Music Interview: Amy Mantis & the Space Between

Today we speak to singer/songwriter Amy Mantis who shares her love of classic rock, how she can never stop writing music and her hope to returning to gigs next year.

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Artist’s Name: Amy Mantis & the Space Between
Members: Amy Mantis (Singer, Guitarist, Songwriter) & Eric Marshall (Drummer)
Genre: Rock
Founded: Spring 2016
Originated From: Boston, MA
Discography: Where the Mountain Should Be (EP), A Good Hurt (EP), Killing Spree (Single), You Shouldn’t Have to Ask (Single), I Don’t Know How to Stop (Single), A Place to Land (Album)

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How would you describe your music?

We’re like a survey of rock music. We kind of cover a little bit of every era and incarnation of rock. All my bands in the past have been rock bands. I can’t imagine writing songs for my own bands that weren’t in the realm of rock because it doesn’t feels right to me.

I think, for the most part, any song of mine can be played in a rock band or as a solo singer/songwriter type of song, but if given a choice I will always pick the band because it’s what feels the best for me.

I’ve been writing songs since I started playing guitar 17 years ago. I wrote my first song – or I should say I finished and shared my first song when I was 14, about a year after I started playing. And I can see a throughline from that song to what Eric and I are working on now.

The songs we have now would blow the mind of my 14 year old self in more ways than one, but the tree that is bearing the fruit we have now was watered by that 14 year old kid. And I like that. I like the connection to my past selves through my songs.

What is your musical creative process like?

I write pretty much all the time. I wrote a song that we released earlier this year as a single called I Don’t Know How To Stop and it’s about how I literally do not know how to stop being a songwriter and musician. If I don’t play or write for a few days I start to feel weird and I’m like, “What haven’t I done? Oh yeah! Write a song!”

I tend to write lyrics just before I go to sleep, which is both great and terrible. It’s great because it helps me organise my thoughts before I go to sleep, but I also get very into writing and then I end up staying up far later than is good for me. I’ve gotten better about writing when it won’t be detrimental to me the following morning.

The harmonic component comes about by sitting down with my guitar and throwing chords together and accidentally stumbling upon something I like, or if I have a riff I love to play I’ll see what I can do with that.

We have a song called Ring The Bell that’s gonna be on our next EP that is very riff-centric. Eric and Jeff (our former bassist) had asked me to bring in more riff-based songs after we had success with I Don’t Know How To Stop. I remember sitting at my desk and recording myself messing around with what turned into Ring The Bell. We think it’s a cool tune – it’s kinda like ZZ Top meets Jenny Lewis.

And these days things are different in the best way because Eric and I have teamed up on this batch of songs (and all songs going forward). It has been phenomenal to have a partner on the back half of the creative process. Especially Eric, as he is so thoughtful. He really tries to get down to the heart of the matter. He’s a true lover of words and keeps my metaphors consistent.

How did the band form?

We mostly met on Craigslist. Eric put an ad up in the spring of 2016, and I had already met Jeff via Craigslist at that time. Eric thinks we’d also gone to Berklee together, but never really crossed paths. Jeff was friends with Wells, who, when Eric joined the band, was co-songwriter/co-bandleader with me. Eric had been going to see all these Illegally blind shows and just had that itch to be in a band, so he put an ad up looking for people, and I responded.

From there, thanks mostly to my songwriting, we just went step by step: cover a song, arrange a few songs, play a gig, make a record and so on.

How did you come up with your band name?

The original name for the band was just “Space Between.” It came to me as I was flying back from LA after recording the Where the Mountain Should Be EP. That was my first time recording as the singer of my own songs.

I was thinking about what to name that EP and had come up with the title The Space Between New And Old, as that’s where I felt like my music lived. And then I thought, “Why don’t I call the EP The Space Between? No. Why don’t I call the band The Space Between?” It was a revelatory moment.

I also thought it sounded like a band that should already exist, and I liked that. I still don’t know how there wasn’t a band that popped up in like 1974 called The Space Between. It totally should have happened!

Eventually we dropped the “the” and started gigging as “Space Between.” Then after our keyboard player/my songwriting partner moved to LA, I thought, “I’m singing and writing all the songs now, and my name is highly Googleable – I think it should go in front of the band name.” So I proposed this idea to Eric and Jeff. They were supportive, and now here we are. And it feels right. My hero is Tom Petty, and most of his career was spent as “Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.”

 Who influenced you within the music industry?

I’m a classic rock junkie. Some notable ones from that arena are the aforementioned Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, the Pretenders, and basically the entire British Invasion.

I started listening to classic rock when I was 13 and I haven’t stopped. My cousin, who served as an inspiration for me to start playing guitar, gave me a bunch of burned CDs when I was 13. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rush, all kinds of goodies. It changed my life, and from there I just kept digging and listening.

Have you performed live much and what was your favourite gig to play at?

When we can, we play all the time.The best shows have been at the Midway in Jamaica Plain. That place always rocks. And we played a cool house show in Mission Hill that was put on by Citizens’ Loft.  We’d love to play more gigs like that when we start being able to gig again, but shows like that happen so sporadically. We wish we had more opportunities to just show up at someone’s house or a VFW hall or something and play a loud, raucous live rock show.

But we also like to branch out beyond Boston, too. We’ve played in Portland, Burlington and New York City.

I always say that the stage is our natural habitat. We love the studio, but playing live is my favorite thing and the thing I miss the most right now.

What is the best thing about being in a band?

A band, at its best, is a team sport. And I have the best team. I love the camaraderie and chemistry that happens in a band. I think that’s the best part: the shared experiences and understanding you have of the people around you. Eric and I would never know each other if we weren’t musicians and I don’t like to imagine my life without him.

And the best part about being a musician is..well, everything. There’s a quote from the movie Almost Famous where William Miller, the young journalist, asks Russell Hammond, the guitarist in the band, “What is it that you love about music?” Russell says with a tear in his eye, “To begin with…everything.” And it’s a moment that always gets me.

What’s the biggest problem you’ve had to overcome so far as a musician(s)?

I wasn’t always a singer. I started taking voice lessons in 2013 after I had a second singer quit my previous band. I was like, “THAT’S IT I WILL DO IT MYSELF.” And it has been one of the hardest things of my life. Just getting over the fear of doing it, and owning my songs in a way I hadn’t beforehand because I had someone else to be the literal voice of what I was writing. To go from “I’m not a singer” to “I’m taking voice lessons in order to be a singer” was a huge leap.

What plans have you got coming up this year? 

We’re recording new music. We’re back in the studio with Sean McLaughlin at 37’ Productions, and we’re putting together 11 songs for release some time next year.

I’m always writing songs, so in addition to the 11 that we’re working on now (which we’re pumped about), there will probably be several more for us to mess around on outside of our time with Sean. Eric and I adopted some at-home recording equipment so we’ll give that a go at some point too.

What is your ultimate dream as a musician?

To have a positive impact with our songs. I know what music has done for me, and I just want to pay it forward.

You can find out more about Amy Mantis by visiting her website, where you’ll also find links to her social media channels.

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