Up Close: Matt Mang

Up Close & Personal

Superheroes and Great Parties

Like any good comic book hero, Matt Mang leads a double life. By day, he’s a mild-mannered manager at Scranton’s Comics on the Green, by night the bassist for Scranton’s up-and-coming pop-rock sensation, The Great Party. We caught up with Matt in between his time behind the counter and his time on stage to find out how he strikes a balance. Meet Matt Mang …

How long have you been into comics?
Like most kids, I got into them pretty young — during my early teens. I was shopping at Comics on the Green when they first opened, and when a certain time came and I needed to leave the job I was working due to scheduling conflicts, owner Dave Romeo said “Why don’t you come start putting in some time here?” It started out as little things here and there, and I eventually started doing more and started getting more responsibilities. It’s a good relationship we have — it’s like working with a good friend. We help each other out. If someone needs time off, we go in for each other. It’s just a good symbiotic relationship we have. Comics on the Green is celebrating our 22nd year in business. I’ve been there for a majority of them. I wasn’t there right from the beginning, but I’ve been there for the better part of it. It’s a great business — people hear comic book store and they have some kind of preconceived notion, especially since The Big Bang Theory has been around, but we do a lot of good business there. To keep us going for 22 years, obviously something good is going on!

Have all the recent comic book movies brought in new customers?
We definitely see a lot more kids coming in looking for Iron Man, Spider-Man and Batman whenever there’s a movie around. And it really helps with the smaller properties, too — not the obvious big comic book movies. Like when Watchmen came out — that was something a lot of people never heard of before, since there was one specific book. So you have people coming in looking just for that one Watchmen book, as opposed to, when they come in looking for Spider-Man, there’s thousands of Spider-Man books and stories. Another smaller one was Scott Pilgrim, which is based on a series of graphic novels. The other big thing is The Walking Dead — it’s been a comic foralmost 10 years now, well pre-dating the show. Walking Dead anything is just huge right now, And again, The Big Bang Theory — we get people coming in saying ‘Oh, this place is just like Big Bang Theory!’ I don’t think we are at all, but that’s just what it reminds some people of. I think it’s also set a new trend, being a ‘geek’ or a ‘nerd’ is more acceptable, or even trendy at this point. People are proud and want to let that shine more now as opposed to earlier when people were quieter about it, or even ashamed of it. Now it’s something that people will even brag about, it’s part of pop culture.

When you’re not slinging comics, what are your musical outlets?
Musically, The Great Party is my main focus right now. I’ve played with a good number of bands since high school. Previous to The Great Party, I was playing with a local cover band, Mr. Echo. Before that I had an original band called The Reigning Toads, which was like a funk-rock-instrumental-fusion kind of weird band. I definitely had my share of diverse bands that I’ve played with. But right now, The Great Party keeps me busy. We’re in the process of finishing up our second CD. We’re finishing recording and we hope to have it out sometime this winter. We are involved with a producer out of Philadelphia who got in touch with us and wanted to work with us. He’s worked with some pretty decent indie bands, so we’re excited about that and seeing what collaborating with him is going to come up with. He’s produced bands like Dr. Dog, Man Man and Floating Action. We were flattered, because they got in touch with us and sought us out and wanted to work with us.

Do you take time out to write music, or is it a more organic process?
We always have new music coming in that we’re trying to work on. We have a lot of snippets of songs that eventually come around. It’s been a year and a half since we put out our first release, so in that time we’ve definitely built up a nice catalog of music that we haven’t recorded. We’re just trying to record everything we have and find what’s going to make the best album out of that. Not necessarily using everything we have, but we’ll pick the best and see what makes the album flow.  We’re sort of on a little hiatus from playing — we did a couple higher profile shows in September and October. In September, we had our music video release party for our new music video “Hecho en Mexico.” We did a big release show for that at Twentyfiveeight studios. Around the same time, we also opened up for Hank & Cupcakes, which is a duo out of Brooklyn who are getting some play on MTV. We played the Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces festival in October which was our last show, but we’re thinking about maybe trying to book a holiday show between Christmas and New Year’s. We want to get back out there. You don’t want to go too long without playing a show, but we’re sort of focusing on recording right now and getting that finished.

What’s the writing process like for The Great Party?
We have two people in our band who do the majority of our songwriting. Rose Eastman does most of our vocals (her husband Mike Eastman also does some singing) but she does a lot of our songwriting. She’ll come in with ideas and present them to us. The other person who does a lot of the songwriting is Mike Nordberg, and often he’ll have an idea for something and record it himself, or take something Rose recorded and try to layer other things on it to add more dimension to it or flesh it out into more of a whole song. Then the rest of us all throw in our own ideas, of course, but Mike Nordberg and Rose do the majority of the songwriting for the band. We do all of our recording at Nordberg’s house. He has a nice setup and he does a great job with the engineering and mixing. We’re lucky in that we don’t have to go pay for studio time. It makes things easy for us; we can record stuff whenever we have time to. We’re fortunate to have Nordberg and his knowledge and equipment.

That seems like a pretty full schedule — is there anything else?
I teach as well at Gallucci Music; they’ve been a staple in Scranton for decades. I’ve been teaching there for more than 10 years now. I do mostly bass lessons, but sometimes people come in for theory lessons too. I do occasionally do studio recording as well — get hired to play on other people’s albums. Often it’s at Windmill Agency, Eric Ritter’s studio in Lake Ariel. Sometimes they’ll call me up, and I’ll come in without ever even hearing the music, or even having any idea what genre I’m going to be playing. I’ll hear the song for the first time and have to plunk something down for somebody. It’s always fun and interesting and it keeps you on your toes. Sometimes they have a specific idea for you, sometimes they don’t. They’re looking for someone else’s input or ideas. We always try to get a good balance of what you think it should be and what you think they want.
— tucker hottes