Honus Honus Talks Islands Collaboration, New Man Man Album

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Honus Honus may be the lead howler of Philadelphia’s demonic cabaret freaks Man Man, but this winter he’s going to Heaven. The heavily mustachioed singer, born Ryan Kattner, is working on a new project with Nick Thorburn of Islands/The Unicorns called Mister Heavenly, which’ll see two very different voices meet in the middle. “I think his voice is an angel’s voice, and my voice is…not an angel’s voice,” Kattner tells Paste. “I thought they’d sound very nice together. He’s got the polish and I’ve got the shellac.”

The duo has been planning a collaboration for years, but with the new decade finding both musicians on the East coast, Mister Heavenly has finally come to fruition. Kattner and Thorburn have recorded a few tracks in their newly minted sub-genre, which they’ve lovingly/jokingly dubbed Doom-Wop. “It’s like a dark doo-wop sound,” Kattner says. “But one of the songs that was supposed to be doom-wop sounds more like doom-dub or doom-reggae. That was an unexpected turn of events.”

Despite the fact that there are no songs quite ready for release, internet buzz is building already, as internet buzz is bound to do when two singers of otherworldly, avant-pop bands collaborate. Kattner is employing a no-pressure attitude towards Mister Heavenly, though. His message to fans: “If you lower your expectations, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Having no expectations makes it easier for us.”

Speaking of expectations, there are currently no plans to release a Mister Heavenly album, or even to tour. The duo, Kattner says, may simply release free songs online. Until then, though, he wants to maintain at least a bit of mystery. “We can’t give all our cards away just yet,” he says. “Especially when we’re playing with tarot cards.”

But one thing is for sure: There will be a new Man Man album by summer 2010. The band’s been working on new material since mid-2009, and January is “the zero hour,” Kattner says, “so now we’ve gotta get our shit together. We want something out by the summer. If not, we’re blowin’ it.”

The new album will be Man Man’s first since 2008’s Rabbit Habits. Man Man’s first three albums are full of dark, mischievous songs with infectious pop hooks often delivered with children’s instruments, but the sound of the band’s fourth, it seems, is still taking shape. Currently, the band has just under 20 songs in various stages of completion, and hopes to pare the collection down to 10 or 11. “There are a lot of new sounds on this record, new instruments, but I can’t wrap my head around it just yet,” Kattner says. “I always tell myself, ‘Ah, this [album] is the hardest one ever. But then I think back, and they’ve all been a real kick in the balls.”