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 The Manatarms story is your classic ‘school mates bond over mutual musical obsession’ one. “We all met in high school, so we’re old buddies from back in the day,” guitarist Demian Leighton says. “Something that brought us together was that weird obsession with music. At school when recess came and everyone went out to play soccer, we were the guys who would stay in class and share our Walkmans. That sort of connection arrived when we were in high school and we were pretty good buddies since that time. Then we decided to have a band: it was the logical step. So we started getting together to play some covers, some friends’ parties, very small, very usual for a new band.” The process naturally gravitated towards writing their own material, and before they knew it there was a handful of songs to work with, and the lads decided to take it a bit more seriously by getting some ideas down on record. “It started to get a little bit more intense and serious, in a way, and it sort of picked up from there.”

Leighton became a guitarist in an environment where a bunch of kids his age (around nine at the time) all had big brothers who were into music. “Those guys and another group were like our idols, and it happened to be that those guys were very much into rock music. I think we were like guinea pigs for them, in a way, because they forced us to listen to some bands. And we would look up to them so much. It was like, ‘These are the bands, this is the music, you have to listen to this!’ And we said, ‘Okay! We’ll learn to play an instrument!’ So looking up to these guys who were idols, it started from there.” His favourite players vary depending on the day of the week, but his general tastes have shifted from highly technical players like Steve Vai and Dream Theater’s John Petrucci to more blues-based players like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townshend. “Those guys are fusioned with their instruments. Those guys, they merge and fuse with the music. That for me is the ultimate musician.”There are only a few Manatarms shows left before the band heads back to Chile, including the Rock The Bay festival at The Espy on February 16 and a set at the Tote the following night. “Rock The Bay, we’re extremely excited about that gig. We’ve played a couple of times in The Espy and we love it. It’s a very cool venue, and to be able to play in this kind of context, it’s very exciting for us.” The Espy has been a big part of the band’s Melbourne experience. “We wanted to be part of a scene that was coherent for our kind of music, and we heard only cool stuff about the music scene in Melbourne,” Leighton says. “There were also strategic reasons: we were also considering the United States but it’s a little bit more complex. There were some visa issues as well, so it was a bit more complicated. Australia welcomed us with open arms and there was a pretty cool music scene here.”

The band promises to be back in Melbourne before too long, but in the meantime we’ll all have their new album to keep us company. “We’re just finishing the last details and it’s going to be launched at the Rock The Bay festival,” Leighton says. “We recorded in several places: that’s sort of the concept of the album. We recorded in two studios in Melbourne (Audrey Studios and NMIT Studios) and in one in Chile, so there are three textures and sounds. And it’s the first record that we recorded almost entirely as a live band. We wanted to capture that feeling. So it’s not like all the musicians are separate: it’s all together. The beat is live and more organic. So we wanted to give that a try, because we think that’s one of our main things.”