-- Mantis gets shredded --

Stijn Daneels
I was curious to check out Mantis during the Metaaldetector event in Geraardsbergen on February 13, 2016. Especially after hearing their single PYITDWYSS. Yes, that’s how the song is called! Want to know what it stands for? Read on!

Right after I had finished my interview with the Sons of Lioth, I noticed that the guys from Mantis were chilling out in the same hallway where I and the Lioth folks were sitting in. While the Lioth guys were getting their stuff together for their gig, I decided to check if Ruben and Filip had some time to waste talking to an average joe like me. And when such topics like their upcoming EP are combined with something as outrageous as selfie stick dick punching, you get a recipe for a juicy conversation!

BMS: Since your band was recently founded (October 2014 to be specific) I’d love to know how Mantis got started.
Ruben: Filip, Thomas and I have been friends for a long time and we played in several bands before Mantis was founded. Thomas and Filip had the idea of jamming together and they asked me to join in as their drummer. We took our chances and formed Mantis. We practiced together, wrote a few songs and two months after we had started we got our first gig, which was in a cultural centre in Antwerp. We had a fun time and things evolved naturally from there. Filip: For two years I had the intention to form a noise rock band. Although Mantis didn’t end up having much noise rock in it we’re satisfied with what our sound has eventually become.
BMS: You recently released a single called PYITDWYSS. What is that? Some kind of kinky porn reference?
Ruben: It means Punch You In The Dick With Your Selfie Stick!
BMS: I assume you, like me, don’t have a taste for selfies?
Ruben: We certainly don’t! And since all of our music is instrumental, we can call our songs whatever we want to call them. The reason for the abbreviation is that it makes the song’s title look cooler and shorter.
BMS: I like it, those abbreviations add a bit of mystery to the songs.

Mantis from left to right: Ruben Vandaal (drums), Thomas Francot (guitars) and Filip Tyskens (bass).
BMS: Where do you get your musical inspirations?
Ruben: All three of us have an appetite for hard sounding music. Aside from Mantis, Thomas plays in the doom metal band Lothorian. Filip wanted to write noise rock and I love to listen to post-rock and post-metal bands such as Russian Circles. These three elements combined have laid the foundation for Mantis.
BMS: Next month you’ll be releasing your first EP, tell me something about its production.
Ruben: Shortly after Mantis was founded, we considered releasing an EP. We recorded the drum tracks in the studio itself because of their complexity. The bass and guitar parts were recorded in our band’s rehearsal room. A friend of ours came along and recorded those parts using his own equipment. We kept the recorded tracks on our hard drive for over a year because we didn’t find a record label that was willing to release them.

Ruben: However, Jens Van Lathem, the main editor for a weblog named Indiestyle said to Filip (who is a contributor to Indiestyle) that he wanted to create his own record label and he offered to release our EP via him. We accepted the offer and decided to rerecord the tracks for the EP. Last December we went to a recording studio in Tongeren, made new recordings, mixed and mastered the EP in record time and now it’s finally ready to be released!

Filip: Working with Jens Van Lathem’s WERVEL record label was a pleasant experience as he took the job very seriously. In March the EP will be sold during our gigs!

BMS: I look forward to reviewing it for my site! Now, tell me something about the artwork.
Ruben: With WERVEL, Jens wants to combine music with art. He searched for pictures and paintings and presented us with some images to use as our EP’s front cover. We found this painting made by a Russian artist named Katia Tkatch. Jens contacted Katia and arranged for us to use her work as our cover art. We hope to meet her someday to personally thank her for the contribution. The painting itself fits perfectly with the dark and brooding atmosphere we want to create with Mantis.
BMS: It’s a good looking cover, basic yet effective.

The cover of the Mantis EP.
BMS: What are your future projects once the EP has been released?
Ruben: We are planning to organize a release show in every province in Flanders. At the moment we have a gig in Ghent, Leuven and Limburg and we’ll also planning a release party in West Flanders. We eagerly anticipate people’s opinions about our EP and we’ll also be writing new material.
BMS: What are your other activities aside from Mantis?
Ruben: I’m looking to become a history teacher. Thomas is working hard to one day be a sound technician and, as we already mentioned, he also plays in the doom metal band Lothorian who will be playing here tonight as well. But Filip and I have no other bands in which we play at the moment.

Filip: I’m studying to become a journalist, specialized in culture and entertainment.

BMS: Although I have a huge hard-on for instrumentals, I do wonder whether you at some point in time considered adding vocals to your songs.
Ruben: We have had a lot of fans asking us to try adding singing to our material. We do have one track in which we added some vocals but they are hardly audible. But we don’t have any songs in our catalogue which we believe would be better with lyrics.

Filip: In case we do want to add more singing to our songs we would need to find a vocalist because all our attention is put towards our instruments. We currently feel that we’re doing a fine job with just the three of us. People appreciate our work and we have gigs. We’re a tight group of friends and finding a fourth person to play with us is a risk we’re not willing to take.
BMS: In my opinion vocals are a bit overused. A great instrumental track is able to tell a story using just guitars and drums. A perfect example of instrumental storytelling is the Metallica track Orion from their legendary Master Of Puppets album.
Ruben: Yeah. I noticed that there are many great metal bands nowadays that try to fill all their songs up to the brim with lyrics. I wish they kept some of their songs vocal-free and let the instruments continue to tell the tale.
BMS: Do you have anything else you want to ask or mention?
Filip: When did you start your blog?
BMS: I started in June 2015 but I’ve taken my work more seriously since the last couple of months.
Filip: Although we don’t consider Mantis a metal band, but it was a nice conversation. Thanks for your support.
BMS: It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re genuinely metal or not. I like your band and your sound is punchy enough for me. You deserve the recognition and I’m glad that I can now add you to my interview resume!
Ruben: Thanks! See you at the party!

Enjoy Famine, a track from the Mantis debut EP.