The pressures on a frontman are fierce. Besides remembering the words and singing in key, you have to look cool. Keep the guitar slung low. Get close to the mic and sneer. Don’t be afraid to windmill.
But what if you’re a singer without an axe to wield? Good luck trying to make like Pete Townshend with a piano, but somehow Andrew McMahon pulls it off.
“I think it’s the whole idea of not trying to look cool,” he offered as an explanation of why he appears just the opposite when leading his band, Something Corporate. “I don’t think that I look cool playing piano, but if somebody were to say that I did, it would be because I accept the fact that it’s not really all that cool, so I just have fun.”
McMahon’s showmanship is on display in two places at the moment: in the opening slot on Good Charlotte’s tour and in the video for “Space,” the first single off Something Corporate’s second album, North, due October 21. The clip was shot by director Mike Piscitelli (Kelly Osbourne, Thrice) after the band came off the 311 tour in late August. Despite the song’s title, the video takes place on Earth – in Los Angeles, actually – but still amounted to a lofty affair.
“The video was called ‘Space,’ so sure enough we had all these directors sending us extremely literal interpretations of the song,” McMahon said. ” ‘You’re floating in space. You’re in a space suit.’ That’s not even remotely what the song is about, so we were kind of like, ‘Huh?’
Piscitelli’s treatment kept the band’s feet on the ground, though their bodies were captured within five pillars, each with four video monitors stacked vertically. The Stonehenge-like installation was then positioned in various locations around Los Angeles: at a bus stop, in an alley, before a suburban ranch house, on the Venice Beach boardwalk.
“It was all guerilla style,” McMahon recalled with a smirk. “They had to sneak the pillars out of these trucks, and set them up real quick. Police were practically chasing us the whole day because we didn’t have permits for any of it.
“And all the people you see throughout the video, none of them are extras,” he continued. “They’re just people walking by and staring at these weird monitor things, like ‘What the hell?’ It was hilarious.”
The clip premiered on FOX’s “The OC” program two weeks ago as a special promotion, and will go to video outlets in early October.
Rather than an ode to the final frontier, “Space,” with a chugging guitar line delicately flavored by McMahon’s piano, is concerned with personal space, the kind a band that spends most of its time together in a touring van doesn’t often have the luxury to enjoy. It’s one of only four songs not penned by McMahon, written instead by guitarist Josh Partington, though the frontman can fully relate to the need for the metaphoric elbow room – even when the wheels stop rolling.
“That happens when you’re on the road for 10 months a year and the other two you spend recording,” McMahon said. “It’s like you become very protective of your personal space. And coming home is almost the most complicated part about touring, to be honest. All the attention suddenly becomes overwhelming. You’re not sure if you should feel guilty about wanting to instead spend time in the quietest place possible.”
McMahon and bandmates Partington, guitarist William Tell, drummer Brian Ireland and bassist Clutch aren’t likely to be enjoying space and quiet anytime soon. After the time with Good Charlotte is up, Something Corporate will embark on their own headlining tour, their largest trek yet. So while McMahon will undoubtedly be slightly nervous, very excited and perhaps a bit punchy from such an extensive outing, when he and his piano hit the stage each night, at least he’ll be cool – so long as he doesn’t try to be.
Something Corporate Headlining Dates, According To Geffen Records:
10/28 – San Diego, CA – SOMA
10/29 – Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
10/30 – Santa Barbara, CA – University of California