Manor Gates is ready to live the dream

The emo Columbus trio will celebrate the release of its debut full-length, ‘So Much Brooding,’ with a concert at Ace of Cups on Friday, Jan. 26.
Manor Gates
Manor GatesCourtesy the band

Prior to forming Manor Gates in October 2021, singer and guitarist Griffen Holt had taken an extended hiatus from music, attributing his need to step away to the reality that playing in a band had become a chore.

“It just got to be really not fun,” Holt said in a mid-December Zoom, joined by Manor Gates drummer Jeremy Hill and bassist Matt Silea. “We’re all in our mid-30s, and we’ve all been through it, but you reach that point where it’s as hard to find other people who are as passionate about the thing as you are, and where you’re the only one putting any effort in.”

The reasons for this can be myriad, with people becoming more invested in their careers, having families, or simply losing interest in making music as they progress deeper into adulthood. Holt and his Manor Gates bandmates have never struggled with waning passions, though, with the pandemic serving as an unwanted reminder of just how essential it is to have music as a creative outlet. “I think the pandemic helped me reevaluate just how much the music meant,” Holt said. “It felt like everything reset at that point, and people just slowed down to think about what they were creating, and how important the shows were. How important all of this was.”

This sense of release, of excitement, courses throughout Manor Gates’ debut full-length, So Much Brooding, which the band will celebrate with a release show at Ace of Cups on Friday, Jan. 26.

“Coming out of the pandemic I was like, dog, I haven’t played a show in two years, and I have all this energy. I want to show up for this Midwest emo band like I’m on the chariot and break the stage down,” Silea said. “I had this whole rebirth of energy, where before, like [Holt] said, it felt like a whole lot of carrying heavy amps into basements to play for nobody.”

Opener “For the First Time, Again,” sets the tone, serving as a reigniting of the torch, of sorts, with Holt delivering lyrics about refusing to let dreams die atop propulsive drums and a sugar rush of pop-punk guitar riffage. The pace rarely relents from there, the emo trio bounding through caffeinated bangers such as “Yee-Haw” and “Blase Resume,” which centers on the line “I’ve got nothing left to prove to you,” delivered by Holt with a knowing sneer. 

Many emo songwriters, Holt said, write from a place of pain, turning out wounded, heartbroken tunes centered on the ways they’ve been done wrong. Manor Gates, however, strikes most often from the attack position, Holt deploying his words like a serrated blade. “I don’t care how much it hurts,” he sings on “(choking).” “This is all I wanted, and I won.”

“It’s hard for me to write from a wounded pose because that’s just not my personality. … My wife has an inside joke … because I say a lot of ‘yous’ in the songs I write, and she has a meme she created that says, ‘Have you been one of the yous in Griffen’s songs? You may be titled to compensation,’” Holt said, and laughed. “I’m not an angry person in real life, but music is where I get all of my emotions out. So, when people do things that I don’t care for, they get written about.”

Throughout the album, Holt also returns to the idea of being at a point of transition, with the past more firmly settled and the future open to unknown possibilities. “As the weather starts to change,” Holt sings on “Hi-Res JPEG,” “I could see myself do the same.”

“Basically, the whole album is transitional,” said Holt, who in addition to starting a new band also changed careers. “As we recorded, my life got turned upside down. And it ended up being for the best, but I didn’t know that as we were writing it, and I don’t think I knew how miserable I was.”

Growing up in Texas, Holt experienced musical success as a teenager, going on tours and fielding offers from record labels. Eventually, though, these dreams “came crashing down,” he said, and he transitioned to a 9-to-5 existence.

“And I think as we started this project, we wanted to go a bit further than that,” Holt said. “And that’s what the first track on the album, ‘For the First Time, Again,’ is about. We haven’t had that final hurrah as musicians, and we feel like this is our opportunity to really go for it. … And I think that’s what our goal is now: Let’s take this as far as we can take it, and let’s see what that means for us in our lives.”

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