By Jason Grishkoff | November 6th, 2009
“Uninhabited Mansions is a Brooklyn-based art collective and band. We make music and publish books and do a few other things.”
I can’t remember the last band bio I read that said so much by saying so little. I love it. Robbie Guertin, UM’s primary vocalist/guitarist (who is also a member of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, by the way), described the origins of Uninhabitable Mansions to one interviewer: “At first, Uninhabitable Mansions was more of an art project. We made a window display for a friend in Chicago and we decided to make an art book to go along with it, which is called ‘Census’….Chris (Diken) and I have also been playing music together for a long time, so as we finally got our act together and started a band, we decided to keep the name Uninhabitable Mansions for the band as well. I think it all ties together pretty well, everything feeds everything else.”
How about the origins of the name “Uninhabitable Mansions”? To one interviewer, Chris Diken had this to say: “There’s this promise that if you’re good on Earth, you’ll be given a mansion on the River Jordan in the after life. So then I thought, what if people don’t go to Heaven? There are all these mansions sitting on the River Jordan in Heaven but nobody goes there. They’re all sitting there uninhabited.” I can work with that.
Aside from Guertin and Diken, the musical conglomerate known as Uninhabitable Mansions consists of Annie Hart (of Au Revoir Simone), Tyler Sargent (also of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah), Danny Comer, and Doug Marvin. Artisically, UM is made up of Robbie, Chris, and Sara Jones (published poet), with help from Lindsay Baker, Maya Pindyck, and Kristyna Comer.
Musically (which is the focus of this blog, of course; I’ll leave the artsy stuff to people who actually know what they’re talking about), Uninhabitable Mansions caught my ear before I knew their story. UM craft sunny, bouncy power pop with a splash of psychedelica that results in some of the most aesthetically-pleasing sounds you could ever treat your ears to; I’m convinced that it is impossible to remain in a bad mood after listening to a few Uninhabitable Mansions songs. On their recently-released full-length debut, Nature Is A Taker, UM blends breezy, shared male/female vocals with catchy hooks and melodies that one reviewer described as “arriving in the nick of time” to save the music lover from the plethora of “faceless MP3s” that can be found all over the web. To testify to this point, I purchased the album via the band’s website within 20 minutes of hearing them for the first time. If you’re a fan of infectious, well-written pop, Uninhabitable Mansions may be right up your alley. Check them out.