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Broke-Ass Band Interview: Jake Mann + the Upper Hand (Thursday @ Amnesia)

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Crossbill Records has introduced me to handful of amazing musicians who now make up my most-played list on iTunes: Matt Bauer, Sea of Bees, and now I can add Jake Mann + the Upper Hand to the rotation.

This Thursday, October 20, you can catch Jake Mann + the Upper Hand at my favorite Mission Bar, Amnesia, along with the Bye Bye Blackbirds and Trevor Childs & The Beholders (event info here). Check out their Facebook page or head over to Bandcamp for a longer listen.

Introduce yourself!

Jake Mann + the Upper Hand = Jake Mann (vocals, bass, guitar), Aaron Bellamy (guitar, backing vocals), Dan Baber (drums, backing vocals).

Describe your sound in five words or less.

Sunburnt zoney pop soundtrack tunes.

Tell us about your band name.

My roommate came up with it off the top of his head. I think it’s a good foil for the megalomaniac bandleader syndrome. Keeps me in check, kinda.

Favorite thing about San Francisco?

The great food, the beautiful views in every direction, the contrast of a happening arts and music culture in town, with the wide open space of the Marin Headlands right across the bridge… suburbs eliminated!

Favorite SF restaurant?

Oh man, that’s a whole other interview. For lunchtime eats, Lucca Deli at Valencia and 22nd has amazing sandwiches, Nijiya Market in Japantown has a big selection of sushi, bento, and onigiri that you can mix and match. For a nice dinner date, LoLo on 22nd has amazing food and ambience.

Favorite SF bar?

The Argus on a chill weeknight. Bitters and soda with a splash of coke.

How do you prepare for a big show? What will you be doing the night before?

If possible, I try not to work on days we have a gig. I’ll go for a bike ride, write up the set list, savor packing up the gear and thinking about the show.

What can people expect at your shows?

We have a lot of fun on stage and I think it shows. I think we’re pretty animated. You’ll get a good combination of catchy pop and epic slow-burners. People have danced.

What do you do during downtime on tour?

We seem to visit a lot of record stores, picking up used LPs that you can’t find in SF. I did some pretty epic rock-stacking at the beach in L.A. last tour (good exercise!). We started listening to comedy on long drives at night, keeps the driver awake. My old group would make up custom Mad Libs which was pretty frickin’ hilarious. We’ll have to bring back that tradition.

What’s next for the band? (i.e. plug your next show!)

We’re psyched to be coming back to Amnesia (great club) and to be joining forces with the Bye Bye Blackbirds again. New songs and recordings starting up this winter. 
Check out our current album “Parallel South” on Crossbill Records or get it at Amobea or Aquarius here in SF.

[vimeo 19910169]

Three things you’d take to a desert island?

I’ll need to re-watch “Lost” and “The Blue Lagoon” before I answer that.

What movie can you watch over and over and never get sick of?

Slacker. Office Space.

Favorite season or time of year?

Spring, especially out in Davis where Aaron and I went to school. You’ll stop and talk to someone for a long time just because it feels so good to be outside. Just a real surge of energy and inspiration happening that you don’t get at other times in the year.

Three things that are in your fridge right now?

Peanut butter, yogurt, home-brewed kombucha.

Anything in your sock drawer besides socks?

Wool anything and everything…loving it.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty, i.e. money:

Not much to talk about there.

Have any tips for aspiring musicians trying to make it on their craft?

Get in a good routine of writing songs. Make a demo/initial recordings as soon as you can. Play out of town and see how your music goes over with people you don’t know. And, get your gear off stage as soon as you’re done playing so the next band can set up!

Best money saving tip in general?

DIY when you have the time. Buy used when it makes sense. Cook at home. Try to keep away from the things that make you lust for gear/clothes/plane tickets. You constantly have to be asking yourself if it’s what you want to spend your money on. I keep an excel sheet going so I can look at what money’s coming in, what I have to pay (phone, rent, etc.) and what extras I can afford to buy this month, or put off ’til later. Some stuff fades out of “gotta-have” status before you get the money to spend on it. It’s tough: we live in a place where there’s a lot of money flying around us and people are strutting the newest and best gadget/bike/outfit/food craze. It takes dedication to live like a hip monk in the City.

Where do you live now and what are some good cheap/fun things to do in that area?

I live on the south end of the Mission. I’m a big fan of hiking up Bernal Hill. Lots of secret stairways and one of the coolest views in SF. There’s an ice cream shop on Valencia that does $1 frozen yogurt cone, nice treat. Combine that with a cruise through Lost Weekend Video to pick out a movie and you’ve at least “gone out on the town” a little bit for the evening.

What do you refuse to spend money on?

I’ve done almost all the work on building/tuning/modifying my bikes and my friends’ bikes. I remember spending a lot of money on bike work before I knew how to fix/build it myself. Also, I buy a lot of my clothes used.

What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought and how did that feel?

Oh I guess it would be my laptop. It felt like a sensible purchase. I had the money at the time. I use it for work, for band stuff, and I’d had my previous one for seven years, so it was definitely time for an upgrade. I always manage to save money for the good coffee beans at one of our local roasters. I just can’t go economy on that front.

What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten?

My road bike frame (and it wasn’t stolen). Sometimes craigslist on a weekday can be awesome. Everybody’s available to jump on a good deal on the weekends, ya know?

What is your favorite free thing to do?

Ride bikes, have sex, play music with my band. Not necessarily in that order.

If you woke up a millionaire, what’s the first thing you’d buy?

Land with a good source of water.

What’s one GOOD thing about not having a ton of money?

I guess it makes life a little more challenging, in a good way. If your friends are in the same situation, then there’s an understanding that you’re all looking for a cheap way to have fun and hang out: dinner parties instead of going out, camping vs. a cabin rental, etc.

Any last words?

Come to our show this Thursday (10/20) at Amnesia. Buy bands’ LPs / CDs at shows… they spent a lot to make ’em!


*photos via Crossbill Records

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Chloe's youth was split between California and Kauai, frolicking on a macadamia nut farm in the tropics and landing finally in the Bay Area. Raised by super-Jew hippies, and the youngest of three sisters, Chloe learned early the virtues of thrift, economy, and green living. To the chagrin of her parents (who hoped, of course, for a Jewish doctor or lawyer), Chloe has put her degree from UC Berkeley to great use by becoming a folk singer. As "Chloe Makes Music" she plays shows throughout SF and beyond, donning vintage frocks, selling handmade merch, and pinching pennies as she sings for her supper. Calling Berkeley home for the last six years, you can think of Chloe as the website's East Bay Correspondent, opening your eyes to the hippie-filled, tree-hugging, organic-loving, vegan-eating, but way-overlooked and awesome assets of Berkeley, Oakland, and beyond.