The latest artist heating up the New York music scene, Russ Manning and his newly ignited dance-wave disco project Rush Midnight just released his debut EP, +1 and we can’t stop grooving. Combing glammed up synth-rock, tropical-infused percussion and a sexy soul boogie sound, all of which tickles your loins in a way that will turn your cheeks red, to say Russ exudes cool is an understatement. All we will say is, we’ve partied with this kid once or twice and everything you hear is true.
The former Twin Shadow bass player has now stepped out of the darkness and into the spotlight. Russ was kind enough to take a few moments to chat with Best Fit about his debut EP +1, his love of Brooklyn funk, the Jamie Lee Curtis inspired video for ‘The Night Was Young Enough,’ his upcoming tour and a quick game of word associations.
Thinking about your sound, if you had to pick a food or dish to describe Rush Midnight, what would you pick and why?
Maybe Ramen. Because it kind of warms you up on the inside, and it doesn’t really weigh you down, and you don’t feel too heavy afterwards. You get some spices in there, and you can breath, your lungs feel good. I always like eating Ramen, or some style of Asian food before I play, because it’s not too heavy.
What would a teenage Russ think of your music? Say at age, 16.
Hhhmmm. When I was 16, I was listening to like pop-rock, stuff like The Strokes. In high school I had a band that was heavily influenced by The Strokes, it definitely wasn’t RnB. Then like early 20’s I got into RnB. I also loved Michael Jackson, and listened to a lot of funk bands.
What kind of funk bands? Like George Clinton?
Yeah, he’s cool, but he’s not my favorite. I’m more into New York funk bands like, Mandrill, they are like a 70s Brooklyn funk act. Kool and the Gang, all those 80s dudes, all the Jacksons, and you know Sheik? Those are my jams right there.
Rad. I dig it. So you grew up in New York.
Yeah I’m from Brooklyn.
Has growing up in Brooklyn influenced your sound at all?
Yeah, I guess so. I had the chance to see so many acts live. I was going to Irving Plaza when I was 18. Also, my dad has a really cool record collection. That’s probably been the biggest thing, my parents’ liking cool music.
So you’re parents have had a huge influence on your music.
Yeah definitely. I remember car trips and listening to Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, but for the most part, I remember my dad playing disco and dance music.
That’s pretty cool. So what artists did you listen to with your dad?
He listened to a lot of Beach Boys, Roxy music, Kool and the Gang, Frank Beverly and this band, Maze, The Commodores.
Yeah I grew up listening to a lot of Ike & Tina, my parents also loved Kool & The Gang. Very 80s. Speaking of, your music definitely has an 80s vibe to it.
Yeah a lot of people have been asking me about the 80’s sound. I think it comes from this keyboard I use, it’s called a DX7, it’s by Yamaha, and it’s in a bunch of movies, like Police Academy and Beverly Hills Cop, all these 80’s movies, so I think it’s just nostalgia. I’m not actually trying to do 80s, it’s just the keyboard I have access to at the moment.
Well, even the video for ‘The Night Was Young Enough’ has an 80s feel to it.
It is whatever you want it to be.
Did you come up with the idea for the video?
Yeah, it was my idea. It’s based on that Jamie Lee Curtis movie, ‘Perfect’. Ya know that aerobics movie? We shot some visuals a long time ago, and about two years later, when I was putting this EP together, I was shooting some B-roll, and we just compiled the two and tried to align them, then we bleached it red to create some mystery.
It was kind of like Thriller meets Flashdance, but glammed up. Haha.
How did you go from playing in Twin Shadow’s band the past few years to fronting your own project that’s touring, has just released an EP and I would imagine has a lot more planned?
I had a lot of fun playing in Twin Shadow, and it was good while it lasted, but it just felt like the right time to introduce Rush Midnight. I had all these songs written, so I started recording them, and I got all this positive feedback from DJ friends, PR and music friends, and they were all just telling me to do something with it. Then my friend, Max Mohenu introduced me to Cascine, and we just hit it off.
Your EP, +1 starts out really light and dancey, and as it progresses, it gets moodier, funkier, a little tropical, and really sexy. How did this EP come about?
Well I went to Cascine with about 15 songs, and they choose their favorites for the EP. As far as the sound being sexy, I wasn’t really trying to make it sexy, just the songs I like, happen to be sexy. This Rush Midnight thing originally was gonna be this alterego. Sort of this thing you can turn on and off. So things I can say as Rush Midnight, I might not say as Russ Manning. It’s honest, but it’s not the normal me.
So who is Rush Midnight?
I think you can find out who he is through the songs and the lyrics.
He seems very confident and cool. He makes me want to hang out at his parties and dance.
Yeah, my girl and I had been talking about this comic book aesthetic, we looked at different old school comics from the 70’s, and you know those old school movie poster, like for Blade Runner and Star Wars. For a while we were going to design this kind of comic book character that would be in all the photos, instead of me. Then we decided to combine the two, so it’s a real photo, but it’s really saturated and treated. So it’s this alterego, super hero, non-human.
Cool. Yeah you get that from video for ‘The Night Was Young Enough’. You guys gave the whole video this iridescent shine, even you were shimmering.
Yeah for sure. That was a little bit of bronzer.
So going back to the sexy feel to your music. Where does that come from?
I think more than sexy, it’s just romantic. Or the songs are telling a story. They are just general feelings that anyone can relate to. Most of the songs are about some type of romance that everyone has experienced before.
So tell me about your creation process for these songs.
I usually start with a drum beat and maybe some bass, kinda like a rhythm section. Like a tempo, that’s like the groundwork. Then I usually sit on it for a day or two. Or however long it takes for me to come up with the melody. It’s usually the bass, the drums and then the melody. And all that stuff in between kind of comes in organically. The colour is all there, and the lyrics are the final topping.
It’s awesome that George Lewis Jr. (Twin Shadow) helped produce your album, really honing in on a signature Rush Midnight sound. None of it gets lost, or sounds like a Twin Shadow track.
Yeah, I basically just gave him these two songs that were in my opinion finished, but I felt confident that he could do more with them. He kinda helped shape the choruses and develop the songs a bit more. He knows my sound because I’ve been sending him demos for like two years. He knew what I was going for. It was really easy and natural to work together because we know each other so well.
Probably Whitney Houston at her height. Maybe 15 years ago.
Finish This Sentence:
The last dream I remember involved… me missing soundcheck and I showed up to the show in just a shirt and no pants.
Last great show I went to was…the Rapture at The Musichall of Williamsburg. His voice is like butter.
The song that always gets stuck in my head is…”I’m Not In Love” by 10cc.
Big spoon or little spoon? Little spoon
Go to party music LCD Soundsystem
Kitty Pryde Katy Perry
Favorite Vinyl Grace Jones “Nightclubbing”
Trap Music Flosstradamus
Favorite musical instrument you own My Six-Track, it’s a sequential synthesizer
Do you eat pizza cold? No
Kanye West Pusha-T
Live Music Coachella?
Pitchfork Ryan Shreiber
The internet shut down for a week, what would you do with all your free time?
Probably write more music, and stop searching the web for how many Facebook likes I have. Haha.
Words to live by?
Practice makes perfect.
A european tour soon. I’m working on finishing up the LP right now. A mini US tour happening next month, and maybe a couple support slots.
Get Rush Midnight’s debut EP +1 via Cascine.