In Jason Burke's small house, a roughly 3-foot by 3-foot cinderblock room doubles as a closet and a rehearsal space for the five-man, self-described aggressive punk 'n' roll band Manville. At a Wednesday night rehearsal, squeezed in around a drum kit, amps and themselves, they shredded through five or six songs. Some of their tunes have titles that are just barely printable—"1,000 Juggalos," "Beavers" and "Reefer Sutherland"—but many more don't. They're scatological, sexist and silly and often have little or nothing to do with the actual song they head. A big part of Manville's initial process includes the fivesome sitting around drinking beer and cracking themselves up creating song titles before they have music or lyrics. Rather than detract from the band's ability and appeal, it's this frat-guy behavior that allows Manville to take some of the seriousness that can (and does) cause many bands to become a joke and use it to their advantage. They're a bunch of guys with day jobs—and girlfriends, wives and mortgages—who are also in a band. They don't consider themselves artists. Burke summed up Manville's philosophy pretty succinctly: "Music as a craft is a bunch of shit."
Manville's current lineup of Burke (guitar), Mike Doherty (drums), Matt Huey (vocals), Brian Johnson (guitar) and Nick Schug (bass) has been together for just over a year, but the band has been around for about four years. When they formed the band in 2003, they didn't follow the familiar music-making, band-building formula of a couple of high school friends decide to form a band in hopes of impressing girls. Burke said he'd never met Schug before asking him to start a band, and that's exactly how he'd planned it.
"I wanted to start a band with someone I didn't know," he said. "I'd always been in bands with friends. You already kind of know what you're going to get into with friends. I thought it might be interesting to start something with someone I didn't know at all."
This talking about who they do and don't know led to a short round of Six Degrees of BW (both Schug and Burke worked for BW in the past) until, in turn and all at once, the members talked about where Manville has been and where the band is going.
Huey joined in January 2007, shortly before a small tour that spring. They did around eight shows in the West, including Portland, Seattle and Reno. Last November, they hit San Francisco (where they've played several times over the years) and Tahoe as well. They've played in Canada, and they play around Boise, most often at house shows and at the Bouquet. Their near future holds a European tour, in which they'll spend 10 days garnering fans on the big continent and readying to have CDs carried over there. But not everyone who hears Manville wants to hear them again.
An incident at the Big Easy has guaranteed Manville will most likely never play there again, and Burke said the management at the Plank probably won't ask them back either.
"The Plank said we're too loud," Burke said.
But even as Manville gets themselves kicked out of venues around town, they also continue to record so even if fans can't see them live, they can take a loud little piece of Manville home with them. A 7-inch titled Gettin' Freak Nasty and the CD Potty Animalz are out now and the band is currently working on three split 7-inches: one with Sacramento band unkuTHunks, one with Boise band Strings and Chemicals and one with Irish hardcore group Carosah. Burke said he also just finished up an interview with Maximum Rock and Roll, a thick fan-run magazine celebrating its 25th year that he said "is like a Bible" for bands like his: those that play music loud and fast.
And although they do play loud, fast music and their song titles are crass, there's something appealing about the men of Manville and their music that stems from a combination of musicianship, honesty, their screw-it-all attitude and, in some ways, their new singer. 1332 Records co-owner Byl Kravetz agrees. He said he likes the band's dirty rock and roll sound.
"Huey is an amazing frontman," Kravetz said.
Huey is the youngest of the group at 24 years old, and the band's third lead singer. (Their previous singer abruptly left the band in the middle of recording last year's Potty Animalz. She quit via text message.) Though Burke, who writes the band's music, has started dabbling in singing, it's Huey who writes most of the lyrics he sings, growls and yells.
Doherty, the band's drummer, is a kind of foil to the other members. He's plenty serious about his role as Manville's drummer. He gave the most direct answers to questions and though he laughed like everyone else in the room at the juvenile jokes, overall he was more somber—and sober—than his bandmates. Though he's only played drums for about eight years, Doherty is a focused musician who finds inspiration in the likes of metal drummers Derek Roddy and Pete Sandoval. He said he takes mental notes when he watches a particularly intriguing drummer and the other members of the band said that Doherty is often at the front of the stage studying other bands' drummers when they play.
Both Schug and Johnson were more reserved than the other three—at least when they're weren't playing—and it's the differences in the band members that may be a big part of what makes the whole thing work, whether they're playing a house show, a gig at the Bouquet or on the road.
Not that they always have straight answers. Burke answered a question about the band's history with, "You can see my passport." When Huey responded that he'd "just pulled it out" (of a drawer), Burke quipped, "That's what she said," a phrase that, as the evening wore on and the PBR tall boys grew scarce, became a mantra.
But behind all of the Beavis and Butthead behavior sits a band that does a good job playing music. They just refuse to spoil the fun by turning it into a job.
Manville plays Friday, Feb. 22, 8 p.m., with The Donna Vultures supporting Diesto at Myrtle Morgue, 210 Myrtle St.; and will compete in the final round of 1332 Records' Battle of the Bands on March 3, 9 p.m. at The Bouquet, 1010 Main St., TheBouquet.net.