Pattern Addict frontman: confessions of an indie improviser

There exists somewhere in the college mythos the conception of the college band, not necessarily the most musically adept, but a blast at Friday night house parties. In a sea of post-post-Strokes garage revivalists, Pattern Addict is notably music-forward and lyrically complex; their single released this fall, “One Eye Open,” wrestles with the discomfort, jealousy and male rage as a resented part of the self. Liam Manion ’22, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of the Burlington-based band Pattern Addict, is my friend. I sit on the edge of his bed as he sits at his desk and we talk music, like we might any other day.

OD: How did you write “One Eye Open?” I don’t know because I don’t write songs. Do you, like, listen to another song for inspiration?

LM: It took fucking forever to write that, because the intro four chords I had been playing for about a year and couldn’t fucking figure out what to do with them … And I remember, over the summer, showing it to the guys and just yelling, and just fucking channeling all this anger I had. And that’s how I write most of my stuff; I don’t focus on anything except the chord progression and how I’m feeling and I just yell, I just sing over it and then later I’ll rake an audio recording of it, go back and transcribe the words.

OD: It’s like freestyling.

LM: That’s how I write music. It’s all improv originally. And that is a talent I do have, I can make up melodies and words on the spot pretty well. It’s definitely one of my strengths as a musician. That’s how that song came together in particular because one night we just got together and we just did it as a band. I like to think about it like genetics, like evolution. You have this rough, rough thing that you’re working with. Then one time you play it, and someone does something differently by accident and it’s like mutation. You like it, and you play it, and one by one those little mutations start adding up and you get the best possible outcome.

OD: So for you, obviously, the writing and instrumentation is a big part. How do you feel about bedroom pop, this movement of artists not using instruments or their own lyrics?

LM: There’s a lot of good music that doesn’t have instruments. Like Kanye’s sampling is part of his style and it’s phenomenal, everything he does with it. But to be honest, any idiot can take a synthesizer, hit an oscillator button and make something that you like. Because someone did it and it was revolutionary 10 years ago, 30 years ago before that. If you gave me 15 minutes with my keyboard I could make something half as good as [bedroom pop]. And I’m sorry, but I do genuinely believe that. There’s a lot of bedroom pop where 100 percent of your listening audience is 18 to 24. It’s a fad. It’ll go away.

OD: I remember we were talking about “not getting” Billie Eilish. And at the Grammy’s her thing was, “I made this in my bedroom.” So did you, but in a very different way.

LM: Yeah, so I was super interested in that so I Googled “Finneas and Billie’s bedroom.” And like, there’s a bed in it. But it’s a studio. There’s probably a hundred thousand dollars worth of equipment in there. [Laughs] We paid someone to use their recording equipment and the equipment we were using wasn’t as good as what I saw in Billie Eilish’s bedroom. Billie Eilish is great, she’s got a good voice and the stuff she’s doing is cool. But her voice sounds just like Lorde, it’s not original, and Finneas could cop a producing job at Atlantic Records.

OD: Or writing. He writes for her, right?

LM: Yeah, but the writing is not what’s carrying her! And it’s annoying because it’s good music but it’s just a drum machine behind a synth oscillator.

OD: It’s so reduced and so simplified that it’s hard to find fault with it. It’s interesting, right, how generationally we are kind of primed for that very minimal sound, you don’t have to pay attention to it. Speaking of age groups, is that something you think about when you write?

LM: I mean, not really, but you’re right because it reflects our short attention span. I was reading an interview with Xxxtentacion before he died, and he said he was purposefully recording songs that were super short so that the streams would go up and increase your revenue. It is cool to see a range of people like your music, like two of my high school teachers were at our last show in Burlington and they liked it and they’re in their 50s.

OD: I was thinking about it, thinking that the last time there was a movement of super-short songs might be punk songs. Really short, really emotional, really political and really fast. And really anti-capitalist. And this is, like, the opposite of that.

LM: It is wild because it’s not anti-establishment, it’s like the most pro-establishment thing in the world.

OD: Are there any songs that made you think, “Holy shit, I wanna do this. I wanna make music and write”? Or people?

LM: People… I went to Ireland, and everyone there, all my relatives, played guitar and sang and I wanted to fit in with them. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and that’s why I originally learned guitar and started singing. The reason I’m self-conscious about it is that music, especially growing up in a conservative background, isn’t what a guy’s supposed to do. Everyone tries to shut you down. People will tell you, “You can’t sing, you can’t write, you can’t play guitar,” but you keep doing it because you believe that you can more than they believe that you can’t.

OD: I remember we were talking about how the Arctic Monkeys are, like, “it” for you.

LM: Yeah, I would say that “From the Ritz to the Rubble” is my favorite song ever written. And the reason is because [Arctic Monkeys frontman] Alex Turner is probably the best contemporary rock songwriter. It’s the honesty. Matt Schultz of Cage the Elephant had this quote, it’s like, “Be honest and people will think you’re being poetic.” And I feel that so hard. When people get hit the most is when you’re being truthful with yourself and your surroundings, and that’s art in general. It’s a mirror.

OD: There’s something about that unfiltered rage and apathy, even though it’s not righteous. It’s taking your experience and being uncomfortably honest about it.

LM: Yeah, that whole album is just his experiences being an adolescent in England. That album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” is so good and so honest. They were 100 percent in touch with what they were supposed to be as a band. At that point, they were doing exactly what they were supposed to do. And that’s when you get good, that’s when it’s good.

Pattern Addict’s latest single, “Underwater,” is available to stream on all platforms.

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