An Interview With Adam McCants of Synthwave Band Midnight Mantics
Midnight Mantics is a synthwave project made up of two friends: Adam McCants and Stacy Hogan. They combine their passion for the synth driven music of the '80s with more current sounds to create a unique blend of nostalgia and contemporary feelings. I talked to Adam McCants about how the band was born, the process of creation for them and how they stay fresh and inspired.
Karl Magi: How did you first find your passion for music?
Adam McCants: I’ve pretty much loved music since the first time I heard it, but I think the passion really came into play after realizing how much it impacted me and my mood or outlook in various moments throughout my childhood. Whether I was going through a good season or a bad season, music really helped and became a powerful sort of therapy and motivation.
Sidebar, passion is a really interesting word though, as it’s commonly used as as synonym for something you like a lot or have a stronger interest in, but I’ve learned through the years that it’s more than that. By definition it’s actually an intense and barely controllable desire or emotion. The Latin root of the word is passio which means “to suffer for”. Cue the “whoa” from Bill & Ted.
Music has always been there and I can’t imagine a world without it. A combination of a lot of different things started my passion for it. It wasn’t any specific artist per se, but rather it was just understanding that it existed and was there to help.
KM: How did Midnight Mantics come into being?
AM: Stacy, my partner on the project, and I met through the Nashville music scene years ago and have been pals ever since. Every now and again, we would jam a little bit and during one of the jams, we hit on this ‘80s synth sound and that’s how Midnight Mantics was born.
KM: What artists/bands have influenced you as musicians?
AM: We both grew up watching John Hughes, Cameron Crowe, Savage Steve Holland and John Carpenter movies, which all had a ton of synth-based soundtracks, so the artists and composers that were doing those soundtracks became some of our favourites.
I would say some specific influences not from the genre would be Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Aerosmith, Otis Redding and Metallica. From the genre, I would really say Tears For Fears, Psychedelic Furs, Genesis, Simple Minds, Billy Idol, Ice House, Howard Jones, etc.
There’s also a really underrated band called The Call that has been a big influence for me personally. They’re one of those bands that if you don’t know who they are, you need to check them out. People have heard more of their music than they realize, but they never got as big as they could have (or should’ve).
Random note, but in the opening to the movie ‘The Lost Boys’ they’re at the beach fair/boardwalk and there’s an oiled up, muscular sax player (that anyone who’s seen the film will probably remember) who’s playing a song called “I Still Believe” which was written by The Call. Another really underrated influence is a band called Real Life. They’re a really remarkable, super synth-driven awesome band that I was first introduced to via the not so critically acclaimed (but awesome) sequel film ‘Teen Wolf Too’ (which starred the now super famous Jason Bateman).
KM: Tell me about how the process of creating new music works for you.
AM: Stacy and I will sometimes individually have ideas that come up and we’ll jot ‘em down real quick on paper or make a quick voice note on our phones, etc. but where we really initiate and develop ideas is whenever we get together. It seems to be an endless tap whenever we sit down, so we typically will get in the home studio and play ideas back and forth, he’ll be on synthesizer and I’ll be on bass or vice versa.
After a few sessions of that, we’ll take whatever ideas we dig most and develop those a little further, then narrow it down to form an EP, album, etc.
KM: Talk to me about your Vibe City EP.
AM: Though we by no means blew up or got big with our first release, we did develop a fanbase which was super encouraging to us. So we not only wanted to keep making music because it’s a blast to do, but we also wanted to give the people who dug what we previously did something new. We wrote about 15 songs and narrowed ‘em down to the six that are on the Vibe City EP. We tried to aim for a continuation of the sound on the previous record (which I doubt we’ll ever depart from) with a slightly different tinge/mix on certain songs.
KM: What are your views on the state of the synthwave scene in the U.S.A?
AM: With respect to the synthwave scene in the U.S. and the world, it is just underexposed and under appreciated in my opinion. There are a lot of people making some really incredible music who don’t get much (if any) exposure and that’s lame, so hopefully that tide will change at some point.
There are so many good artists within the genre and there has yet to be a massive breakout artist (at least that I know of) within the scene. Granted the goal of making music isn’t to blow up or get famous but ideally to sustain a career and have as many people as possible hear it, which of course necessitates exposure. Hopefully the tide is turning in a direction where people will learn about the genre and grow to appreciate it much more than they do.
KM: What are your plans for the future with Midnight Mantics?
AM: We do this project because we’re great friends and we have a blast doing it. We want to put out music that people enjoy, so as far as the future is concerned, we’re going to just keep doing what we do and hopefully more people will latch onto it, become part of it and grow to be fans of it. We’ll still do it regardless of how many fans we have, but we’d be delighted to see it grow into a larger audience.
KM: How do you reinvigorate yourselves creatively?
AM: With Stacy and myself, when we sit down it’s like a natural reinvigoration. I don’t know how to describe it other than it’s a constant flow of ideas, laughs and more ideas and more laughs, whenever we get together. Eventually we just lasso it all together and it becomes cohesive. It is truly a most effortless collaboration.