Former Pretty Mighty Mighty frontman Jon Chinn returns to town with new band and album
In Columbus, singer/guitarist/engineer Jon Chinn is known for fronting '90s indie-pop act Pretty Mighty Mighty and running the now-closed Workbook Studio alongside PMM bandmate Neal Schmitt. But when Chinn moved to New York City from Columbus six years ago, he didn't play out at all for a few years.
Then, after playing a solo gig, followed by a CMJ showcase, he got the itch to regularly play in a band again, and eventually formed Manager with wife Lori Cantu on bass, John Dorcas on drums and Ron Hester on guitar. The band visits Spacebar on Friday, May 5, for an album release show alongside Bicentennial Bear, the Kyle Sowashes and Mansion Family.
“I couldn't afford the mid-life crisis Ferrari,” said Chinn by phone, adding that other friends in his peer group have kids about to start college. “It admittedly took a while to get my bearings again. … But [songwriting] has never been easy. I'd say it's just as hard as it's always been. I'd like to think I'm becoming a better lyricist and becoming more meaningful — not only to me, but understandable and relatable to other people.”
“Manager,” a song on the band's new self-titled debut, became the focal point for Chinn, who happily manages a video studio for Sony Music but drew on prior, less-happy experiences with the corporate world for the track. “As you pace in your prison and ponder decisions, is this how you make ends meet? / And your whatever K is not performing the way, so you just keep on moving your feet,” Chinn sings over slightly fuzzed guitar.
“My wife and our drummer, they're also managers in their jobs. So we all found a comedy in the whole office allegory,” Chinn said.
Whether employing his tenor in Pretty Mighty Mighty, Jon Chinn + 1803 or Manager, Chinn imbues his indie-pop with an instantly recognizable emotional undercurrent that he traces back to his love for bands like Jawbreaker. “I always loved how [Jawbreaker] could play a total rock song, but you could cry,” he said. “I'd like to think that, as energetic as we try to make some of the songs, there's some emotional attachment that lets you get lost in it.”
Some of Manager's familiar sound, though, is just Chinn being Chinn. “I'd like to think I'm some sort of dynamic musician,” he said, “but I did have a friend the other day tell me how much he loved the new record and how, despite the different iterations of bands I've been in, there's a common string that sounds like me.”