Behind the Music: Interview with Bryn Evans (MantaRayBryn)

‘I want my music to be dynamic and mercurial; the songs exist as an extension of myself.’

Describe your music style in no more than 5 words: Nature, stories, reflection, drama, fear.

Where does the name MantaRayBryn come from? Mantaraybryn was a joke nickname from school after I revealed that as a child I had ‘invented’ a swimming stroke called the MantaRay. Some boys in the year above thought this was funny and the name sort of stuck.
 
I read recently that you are inspired by nature, history and literature. Do these influences tend to be applied individually to tracks or cross over?  These are just broad themes that seem to always be overlooking my lyrics – I know they’re a source of inspiration and always an area I can use to channel my thoughts and feelings. I can always leave a museum or coastline with some small nucleus of an idea for lyrics.
 
How did it feel to be headlining at the Camden Assembly? Pretty humbling as I used to read about the London venue years ago in NME – when it was formerly The Barfly – which always felt like a very distant place when you’re a teenager in Cornwall.
 
How does your song writing process work?  It could start with a two-line drunken note on my phone or alternatively where I sit down, try to relax, and be honest with my thoughts and see if they land on the page as poems. I don’t have a set process for songwriting which maybe helps keep things fresh? I’m still learning with each track.
 
Quite a few of your tracks to date have a very different feel to them. How important is it for artists to show everything they have to offer? I want my music to be dynamic and mercurial; the songs exist as an extension of myself. I am not upbeat all the time, just as I am not intense and sombre all the time. I think it’s important to show many sides as I want my writing to be honest, and when this resonates with people listening, surely that’s a good thing. I hope when people see me play live, we move through different emotions and atmospheres together as the set rolls out.
 
What does a MantaRayBryn recording session look like? Very often it’s me taking a basic piano/vocal track into a studio and unpacking/explaining all the parts I have imagined. Sometimes it’s frustrating as this is a pretty backwards way of making music collaboratively, but most of the time it’s just me getting excited that the track is growing legs and taking it’s full form. There’s lots of obscure referencing too. The last time I was in a studio we were trying to use audio clips from ‘Watership Down.’

‘I can always leave a museum or coastline with some small nucleus of an idea for lyrics.’

What led to the reworked version of Piece of Bone and do you prefer one version to the other? I think songs can exist in multiple forms and versions. Returning to ‘Piece of Bone’ was a way to take something familiar and consider its potential in another light. It also acts as a good link between ‘Dark Shapes in the Water’ and newer work.
 
What is your first musical based memory? One of the earliest musical memories I have is being in my parent’s bedroom in the early morning and hearing ‘By Your Side’ by Sade and thinking how it was a sad song when it’s actually very sweet. Also ‘Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong was a song that always being played in the campervan when I was very small.
 
Do you have any releases and/or performances coming up soon? I’m currently in the writing/demo production stage – something is coming hopefully soon so keep listening. I’ve even started playing some acoustic versions at the recent headline shows.
 
What’s more important about being a songwriter: creating a hit song or having a chance to express yourself? Self-expression surely has to generate better art and music.
 
What do you listen to when you’re not writing, recording or performing? A mixture of left-of-centre dance music, indie and alternative. I usually gravitate towards powerful vocalists and also lyrics that are poetic and honest. But I go through phases too. My current phase is a lot of instrumental string music.
 
And finally… You are told you can choose any other musician to collaborate and release a track with. Who do you choose and why? Kid Harpoon is someone that I have always looked up to as a songwriter and producer. The music he writes for himself and others always has a great quality and strength that always resonates with me and I try to apply to my own. Don’t know if he’ll ever see this, but hit me up if you’re reading this!
 
Thanks Bryn for chatting with Listen to Discover

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