I was asked to give a little insight to the album "Tenebrae". It is an awkward thing for me to do unless we are sitting across a café table and have already been talking for about forty five minutes. I hope none of the things I say here comes across as pretentious or seems narcissistic. I realize I am not a rock star and that 99.9 percent of the people reading this have never heard my name before. So, I tried to give a little insight to where the songs came from, and what the recording process was like for the band. If you have any questions please feel free to ask, if you like the music please feel free to share. I am blessed to have your attention and I hope you enjoy what we have done.
"Tenebrae" (Latin for 'shadows') was recorded February 19th to March 3rd 2007 in Lexington, Kentucky with producer Duane Lundy. It was written by my brother Tom Mangione and I, Mike. We recorded it with our band consisting of John Collins, Patrick Hoctor, and Kristina Priceman as well as some special guests such as Karl Dietel and Robbie Consenza. The album was completely independent and funded by money I had received from my wedding a couple of months prior. I saw it as an investment and am very happy with what we accomplished. We tried to make something that can transport the listener to a specific place; we wanted to make an album with a vibe… a scent. The album has its faults, cracks and hisses but so do the individuals who made it. It is an honest reflection of the artists involved.
Waiting For No One
I wrote this one night sitting on my couch in Milwaukee. Most songs take a couple of days, or weeks to write. I never force the process, if it comes great, if it does not that’s fine too. This song came to me and fast. It’s about the balance between being frustrated with where you are and realizing you need to be thankful for what you got and receptive to it. Hanging in between those two places of frustration and receptivity is where this song lives. “You can stay, detained by your questions or come living with me” is in reference to our call to face this reality and fess up to it. This was recorded with the band all facing each other playing, this is all live. When we got a good take, we listened back and found that everything was great, no need to overdub. This is Duane, the producer’s favorite. Karl Dietel who played with The Samples has amazing keyboard work on this.
It's Me, Not You
When I brought this song to Duane, our producer, he wanted to pass on it. He didn’t think it should be on the album. It is now one of the songs with the most response and radio play… that’s kind of funny. It was very drum oriented, we put a lot of time in getting a swampy drum sound before we did anything else. I wanted it to chug along, that way I could work the lyric phrasing around the beat. I was initially a drummer and so I always think rhythmically. Anyway, I love Tom’s guitar on the track, one of his best performances I think. The song is a conversation between God and Man. God is saying “don’t get to sure of your self, let me take care of it, I always have in the past.” This is one of my favorite to play live.
The Killing Floor
We recorded this on the fly live. I wrote this a day before we entered the studio so no one in the band knew it. We wanted to keep as much of the album live so, like all other songs on the record, we stood at our respected spots in the warehouse we recorded at, I shared the chords and changes and we pressed record. After the second time through the song we all understood how it was supposed to sound. We realized the song is one hundred percent feeling and vibe. After the second take we said we were ready to do it for real, Duane Lundy our producer replied, I think we just did. We kept the second take and I added some harmonies. There is so much bleed in the microphones going on in this song that you could turn all the tracks down except for one and it would sound the same. The song is about Good, it transcends all things no matter how dark it can get.
First Time: Please Forgive Me
This song is an apology that’s why there is so much melody in it. If it was an excuse rather than an apology there would probably be a lot more words. All I can do is say forgive me… and let the strings do the rest. I wrote this with more of a broad perspective; it is not really specific to anyone. That is pretty much how all my songs are. My heart tells me that I have done some hurtful things in the past and its ache won’t let me forget. Eventually, I just have to ask for forgiveness and see things anew, wipe it clean. That’s what the song is. A plea for forgiveness, moving forward and then seeing for the first time.
You Don’t Wanna Leave
This was written at 4am coming home from a show in Iowa City. I would write with a pad of paper on the steering wheel occasionally, checking my handwriting with the interior lights. I was around Beloit when the ideas really started flowing. It’s about always looking ahead and missing what’s there in front. Grasping so far that what you truly need gets overlooked. The chorus is very specific to a traveling singer/songwriter, ”big wheels will lay you down in the chords of another town”. This is the most impersonal/personal song I have written. Sometimes I feel it was written about me and sometimes about someone else, it’s weird. I never get tired of playing it (at least not yet).
This was recorded in the first take. We tried a couple after to see if we could get something better but there was sincerity that could not be replicated. Recording can quickly become artificial as you try to capture and create what comes natural. The first take had it because I didn’t think we were going to get it, so I was relaxed. I am glad it worked. All good will cause pain. The best thing in your life will hurt you because it means that much. Even if you are changing something in your life for the better, there is still some tearing that will occur and sometimes we are not ready for it. When it happened to me all I could say was slowdown. This one is personal.
It’s A Hard Road To Crawl.
Tom wrote most of this one here. I always call it a palate cleanser because of how short, sweet and simple it is. More of an optimistic tune for Tom, he has a tendency to write in the darker fare. It is very hopeful and I remember sitting on his couch when he sang it to me, I fell in love immediately with the last line “I will always be your friend and I ask for nothing in return…..It’s a hard road to crawl but you won't crawl it alone.” Sometimes there is not much to say but the simple words, sometimes that are all you need. This song embodies that completely. I had a lot of fun with the strings here, one of my favorite string parts on the album.
Now That It's Done: Won't You Come Back
This is one of my favorite songs on the album as well as to play live. We took a lot of time with this because we wanted it to be haunting. It was a very special song for both Tom and I. Probably one of the most perfectly co-written songs we have had. Tom came up with the chorus and I was hooked, I started writing the verses and finished them in one sitting, which is very rare for me. It is about redemption and all its elements, the darkness, the fall, the bottom, the light and redemptive rise. I often explain this song as being on your knees not because you ought to but because you can’t stand. True sacrifice does not generate a sense of glory or pride when it takes place. Sacrifice burns and causes one to question what they are giving. This song is that question and I tried to have the answer be revealed somewhere in Sacrifice. This song is the pinnacle of the album for Tom and I, everything leads up to it and recedes after it.
I finished this song at a friends house outside of Muscle Shoals, Alabama right before I went into the studio. It is a really personal and honest song. I was once telling someone that with songwriting you often lose sight of what the song was about when you wrote it. You write it, record it and then walk away. Over time the meaning may change as you change personally. For example, a song about a girl who left you might become, overtime, a song about loss in general. The Great Divide is still very close to its birth home for me, it is still a very fresh wound. That is because it is about searching. It deals with the big questions like who are we, why are we here and will we be contacted. Faith for me has never been a stagnant thing; I have always been in motion with my faith. From dark to light to dark again, I am always in question and this song was born out of that.
A Requiem For The Trash
This song was in Tom for awhile. It came out of a relationship he was in. He would always thumb it around when we were together working on something else. I loved it from the very beginning. Tom once made a comment to me about how I write a lot and how he can’t write that much. I replied that that’s because he reaches deeper for his songs. I still feel that way and know he is one of the best songwriters I have ever been blessed to hear let alone work with. The song is one big crescendo, layering upon itself. We did it all facing each other in Duane’s studio. Robbie, our drummer, did not know the song so he kept a clear eye on our bass player John. I love this song and really enjoy playing it live. It is emotional for Tom and I to perform, we both really relate to the lyrics…. another fresh wound. “You should have kissed me one last time, I wished you’d hover over me” can stop me in my tracks anytime.
Mama, Be Not Afraid
A fitting last song I think. The album is mellow and I felt this song could be like the music that plays while the people leave the theatre. It concludes "Tenebrae" with a little hope while the listener moves on and walks away from the experience. I came up with the chorus for this one sitting on the plane after I spent some time in Rome. The song is a leap of faith. Going back to what I said about The Great Divide….. this song can be pretty spiritual for me… very therapeutic. A very tiring song to do live, it really takes a lot of energy to perform, but I love it. I am very happy with the string parts in it. Before "Tenebrae", I have never written string parts before, it was this song that made me feel like I could do it.