Upstream Indie: an Interview With Manelik

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Manelik is an alternative rock artist, bassist, multi instrumentalist, producer and songwriter. We spoke to him about his musical inspirations, collaborative process, and new music. Read the full interview below.


How did you all meet and what prompted you to collaborate?

For the last 20 years I played and collaborated with various local and international acts, both as a session musician and as a live performer. I always wanted to do something worthy with music, but again and again I felt disappointed by the lack of professionalism and hard work in most bands. So time after time I left, and joined another project, and left, and joined another project. All seemed to plateau at the level of playing clubs with, at best, a few compositions that never became anything, or at worse, covers. That’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted more, but at the same time I was not self-confident enough to start my own project. I guess I’m a bassist for a reason (laugh). I wanted more but at the same time I kept being in the background, pushing others instead of freeing myself.

I went through a last band failure in 2018 where the band leader and main songwriter – a real narcissistic, lazy tyran – kept rejecting my ideas, spitting on my compositions, and even told me that “he felt pity for me” and when I quit that “I should not record his music because that would be a crime”. That was enough, I replied that I was going to do my own music and I didn’t need his. He laughed. Today his project doesn’t exist anymore. Mine is taking off.

I spent a few months working 20 hours a day, 7 days a weeks, and composing a whole album, finding my sound, learning recording, production, mixing, mastering, etc. During all this time I collaborated with an old musician friend of mine, guitarist, arranger and pianist Sed Bandini, who eventually joined the album team and did what I believe to be a guitar masterpiece on Let The Rain. I recorded all instruments myself, learned guitar, drums, keyboards, just enough to be able to do what I heard in my head. I also struggled to find a good vocalist (I can’t sing, really, it’s painful to hear), tried with three or four and never got the professionalism, commitment and technical level I wanted. The music sounded dull… and I was close to giving up.

One day my girlfriend shook me and said: “Aren’t you tired of all these amateurs? Why don’t you find a star session singer and try that?” The next day I found Marcello Vieira on SoundBetter, and 24 hours later he sent me a first demo for Be as You Are. Man, that was beyond words! I was stunned! It was so good!!! My music was coming alive at last. Marcello and I got along very well, and he ended up recording the vocals on all of the songs except Insomnia, and being part of the Manelik tribe. We are writing a new song for the 2021 album together, and it rocks big time. For Insomnia I wanted to have a female voice, and I found Ivy Marie. Listen to the song, she’s just incredible. The same way Marcello joined the tribe, she did. As far as Manelik is concerned, she’s family now. Now for the next 2021 album, I will keep applying the same concept and expand it. I contacted Alberto Rigoni, a talented bassist I know from Bass Players United for a few years, and he laid down the groove on a few songs, including an truly moving fretless part on a jazzy, down-tempo cut called Aurora Borealis. Marcello is on the team of course, as well as Sed Bandini and Ivy, who will do the background vocals and sing the lead vocals on one or two songs again. This is I want Manelik to work; I gather a tribe of friends, guest stars and ace musicians who really make the music shine; it allows me to keep it pure but at the same time open the door to the contributions and enhancements of experienced and motivated players.

Ivy Marie

We noticed you are from Geneva. What is the music scene like there and does the area inspire or effect your music?

Geneva is a financial and business city… The music scene is crap here. Most musicians are just amateurs. Too many guys who play the rockstar outside of their daily job, one day a week or so, sporting a Fender Custom Shop to play like rookies. We’re flooded with cover bands who all play the same pub music and the same 50 songs, Sweet Home Alabama, Mustang Sally, and the likes. In general in Switzerland there’s not much going on musically, although a few stars like Phil Collins live in my area and some Swiss bands like Gotthard or Redwood are definitely worth checking  – and it’s a small country, barely half of the population of New York.

Geneva is maybe the worst place for music in Switzerland. But we have great festivals in the area, like Montreux or Paleo, though. So we can easily see a lot of great musicians playing in a relatively small area. All this to say that it’s not the Geneva music scene that inspired me, rather on the opposite: the absence of music scene here, and my love for masters like Sting, a-Ha, Coldplay or Muse, are what motivated me to do something about it. I hope that many bands will follow and that we can create a music scene here, and even, why not, a Geneva sound. It doesn’t depend on me, but I’d love to see that happening!

How would you describe your style to our readers who may be unfamiliar?

I think my style is definitely alternative rock, sometimes pop, with a touch of experimental sounds and another touch of everything I liked in any music (haha). I think a good song makes you lose your sense of time and space, and makes you travel within yourself mentally or emotionally. I try to make songs that are not necessarily radio-calibered hits – some are though – but still, I hope, classics all the same. I try to make the kind of music you continually want to come back to. I realised listening to Lady Gaga’s work and arranging a rock cover of Poker Face that it doesn’t matter in what style a song is played or arranged. What matters is that it’s a great composition. And definitely Poker Face is a great song intrinsically.

As I also have a classical music background as a violinist, I invest a lot of work in the instrumentations. I approach them like classical music, with layers of melodies that work together to create a wall of sound and tell a musical story. You shouldn’t get bored even in a 7 minute song; there should always be something interesting going on, be it with the vocals, the keyboards, the guitars, the drums or percussions, pianos, strings… or the overall sound. There are infinite ways to twist and bend a sound or a melody, and that’s what I try to do. It’s listening to the creation itself and what else it needs to say, like developing the vocabulary of every song. So I’d say that when you listen to Manelik, you get a careful blend of everything that is cool in rock music and beyond, Coldplay, Muse, Imagine Dragons, Toto, Journey, Depeche Mode, Sting, a-Ha, and many, many others. Simply listen to FLY and then to Insomnia, and it gives you an idea of the eclectic potential my band has.

Marcello Vieira

What inspires you to create and write songs?

There are two main situations where song inspiration comes for me. Sometimes melodies just hit me like that, out of the blue, while I’m driving or showering, or taking a time off to meditate. The chorus of Be as You Are is a great example, I was driving back home one night and singing all kinds of crap, when this hook came to me and I immediately recorded it in my phone. At other times I use and develop one of the thousands of loops, ideas, sounds, melody bits and instrumental “riffs” I store on my computer. They can come while I’m browsing a loop library, in which case I replay them and change the sounds, the melody or the arrangement and over time it becomes something very different and personal.

Typically, the keyboards part of Twisted Life was a techno Apple loop in a previous life. It reincarnated in a different form as a keyboard motive for an almost folk song :-)))) They can be a bass riff I find when I’m practicing, like the bass riff of Stars, around which the whole song was constructed, or Insomnia. I’m a bassist so most of my song inspirations come from an initial groove, on which I usually find it very easy to add melodic layers.

What can you tell us about your latest release ‘F.L.Y.’? How did the project come about?

I think I said it in the first question, but long story short, after 20 years of being frustrated as to where the projects I was involved in were really going, one day I stopped and thought: “This is not ok, I can’t go on like this, there must be another way.” I’m a very hard worker, I work all the time in fact, and I need to work with people who are able to deliver quick and perfect, and I always need more. I concluded – a bit late I agree – that the only way to be satisfied was to make my own music in my own terms. 


Being that it was your first full project, we imagine that it will only be up from here. What do you hope to accomplish as an artist in the future?

The EP F.L.Y. is a selection of 6 cuts among the 18 that I’ve got ready. In a way it’s my statement to myself about what I can do and where I’m going from now on. It’s just a beginning, the next album we’re already working on will have 14 tracks and I’m very happy with what I’ve heard so far! The songs sound killer, Marcello reaches even higher heights than on F.L.Y., Sed Bandini is doing an incredible guitar and piano work, and the guests I invited are really top of the pops. Let’s be clear, I’m not doing music to enjoy it in my car or share it with my friends.

I want the whole world to hear it, and I won’t stop until it’s the case. I don’t have an objective in terms of chart placement or commercial achievement, but I’m trying my best to make music that inspires people, that convey positive messages or talks about how to get out of difficult or painful life events, and I strongly believe that music can and must make the world a better place. That’s why I’m saying that I want the whole world to hear it. And I really want to promote and share the talent of my tribe members, the musicians who bring their talent to make my music shine.

What can our readers do to support you?

So the best thing that readers can do to support me is to spread the message, hear the music and share it as much as possible. Share the songs, share the videos! That is valid actually for any music you like and it costs ZERO! I do not believe in the gloom and doom of some genres, I don’t make music to say that the world is shit and life is hopeless. I want to help people get inspired, think for themselves, find themselves and if possible at all with music, learn to love themselves more. And this message can only be spread if it is shared.

I mean, there’s nothing that makes me happier than when I get a fan message like the other day saying “Your songs helped me a lot in the last days, when I feel lonely they give me wings and it’s magical.” How cool is that? And, last but not least, if readers enjoy the music, they can support it by buying it from Bandcamp or SoundCloud, not just streaming it. We all know how it goes with streaming… it’s synonymous with starving for most artists. We also give 10% of all our earnings on Bandcamp to the 8 Billion Trees organisation to plant trees, compensate our carbon footprint and help mother nature. So if you like Manelik, Bandcamp is the place to say it with a few dollars!

Check out Manelik's latest official video for "F.L.Y."

Buy Manelik's music here

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