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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mania was a duo made up of two of the co-writers of the infamously genius Xenomania team, whose writing credits include such tracks as "Sound of the Underground", "Round Round", and "No Good Advice". They struck out on their own (well, together) in 2004, and were another group I didn't take notice of during their brief career. I'll have them explain themselves, in the official bio from their official site that now only exists in Google caches:

It began in a kitchen. Or, more accurately, outside a kitchen. "I heard Niara before I met her," says Giselle, "she was sat at the kitchen table and I was walking past the door. She's got a big mouth and a big laugh..." That was the start of Mania. Two girls, Niara and Giselle, with completely diverse backgrounds: the former loud and lairy, the latter contained and considered (comparably so, anyway) Niara: from a football-team-sized family, from inner city London, who left school at 15. Giselle: an only child from the suburbs, who qualified as a masseur before travelling the world. The former black, the latter white. Both with bags of attitude. Mania met a few years ago at Xenomania, under the artistic direction of Brian Higgins, the creative house/home of a team of songwriters which have produced some of the most addictive chart tracks on the radio. Niara Scarlett, had hung around with Xenomania for three years contributing to Girls Aloud's 'Sound Of The Underground' and Sugababes 'Hole In The Head', 'Round Round' and 'In The Middle'. Giselle Sommerville was concentrating on writing her own songs but was stuck in a girl band. She’d known Higgins from way back and began collaborating with Xenomania two years ago while at music college in Brighton. "I wrote with Niara one day and I knew instantly that she was into the same stuff that I was into", says Giselle. "We wrote some good tunes together. That's how we met, we struck a chord." "Both of us knew we'd have a career in writing…" continues Giselle, before Niara, as usual, butts in. "I knew that I had a wicked voice and that I HAD to be a singer," she says, in typically balls-out fashion. "We weren't sure we wanted to be in a group, we both wanted to be solo artists, but her voice and my voice together, you can't really lose, you know what I mean?" They realised they had certain things in common so they started to write together to fill time. Though from very different backgrounds, the pair came together over a shared love of black music like Erika Badu, Jill Scott, India and The Chimes. Though they both had other influences, it was always powerful, soulful singers that inspired them and focused their efforts. "We had co-written so many wicked songs that most artists just could not sing, so that's where this project came from," continues Niara. "Some songs are just too wicked, too massive!" Mania do home-grown pop with panache, ranging from left field lullabies to frisky fucked-up funk. "We're gonna blow people's socks off, you know what I mean, 'cos I'm blown away myself," says Niara of Mania's live sound which is enhanced by a four-piece band. Rewind to Sussex in the early nineties and Giselle was busy listening to The Cure and Guns 'n' Roses until she was taken to a Soul II Soul concert in Brighton. From then on it was about buying vinyl in Rough Trade or Camden market and blagging into the Ministry of Sound on a Saturday night. "I'll never forget India performing 'I can't get no sleep' in that big room. She made me want to sing. I played that record over and over again." She moved to Shepherd’s Bush, trained as a beauty therapist, did a sports massage course and then pushed off to India. After travelling she bumped into Brian again and the rest you know. Meanwhile Niara was in Kentish Town, surrounded by "about ten brothers and five sisters that I know of, but I know there's more out there. My dad's Jamaican," she says by way of explanation." As a kid her mother would play Marvin Gaye, Lover's Rock and Bob Marley while her brothers would be blasting swingbeat and New Jack Soul. Niara had yet to become obsessed with Mary J Blige and En Vogue. Her first gig, was with hardcore heroes Ratpack and, in a ten year song-writing and performing career that’s encompassed soul, house, jungle and pop, she’s worked and written with MJ Cole, Cinematic Orchestra, Roots Manuva and countless others. She was put in touch with Brian, joined his team of writers and, finally, met Giselle. "Our music crosses quite a few genres." starts Giselle "It's just good music," interrupts Niara. "Whether you like it or not our songs are going to come back into your head. That's what's been missing for a long time. There's been so much shit – you get a beautiful girl with a lovely smile, but actually she can't sing, she doesn't write and the fucking music is shit." "This band just gives me goosebumps," she says, "I get so excited. I’m like, 'hold me back!'"

Niara and Giselle's recording career unfortunately only existed until one single, the funky "Looking For a Place" and the b-side "If You Need a Good Girl" (not a Backstreet Boys semi-remake). Its unjustly low chart placing meant the end of Mania, and the scheduled album Do You Know Your Daughter's On the Roof? was never released. A sampler with six tracks was made and sent to promo-only hell. I acquired what I thought was this sampler on eBay, but was a completely different one with only snippets of five songs. I finally managed to get the songs by paying 20 bucks to a Russian website of dubious legality, which appeared to be the only place in the universe that had it. Fortunately, it seems as they haven't fucked with my bank account yet. So now I present it to you, the (mostly) complete discography of Mania!!

Looking For a Place (Sampler)
1. Looking for a Place
2. Close
3. Money In My Pocket
4. L.O.V.
5. Baby When You Go
6. I'm Not Shy

All of these are produced and written by Xenomania. "Close" is more of a ballad, but it's more like a "Deadlines and Diets" type ballad as opposed to a typical one. My favorite is by far "Money in My Pocket".


D.N.A - This is only available through a free download WMA file as a promo. The link is to the site. Not bad, right? Well, now that i'm trying to share it with you guys, I can't. I'm sorry for doing another segment of "blogger begs for tech help", but this file is truly evil. Unfortunate, because the song is damn good, with that kind of strumming guitar work throughout like a slower, stripped-down "Grafitti My Soul".
It'll give you the license fine, but there's a limited number of plays and the license doesn't allow you to burn it to a CD, which I normally do to get some of these songs to you. I never got around to putting it on my iPod, and I can't with the format, but you're also not allowed to transfer the song to any device. I've tried to do some shit with Winamp that used to work but no longer does. Tunetribe costs money and the free trial only lasts 30 seconds, so i'm not going to use it (or go to some porn/warez site to find a code, no thanks), but if you already own it maybe you can do it?? So you can download and listen for who knows how many times (I'm down to my last :( ), and if you're bored, possibly find a way to crack it. You guys came through the last time I had a computer problem, so i'm hoping you can find a solution here too (while jamming out to the other songs, maybe?) I'm doing this for y'all! ;)

If You Need a Good Girl

Looking for a Place (Wez'er'nate Main Mix)
Looking for a Place (McSleazy Remix) - The former remix made it to the single, while the latter was rejected by their record label, RCA. I think the McSleazy remix might actually be better. It's a bit more poppy while the Wez'er'nate mix has a slight r&b edge.

Mania as a duo split awhile back, but they're still doing things. Giselle still seems to be writing for artists under the Xenomania umbrella, while Niara's credits stop a few years ago, and she was last seen doing a hip-hop track. Several of their songs, including "Money in My Pocket" and "I'm Not Shy", have been covered by aspiring girl band Frank (band in the instrument playing sense), who have their own TV show and will be an opening act on Girls Aloud's Chemistry Tour.

If there is any interest, i've also uploaded several Mania videos (their only music video "Looking for a Place", the making of that video, and a clip of a CD:UK performance - sang live!) to YouTube.

Oh, and here is a McFly in the U.S. update: Just My Luck made $5 million in its debut weekend, being Lindsay Lohan's lowest opening ever. Won't sell too many albums. There was actually quite a bit of the group in the movie (which I saw today and was cute), which is a nice change from the American edits of movies that seem to remove any references to British pop stars (watch the Region 1 DVD of Love, Actually sometime. They actually dub over the Girls Aloud remake of "Jump" with the Pointer Sisters original during Hugh Grant's big dance scene, and it doesn't work because it was obviously shot to the fastest-paced cover. I'm surprised they left the subplot about Billy Mack fighting for the Christmas #1 vs. Blue intact and didn't try to change it to 98 Degrees or something.) and this would be a genius marketing tactic if it was part of a multi-pronged promotional scheme, but it's the only thing they're doing.

Back in another few days, probably. Features coming up include more unreleased albums/samplers and recycled songs, the latter being those passed around to various pop stars in hopes that one of them has a hit with them, such as the aformentioned Mania/Frank situation, and more imported shit that's maxing out my credit card!

Last Updated @ 10:34 PM