Drmanhattan, the Wauconda, Ill.-based quartet, bears little resemblance to its notorious namesake: the brooding, blue-skinned superhero Dr. Manhattan from Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel “Watchmen.”
Still, the lively act ” performing with Gay Blades, Damiera and El Paso Hot Button at 7 p.m. Friday at The Conservatory, 8911 N. Western (Call 607-4805, tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door) ” is filled with such seemingly atomic-powered energy, one suspects it, too, may have been created through a nuclear physics experiment gone wonderfully awry.
Boundless energy is a useful superpower to possess for a rapidly up-and-coming act like drmanhattan. The young group signed to Vagrant Records almost a year ago, released its self-titled debut in March and has spent the rest of its free time cultivating a dedicated fan base through raucous live performances.
The band’s backstory is ever-shifting and, depending on which member you ask and when you ask it, one is likely to be regaled with any number of tall tales involving everything from kidnapping pirates to high school track rivalries. However, the true origins of drmanhattan can be traced back to 2005, when lifelong friends Matt Engers, the band’s vocalist and guitarist; bassist Adam Engers; drummer Nick Vombrack; and keyboardist Andrew Morrison decided to join forces after separate band breakups.
“The first time we all jammed together we wrote the song ‘The Party’s Opinion,'” said Morrison. “That’s when we knew that we would like playing with each other for real and we’ve playing together pretty heavily ever since.”
Despite the grueling recording schedule, there is not a drowsy moment to be heard on the foursome’s ambitious album, which packs an 11-song post-pop-punk punch that deftly straddles the line between artiness and commercialization.
“A lot of our album is the product of us just jamming,” Morrison said. “The songs were created really quickly and were just spur-of-the-moment kind of things, like we’re not putting a lot of crazy thought into it and just saying, ‘Oh, that sounds pretty cool! Go with it.'”
ECLECTIC, SPASTIC RECORDING
The result is an excitingly eclectic and spastic recording, which combines echoic vocals, frenzied guitars and surprising flourishes like electronics and jazz trumpets into a sort of well-orchestrated chaos.
“Matt’s got a wild imagination and a lot of it is trick writing,” Morrison said. “You think it’s about one thing, but it’s about something very, very different.”
Drmanhattan’s charmingly gonzo personality also shines through in its disorderly live performances, which are winning the group both fans and accolades. This summer, Rolling Stone singled drmanhattan out of more than 100 acts as one of the “Five Bands That Broke Out” at New Jersey’s Bamboozle music festival.
“The live show is as crazy as you can let it happen,” Morrison said. “We try and get people involved and get people psyched. If you let us, it can be a pretty sweaty, awesome, happy experience.” “Lucas Ross