The Retinas: Your music has an eclectic style to it, who would you say your influences are? Do you have shared influences or does everyone in the band bring a different background element in that regard?
Dog Drive Mantis: We all share a little bit of common ground in terms of influences but overall, we come from very different places. Neil (Drums) and Derek (Jazz) have their roots in jazz and music theory, whereas Carmen (bass) and I (Mike, Guitar) generally started out interested in Alternative rock and learning/writing songs by ear. A few bands that come to mind would be Tool, Broken Social Scene, Streetlight Manifesto, Toe.
Dog Drive Mantis: I like the deep bass synth at the beginning of ‘Fix That Up’. What is it exactly, and do you plan to use more synths in the future?
The Retinas: That’s a synth bass we have. And yes, we definitely are looking to expand and
broaden our instrument footprint on future recordings. Part of the fun for us is finding new
sounds and experimenting with something completely new.
The Retinas: A lot of the songs feel like you’re building a landscape to me, how has your hometown Mississauga influenced your writing?
Dog Drive Mantis: Mississauga itself actually hasn’t been a huge driver in our sound, but the beauty of living here is that we’re right in the middle of various music scenes that we can participate in. Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton, Kitchener, etc. Our “landscape building” likely comes from our writing process (more detail on that below, stay tuned)
Dog Drive Mantis: How long have you all been writing and performing together?
The Retinas: Anthony (drums) and I (Thomas – vox, guitar) have been playing together for about 8 years. But as this unit with Andy (bass) we’ve been playing for about 3 years.
The Retinas: What does the writing process look like for Dog Drive Mantis? Does one person have an idea that everyone comes together on? Do you all sit down to write at the same time? Is it improv or more hard writing?
Dog Drive Mantis: Most of our songs start from the first few minutes of our practice sessions where we’d improvise a jam (usually initiated by Carmen) and one of us would be wise enough to pull out the phone to record the audio. A lot of those improvisation jams end up in an endless archive of cacophonic eternity, but a few of them have snuck through the cracks and turned out to be songs we decided to keep. From the recorded audio of improvisation, we pick pieces that we like and then build on them from there. Constantly refining our structure and nuances, it can often take months to complete a song.
Dog Drive Mantis: Favourite venue to play in Philly? Why?
The Retinas: Ortliebs. We love Ortliebs, because they’re the best venue for the actual scene of Philadelphia. They book all different types of acts, support local and touring artists in every way they can and I’ve seen some of the coolest shows I’ve been too there.
The Retinas: If you could play with any musician/band from any time period, who would it be and why?
Dog Drive Mantis: I’ll tell you mine and then I’ll give you my best-educated guess of the other guys:
● Mike: Toe around the time of “For Long Tomorrow”; I’m always in awe watching their live videos. As a group, their live performance is a beautiful display of synergy and passion.
It inspires me.
● Carmen: The Beatles, Revolver
● Derek: Chris Potter, now
● Neil: Tool, now
Dog Drive Mantis: Which artist would you tour with if you could pick anyone in any time period?
The Retinas: The Replacements. We all share a love for them, and from what I’ve read they
were crazy to tour with and always having a blast. They didn’t take themselves to seriously and genuinely put everything they have into what they were playing.
The Retinas: If you could’ve written any song by any musician/band, what would it be
Dog Drive Mantis: The entire album “Sketches of Brunswick East” by King Gizzard and the
Lizard Wizard ft. Mild High Club is really just one long song split up into multiple tracks, and each one is so unique and hard to classify. I’ve always wondered how they were able to connect them in such a creative fashion.
Dog Drive Mantis: Explain your songwriting process.
The Retinas: Typically I’ll have an idea that I’ll bring to the band. We’ll start to expand on it and work on it as a unit and everyone develops their part. We have our own studio so we’ll demo it a million times to hear back what it sounds like before we finally record it.
The Retinas: What’s on the horizon for Dog Drive Mantis?
Dog Drive Mantis: We’re back to the writing phase, holding off for shows for the time being while we being full-length album #2. It will take some time, but we’re excited for how the final product will turn out.
Dog Drive Mantis: What is different about your upcoming self titled release vs. your older tunes?
The Retinas: The older tunes we’re a lot of piled up songs from over the years that we re-
recorded to get a clearer sound for release. We love those songs, and we’ve had them for
years. The album is an almost completely new set of songs, written together on tour and
in-between. We specifically tried to get out of writing patterns and styles and put something completely out of our element that still had the trace signature style of us. We also wanted every song to be completely different from the rest which I think we accomplished.
Inspired by iconic artists such as The Pixies, The Strokes, and The Replacements, the Philly power trio of Thomas McHugh (vocals/guitar), Anthony Fulginitti (drums), and Andy Silverman (bass), who are best known as The Retinas, effortlessly couple nostalgia with the thrills and pains of being alive.
Dog Drive Mantis
Dog Drive Mantis is the Toronto (Mississauga)-based sonic brew of Derek Serbin, Mike Papaloni, Carmen Haines and Neilroy Miranda. Since their formation in October of 2015, the band has blended progressive indie post-rock with jazz fusion, always exploring new ways to add to the experiential mix that is their music.
Bands Interviewing Bands: The Retinas (top) photo credit: Ashley Cordoba. Dog Drive Mantis (bottom) photo credit: Zarrar Salik