or two to get the line-up cemented as it is now, but Man in the Woods started from there really.
What sort of music influences you?
I’m very elitist with what I listen to. I was really into my hardcore Punk when I was younger, but then I started to listen to that stoner sound that Kyuss brought forward. They developed that really simple, DIY punk mixed with blues. They played it really fast, down-tuned and heavy. But them I’m also into the really sludgey stuff like Crowbar. There’s also some good stuff around at the moment like Kurokuma and Crack House which I’m getting really into. James is into the same music but also a bit of Motorhead and heavy Rock, Dave is into bands like the Cancer Bats, and Christian is into bands like Tool and Queens of the Stone Age.
Sounds loud… you can hear all of those influences coming across on the EP. How does the writing process go for you guys?
We don’t stifle anyone’s influences. We come up with a riff or a bass line and everyone just puts their thing to it. We know that our direction is sludge and stoner and we get that sound from the way I write the lyrics and the way James writes his riffs, but then the other influences come through that.
How did the recording process go for Badlands Part 1, and when can we get our hands on Part 2?
The idea was to have an 8 track album but we had to do it in two halves due to the amount of work which went into the first one. The plan is to record part 2 either this year or next, then we can work out whether we want to release it as a full album or keep the two parts. We smashed it out in the studio really quickly because they are four of our oldest songs. We set ourselves two weekends at Ballagroove to get it done, and we managed to get it all finished.
Can’t wait for that sequel! Now, well done on being crowned Battle of the Bands winners. How did it feel to be announced as champions with all that local talent as your competition?
We were quite surprised. We won the Amber battle of the bands in 2017 but we were surprised at this one. In our heat there were another metal band called Swarf Damage, and they are so brutal we thought we didn’t really stand a chance, so we didn’t even expect it to make it to the final really. Then after we performed in the final we thought there was no chance, then our name was called out and we were just like “what the fuck?” I think we don’t expect it because we aren’t trying to be mainstream, we are doing our own thing. If you like us you like us and if you don’t like us… I really don’t care, so it was surprising to win for sure.
Do you think there is a decent audience for your type of music in the Isle of Man then, since it was the crowd reaction that ultimately led to your Battle of The Bands victory?
We’re definitely getting some interest. We’ve noticed a few of the same people who will come to our shows, and we have a few guys who will come from down South to Douglas to see us, so we are certainly building. I’m not saying we introduced it but I don’t think there has been a sludge stoner band in the Isle of Man before, certainly in recent years anyway, so I think we have filled that slot for the minute.
Did you find it hard to find somewhere where you could play your originals music at first with it being so unique?
Yeah. Our first gig was at Dark Horse where we played to about 3 people and it was alright, it didn’t go down great and we didn’t think we had done a very good job. But then we played at Amber for Battle of the Bands and we had a really good reaction. I definitely feel that there are a lack of venues that will take our style of music at the heavy end of the spectrum, so bands like us, Swarf Damage, Slow Decay, Crotch Lice. We all struggle because we have a heavier sound. If you are an originals pop band then venues are a lot more likely to give you a shot. The two venues that are really supporting us at the moment are Quids Inn and Compton Vaults, and we’ve got a lot of respect for them for that. There need to be more people out there who realise that there is an audience for this.
That in mind, are you excited to have the chance to play at Bushy’s? What does it mean for a local band like you to be given the chance to play at these TT venues?
Yeah, we’re excited for the opportunity. We haven’t played it before because we’re an originals band at the heavier end, so it will be an experience for all of us. Its definitely going to be the biggest stage that we’ve played, although we will have to wait and see if it’s the biggest crowd we’ve played to, as we’re on at 6pm. Regardless though, it’ll be good whatever, and we’re so glad that we’ve been given the opportunity to do it.
Man in the Woods’ next gig is at The Trackside on the 1st June so get down there for a head-bang or two and support this burgeoning talent. You can find their debut EP here