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since 2007

Scary Mansion

by Cris


Fresh from the Post comes back with another New York band. Hailing from Brooklyn, Scary Mansion‘s sound is a lovely blend of pop and rock, oftentimes accented by the sound of a thunderstick – a three-stringed acoustic instrument similar to a banjo or a dulcimer that lead vocalist Leah Hayes plays.

Apart from singing and songwriting, vocalist Leah Hayes also illustrates and writes books. She’s got two books under her belt, with her artwork featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times and McSweeney’s Quarterly.

This week, she puts on her musician’s hat to talk music – Scary Mansion music in particular, and lets us hear a sample from their latest album Make Me Cry


I always love hearing how bands started out. Can you tell us a little bit of information on how Scary Mansion formed?
Scary Mansion was formed a while ago…first by myself in my room, and then when I met Ben and Brad through La Laque (the other band I was in at the time), we became an actual band.  I played around by myself for a while.. mainly with the Antifolk/Sidewalk Cafe crowd.  But the three of us (Ben, Brad- and sometime my twin sister Vanessa) have been together like this for about 4 years.

What’s the story behind the name Scary Mansion?
I have always had dreams about mansions, big houses, dark interiors.  It’s almost every night, actually.  I woke up one day and was like, “This is ridiculous.  I should call the band Scary Mansion.”  I still don’t know why it happens to me but it does.

I love bands that have a female lead. There’s something really appealing to the female voice in a rock / alternative music song. What are your influences/inspirations when creating your music? 
Hah.  It’s funny… I tend not to like bands with a female lead.  🙂  In fact, I’m obsessed with bands that are all boys.  If I had it my way, I would be a boy and we would be a messy, loud, bunch of skateboarding dudes who got into fights every night and played shows to hot girls.   But I also secretly like being the only girl in a group of all guys.  Nirvana and Weezer and Built to Spill were all I listened to as a kid.  And Will Oldham.  I never listened to girl bands, except for Cat Power.   But she also seemed on the verge of getting into fights and skateboarding….so it was OK.

I’m really hearing a lot of great music coming from the New York scene? What is it with New York that inspires a lot of people to create really awesome musical creations?
Oh man.  I don’t know…. New York is New York.  It’s amazing.  How can you not be inspired?  Everyone is young here, everyone is amazing here. You walk around and you want to say hi to everybody or make music with them.  You want to invite them over to your house and kiss them and play piano with them.   There isn’t another city like it, you know?Would you like to share some songs with our readers and let us know some background on the songs (what inspired you to make it, what it’s all about)?
Hmmm.  I guess I could talk about “No Law”…..  I had a wonderful time making it and recording it with Dan Goodwin, our producer.  He and Michael Leviton (who helped me endlessly on this album) sat around with me while I tried for a long time to come up with a hook on the MOOG.  It was really late at night, we were all tired, and they were sitting in chairs in front of me going, “C’mon Leah… you can do it… just try one more thing.”  We must have gone through a million different harmonies and chords before we hit something that we knew was it.  We all cheered… it was so fun.  I felt so supported.

No Law

Last but not the least, I always ask this question to all artists that we feature – How do you define indie music?
I don’t have any idea how to answer that question.  Music that is not mainstream?  But I suppose indie music that goes mainstream is still “indie”.  Well, at least you’re not asking me to define “Antifolk”….thank you for that.  That’s too hard.

Knowing more about antifolk would’ve been interesting, though I probably would’ve gotten a lot of flak from other people if I talked about genres I’m not a bonafide expert of. But what I do know about is – that Scary Mansion creates the kind of music that quite aptly, can be described as haunting. It’s Hayes vocals that fuels the songs beautifully, whether it’s being accompanied by grungy rock and moog synths or with acoustic guitars and strings.
You can check out more songs from their Make Me Cry album at their MySpace page or visit the Talitres site to snag a copy of their new album.