Two months ago, we happened across a performance by Mantis, an eagerly funky and inwardly quirky indie-rock band we'd heard mentioned but never actively sought out. Their show, in short, was quite remarkable, an effort spearheaded by vocalist/keyboardist/bow-tie enthusiast Nick Greer.
Writing this column for a couple of years now, our Search That Band Out skills have been honed to a sharpness that razors envy: Go to Google, type in a band's name, click on the first link. So after we saw Mantis, we assumed we'd be able to find them online. We could not, and almost two months passed before we saw their name pop up on a flyer for a show again.
But we finally signed them to the Artist of the Week earlier this week, stealing a few moments from them to talk about neckwear, who their best metaphorical basketball player would be and whether or not their bassist killed someone.
Rocks Off: Artist of the Week opener: Tell everyone everything they need to know about Mantis in exactly six words.
Mantis: Best rock band from Houston.
RO: How often does Mantis pray? [badum-tsssh] See what we did there? See that? Clever, right?
Mantis: We believe in magic.
RO: The one question that came back to us more than any other when we told people that we were going to be interviewing you all: Why oh why is Nick Greer wearing that gigantic bow tie in the "Money" video? What does it represent? Or does it represent nothing but is supposed to represent something? Or something.
M: The bow tie is a symbol for every person that is afraid, as most people are. We are not, and by making ourselves look stupid we hope to convey to everyone else that there is nothing to be afraid of.
RO: Another thing regarding the video: At the very beginning, the bass player, who looks like he may be covered in blood, sticks a hunting knife into a banister on a staircase. Um, what was going on there?
M: We were trying to put images and thoughts in people's heads. Money is not always good. It also looked very cool.
RO: What's the word on proper music from you all? Is there an EP or LP or anything? And if not, when can we expect to try and pressure you into giving us a free one?
M: We have been on a release rampage that started in December 2010 with Get Money, Get Revenge, featuring the single "Money," available on iTunes. Watch the video on YouTube. Then we followed that up with ALIVE, released in Jan. 2011, [and] Dreamers EP [in] Feb. 2011.
We will be releasing the album JAWS [in] April 2011, along with the video for the single "Dreamer."There will be a single released in May 2011 entitled "Glass." All of our music is available on iTunes and Amazon MP3. We are doing aggressive releases to prove a point; we're hungry.
RO: You're in the NBA Finals. There are 10.8 seconds left. Mantis is losing 97-98 to the Miami Heat, but they're in possession of the ball and have just called a timeout. Which member of the band do you draw the play up for?
M: We would look to the sidelines, see our godfather James Kelly sitting courtside, give him a look of distress implying a question and possible desperation considering the situation and the potential to make it great, and he would smile, then we would call in Randy Ellis cause he brings the noise.
RO: Is there anything else that you want to make sure gets mentioned? Go for it now.
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M: We always say, "It's not that we're not ready, it's that were not put on." We are musical directors for H.I.V.E. HOUSTON and doing a benefit show April 29 at Avant Garden. James Kelly of Wire Road Studios will die a legend. Niceguys are the best hip-hop group in Texas. Twitter: @WTDIHouston, as in "what to do in Houston."