Interview with JARED MANCUSO A Very Pleasant Person...

Rocks Fanzine: Who is Jared Mancuso? Tell us something about your story.
Jared Mancuso: Well…I grew up in New Hope, PA, which is this little artsy town north of Philly. I was raised around good music, and thrown into piano lessons and dance lessons when I was about 3 (I still tap dance). I wanted to play the guitar but my older sister said “everyone plays the guitar, you should play bass!” So I started playing bass when I was 10. Throughout high school I played in a jam rock band called the Urban Funk Monkeys. We put out a few albums, our first when I was in 7th grade. Jon Krist, who was one of the greatest guitarist and people I’ve ever known, really introduced me to tons of different kinds of music. I can remember being outside of his garage holding CD’s of Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits, Rage Against The Machine’s Evil Empire, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication, while he was burning me a copy of Phish’s Farmhouse. I started playing guitar when I was about 18. I had goofed around on it a bit previously, but didn’t really pursue it seriously until about 18. In 2006, Jon was killed in a car crash, and that really shattered my world. Musically I shut out for a while. I slowly crawled back and wrote some things for myself, some of which ended up on my first album, but a lot of it was just out of sadness and is long lost in the digital world somewhere. It wasn’t until the following year when I met Jared Bardugone and we created a group together that pulled me out of my rut and I was able to start sharing my created music again. I’m not a religious person at all, but when I create music I always hope I’d be making Jon proud. Or at least impressing him a little bit, as he was 50x’s the guitarist I am haha. Sucks to start an interview on such a sad note.

RF: How do you define your music and style?
JM: In a genre, alternative/garage rock. Deeper than that, it’s my ode to the origins of rock n roll, bringing it into the 21st century.

RF: Who are your most important artist influences?
JM: It’s easy to say Jack White, but I’m gonna say Jack White…to start with. When I first got into The White Stripes (sadly after they had already broken up), it really woke me up to this idea of music not having to be perfectly produced…which was a huge departure from my first album. And it’s interesting because, before The White Stripes showed up on my radar, I had already been obsessing over Weezer’s Blue Album and Pinkerton, which were both grungy, honest albums. So in a way, it was just the solidification of that idea. Additionally, of course, I love The Beach Boys and their musical journey. Brian Wilson is truly one-of-a kind. The Beatles and Buddy Holly and the blues music that birthed rock n roll are also huge influences. They seem like clichés, but they really do influence how I write.

RF: After your first album in 2012, you were working in a classic rock tribute for a while. How was the experience?
JM: I actually still play with that group. It’s incredible. Not Fade Away is a reimagining of the music of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper and others. I started that group after having portrayed Buddy in a few different productions and left feeling unsatisfied. I had this realization that his music’s flame was potentially fading. A lot of the groups I played in just catered to the people who were around for the ever depressing “The Day The Music Died” and these shows just played it safe. Very traditional arrangements, very campy jokes, not a lot of freshness coming from them, constant reminders that these guys died so young. We do Buddy Holly a little different. Our goal is to not play the music how you think you remember it, but to play it like it’s the first time you’re ever hearing it. This makes for an exciting show for both the listeners who grew up with it, and new audiences just getting into that era of music. It’s not as rocked out as Superdope, but I do use the same pedal rig for both my own shows and Not Fade Away shows…

RF: Has your way of working — the way you write music — changed much since your first album?
JM: It has and it hasn’t. With my first album, A Very Pleasant Person, I had written those songs over about the span of a decade. So when I put down big money to go into a studio to record them, I really needed them to shine. And they did. I love that album and I’m proud of it. It does represent a time period for me, and I still like to play some of those songs live. But now, even though I’m still a control freak about the music, I can do it much more rapidly and base decision off of my gut. I wrote and recorded all of Superdope in the span of about 5 months. And not because I threw it together, but because my feelings were translating into sound more efficiently than they did before. Plus, I was going for a different, less polished sound this time. The biggest challenge with that, however, is making a “messy” album that is still presentable. Sonically bad sounding albums can overshadow good writing, and bad writing can overshadow sonically amazing albums. So I had to find the balance. I think I did? I’m biased though haha. That’s up to the listener.

RF: You’re a solo artist, but do you play with a band in your shows?
JM: I do. Everything on the album is me (except violin on Roll Over which was played by my friend Cullen Law), but I play with a live band of three other members. I haven’t really figured out how to narrow down these songs into a one person format. I don’t know that I would really want to because having friends on stage is just so much more fun. I play with my good friend James Parenti, who plays bass for me and actually helped engineer a lot of Superdope. We trade skills, as he also plays in Not Fade Away, and I play drums in his live band. He has two albums out that are available online and he is working on a new one now. On drums I have Audrey Lobdell who I found through mutual friends when I played with The Jared Project. She’s basically the coolest. She makes my White Stripes dreams come true. And the newest member is Ian LeSage on second guitar. We met at a mutual friend’s birthday right around when I was looking for a guitarist, and we just happened to talk about it. He’s an INCREDIBLY skilled guitarist. Between him and the other bandmates, I’m probably the weakest link on stage haha.

RF: Tell us something about “The Jared Project” and your namesake producer
JM: The Jared Project, which is currently on a hiatus, is a duo with my longtime friend Jared Bardugone. We met in college in NYC in a song-writing class. I liked his work, he liked mine, so I formed a band called Strike of the Heart with some other friends from high school, which was a pop-punk style band inspired by Fall Out Boy and those bands that were blowing up around the early 2000’s. I played drums and wrote a bulk of the music, and Jared (JB) wrote a bunch of music and lyrics as well, and sang. We played with that for a while, but that eventually fell apart because people moved in different directions, and musically we felt stuck. I love that genre, but after a while it’s hard to continue staying true to it and growing. Then after a few years, and putting together a solo EP for JB (he put it out under ‘Jared Vincent’), then my album, we came back together to form The Jared Project. The idea behind it was to create whatever music we wanted. So when you listen to our first album, The Battle Between Love and Fear, you can hear some Superdope in there, you can hear some ‘Strike of the Heart’, you can hear JB’s Pretty Kids With Problems EP, and you can hear so many different influences going on. It’s an hour long concept album about battling with the spectrum of love and fear. With our second album we wanted to stretch our pop muscles more, so we created Songbook. We had gone on a 28 day road trip across the country from NYC to LA and back, and that inspired a lot of the writing and production of that album. Seeing the country gives you this sense of conflicted patriotism that’s hard to describe. You also go through a LOT of music when you’re in a car for that long, so the musical and visual inspirations were just being jammed into our heads. Both albums were self produced and recorded at home, with me covering all the instruments, not far from how I still do things. For some reason, Songbook didn’t seem to perform as well as our first album, but we are still very proud of it. We had the typical “artistic differences” stuff and we decided to take a break for a while. We are still best friends, and we of course want to create more music together consistently in the future. But for now we decided to just create a one-off single that we are releasing in May. With this next single coming out, we’re looking to blend the Songbook sound with The Battle feel, and we really hope people will be into it. We’re going a little political, so we’re hoping it resonates with people, with everything happening globally right now.

RF: Our readers they are avid to discover different sounds to impact them. Why do you think you’ll be able to hit it where other artists (even famous) have failed?
JM: I saw a comedy video online that joked about how guitar solos have been replaced by rapping in rock music. So I shared it on my Facebook, joking how Superdope is saving the guitar solo. But in actuality, I think it’s a serious issue in music. Not the rapping. But this polishing of music and standardizing everything. Sameness is rampant. I have to preface this with I LOVE ALL KINDS OF MUSIC and with the exception of a few people who buy song writers, people who create their own art should be celebrated. That being said, I think it’s a struggle to not constantly be beating yourself over the head with the expectations of what you think people want to hear. I’ve had that struggle with every single album I’ve ever worked on. This happened in the earlier part of the process for Superdope. Eventually, I just had to say, “f*ck it” and just create this music that comes out of me and how I feel like it should go and that’s fun to play and not listen to that guy or girl who thinks it needs more of this or that to be popular. I think listeners can tell when music is honest vs when it’s made for the sake of monetary gain. I think (hope) people will connect to the honesty of Superdope.

RF: What about your lyrics? Which things consider Jared Mancuso in his words?
JM: Well my girlfriend (who takes all of my pictures btw) says that my lyrics are sad. I never think that I’m a sad person though. And I don’t think other people feel that way about me either. I don’t write personally (on purpose) about 75% of the time. But what ends up happening is I write a song thinking I’m writing about this fictional character, and then when I’m singing it at a show one night, I realize I wrote it about myself, or someone I know. And then I panic because I’m like…’what if they hear this and they know and they don’t like it! It wasn’t on purpose! Oh no!’ And then the song is over and I had a blast playing it and I stop caring about it haha. Again, it’s the honesty thing. I just lyrically write from my gut, but not always intentionally personally.

RF: Your mixture of classic rock and alternative sounds are competing with this new wave of eclectic bands, with all this rampant behavior. How can a rock artist maintain his honest style in these days of plasticized sound?
JM: It’s scary to do it. There are times when I think, ‘should this song have an electric drum beat?’ Or ‘should this song have a synth? These other songs on the radio have synth.’ And then it becomes something that’s not me. There are a TON of bands out there, rock bands, that are playing this version of rock I don’t recognize anymore. To mention Fall Out Boy again, they’re the perfect example of how rock bands are trading their guitars for samples. Maroon 5 has essentially just become Adam Levine singing to what seems like mindless canned music. He has an incredible voice, and an incredible band. Utilize that! Panic! At the Disco toured with Weezer last summer, and they were incredible. I hadn’t heard a lot of Panic’s new material and I was loving it. Then I heard it on their album Death of a Bachelor and was like…what?! It’s a great album. But it was nominated for best rock album, yet feels more like a Justin Timberlake album. Weezer’s new single Feels Like Summer also decided to go the pop-route. It’s catchy as hell, and they perform it with the band like it’s a rock song, but the recording leaves me scratching my head. The band Fun. released Some Nights and my soul fell apart. I had heard a lot of those songs live and was really digging them, but then the album dropped and it was like they fired the band and hired a casio keyboard. Every musician and band I’ve mentioned here…I LOVE THEM. But they’re doing something with rock music, at least album-wise, that I’m having a hard time recognizing (not JT…he’s a pop god). It’s guys like Lion Bridges and Jack White who are still out there making music that is honest and not made for the masses. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe these new sounds are their honest selves. I just don’t hear that. I don’t believe it. When your band rocks out live, but the album sounds like it was cut and pasted together, I don’t believe it’s honest. You can still grow and try new things without giving up what makes you you. So with Superdope I just had to stick to my guns. People still love guitar solos, people still love live drums, people still love to rock out, they just need to be reminded that it’s ok to do it.

RF: What other things are really important in your life — apart from music — that help keep you motivated?
JM: I went to school in NYC for acting with a minor in musical theater. So that has actually been my real bread and butter (like literally because it’s hard to make money in that industry) over the last decade. I have performed in musicals all over the country and love it. I’m taking a break from that now to follow the lucrative career of being a musician, haha
I’m currently working on the planning end of a brand new festival this October called VintageVibe Festival ( It’ll be in Palm Springs, CA and it’s a celebration of music, art, products, and culture from the 1950’s – 1990’s, with some new bands that have a throwback sound. It’s going to be an incredible experience.
I also LOVE film. In another life, or maybe later in my 30’s, I’d like to get into directing film. I used to shoot short films when I was younger, and I directed an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado a few years back that I was pretty proud of, considering I was broke as hell and we made it for about $1000 before the days of Kickstarter. My younger brother has a wedding videography company called Atomic Tangerine Films, and he has an incredible eye. I have some film ideas kicking around still. I look forward to having the means to bring them to fruition and hope that I can rope my brother into being a part of it.

RF: Are you preparing a next tour? Where?
JM: I don’t have a specific tour coming up. I’m looking to book a ton more shows throughout the the next two months, then Not Fade Away hits the road for a bit ( I do have a handful of shows coming up though. I’ll be in Lancaster, PA at the Launch Music Conference on the 15th of April, Brooklyn on the 22nd, and in May I’ll be playing at the Jersey Shore Festival. Again, looking to book a LOT more.

RF: If our readers they want to buy your music, where they can do it?
JM: They can get it in a multitude of ways. They can stream it on any music streaming service. If they want a physical CD, they can order it on Amazon, and then of course there is downloading it on iTunes. They can also stream my album directly from my website,

Thanks Jared. It was really great to talk with you. Good luck and success!

Jared Mancuso littl

Jared Mancuso

Rock, Alternative, Indie
From: New Hope, PA, USA

Label: Unsigned
Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp,  Instagram, YouTube

Band Members

  • Jared  Mancuso – Solo Artist
  • Ian LeSage – 2nd guitar (In live shows)
  • James Parenti – Bass (In live shows)
  • Audrey Lobdell – Drums (In live shows)



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