YOU probably already know all the words to Fences’ single Arrows – it’s been on high rotation on radio stations across the world for months now. Chances are, however, you probably thought it was a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis track (guest artists on the song) because you knew nothing about the artiste behind it.
That’s all about to change. Fences’ second studio album, Lesser Oceans, drops this month and all the world will know who it is.
The name Fences refers to both the alternative-pop group from Seattle, Washington and to its frontman Christopher Mansfield. Although this was unintentional, the 31-year-old says he likes it because it allows for more creative freedom and flexibility within the band.
“Sometimes people want to do other things in their lives so I don’t want to hold anyone back,” he explained. “If my guitar player (Benjamin Greenspan) wanted to go start his own band, he should be able to do that. I want to create an environment where people feel inspired to work with me.”
It would appear that his other bandmates – Lindsey Starr on bass and backup vocals, Elliott Chaffee on drums and Greenspan – agree with this philosophy. None of them were featured in the Wes Anderson-esque music video for Arrows (directed by Jason Koenig and John Keatley) nor are they on any of the act’s promotional posters. Yet, a quick glance at their Twitter profiles show how enthusiastic they are about being in the band.
Mansfield himself is an interesting character. The Berklee College of Music dropout is open about his past struggles with alcoholism and previously described his work as “wussy pop music”.
Which is funny, because Mansfield’s skinny jeans and heavily tattooed body make him look like the vocalist of a stereotypical metalcore band.
It shouldn’t be strange to have people take photos with you or ask for your autograph, I think people just get so close to your music that, when they meet you, they feel a certain connection with you
It’s safe to say Mansfield’s career took off when his effortlessly catchy songs caught the attention of Sara Quin, one half of Canadian indie twin superstars Tegan and Sara. Quin discovered his music online, reached out to him and went on to produce his self-titled album, released back in 2010.
“I learned everything from her!” enthused Mansfield. “She’s my musical big sister. I’m always asking her for advice on both the business and musical side of things. She’s been really supportive through the years.”
Now that Lesser Oceans is done and dusted, Mansfield is shifting his focus to making a legitimate career with his band and working on his live performances. He estimates that he has about 75 shows lined up. Still, Mansfield’s present perspective on fame suggests that it won’t change who he is as a person.
“It shouldn’t be strange to have people take photos with you or ask for your autograph,” he said. “I think people just get so close to your music that, when they meet you, they feel a certain connection with you.”
To Mansfield, these feelings are mutual.
“I feel a connection with my fans as well because they are the audience and if they weren’t there, the music wouldn’t have as much life. I’m just as excited to meet people as they are me.”
Like all great musicians out there, Mansfield had to start from the bottom to get to where he is today. While it’s easy to argue that he was fortunate enough to get help from Quin, he had already worked on five records on his own prior to meeting her. That’s why he can empathise so well with aspiring musicians.
“There are so many different ways to get to where you think you want to be. You might have a couple of years where you just feel like it’s never going to work and then you might meet one person who knows another person that gets you one step closer,” he said.
Whether or not you are an aspiring musician, Mansfield’s thoughts on career progression make for sound advice: “Just imagine yourself as a turtle, just going along. As long as you’re moving forward, you’re moving forward.”
Fences’ second studio album Lesser Oceans releases worldwide today.