The bipolar warbling vocals of Manos de Topo are somewhere between sounding like they are full of tears and like they fell out of the mouth of singer Son Miguel Ángel Blanca after he stubbed his toe. Yet the group manages to make its songs joyous with a well-honed pop sensibility, bright colors, games and a bunch of jokes.
The Barcelona band just released its third album Escapar con el Anticyclone! or “Escape with the Anticyclone!” Calling the album a “collection of pocket operas,” Manos de Topo says it is their most concentrated effort so far. The album is summed up nicely by the simple colors and shapes on the cover, as the group says that they were trying to “minimize the components to find only the essential feeling.”
Before the album’s release, the group worked with illustrator Ana Sender on a board game called “El Juego del Serpiente” (The Snake’s Game) for a musical exhibition at the Funcació Joan Miró. The band says the themes from the game inspired a lot of their lyrics and the board game is just one example of the playful nature of their music.
Another notable thing about the musicians is that a few of them also studied filmmaking. Although they only made their first video on their own, their cinematic sensibilities continue to give them clever ideas and keep them involved during production of other videos. They have quite a few well-made and hilarious videos like “Tus Siete Diferencias” (“Your Seven Differences”) and “Es Feo” (“It’s Ugly”).
Watch the video for “Tus Siete Diferencias”:
Manos de Topo is:
Son Miguel Ángel Blanca (voz y guitar), Alejandro Marzoa (keyboards), Edu Nisei (bass) and Rafael de los Arcos (drums).
The Bomber Jacket: Manos de Topo means “Mole Hands” right? But what does Mole Hands mean?
Rafael de los Arcos: A mole is a tender, wild and lonely animal, just like us. A mole’s hands is the metaphor of our hearts.
Is it hard to warble your voice on stage for an hour or whatever? Is here any kind of special training? Maybe like a depressing version of Rocky, in a meat locker with a record player, cutting onions?
There’s no special training for that. You only have to close your eyes and think about Julio Iglesia’s ex-wives, looking for his love again. Try it…there’s nothing sadder in the whole world.
What are some of your favorite love songs?
“Lady in Red” is maybe the most amazing and moving song I’ve ever heard. Do you know it? It’s about a woman who wears a red dress and everybody at the party wants to get to “know” her. The poor guy who sings it spends all the time trying to get out all the flys over her. We also love Demis Rousos’s discography.
Did the label “emo” make it over to Spain from the states? Did Spain go through an emo band phase too?
I think that the emo label was always there…when I was a teenager they called it “dark” or “odd.” “Look at that guy, he loves black color and seems to be lonely all the time.” The most important thing we try to do is make good songs, nothing matters but the songs.
Watch the video for “Es Feo”:
I really like the title of your second album El Primero Era Mejor, or “the first one was better.” It immediately makes me think about the types of people who say “That album was good, but I like their old stuff better.” Was there any commentary like that in there?
It was a strategy we had to try to run from that type of stuff. In fact, the real meaning of the title is, “the first man/woman I knew was the best ever.”
What’s the reference of your last album title Escapar Con el Anticiclón (Escape with the Anti-Cyclone)?
It means that if you are going to do something, you should take advantage of the good weather. When you feel right, do whatever you need to do.
You wrote that this “collection of pocket operas” was the band’s most complete work. Why’s that?
This is our third album. We learned through the years that the message you try to pass on should arrive clearly to your audience. In this album we had, for the first time, a real producer who helped us to take this clear sound that allows people to understand that message.
What was El Juego de la Serpiente (The Snake’s Game) and how did it influence the album?
It was a board game we created for an exhibition here in Barcelona. The snake symbolized the different phases of a relationship.
Your press release said that the album art by Paz López expressed the songs well with color, form and light. Can you put into words why the songs relate well to those colors and shapes?
It’s something conceptual. You can express many things with just a couple of colors and simple touches. We tried to minimize the components in order to find only the essential feeling.
I read that the founding members of the band were film students and the band has made some cool, well-acclaimed videos. I really like “Es Feo” and “Tus Siete Diferencias” from the new album. Are the ideas mostly from the directors or are you all very involved in the filmmaking process?
For the first one (“El Cartero”), all three of us were involved in the process (in fact, I was the cameraman and actor at the same time). But we only helped with the production of the others. We prefer making videos for other artists.
Watch the video for “El Cartero”:
What is your impression of the music scene in Barcelona?
There are many great bands there, but I hate that “scene” label. Most of us are friends, but this is the only thing we have in common.
Do you recommend any music venues (or even bars that play good music) in the city?
Sure! Go to the Raval area. It’s the most dangerous and amazing area in the city at night! Big Bang, Fantástico, Sidecar… Even Joaquin Costa Street, a very special place to drink something.
Outside Raval, go to Heliogabal or Vinilo in the Gracia area. They’re sacred places for the musicians of the city.
Watch the video for “Ciencias Exactas”: