of mice and men hysteria

OF MICE & MEN // The Dreams of Interpretation

US ‘core juggernauts Of Mice & Men are coming to Australia in 2024, headlining their own run of shows for the first time. First time? Surely not.

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Though it’s difficult to believe, these plucky not-so-youngsters have been on Soundwave Festival bills, the dearly departed Vans Warped Tour, and as featured supports for the likes of Slipknot, Five Finger Death Punch, and Marilyn Manson. They’ve even appeared at the metalhead mecca, Wacken Open Air.

mr bungle hysteria

Guitarist Phil Manansala appears on screen, walking through a maze of concrete and pipes. “I’m in Hamburg,” he says, his eyes darting around for a corner to prop his phone up. “You know, the Hamburger burg,” he laughs. It’s two in the afternoon and his beanie betrays how chilly things are getting up North.

Even more unbelievable is Of Mice & Men being away from Aussie shores for over six years. This time, they’ll be touring alongside the revitalised Dream On Dreamer and Sienna Skies. What was it like to hear that news?

“It’s very exciting,” Phil says, his phone finally settling on a level surface. “We’ve actually never got to properly headline Australia. We’ve been out there for countless festivals and countless direct support shows. The Amity Affliction, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit. Bring Me The Horizon as well. We’ve done some club shows, a lot of direct support stuff. But finally we get to do our own headlining tour, which is very exciting for us. It feels like a ‘wow’ moment because it’s our first time and we’ve been there so many times and we’re actually really, really excited to finally bring a headlining tour to Australia, after ten years of touring down there.”

Being a headliner means more time to play and the burden of choosing a setlist. They released their eighth full-length Tether this year, to much acclaim from fans and critics alike. Eight albums means a lot of songs to choose from, making whittling down a setlist all the more challenging.

“It’s definitely a very unique experience when you have almost a hundred songs as a band and to come up with a set list. There is a lot of, ‘should we should play this, we should play that, or we should play this song, we should play that song?’ When you only get to play around 13, 15 songs for a headliner, a lot of songs I feel don’t get the gratitude they deserve. That’s the hardest part of headlining; picking a set list everyone will enjoy.”

When we had the three years off during COVID, I had time to look back and realise that we have accomplished a lot in the last 10, 12 years of creating music with this band. It’s just been a hell of a rollercoaster ride that hasn’t stopped yet.
[ Phil Manansala ]

The album itself has a Rorschach test on the cover, a psychological tool to have people interpret an inky blot in their own unique way. For Phil and the band, it was an act of letting go of their control over the record and having fans and listeners create their own way of finding meaning instead.

“All of us listen to music a different way and some songs people interpret for themselves that are different than how the artist wrote it,” says Phil. “It’s really cool that Tino (David Valentino Arteaga, drummer) designed all of the artwork and there’s individual artwork pieces for each song that depicts certain things. You might see this or someone might see that, or when you listen to it you might see something else. It was definitely the vision we were going for. I think it’s very cool to give that freedom back to the listener and our fans to give their own interpretation of each song. Because that’s what it is. Every song works for everyone their own way.

“I do the same thing with other music as well growing up. I thought [one particular] song was meant for me, but it works for a million people listening to the song. So it’s a very fun in-depth way for our fans and listeners to try to figure out what it is for each song for themselves.”

soundworks hysteria

Does that colour how he listens to songs that even he has created?

“Yeah definitely,” he says. “I try to look at each album that we’ve done as a chapter of a really long novel that we’re writing and each chapter is depicted with how we feel as a band or what we’re going through and how we create music at the time. This album is very traumatic in a way, dramatic as well for us. There’s a lot of sad stuff and a lot of feeling and some of our older stuff is just like, fast, fast, fast, heavy breakdown, heavy, heavy, heavy. On that album, that’s how we wanted to do it. Each album is what we wanted to do at the time. We tried to do something different, but still in our style. When I listen to our first, second, or third album now and I’ve looked back at it like, ‘wow.’ Especially the first album, I can’t write music like that anymore. I write so differently now. I’m older and I’ve learned different techniques. It doesn’t make sense as an artist to go back in time and try to create something as timeless as your first album that’s going to make your listener, that was 16, 17, 18 at the time now in their mid twenties, maybe thirties feel like that again.

“We’re in our mid thirties now and we can’t create something like that that’s going to make our fans feel like we’re chasing some nostalgic vibe.”

Being an original member of the band, Phil has seen their rise from wet-behind-the-ears opening act for local bigwigs, to gaining international festival slots and now multi-national headline act. If future Phil told past Phil they’d be eight albums down and playing an Aussie headline tour a decade and a bit later, would he have believed him?

“No way!” he says. “With everything that we’ve been able to accomplish, having eight albums and the sort of all-star bands that we’ve had to open up with, which were a lot of my favourite bands growing up, it would’ve never been something that I thought would’ve been possible. When we got Warped Tour for the very first time, I was like, oh man, we did it. We’re on Warped Tour.’ We did it four or five times. We got to headline it and then get to be on the huge European festival runs and countless arena tours. It’s kind of surreal to believe that.

“Sometimes I pinch myself because it’s this crazy dream. When we had the three years off during COVID, I had time to look back and realise that we have accomplished a lot in the last 10, 12 years of creating music with this band. It’s just been a hell of a rollercoaster ride that hasn’t stopped yet.”

Of Mice & Men Australian Headline Tour 2024

With special guests
Dream On Dreamer and Sienna Skies

Friday, 23rd February // Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide
Saturday, 24th February // The Metro, Sydney
Sunday, 25th February // 170 Russell, Melbourne
Tuesday, 27th February // The Triffid, Brisbane

Presale Available from Thursday, Nov 30 @ 9am local
General Public On Sale: Friday, Dec 1 @ 9am local

Tickets available here.

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