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Tom Mansi & The Icebreakers - Eyeball

Artiest/Band:Tom Mansi & The Icebreakers

This is the new album from London based alt-rockers, Tom Mansi & The Icebreakers.

A passion for the blues and raw rock ’n’ roll manifested in a band who have been playing together for the last 26 years. Full to the brim with delicious grooves and swirling sounds, the Icebreakers have reignited their burners and brandished us with a hot new release — their first on Lunaria Records.

All Song written by Tom Mansi except for Thinking of You on the Moon (written by Paul White, James Johnston & Tom Mansi)

Tom Mansi: Vocals, Double Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Synth
Paul White: Electric, Acoustic and Lap Steel Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals

James Johnston: Drums, Percussion, Vocals 

Eyeball follows their celebrated album, ‘Rock ’n’ Roll On Bones’, released in 2017. Having met in 1997, the core trio of Mansi, White and Johnston have transitioned through various phases and collaborations over the years, finally forming The Icebreakers in 2006. 

The band pride themselves on delivering outstanding live performances, and their ability to re-create this in the studio. “Rock n roll on bones’ was The Icebreakers in their rawest form,’ explains Johnston. ‘With this new album we tried to be more expansive in the

sound, and left things open to have more production thrown into it. I think it’s still travelling in the same direction, just in a much fancier and bigger vehicle.’

Eyeball pays homage to the band’s rock ’n’ roll and blues roots, while their alternative approach brings elements of country and even surf-rock into the mix. They certainly take some chances with the classic blues genre, while sticking to some more familiar

songwriting traditions. ‘We’ve strived to bring new aspects to this record by leaning on

these traditions, while skewing it for original effect,’ admits Mansi. ‘I have always enjoyed taking classic tropes and placing then off centre’.

Fronted by double bassist, vocalist and songwriter, Tom Mansi, the band’s style follows in the footsteps of indie garage bands of the late 00’s. Often compared to those such as Jon Spencer blues explosion and Heavy Trash for their vintage sound and old-skool approach to recording. There’s an appealing rawness to their music, kept in check by the subtleties of their playing, giving the band a balanced sound as well as the ability to deliver a harder edge. White’s guitar can switch from smooth country licks, to eye-watering solos — amp cracked up to Eleven. While the sonorous and emotional vocals of Mansi can at times become almost unhinged and surreal. 

The album opens with front-man Mansi playing a cool sliding double bass riff. ’Pushback Blues’ is a track which which blends some intriguing pop influences with their rootsy sound. ‘We like to think of it as a rock ’n' roll homage to Prince’, exclaims Mansi. Mansi’s vocals draw you in with his deep and gravely undertone, a fundamental part of the band’s sound. 

Following on is the title track, ‘Eyeball’. A bluesy-Americana tune with a fabulous Velvet Undergroundesque bass line. The rolling motion of the song builds to an almighty crescendo — White showing his skills with some proficient slide guitar. ‘We worked hard at keeping momentum throughout the song’, says Mansi. ‘The addition of the Tottenham community choir was in fact a last minute inspired overdub, and one which we all felt made the track’.

The album takes a psychedelic twist with ‘Maybe Baby’ — a mind-bending track with some creepy vocal effects in the chorus and a raucous guitar solo from White. Johnston keeping the acoustic feel by switching to brushes. ’We wanted this track to sound like it was vibrating 3 feet off the floor’, explains Mansi.  

Eyeball has a focused sound, partly due to the time limitations of getting together as a band to write and record, but also because they have cultivated a streamlined approach to their music. ‘I think you learn who you are as a band over time and the writing and sound matures with you’, reflects Johnston. ‘In many ways we are a lot more confident in what we do and how we do it.’ White continues, ‘With Eyeball we wanted to use a similar process as RNROB, but not be so precious about it being recorded live’. The results speak for themselves — bigger sound, bigger production and a more refined concept. ‘We put the trio at the very centre of the record’, explains Tom. ‘The aim of the production was to "print the filth" - a process where we got all the right sounds in place before we pressed record. We gave ourselves plenty of time to arrange the songs and experiment with the sounds. This meant we were able to record the majority of the album within Six days’. 

A refreshing lo-fi introduction, ’The Shot’ starts with a bluesy bass riff; White furnishing the texture with some guileful guitar parts, and Johnston switching to shakers for a minimal groove. This is juxtaposed by the use of synths and post-production effects in the instrumental section — the song cascading through the speakers in a maelstrom of sound.

‘We are definitely a lot more comfortable with having input from people we trust and share our same vision’, says White. ‘Which is one of the reasons we work with Rory so well’. DJ and producer, Rory Carlie has been a friend of the band for many years. Rory’s production credits include Silver Bullet, the Oceania Maori/world music project with Jaz Coleman (Killing Joke); the UK Americana Red Sky July album with Shelly Poole (Alisha’s Attic) and Ally McErlaine (Texas). ‘Working with Rory has been a game changer’, admits Tom. ‘Rory came in for our demo sessions, and right away we knew that his input brought the best out of the band’.

60’s psychedelic bands are a huge influence on their sound — they released a version of 'People are Strange’ back in 2011. Mansi’s quirky vocals, White’s driving rhythm guitar, and the jarring organ provided by White also, ‘Should Be Easy’ is a nod to The Doors. 

The mood mellows with ‘Thinking Of You On The Moon’, featuring a fantastic vocal solo by Jude McIntyre. ‘Usually Tom writes the songs on acoustic guitar and then brings them to the rest of the band.

We play around with them and come up with our parts and work on different arrangements’, says White. ‘The only one that wasn't written like this was ‘Thinking of you on the moon’, which started as an instrumental track that James and I put together, which Tom then wrote on top of.’

No rock ’n’ roll band would be complete without their behind-the-scene comrade. ’Stevan’s been working and touring with us almost for as long as we have been playing together. The 4th member of The Icebreakers and all round good egg’, explains Tom. ‘He’s the unsung hero of the band,' adds Johnston. ‘He’s our engineer, mixer, mastering engineer, tour manager and general wrangler. I think without Steve we wouldn't be able to function at all!’

Mansi switches to acoustic guitar on 'Got To Be Gone’. ‘We work-shopped this tune for a while before deciding it would be nice idea to record it with me on guitar instead of bass’, says Tom. ‘The song is about the acceptance of loss — it’s is a direct reaction to tragedy. I feel these subjects are best handled by setting this theme to an upbeat major melody’. 

The album concludes with ’No Face Blues’, a lively sing-a-long track with punchy guitar and a catchy chorus. Mansi’s vocals are rugged and resonant. The song’s chordal progression is uplifting and builds throughout, adding a new element with each section.

Eyeball is a well crafted album, delivering a sonic mélange across it’s eight-tracks. ‘We are immensely proud of this record’, says Paul ‘and we’d like as many people to hear it as possible’. At home on a stage, be that in a rock club or in a festival field, the band look forward to bringing their new music to an eager audience and to make the most of this release — but always with an eye(ball) on the future. 















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