But this new van (nicknamed “Vangrenade 2.0” or “The Deuce”) isn’t just a new touring vehicle, it is also a symbol of Mangrenade’s determination to make it, car payments be damned.
“We wanted to be one of the most aggressive, un-aggressive bands and bring a side of Rock & Roll back into this town that’s been missing,” Thieme says over burgers and beer at MOTR Pub. “We wanted to come out of the gate and be considered a serious band.”
If breaking into Cincinnati’s Rock scene was Mangrenade’s initial goal, consider it accomplished. The band, consisting of Thieme, bassist and vocalist Ben Morgan and drummer Erik Olsen, has been together only since June of 2012. In that time, they’ve released a two-track “Pre-P” and two EPs and played their brand of drunk, heavy Rock all across the region.
On the band’s latest release, the EP Lions in the Parking Lot, Mangrenade pulled inspiration from upheaval in the life of one of their members.
“It’s a documentary of the last year of Ben’s life, which is fucked up, because I wrote half the vocals on this record. It didn’t start this way, it just happened,” Thieme says. “The concept is — imagine a person whose family disowns them in literally a week, going from being madly in love with you to beating the shit out of you, jumping you, harassing you and pretty much making your life a living hell. And living through that and finding yourself in all that and finding the will to move on.”
Over the course of four tracks, Lions takes the listener down the mental path of a battered, broken — but ultimately better — person.
“(The lead-off/title track) is the fight, the initial blow up, the explosion.
The second song is coming to terms with that. ‘I’m the One’ (the third track) is like figuring out what you’re going to do — ‘fuck you people, I don’t need you. I didn’t need you before, I don’t need you now.’ The last song is just like, ‘If you want me to be dead, I’m dead, I’m gone. And guess what, you’re dead to me too and I’m moving on with my life,’ ” Thieme explains.
The personal connection the members have to the songs’ lyrics carry over to the rest of the EP.
“I walked out of that studio 10 times the guitar player I was when I walked in. I hadn’t played that much in years,” Thieme says.
Olsen’s drumming also grew in breadth, from the foot-stomping beat of the title track to the crashing fury of “I’m the One.” Throughout, Morgan’s bluesy bass lines and smooth vocals swirl with Thieme’s punky strumming and hoarse delivery to create a “bad cop/worse cop” style of attack that’s an auditory bottle upside the head. Saying “Fuck you” has never sounded so good.
After recording their first EP, More Than a Handful, in Thieme’s basement, Mangrenade stepped into a real studio for Lions, working with Eric Cronstein (guitarist for local rockers Lemon Sky) in his Columbus-based studio .
“I feel like we’ve graduated with this new release. When we were in the studio, it was work, it was grueling,” Olsen says.
The boys upped the difficulty by scrapping five songs before entering the studio and harvesting the best pieces to create the EP. Such a last-minute change-up could’ve very well sent Lions into a tailspin, but the reinvention made for stronger work.
“It was like night and day, between what were working on and what we came up with,” Olsen says.
While Lions has marked an impressive growth within Mangrenade, the band members aren’t even considering resting on their laurels any time soon. In fact, they’ve got their eyes set on recording a full-length in the beginning of 2014 and rocking hard and fast in the time between then and now.
“I’ve never raged harder before in my life than I have in this town, and you’ve got to have something to listen to. And that’s where we come in,” Thieme says. “We’re going to leave a path of destruction.
“Maybe not destruction,” he reconsiders, “but beer cans.”
With drive like that, let’s hope Thieme’s new van has the extended warranty.
MANGRENADE (mangrenade.com) performs Thursday at Newport’s Southgate House Revival with Ford Theatre Reunion. More: southgatehouse.com.