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Ascenseur Ouvert! interview with The Kingsbury Manx (and stream the full album)

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Bill Taylor, the soft-voiced, carefully playing singer and guitarist in Chapel Hill quintet The Kingsbury Manx, talks the making of his band's fifth record, Ascenseur Ouvert!

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: What was the most challenging aspect of finishing Ascenseur Ouvert!?

BILL TAYLOR: I would have to say changing labels was the most challenging part. Time just got away from us a little bit after recording The Fast Rise and Fall of the South. That doesn't mean we weren't doing anything musically during that time. We just didn't have a lot of focus or direction. We had plenty of songs we were working on, but with no deadlines or timetable, it's easy to let time pass. Then we got to the point where we definitely wanted to go in and record since we were tired of sitting on our asses.

We funded the record ourselves, so we ended up recording over an extended period of a few months when we had the money to spend. It took way longer than it should have, but we are excited to finally get it out there. Once Paul [Finn, The Kingsbury Manx keyboardist and Odessa Records founder] started his label and pitched the idea of him putting out The Manx record, it all made sense. We had an outlet for the record. He wasn't going to have to front money for recording. We had total label accountability, and we didn't have a lot of the tough obligations many bands on labels have to deal with. We became our own masters, so to speak.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of finishing Ascenseur Ouvert!, be it musical or through opportunities it's afforded your band?

There definitely seemed to be sort of a crossroads mentality during that four-year stretch between the records. All of our lives got more complicated in various ways, and with no real direction for the band, it would have been easy to just let it fade out there. I think that there was a moment during that time we sort of recommitted to the whole thing, realizing that we love writing and recording music and wanted to keep doing it. We aren't trying to get rich and famous. We just want to be able to keep releasing records that find the right people, and there's no reason, especially with the Internet, that we can't do that.

So when we decided to start recording, the process was incredibly rewarding. We got to take our time and really hone things down to a point where everyone was happy. No recording experience is flawless, but it's hard to imagine one going smoother than this one did. After all the effort, to come out of it with a record we were all pleased with was awesome and sort of a validation to keep plugging away at it.

If you could change one thing about the record, what would it be?

As for as the recording itself, I wouldn't change anything unless I could somehow get a voice transplant and sound like Bowie. Overall I wish we could have released it sooner. We never really have a shortage of songs, so the things that keep us from releasing music more regularly are mostly logistical things. Four years is a long time between records. If we had released it two years after Fast Rise, it would have been, "Here's the new Manx record." After four years, it's more like, "A new Manx record? I didn't realize they were still around." Hopefully, that won't happen again, but you never know. We have learned to roll with things, and as long as we keep producing, that's what matters.

And what's something about the record you find interesting that no one's pointed out?

No one has really mentioned all the alliteration in the song titles. At one point, every song on the record was done that way, but some of them were too forced in attempting to make all 14 fit. It just felt a little gimmicky. We kept most of them because, in many cases, the titles were direct lifts from lyrics of the songs. Those just made sense.

Try to limit yourself to one answer: What's your favorite local album of 2009, other than the one you made?

This one is easy. It has to be the Waumiss record. I am a bit biased because I'm bandmates with Clarque, but that record really gets it right in a lot of ways. It's bizarre, interesting, catchy, inventive and fun all at the same time. They did a great job of finding a wide range of sounds on the record, with liberal use of samples and effects. That is something I'd like to incorporate more of in future Manx material.

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