Feedback: Life in a family band


Melissa and Aaron Bailey of the band Manorlady. Ego Oppressor, a combination CD/DVD album, will be released at the Black Market Moto Saloon on June 16th.

For Aaron Bailey, music is synonymous with families. His own parents, long separated, each dabbled in music throughout their lives – his father is an electrical engineer with a knowledge of recording studios, while his mother, Bailey says, “is the total opposite; she studied voice in college, and has been in bands her entire life, although she never made a career out of it.” Although his own career is in Medical Science, he’s also spent plenty of time playing music. His current band, Manorlady, includes his wife and brother-in-law. For the Baileys, music is definitely a family affair.

Originally from California, Bailey has lived in Charlottesville for six years, pursuing a graduate degree in Cell Biology at UVA. “I’d been climbing a lot,” Aaron says, “that was my favorite waste of time, outside of school.” After injuring himself in a climbing accident in the winter of 2008, he joked, “How am I going to waste my time now?” The solution was to start a band, with his wife Melissa Bailey and her brother Donald Wooley, both of whom had never played in a rock group before. Billing itself as a “family band,” due to the fact that all of the band members are related by blood or by marriage, Manorlady began playing in early 2009. Their songs mixed heavy shoegazer rock and complex electronic accompaniment, the result of combining two influential genres that had had an impact on them in the 1990’s.

One of the most memorable aspects of Manorlady’s live show is the inclusion of live video projection, synchronized with their performance, with different imagery for each song in their set. The video, compiled on VHS tapes, runs through a program called Arkaos, which takes MIDI input from the band’s drum machine and uses it to edit video to the beat of the song. “With drum machines and video projectors, having so much complex technical stuff, you’re always setting yourself up for a disaster” Aaron says. “How much video we do on a given night is usually dependant on how much time we have for setup, and how confident we are about how everything is working.”

One of the benefits of recording music, however, is that it allows for a greater degree of precision and control. Although Manorlady has previously released a debut EP and one full-length album, their newest, Ego Oppressor, is their most ambitious yet. The album will be released not only on CD, but also on a DVD featuring visual accompaniment for each of the albums’ songs, in effect making an album-length music video, or a record that can be watched as well as listened to.

Ego Oppressor began as a four-song EP, but the recording sessions for the album proved extremely fruitful. “It felt good as a band, to fully come together, from the sort of shambling act we had been at first” Aaron says. The album was recorded at home – “That’s one of the nice things about not having a drummer, and also having really, really nice neighbors.”

The video source material was gathered by Aaron and Melissa from old VHS tapes, cell phone footage, and live footage from the previous summer’s tour. “We edited it beforehand like you would with any video,” Aaron says, “but then the footage for each song is run through Arkaos multiple times,” allowing for a densely edited video.

One of the regrets about their previous full-length, Home, is that “it would have been better if it was shorter. We wanted the new album to be as dense as possible – it’s harder and darker than the last one.” The album, he says, is “sort of a concept album about your ego, and working to suppress, or oppress, that. The lyrics are fictionalized, but the Ego is something I’d been thinking about a lot. It’s something you encounter really often in Grad school, through your relationship with your advisor, your relationship with other students; even at home, your relationship with your dog.”

As they recorded, Aaron says, “all of these other incomplete songs started coming to the surface,” and were incorporated into the record. Eventually, Manorlady generated enough material for a 36-minute full-length, as well as enough songs left over for future releases, including a single that “didn’t fit aesthetically” with the rest of the album. That single will be released as a limited lathe-cut vinyl 7” record, available on the same day as the full-length.

Manorlady will release Ego Oppressor on Saturday, June 16th at the Black Market Moto Saloon. War Tempest, a Charlottesville-based hardcore trio reminiscent of Big Black and Hüsker Dü, will open the show, which begins at 9pm. It may be one of the last local appearances of Manorlady, as the Baileys plan to move on after Aaron graduates in the fall. “We’ve got another show planned for July, but who knows what comes after that?” Aaron says. “We’ve had a great time in Charlottesville, but our time here is coming to an end. This place has been awesome.”