It's another balmy night in the Square, and the band manners, please. is setting up on Radio Radio's stage. They've come into their own in the past year as a local four-piece, and now find themselves opening up for a pair of seasoned Bloomington acts, The Vallures and Jenn Cristy.
Katrina Bolyard, Jennasen Updike, Dave Hall and Sam Jackson jump right into a high-energy set of soul-pop tunes, receiving increasing levels of approval from the large crowd on hand, with listeners gradually inching closer and closer to the stage as each song unfolds. Considering this scene has recently become a regular one at manners, please. shows, however, fans might be surprised to learn of the band's comical origins.
"Jennasen and I just sort of started a joke band based on a misheard comment that her boyfriend made about my boobs. We both heard 'Awesome boobs,' and we were like, 'That would be a hilarious band name,'" says singer/aux percussionist Bolyard, laughing. "We were hanging out anyway, and we just decided to give it a shot."
After this initial collaboration, Bolyard and Updike eventually decided to join forces on something that was a bit more serious, writing a brand new batch of songs as manners, please. for a basement show. In looking back on their debut performance, Bolyard reflects, "Our vision at that point was to sort of do a rock opera and have sets, costumes, intervals of background music and a script."
Although she had prior music experience performing with her high school show choir, Bolyard admits she had never been in a band before manners, please., citing her limited instrumental skills as the primary reason. For Updike though, it was a different story.
"I come from a very musical family, so I've always played," she says. "My brother Jascha was a local artist, and he passed away tragically in 2013. But, we lived together for all of college and played music together a lot. And then a couple of years ago, I joined The Dead Frets, which our current drummer Dave Hall was in as well."
The duo eventually made their way out of the underground, playing successful shows at places like the Melody Inn and the now-closed Vibes Music. With this momentum, Bolyard and Updike decided it was time to transform manners, please. into a full-on rock band, adding Hall on drums and Jackson on bass.
"She and I juggle a lot different instruments still, but at the beginning it was even worse," says Updike, who plays keys and guitar in addition to singing. "We were playing multiple things and both trying to sing and harmonize. I think we just thought that it made a lot of sense to involve other members."
Those additions, Hall and Jackson both feel locked into their rhythm section roles with manners, please., which is clearly heard on the group's debut Stay Strange EP.
A collection of four sharp tracks, Stay Strange received a limited CD release of 50 copies, which quickly sold out at the group's headlining appearance at The Hi-Fi last month. The group recorded the EP live with Rob Glass at Broad Ripple's Sabbatical on a day the venue was closed. Updike recalls, "We essentially had this private event with a few friends. We were recording and just kind of having a good time of it. It was really a lot of fun."
"You listen to it, and it doesn't sound like it was recorded in a bar," Jackson says."It sounds like a really solid recording."
Looking ahead, manners, please. plans on having a pretty busy summer, with out-of-state shows and a second EP on the horizon. The group will perform at WFYI's version of Tiny Desk Concerts called Small Studio Sessions, thanks to the success of their Tiny Desk Concert submission from earlier this year.
"There's no set direction that we're trying," Hall says. "It seems like there are always just little twists, but we don't talk about them. We just sort of play, and it just comes out naturally."