FEATURE Christopher Mansfield, Fences
Image Credit: Bret Grafton

Can’t Fence In Christopher Mansfield

by Gil Melott
In spite of the pools of sludge that separated Fences front man Christopher Mansfield and the sparse but growing crowd at his Lollapalooza set – Mansfield managed to draw them in closer. “Hello Chicago, we’re Fences and we’re from Seattle.” A young girl behind me exclaims ‘damn yes you are, come on, let’s get closer!’ A new fan.

First Christopher Mansfield of Fences used his music (the 2010 self-titled LP was an overlooked gem), then the lyrics and ultimately the shoe-gazing performance. The earnest, somber set of lost love, heart-on-your-sleeve, songs provided a raw, humble performance – quite eye opening for the Lolla set. The guys from Seattle were there to represent and they did.

“It’s kind of strange when we were looking at the roster and realized we were the only band from Seattle. We felt like they might have drawn a name out of a hat and we got lucky. We are really happy to be here.” Mansfield tells us.

Well if that was the case then it seems that lightening continues to strike for Fences and Mansfield. Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara, was introduced to Mansfield’s music through a producer. “She liked it, she was enthralled I guess. She contacted me and said let’s make a record. So I got a passport, went up to Canada and there you go,” says Mansfield nonchalantly.

It’s readily apparent that Mansfield is a musician with a lot of stories to tell. At first glance you can easily make an assumption about the band based on appearances – Mansfield is skinny, covered in tattoos, literally head to toe, a cig could be on perpetual burn.

photo by Bret Grafton

Then you are easily taken aback by the rich melodies that range from the lullaby sounds of “My Girl The Horse” to the haunting “Girls With Accents.” In lesser hands, the repetition of the phrase ‘I'm f**kn up, I'm F**kn up…’ would sound ludicrous, instead it is soulful and draws in the girls like crazy.

“Well I think girls are nurturers and it seems they are drawn in by some the honest lyrics. Sometimes if you seem vulnerable they want to take care of you and they even enjoy it. And some girls like a stronger man with a bunch of money and a man with the confidence to say what he feels. But I can’t speak for the woman’s mind. I’m still trying to figure it out. Hell, I’m trying to figure out my own.” Mansfield adds laughing.

Mansfield, who has never shied away from his past and speaks often enough about his sobriety, seems to be in search of many things. But he is never desperate. There is a tunnel of ideas in his tormenting yet magnetic eyes. He knows what he wants. Just let him get there the way he feels comfortable. He WILL figure it out.

Looking ahead Mansfield and the band as a collective have been writing a lot of new music.

“We really have another record,” offers Mansfield. “We are either going to start making this new record or continue a strong tour off of our current one (Fences) and build on our name. But it all (change) could be an email away. Someone could say come do this tour, or we want to cut this album now.”

“Our main goal is to do some strong US tours with some great bands and some of the major festivals,” adds Mansfield. “And if we could tour with bands like Manchester Orchestra that would be amazing, stellar (insert the biggest smile you will get out of Mansfield here). Or Portugal. The Man. would be cool. There are several. I’d like to think we would fit in well and rise to the occasion.”

photo by Bret Grafton

Describing himself as a musician Mansfield doesn’t hesitate, “Personally, it’s a constant battle of what’s kind of punk rock with a strong technique and music theory, and totally expressing yourself in a unique and brash way.”

Mansfield adds, “As much as I like beautiful well put together music like Manchester Orchestra, I get equally excited by the Stooges. I hope I have reached that balance of the two.”

When I asked if there was anything people might not understand about him that he would like to get across he states matter-of-factly, “I’m not just a sad, sober, tattooed man you see on stage that sits around and complains all the time. I’m a hard working person, musician. I care about this and I actually wake up early and work my ass off because that’s what it takes.”

  

photos by Bret Grafton

  • Gil Melott is Publisher of JACKarcher and head of JACKarcher | JA+. Gil digs all things that haven't happened yet but probably should in music, fashion, art, film, design - you get the picture. Likes the influencers of all things NEXT and the strategies to get them there. Can appreciate great fried chicken, an amazing Malbec, a 1971 Ford Bronco, finding hot bands, and riding a bike any time. He spends a lot of time with his American Bulldog Chap who is the biggest influencer of what happens NEXT.