The new music director of the San Francisco Symphony, Esa-Pekka Salonen, has created a collaborative council to do, uh, something.
Garrett Harris 3 p.m., Feb. 20
Sound description: Mellow alt-lounge.
RIYL: Tristeza, Via Satellite, Mr.Tube, Black Heart Procession, Devics, Trost, Astrobrite, Radiohead, Lost Pets
Influences: Sigur Ros, LowCloudCover, Goodbye Blue Monday, Black Heart Procession, Cocteau Twins, the Cure, Three Mile Pilot, Helmet, Portishead, My Bloody Valentine, Heavy Vegetable
Manuok (pronounced “man-you-okay”) is Scott Mercado, whose resume includes a foundational role in post-rock trio Via Satellite and recording/touring stints with prominent names such as The Black Heart Procession (with whom he toured, though he din not join the group), the Album Leaf, Tristeza, Mr. Tube and the Flying Objects, and Ilya.
When touring as Manuok, he’s usually accompanied by backup players. Scottish-born (but Mexican-Ukrainian by blood), Mercado works by day as a web designer.
In 2009, Mercado’s music took him to Europe four times, an experience that he calls “a dream come true.” He puts Berlin’s music and art scene on par with that of New York in the ’70s and still pines for the streetside Turkish döner kebabs.
Both Manuok and Via Satellite were signed to San Diego-based Loud and Clear Records. Mercado also produces other acts. He met French folk-rock group Grimoon in 2005 while touring Europe with the Black Heart Procession. Five years later, the multi-instrumentalist produced Grimoon’s third album, Super 8.
Manuok’s full-length The Old Horse was released in August, 2010, with an August 5 release party at downtown’s Wonderhaus Building. Grimoon members Solenn Le Marchand, Alberto Stevanato, and Claudio Favretto released The Old Horse on their Italian-based label Macaco in August. Both Mercado and Black Heart Procession founder Pall Jenkins (who created Grimoon’s album art) appeared on the band’s previous album, Les 7 Vies du Chat.
“I just arrived in Milan for two month tour in Europe,” emailed Mercado in early 2011. “One tour playing with Sara Lov of Devics, then one month with Manuok and Grimoon. Craziness. While I’m here, I’m mixing my new rock record on my laptop. I can’t wait to finish it when I’m home in May.”
In 2012, Mercado’s new Manuok full-length Traps was released on Japan’s Kilk Records, in the U.S. on Bay Area-based 500 Records (CD and digital only), and in Italy on Macaco Records. The album features bassist Erik Berg and keys/vibesman Jeff Grasmick (both of the rock outfit Rochelle, Rochelle), drummer Geoff Hill (Ilya), and guitarist Andrew Trecha, who has performed as a visual artist with cinematic instrumental 9-piece KATA.
Says Mercado, “While Manuok certainly started with pianos and cellos, over time and travel we’ve slowly changed into a rock band. It’s not surprising considering all our roots are in harder music. The new album certainly reflects that change. It’s also the first album we all recorded together. You’ll hear all our members influences.”
The album theme, says Mercado, is “ghosts, change, and traps.” So perhaps it’s no coincidence that Traps departs from the ethereal indie-folk sound that guided the band’s previous three albums (and landed their rendition of “Untitled 1” at the top of a band-endorsed list of Sigur Ros covers) to instead find a more urgent, disconcerted tone that draws lyrical parallels between Mercado’s personal tribulations and a lurking dystopian paranoia.
“In broad terms, I wrote about how the ghosts of our past get in the way of our future - how we trap ourselves,” says Mercado. “More specifically, or song to song, I cover this in terms of politics, fear of life change, relationships, death, and capitalism.”
The 2014 romance-horror flick Spring, set in Italy, was scored by Jimmy LaValle (the Album Leaf), with several songs by Manuok.
January and February 2015 found Mercado playing bass on tour in Italy with French-Italian rockers Grimoon (he played drums on their newest album) supporting Vers La Lune. On his return, he played piano for QunQ in L.A., did a short tour on drums with Two Sheds, and played Noisepop in San Francisco.
Mercado launched a new band in early 2015, Lost Pets, featuring Matt Mournian (Goodbye Blue Monday), Tom Peart (John Meeks Band), and Marc Guzower (Dropscience). Their live debut was April 18 at Soda Bar.
A new Manuok album was released in 2017, The Gift Horse, promoted with an animated video for the track "The Edge."