The duo of guitarist Margaret Garrett and drummer Tara McManus have been pushing the boundaries of rock & roll since their beginnings in Boston during the 1990s. Their band known as Mr. Airplane Man blends electric blues, captivating slide guitar techniques and unapologetic rock & roll together to create a sensational sound.
Since their 2014 reunion, Garrett and McManus have been back on the circuit playing live. They will be taking the stage at The News Café in Pawtucket on July 7 with fellow Boston act Andy California and Providence acts Tall Teenagers and Little Tomb. It promises to be an amazing visual experience with rock & roll being played to screenings of vintage films.
Ahead of the show, I had a chat with McManus going on tour and working in the studio with Mark Sandman from Morphine, musical influences, living in the desert and whether Mr. Airplane Man will be putting out another record or not.
Rob Duguay (RD): When Mr. Airplane Man started out, you started touring with fellow Boston act Morphine and the legendary Mark Sandman. What was it like being on the road and working with such an eccentric and talented artist?
Tara McManus (TM): It was amazing. It was very, very inspiring and educational. We still talk about that first tour and we still think about it and we always remember the things that Mark said to us. It was really great, he was such an interesting take on music, performing and it was so great to talk to him. We used to go see him play all the time in Boston so being on tour with him was excellent.
RD: How did you and Margaret link up with Morphine in the first place?
TM: Maybe four or five years earlier, we happened to be living in Cambridge and we would go see him play at The Plough & Stars every week. We were incredibly big fans and we were at almost every show geeking out and staring at the playing. Margaret ended up asking for some guitar lessons and they started hanging out, listening to music and playing guitar together. She went to go live in San Francisco for a few years and when she came back to Cambridge we started playing out in the street. One day Mark saw us playing on the street and then we decided to do some recording and go on the road. It was kind of like “Pinch me, is this really happening? I can’t believe this is really happening.”
RD: The band has a bluesy garage rock tone so what were your and Margaret’s influences before you both started playing together? Were they both different in the beginning and you met in the middle somewhere or do you both like a lot of the same things?
TM: I think we were both really obsessed with similar things when we met. It’s a precious thing when you have a friend who is equally obsessed with the same music you’re listening to. We were both big fans of Howlin’ Wolf and different things that we both heard at the same time. We were both super obsessed with The Gun Club and we also listened to a lot of stuff off of the Fat Possum label like Junior Kimbrough. We both equally wanted to somehow do our own interpretations of all that stuff.
RD: You can definitely sense it through the way Margaret’s guitar sounds. It’s cool that you mentioned Junior Kimbrough, he’s one of my favorites.
TM: I know, he’s amazing.
RD: Now which one of you was living in a desert?
TM: Oh, that’s me. That was me. I lived in New Mexico for a while.
RD: So was it the Mojave Desert?
TM: No, I don’t remember what the desert was called but I lived in Las Cruces near the border of Mexico.
RD: Were you living in a shack? Was it a legit house? Was it isolated?
TM: (laughs) It was not that extreme. We lived in a house.
RD: Did you have a faucet system? Did you have to use a well?
TM: Yes we had all the amenities (laughs).
RD: It must have been a huge change of scenery for you.
TM: It was a shocker. It couldn’t have been more opposite than where I was living in Boston but it was really good for me.
RD: How long were you out there for?
TM: My husband and I were out there for 7 years. I’m actually living in Bristol, RI right now.
RD: Right near Warren and Newport, great area. Since Mr. Airplane Man reunited a couple years ago, how has it been for the both of you playing out again? Does anything feel different or does it feel the same as before?
TM: It feels so good. I still have a really great feeling playing with Margaret that I’ve always felt. Sometimes it feels even better than it ever felt before.
RD: It’s great when that feeling never leaves and you can start right up again where you left off.
RD: After the show at the News Cafe on Thursday, what can people expect from Mr. Airplane Man for the rest of the year?
TM: We actually just recorded a new record. We still working on the mixes and we’re hoping to have it out before we head to Europe in February.
For more information on the show, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1884744888447139.