In the last twelve months we’ve been blown away by the amount of incredible talent emerging from the Berlin music scene. Numbers Don’t Count is a brand new duo that was created by two talented musicians Mani and Marcel who were growing up not far from one another. We are thrilled that they were destined to meet and create music together that has lots of potential to make you smile and even want to move.
Now when we face rather challenging times we need this more than ever! ‘Wholesome You’ is not our obvious choice but it totally hijacked my mind and I ended up listening to the track on repeat. It is easy to get really moody and songs like ‘Wholesome You’ seriously makes you feel happy!
So I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get to know Mani and Marcel a little better.
You must be buzzing as your debut single ‘Wholesome You’ is finally available on all the streaming platforms. Tell us about the journey until this moment.
Mani: Thank you very much and thanks a lot for having us – we are big fans of yours and the work you are doing!!
Yeah, it’s been a little bit of a crazy week. We just saw that our song has been streamed over 1000 times on Spotify already. Taking into account that we are just starting to release our music that feels pretty epic. But behind the scenes, it has been quite the journey. I had the initial idea for ‘Wholesome You’ back in 2015. The song used to be in a different key and tempo and didn’t have all the extra layers that we added later on. I also rewrote the lyrics several times and still think I should change a thing here and there. But now it is finally out and I couldn’t be happier about it.
I have been writing songs for many years now but this is the first time that one of them got released and that I am pretty content with how it turned out.MANI » NUMBERS DON’T COUNT
Marcel: Yeah, we’re definitely thrilled to put our first piece of music out now. It’s been quite a long way to this point: When we started playing music together in 2017 we didn’t think about putting out records. We started off playing small gigs on the street or in bars sharing our music with locals only. I think at the beginning of 2019 we got to the point where we thought: “Hey, we have some good stuff here. Let’s turn it into a record.”
You grew up only a few kilometres away and both explored music in different ways and managed to meet only in 2017. Do you remember that life-changing day?
Marcel: Indeed. I remember being excited about our first jam because the only thing we knew about each other’s music was that we shared a similar taste. Still, you never know how it goes. But it turned out to be great. After playing music and talking all night I knew that this was definitely going to work.
Mani: Yeah, I was living in Berlin-Lichtenberg at the time and Marcel came over to my apartment. I think we were both open-minded but also kept our expectations low. As Marcel said, you never know how it works out when playing music together for the first time. But right away things felt very natural and good to me. Actually, we played ‘Wholesome You’ right then and there and I remember that Marcel came up with this guitar riff to complement the rhythm guitar that I was playing. I immediately thought: “Man, that sounds so cool. That’s exactly what the song needs!”
What does ‘Wholesome You’ mean to you and how did you know that this is your debut single’?
Marcel: I guess one reason why it ended up being our debut single was the fact that it’s one of the first songs we ever worked on together. Without even talking about it we both knew that this song had to be the first one.
Mani: Absolutely! In addition to that, I always thought that ‘Wholesome You’ had the potential to be a single one day. And at least on my part, I kind of felt like I owed it to the song to release it before others that were written later.
The whole recording process of it felt very natural as well which was definitely reassuring. Right off the bat it sounded quite good and seemed to be working. It also ties together all the elements that we like about our music quite nicely such as catchy hooks and guitar parts.
Tell us more about the creative process. How do you write songs together?
Mani: There are many ways this can happen. There is a good number of songs that we have recorded as a draft earlier and then we show them to each other. Then we would just bounce ideas back and forth. There is one song that I wrote that Marcel liked but he thought that the chorus wasn’t quite there yet, so I wrote another chorus for that one. Another song that Marcel came up with needed a different rhythm part in the chorus in my opinion as well as some small changes in the lyrics.
Other songs have just come out of rehearsing together. I guess generally speaking with us most songs go through different stages of approval. At the end of the day they need to pass and be exciting for both of us.
Marcel: Small addition to that: The great thing about us rehearsing together is that we never really have a plan or anything. Recently we started jamming and put a song together in, I think, 15 minutes which is going to make it onto the album as well. Sometimes things just work out like that.
Mani: Yes true, that was awesome! You can’t plan things like that so when that happens that is the best.
I have to ask, how did you come up with the band name ‘Numbers Don’t Count’?
Mani: Ha, good question. I think at some point I started thinking about band names and about what a cool concept of a band could be. I don’t remember exactly how but I came up with this idea for ‘Numbers Don’t Count’. What I like about it is that it can be interpreted in various ways. For me personally, it is a reminder that being widely successful with our music should never compromise what we want to do as artists.
Another layer of it refers to the number of people in the band. I’m not sure if this implication actually works, but the idea is that at least live and on stage, at some point in the future we want to play with more musicians than just the two of us. These days everything regarding this is quite uncertain unfortunately so we’ll see how that’s gonna go.
Being widely successful with our music we should never compromise what we want to do as artists.NUMBERS DON’T COUNT
Marcel: Yeah, I remember us sitting in a bar together thinking about a band name. When Mani came up with the idea for’“Numbers Don’t Count’ I was into it immediately, ‘cause there are so many aspects about the statement “Numbers don’t count” that I can identify with. It also points to the fact that the meaning numbers have for us is always ascribed by people in a certain context. How many followers do you have? How much money do you have etc.? It is nice to create a space in our lives where those aspects don’t matter as much.
What does success in the music industry mean to you?
Mani: Success to us means to reach out and find people who understand and appreciate what we are doing. It’s not about the number of people. What we would really love is to be able to play some mid-sized venues one day and have a cool crowd of nice people having a good time to our songs. Especially in these times with all the lockdowns and everything we all get to see how important that kind of community is. I myself have been moved by other musicians in ways I didn’t see coming. If some people can get a somewhat similar experience out of what we do, that would mean the world to us.
2020 has been an extremely challenging year. What kept you sane and how did the lockdown impact your creativity?
Mani: True, it has been a huge challenge, basically for everyone! Actually, on my part one thing that has kept me sane besides my wonderful family and friends was music. Working towards this release and writing more songs has been really important in these past few months. Fortunately, my songwriting creativity has not really been impaired by all of this. I really hope it stays that way!
Marcel: What I suffered the most from was not being able to meet and play our music without restrictions. Especially now that our music is being published we’re very eager to play it live. So we’re definitely looking forward to the time when all of that is possible again.
Mani: Yes, absolutely! I guess this whole situation shows us that putting things off and doing them later is not a good choice.
You never know when things are going to be possible again, so it is better to do them today rather than tomorrow!NUMBERS DON’T COUNT
How many songs have you already written together?
Marcel: We’ve worked on a bunch of songs together so far. If you ask me for a number I would say around 20 songs. But there are also a lot of ideas that haven’t taken the shape of a whole song yet. We are constantly working on old and new ideas. Sometimes you have a catchy chorus, but you wouldn’t be able to come up with a verse that fits. So you’d sit on it and come back to it later.
Can you please finish the sentence: Music to me is….
Mani: Music to me is one of the most important aspects that I have in my life. It has made me feel hopeful, understood and at home. It is a force that unites people all over the world, especially these days when you can release anything, anywhere, anytime. Sometimes I think that people are not aware enough of how important music is to everyone. Otherwise, artists would get paid a bit better, haha.
Marcel: Same thing for me here. A life without music wouldn’t be worth living. Also, some people I’ve played with don’t understand that music isn’t a competition. It’s something to enjoy together like Mani said: It unites people and isn’t supposed to separate them.
A life without music wouldn’t be worth living.NUMBERS DON’T COUNT
Do you have a song that when you hear, you’d be ‘Damn I wish I’d written that’.
Mani: Well, my most favourite song of all times is Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’, so I guess in a way I wish I had written that one and many more. But then again, it wouldn’t be the same if I had, so it’s probably for the best as it is ;-).
Who were your biggest music influences while growing up
Marcel: As for me I was all into classic rock stuff when I was growing up. I really didn’t listen to any other music than The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton and so on. Considering myself a guitar player primarily my playing got influenced by those musicians and is influenced by them until this day.
Mani: Haha, maybe we need to define the period that growing up refers to first. As a teenager, I listened to all different kinds of genres but I had a particular love for pop-punk like Blink 182. Then later on in my 20s, I was really into everything that Brian Fallon from the Gaslight Anthem was doing as well as bands like the Libertines. I think it wasn’t until my late 20s that I really got into Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Warren Zevon, The Beatles (again) and Wilco for example.
I have this thing where I obsess with a certain songwriter for weeks or even months. I listen to all their records over and over trying to understand who they are and why and how they do what they do. I am extremely grateful for having found these awesome artists because I feel like they are still guiding me in my own writing sometimes.
How did you discover The Famous Gold Watch? Tell us about your experience of recording there.
Marcel: One night we went to play at an open stage at Dodo bar in Berlin. There we had a chat with another musician who was hosting the night called Ben Wuyts. After telling him about our plans to record an EP, he told us about The Famous Gold Watch Studios in Berlin Weißensee and recommended it passionately. So we gave it a shot and it turned out to be the right place for us. The studio just has this charm and creative atmosphere to it that makes it a great place for musicians. A lot of ideas for the arrangements of our songs grew in the studio itself, actually. To me, a studio is really like a playground for musicians. There are so many directions to explore and opportunities to take. We really didn’t rush the recording process but took our time to build the songs we had only played acoustically so far.
A studio is really like a playground for musiciansNUMBERS DON’t count
Mani: We should also mention that the founder of the studio, Cameron James Laing, is quite the genius. He is really good at getting you out of your head and into the right state to do your thing in the studio which can be tricky sometimes. Some days I was struggling with putting too much pressure on myself and Cameron usually found a way to distract me from that. He also provides you with coffee and cuddles from Alan the studio cat which in my case is horrible because I am allergic. But for everybody else it is lovely and even that doesn’t keep me from going back there! On top of that, we were fortunate to meet Gidon Carmel at the studio who played all the drum parts on our songs. We couldn’t have done this without him and he did a fantastic job – he is a genius as well!
I have to admit that I really like the energy of the artwork for the single. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind it?
Mani: Thank you very much. The idea came from sitting down one day to talk about a possible concept for the artwork. Marcel and I then started collecting ideas, themes and images of what we are about as a band.
We realized that many of our songs tell stories about people who are struggling with or failing at something in their lives.NUMBERS DON’t COUNT
That also applies to ‘Wholesome You’ because all the characters in the song end up in messy situations even though they have no bad intentions.
At the same time, our music tends to be energetic and possibly uplifting which in itself is a little bit of a contrast. But also we love having a bit of humour in our songs as well. I guess the attitude that we identify with is to take life with humour even or especially when things don’t go as planned. We then thought that showing us as a sad and a happy clown could be a cool illustration of that idea: Something bad or annoying happens to you but you can’t help but laugh about your own misery.
Close your eyes. Imagine it’s the 20th of January 2022. How would you summarize 2021? (what do you want it to be?)
Marcel: Well, I’d love for it to be the year where we released our first songs and got on tour to promote our album, a year full of music. I hope that by summer we will be able to get out and play some shows without restrictions.
Mani: I couldn’t agree more. On a bigger scale, I am also hoping that the world will be a better place in general in 2022.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
Mani: Most importantly we would like to say thank you to everybody who has been supporting us so far. At this point, listening to our music and telling your peers about it is probably the best way to do that. We have a lot more material coming your way very soon, so feel free to keep an eye out for that. You can follow us on Spotify, Instagram and Facebook to make sure that you don’t miss anything. We are extremely excited to show everyone what else we have in our repertoire.
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