From Texas BBQ to German Beer with Shandy Mandies

Shandy Mandies is a four-piece rock outfit from Leipzig, Germany and is composed of Oliver Meisel, Patrick Burkholder, Gerald Költzsch, and Jan Helch. Shandy Mandies might be based out of Leipzig, but the band has a bit more international flair, as Burkholder is from the US and Meisel is from the Great Britain. THE BOMBER JACKET spoke with Burkholder about the beginnings of the band, the best parts of German culture, the band’s upcoming record, and their March gig at South by Southwest Music Festival.

TBJ: Shandy Mandies is made up of two Germans, a Brit and you, an American. Do you feel like that dynamic works well? Does it ever get difficult trying to flesh out the music because of the differences?

Patrick Burkholder: Sometimes we have problems fleshing things out. Americans tend to be more about action than prudent discussion while Germans are the other way. At the end of the day, like with all people, the strength comes from our diversity; doing our best to pull in one direction.

You’re from a relatively isolated area of Pennsylvania, where people might be used to the isolation. Could you tell me a bit more of where you grew up and what led you to Germany?

I grew up in Altoona, Pennsylvania. It’s more known for the railroad and steam engine shops than anything else, but has an uncommonly large number of musicians for the size of the town. Music was always around in my family due to a multi-instrumentalist grandfather and a choral soprano mother. The moving-to-Germany question is a bit more difficult to discuss. Let’s just say that the fairer sex lured me here.

Before you left did you imagine yourself playing music and performing?

From my earliest memories, all I ever wanted to do was to play in a band. Knowing that I would be doing it here in Europe was the biggest surprise.

How did Shandy Mandies come together as a group?

Oliver had moved to Leipzig from Chemnitz via Dresden and wanted to start a new project. He’d already known the drummer and then knew of me. My old band was breaking up and I decided to switch from guitar to bass to see what it would be like. We added Sebi about three months later and the band sort of just worked. Oliver and I share a lot of musical tastes and Sebi was a student of the piano, as was I for a short time.

Where did the name come from?

The name is what it is…it almost fell out of the sky to Oliver one day. A shandy is a beer mixed with sprite and mandies are mandrax…Maybe the name means..heavy/soft…I don’t know.

Do you find much of a difference between a German audience and what you’ve experienced in the United States? Do you feel like you’re seen with foreign eyes or does that seem not to matter so much?

A large difference. Germans like to stand around and look trendy while listening to the music with a SUPER critical ear and then tell you their opinion. They aren’t as confrontational, but tend to be a bit drunker than Americans. Americans on the other hand are not quite as stoic as the Germans and see rock and roll as a release. The Americans throw more things if they don’t like the band. German hippies are WÀY more militant…don’t piss them off as I have accidentally done. Most of the people here think I’m German when they see me play, so I don’t really have a good answer for the “foreign eyes” question.

Since you’ve been in Germany, are there any German staples that you feel you couldn’t (or would rather not) live without?

There are many things here that I wouldn’t be able to live without.

Here is my top ten:

10. Driving like a maniac without scaring the populace. For this, Germans, I salute you.

9. Actually figuring out ways to make pork taste good.

8. Jeans that fit.

7. No high fructose corn syrup in soft drinks because that would be degrading for humans to consume.

6. Kids use the “SIE” (formal “you” in German) to adults.

5. Very loyal friendships.

4. The doner kebab.

3. The beer.

2. The beer.

1. The beer.

You’re going to SXSW in March. What are your plans for the festival? Are you looking forward to seeing any other particular artists while you’re there?

We are playing a gig at the Parish, a club in central Austin, on Thursday night at 8 PM (March 15). It’s a showcase of the festival. Other than that we will be trying to see the Jesus and Mary Chain. I don’t know if there will be other appealing bands there or not…hopefully.

Will there be any part of American culture that you’ll be eager to subject your bandmates to when you get to the United States (like a big, greasy burger, for example)?

As we’ll be in Texas, I guess the first thing I will force-feed them will be some Texas barbeque. They will learn the glory that is General Tso’s chicken at a Chinese restaurant. I will also be buying some forty ouncers of Mickey’s to give them that experience albeit depraved. Other than that, there’s not much else in the states that we don’t have in Germany.

Aside from SXSW, does the band have any new plans for the year? What’s the next step for Shandy Mandies?

We are just finishing up an EP for the festival tentatively called Down by the River. It has three songs that were good enough to be on the new album but just didn’t fit somehow. We are also finishing the mix which will be the follow-up to our first album Pipe Dream Poetry that came out in October 2010. The next album doesn’t have a title yet, but I can assure you that it is a fantastic album. WORLDS better than the first one. I can’t wait for people to hear this one. The first one was good, but this one could really move us to the next level and win us some good tours/festivals. 2012 will hopefully be a big year for us!

The band’s SXSW dates are as follows:
3/15 – Noisey Showcase @ The Parish 7 PM
3/16 – Betsy’s Bar 3 PM
3/16 – Oops Baby Showcase @ Liberty Bar

-Rick Knowlton