10,000 Maniacs prepping for new album

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

For fans of 10,000 Maniacs waiting for an album of new material, the wait shouldn’t be much longer.

Mary Ramsey, the vocalist for 10,000 Maniacs, who are coming to the Infinity Hall in Norfolk, Conn. Friday night, said the group is in the midst of preparing a new album.

“Every year, we try to have some sort of recording,” said Ramsey.

But the last two efforts have put the focus elsewhere than original tracks from the band that gave the world classic alternative rock tracks such as “Like the Weather,” “These Are Days,” and “What’s The Matter Here.”

2015’s “Twice Told Tales” found the band reinterpreting traditional British folk tunes. And 2016’s “Playing Favorites” and “Live at the Belly Up” were live recordings focusing on the group’s catalogue.

But Ramsey—who took over lead vocals from Natalie Merchant in 1993—said, “We have a lot of ideas.” The effort is now focused on refining those ideas and to prepare them for a recording in September or October.

Songwriting for 10,000 Maniacs— which also includes Steven Gustafson on bass guitar, Dennis Drew on keyboard, Jeff Erickson on guitar, Jerome Augustyniak on drums, and Ramsey’s musical partner John Lombardo on guitar (the duo John and Mary)– can come from many different directions.

“Sometimes we get together and jam and chord structures and words will come up.”  Sometimes, Ramsey said she and Lombardo will team up for a song for 10,000 Maniacs since they already have a partnership as John and Mary. Sometimes, someone will come in with a chorus and Ramsey will come up with a melody for it.

For the moment, however, the writing will be on the backburner as 10,000 Maniacs hits the road, said Ramsey. Their focus will be on playing live for the fans.

Ramsey’s tenure in 10,000 Maniacs is 25 years on. But as part of her vocal duties, she also gets to delve into the band’s material written before she joined. One of the dimensions of the older songwriting that she finds appealing is “the political content of the songs.”  Singing those songs is a peek back at the time period and when she sings them, she tries to find ways to correlate those issues with today’s issues.

“It’s like taking a book and finding its relevance now.”

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of 10,000 Maniacs’ platinum selling album “MTV Unplugged.” The album turned out to be one of the group’s biggest sellers. And although she wasn’t the group’s lead singer at the time, Ramsey was part of the recording as a backup vocalist and string player.

Ramsey said the group already knew that they were being asked to be part of something that was “really cool” because legendary acts such as Eric Clapton and Nirvana also recorded an MTV Unplugged album. And on set, “We felt something good was going to happen.”

When fans come to the Infinity, Ramsey said the group knows there are certain songs that they always have to play, the fan favorites and the hits. But the group also will add in some of their Celtic material from “Twice Told Tales” and they also will try out some of the new songs as well.

Audiences will hear a “very tight, very strong band,” said Ramsey. And they will be “very happy’ with what they hear.

10,000 Maniacs will perform Friday, June 29 at 8 p.m. at The Infinity Hall, Route 44, Norfolk. Tickets are $60 to $80. For tickets, go to www.infinityhall.com

10,000 Manics will perform at The Infinity Hall in Norfolk Friday night.