South London three-piece The Manor are facing a turning point in 2019. Danny Graft, Scotty Stacks and Jonny Dutch have been familiar faces in the UK’s urban music scene for years now, building a loyal fanbase with their party-focused attitude. But, having released their debut mixtape-come-album ‘Don’t Do What We Did’ in 2015, it’s only in the last couple of years that the mainstream really seem to be taking notice of the lads.
RIDE’s Johnathan Ramsay caught up with Graft and Stacks (Dutch wouldn’t wake up) as they chilled out at their hotel on the Tyne before a huge Newcastle show in support of The Streets. Recovering from a big night out on the town, Stacks was spread across the Vermont Hotel’s plush leather sofa, still in his pyjama bottoms, whilst Graft took in the picturesque sun-lit view of the Tyne Bridge as he smoked out of the window. “Everyone keeps saying fucking ‘holiday’ instead of tour, it just feels like that anyway,” Stacks said.
The Manor are no strangers to live shows, but they don’t find themselves touring all that often; preferring to perform to hardcore fans in London or their spiritual home Ibiza. “It’s a very different experience, the only person we’ve really supported before was again Mike [Skinner] in Liverpool when he did a DJ set,” explained Stacks. “You’ve got to work init. Make sure that your fucking clarity’s on point. ‘Cause with us, Manor shows, everyone knows every word. You could spit your first two bars then just let everyone else spit and they’ll enjoy it just the same.”
“…The press are always labelling us as angry hooligans and we ain’t like that…” – Danny Graft, The Manor
“After a couple of shows [I’ve learnt] the best thing you can do when people don’t know you is to be very honest,” added Graft. “There was a time where Jerry [our DJ] said to me halfway through the set ‘the USB’s fucked, you’ll have to stall ‘em for a minute,’ he said ‘just keep ‘em talking’. I thought ‘bollocks,’ and I told ‘em ‘look, DJ’s having a few problems here – anyone know any good jokes?’”
Active since 2007, The Manor have cultivated a cult-like following of core fans over the years. Their music is unashamedly London-centric, London proud – see “It’s A London Thing” – meaning shows outside of the capital are an uphill battle. But like any good team, the lads relish a challenge. They already know how to win at home, now their focus is on away games. “A Manor show, it’s like going out and winning 7-nil – you don’t grow init,” said Stacks, still laid on the sofa with his MacBook open. “It’s a massive ego boost, but you don’t grow. Your 1-nils, that’s when you’re growing – the hard-fought victories.”
“That’s what we said about the Leeds Fest Show,” Graft said, as he finished his smoke and pulled up a chair. “We opened the festival, on the way we didn’t have the set ready and we thought ‘first day of Leeds, won’t be that big’. Relentless had opened a stage for all the campers that got there early. On the way we got the text saying ‘15,000 are here’, I was like ‘fuck, we need to sort the set’ – we were lagging.” “I thought it was just gonna be a tent, you told me it was a tent!” interrupted Stacks. “Did I say tent?” laughed Graft. “At this point, we’re 3-nil down Stoke away bruv! But we managed, you could just see moshes developing all over the gaff – we weren’t even calling for them, they just started.”
The Manor are often dismissed with the same ‘geezer’ label that Mike Skinner and The Streets faced in the early days. However, the southern trio are looking to turn the lad culture stereotype on its head with their imminent new EP ‘Free The Geezer’. “The name started out as a bit of a joke because Scott was putting up spa pictures on holiday,” Graft explained with a smirk. “The thought was ‘you know what, you can be a geezer and do what you like’. Because we had this with press, always labelling us as angry hooligans and we ain’t like that – we want to show that on this project. We’ve got one of the most diverse group of pals, all mixes of everything. The whole thing about The Manor was don’t discriminate, everyone’s fucking welcome, it’s one big family. The message of this EP is that you can be a geezer, you can be whatever, and you can do what you like. Don’t judge people init? Who’s fucking counting?”
Despite being a prominent act in the UK’s urban music scene for over a decade, The Manor are only beginning to break into the consciousness of the mainstream now. They even found themselves in The Guardian’s ‘Ones To Watch 2018’ list. “It’s jokes,” Graft scoffed. “This is why we never fell off because we never got made ones to watch. But we’ve been here for fucking… ‘one to watch’?! That’s like saying ‘Higuain is the best up and coming player’. It’s good though, you want attention whatever it is. It’s better fucking late than never.
“The message of this EP is that you can be a geezer, you can be whatever, and you can do what you like. Don’t judge people init? Who’s fucking counting?” – Danny Graft, The Manor
“We’re never really gonna be that act for mainstream publications like that [The Guardian], and we’re not tryna be either. You can rise very quickly and fall very quickly. But you see, like [Mike] Skinner, what we’ve always wanted to do is stay as true as we can to what we like and last as long as we can. It’s that longevity. Really, for us it’s been a grind for years and it’s finally a full-time job now. We haven’t had to have jobs in the last couple of years. We can keep making music. We’re with a label at the minute that are backing us in making the music that we want to. Long term, we just fucking want to keep making good music…”