Oh Manitou
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Oh Manitou

Rochester, NY | Established. Jan 01, 2016

Rochester, NY
Established on Jan, 2016
Band Rock




"Five Songs We Should Have Written About in January"

Okay, so over the “break,” I really could not pry myself from paying attention to what music was being released, so here are the songs I feel as though we should have shared with you. We are back in the swing of things with a preview set for tomorrow and back to programming on Monday.

Rochester-based three-piece, Oh Manitou’s sound is very well crafted for a debut release. The song “Healer” has all the makings of an Alternative radio hit, reflective, earnest, and clean with shades of Grouplove, Young the Giant, and even some Joywave-y vocals at times. - Michael Moretti

"Oh Manitou Releases New Singles"

Oh Manitou, a Rochester-based indie act still in their infancy, released duel singles”People I’d Like To Be” and “Once Again” last week. The songs, notably “People I’d Like To Be” showcase immense talent as Oh Manitou embarks on quite the sonic journey. All instruments (keys, vocals, guitars, the like) are played with noteworthy skill and their notes were chosen with great care along with production savviness.

The tune commences with a brilliant horn and woodwind introduction. Guitar work and cymbal embellishments are the bow on the present. Then, a chorused and distorted guitar nudges the song awake. “People I’d Like to Be” fills out with bass, drums, and a unique lead. While toms and tambourine shakes fill the air, vocals take to the forefront – awesome harmonies carry you away. “Falling into the sea watching the stars align,” is a perfect way to describe this song, but the sight must be equally as dazzling. Bright keys eventually join the mix. A band-supported guitar free-for-all ensues. And after that, a catchy key solo takes the cake.

Oh Manitou has a given birth to a beautiful star in “People I’d Like To Be.” The song is pretty, accessible, and a genuinely successful effort musically. Check it out below. - Jake Sessanna

"Oh Manitou Pre-Epiphany"

The only unused amp in Oh Manitou's already cramped rehearsal space offers an ideal vantage point for watching the Rochester rock band in its process: the quintet is arranged in a circle, with frequent lead vocalist Matt Battle, behind his drum kit, as the focal point. Battle is a kind of de facto bandleader, although the proceedings are as democratic as possible.

Oh Manitou launches into its original songs "From the Forest" and "The Ghost" with ease, but things slow down as work on a new song suddenly requires more deliberation; the band lingers on freshly created phrases and sections before moving on. The most frequent interjections come from Andrew Links, the band's energetic keyboardist, who consults with Battle about the ideal sound. Rhythm guitarist Sean Greif — whose performance mannerisms are the most "emo" in the band — hashes out some melodic counterpoint with hoodie-wearing lead guitarist Chris Potter. Throughout, bassist Kamara Robideau provides the steady thump-and-hum that gives it all cohesion.

An unnamed stuffed monkey all the while is dangling perpetually from the chandelier overhead, a silent witness to everything going on below.

Interplay is a crucial part of the process for Oh Manitou, whose members are preparing for upcoming gigs in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia during the first week of May as well as the May 19 album release show for its new EP, "From the Forest." A weekend East Coast mini-tour is nothing new for the band, but in conjunction with the recording, it's a pivotal time for Oh Manitou. The band's lineup is still fresh and still exploring its sonic identity yet Oh Manitou is already quietly making some of the best and most emotionally vulnerable music in Rochester.

It's only been a year since the current Oh Manitou lineup came together. Amid the musical remains of Aminal — Battle's former indie electro-pop band — Robideau and Potter joined up with the drummer to form what would become Oh Manitou's core trio. Greif and Links would come on board later. The band has released several singles so far, and the forthcoming EP will be its most definitive and complete statement to date. "It's like a foundation record," Battle equivocates. "It is what it is. To me, it's not the statement that we're capable of making. Maybe I'm shitting on it too much. I'm overly critical."

Greif's perspective is more objective. "As somebody that came to the table a little bit later," he says, "it sounds to me that it's a band in that liminal phase of having what they used to do cross over, be buttressed by one or two ideas that are sort of seminal for how the band is going to be after this."

The band may be in a transitional stage, but the music is far from middling. There's something distinctly exciting about a scintillating rock band that isn't beholden to any one set of sounds.

"It's like a good push and pull between everyone when we write," Battle says, speaking of the band's various heartfelt influences. "But we have to kind of come together at the same time. We're all like coming from a different place, so it creates this, I think, healthy tension in the writing process."

Prior to Oh Manitou, Battle had always brought parts in for other band members to play essentially verbatim, as opposed to bringing in only chords and melodies for the musicians to flesh out, which he does now.

"Chris and I come from a jazz sideman standpoint, which is like, you show up, there's the gig," Links says. "So I think it's dangerous for the direction of the band to rely on one person, for example. And even that person might have a great vision or whatever, but I think having a healthy dynamic of contrast and some kind of common ground forged from healthy argument creates something that's way more dynamic than something that's just 'I like this, and we're doing this, you play that.' "

The members of Oh Manitou can explain how they make music much better than they can label it. "You can talk in simpler terms," Potter says. "'Let's get bigger, louder, a little bit more aggressive' or 'really mellow and light.' And you can say, 'Oh, that's that genre,' or 'That is reminiscent of this band.' But for us, it just makes it easier and quicker to communicate ideas when you're not thinking about that kind of stuff."

When Robideau is asked what genre of music Oh Manitou plays, the response is a curious one, but it makes sense. "You're like expecting something specific, and if I don't give it to you, you're not gonna listen to it," she says of prospective fans of the band. "So just go listen to it."

When the term "post-emo" is posited as a potential descriptor, Greif is quick to respond. "'Post' ... I have trouble with 'post,'" he says. "What the hell is 'post'? Postmodernism, poststructuralism, post-yada yada yada. Post-feminism. Post-masculine. I just feel like it's — if I may, I feel like it's a journalistic shorthand."

"Post-emo" may be shorthand, but the longer version comes more to the point. The signifiers of emo are certainly present: the loud, distorted guitars, the emotive tenor vocals that often harmonize in thirds, and the agitated if slightly melodramatic atmosphere Battle might refer to as "mood."

The difference is that Oh Manitou's music reflects a sophistication and attention to craft that seems to be lacking in some emo songs. This kind of emo-adjacent positioning is also apparent in Oh Manitou's lyrics. "From the Forest" begins with a wistful, passive-aggressive plea, followed by a defiant question: "I was just hoping you'd take me away from this place that I've come to call home / What's home, anyway?"

Perhaps the song that showcases the band's versatility best on the EP is "People I'd Like to Be." Beginning with a nine-note motive that recalls Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," any evocation of the 1980's quickly gives way to highly danceable indie rock that defies the listener to keep her feet still. Vocal harmonies take the fore before the song ends with a deliciously proggy keyboard solo.

What the artists My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses have done by taking emo-esque vocals and transplanting them in an electrified Americana landscape, Oh Manitou may accomplish in taking those same vocal tendencies and giving them a reverberating, shoegazey, arena-rock environment in which to shine. If there's a Rochester band poised to break out, Oh Manitou is it.

Tags: Music Features, Music Feature, Rochester Music, Oh Manitou, Rock, Matt Battle, Chris Potter, Kamara Robideau, Andrew Links, Sean Greif, Cover Story, Video - CITY


Still working on that hot first release.



If you think about it, the music that stays with you for your whole life is usually made by people who went out on a limb somehow. Music that follows whatever's current might grab us in the moment but we tend to outgrow it and, at best, look back on it with a kind of winking nostalgia. The music that sticks -- the stuff that grows with you and occupies the same place in your life as a living, breathing friendship -- is often made by bands who don't necessarily know or understand what they're making but have to stand by it and make it anyway.

When you hear or see Oh Manitou for the first time, it's apparent that they're one of those bands. Even at this early stage in their career, you can tell they make music that has that tingle, that feeling that both artist and audience are peering out into the darkness together...

It's not that Oh Manitou's music is particularly obtuse or even difficult to describe. In fact, the ingredients are right there on the surface: rock, folk, Americana and psychedelia with prominent shades of jazz and punk. And yet this band doesn't pledge allegiance to any of those things.

When they feature, say, a slide guitar, it's not coming from the same place as all these people who dress in cowboy shirts and try to recreate the atmosphere of old records. And if, for example, you want to hear the jazz influence, you have to open yourself up to the idea that "jazz" in this band’s hands can mean something you've never imagined it to be. Likewise, even their moments of punk-paced, raucousness, this stuff is as far removed from all the trappings of punk purism as you can possibly get.

You have to remember that whenever a band is chasing a trend, it's already too late. Because by the time we all catch on and realize that a wave is peaking, it's already on its way out. On the other hand, it's natural to just be influenced by whatever's going on around you, and being too much of a hardliner about doing your own thing can come off as forced. Oh Manitou's music sits in that comfortable place in the middle. It takes you someplace new without hitting you over the head or demanding anything of you. In fact, you'll probably find the music as inviting as it is engrossing.

Following in the grand tradition of bands that operated like organisms -- where the muse dictated the outcome more than any one person did -- Oh Manitou's creative dynamic has that healthy push-pull where each member has a slightly different sense of where the music might go. And already the sound has grown well beyond what they've put on tape. They're stretching into places even they couldn't have anticipated themselves. And as in-command as they are live, watching them you get that feeling that they can barely see five feet in front of them. Bands like that are special and rare, and when you spot one it's unmistakable. This is one of those bands. Get onboard with them now because they're about to chart a very special course.

-- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

Contributor: Pitchfork, Paste, PopMatters; host: Feedback Deficiency radio show

Band Members