At the time I interviewed Ryan Kattner, aka Man Man’s Honus Honus, he was already out the door of the Philadelphia coffee shop where he’d been making lattes, but was considering work as barback or bartender once tour was over. This was June ’07. The band has since signed to Anti-, who’re releasing their prematurely loved third album Rabbit Habits on 4/8. When not at SXSW, Man Man are currently on tour with the Extraordinaires and hook-up with fellow QYDJ flashbacks — and SXSW standouts — Yeasayer for a number of dates in April (and a few in May). I ran into Ryan on the street yesterday and, in case you were worried, his mustache is still in tact. Luckily, some things don’t change.
Originally Published 6/27/07
When I caught up with main Man Man Ryan Kattner, a.k.a. Honus Honus, his troupe of Philadelphia noisemakers was in a fittingly loud van en route to a headlining show at the BackBooth in Orlando — Pong, squeaks, chickens, sound loops, Middle Eastern radio, and various strands of skronk spiraled in the background during our conversation. (A trio of Florida dates is followed by Athens then the free McCarren Park show this weekend in our neck of the woods, etc.) Most folks know Kattner sports that Manson stache, charms Modest Mouse fans, gobbles vegan gourmet, and rocks out while the peanut and cilantro-infused noodles are still digesting — but until recently he steamed milk for coffee lovers at the Last Drop in the City of Brotherly Love. (See you if you can spot him at the café’s Belle & Sebastian-blasting MySpace).
While we spoke he often switched to the present tense regarding the barista gig and mentioned he isn’t making enough from Man Man to pay the bills. So yeah, like many folks in many currently successful bands, he might not be a day-job ex-pat just yet. I don’t feel like I’m jinxing or hexing him by saying that: Kattner’s definitely fond of his time at the Last Drop; in fact, I didn’t bother transcribing a few extra riffs on how “awesome” the folks are/and the place is, etc. (It’s sorta interesting to see the various overlaps/differences between this talk and the one with Hutch of the Thermals in mid-March.)
Of course, Man Man’s known more for manic shows (white pants, white heat) than coffee skills, so it’s great they were able to pass along this version of a new song, “Spooky Jookie,” captured in all its shaggy-waltzing glory at D.C.’s 9:30 club. You’ll find it after our conversation.
STEREOGUM: You were a barista.
RYAN KATTNER: I was working at the coffee shop until before I left for three months for tour and recording. I worked there off and on for like, six years. I also worked at a bar. I did double duty for about two and a half years.
STEREOGUM: Pretty complimentary jobs. Can you suggest some alcoholic coffee drinks?
RK: Kahlúa and coffee … Kahlúa and Stoli make a nice combination. Beer and coffee if you just want to go for it. I don’t fuck with Irish Creme.
STEREOGUM: Okay, let me get it straight: You left the bar a while ago and recently quit the coffee shop?
RK: I didn’t quit. It was just … I felt bad because I’d been putting them out. I’d leave for tour a month, two months at a time and then I’d come back and leave a month later; it wasn’t fair to them, so … It was more like that. My schedule just doesn’t really allow me to have a job, and it sucks because it’s not like I’m able to live off what I’m doing yet. But you know, wah wah. [Laughs]
STEREOGUM: How’d you end up at the coffee shop?
RK: The only reason I’m working in a coffee shop is because of Reality Bites. I just wanted to be a cliché [Laughs] A musician in a coffee shop…
STEREOGUM: Cliché doubly: You also worked in a bar. [Laughs]
HH: [Laughs] Yeah, and a musician in a bar. What can you do? It makes me wonder if bands that I was completely obsessed with as a kid, if they all had to work day jobs. I know now that they probably did.
STEREOGUM: When you’re done touring are you going to re-enter the workforce?
RK: I try not to think about it. I mean, I’m still really awesome with everyone who works there — they’re all really cool, my boss is really cool, all my coworkers are so rad. I can still pick up shifts here and there, but I try not to think about it. I enjoy putting it off, but I’m gonna have to deal with it at some point.
STEREOGUM: What were your duties?
RK: I would just have to run it. I would open it up … whatever you do working a restaurant job. It was a restaurant because we served food, too. I was also usually the person that would have to throw out the psychopaths, the homeless people sleeping in our basement. I always had to deal with the crazies. I had this idea that I was basically just stacking it up for future reference; I’m gonna be locked in a home one day with all these crazies. But I was the guy who had to deal with the crazy people because no one else would.
STEREOGUM: Coffee shops, libraries, bookstores all attract lingerers, people who just sit around and hang out all day.
RK: And also musicians, I notice, you know? Say you’re in town to play a show or something where the hell do you go to kill time?
STEREOGUM: Any favorite regulars?
RK: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s not like a Starbucks, though. It’s funny, Starbucks opened a spot down the street from us, I guess to put us out of business, but basically all it did was weed out the douche bags, which couldn’t of been any better. People want a blended drink, I’d just shoo them down the street. People want to try to do their homework and listen to the Boredoms, well, they can stay in our shop.
STEREOGUM: So what shift did you work?
RK: Usually I just worked the mornings because then I’d be awake at 5:30, I’d be done by 1:00, and then I’d go practice. It was kind of a grueling schedule, but at least it’s not a desk job.
STEREOGUM: Still, service jobs can be rough. Did you enjoy interacting with customers?
RK: I liked interacting with people; it’s not nothing I’d want to do forever, but I don’t know who does. It’s not a thrill being a coffee boy, but there are worse jobs. It was a great job: I could come and go for tour then come back and have a job. And It was fun interacting with people, but it got a little strange lately. The past year there were kids who’d come into the shop because they knew I worked there. Or these people who saw me on the cover of the City Paper and then were like, “Wow, you’re fixing me a latte. Keep up the dream, kid.” It’s just funny. One girl came in and she said, “You’re my best best favorite band ever and now you’re making me a latte.” That felt kinda awful. [Laughs] One guy, a motorcycle dude, came in with his girlfriend. He paid me. I gave him back his change and he was like “Just keep it man.” It was like 11 bucks. “Uh, why?” He was like: “I’ve been following your band for like four years man, just keep it.” And he walked away. Very mixed feelings … I’m thinking, “You need it more than I do, but at the same time I know you’re just being really genuine and cool.” But you know, it’s cool too, because the kids will come in from the suburbs and I don’t mind talking. It’s cool being able to interact with people.
When I worked in a bar it was a lot worse because I just kept dealing with really shitty people and I’d be thinking to myself, “You know, man, it’s such a balance — the high of just getting back from playing a festival to like 20,000 kids and then here I am getting shit from someone about their drink order or their food…” You know? But I’m not complaining, because at least I can go out and go on tour and have an effect on people’s lives. It’s just kinda of a bummer, but I’ve worked way worse jobs.
STEREOGUM: What was the worst job?
RK: I was a house painter for a couple summers, and I was definitely on the bottom run of the ladder. I was the guy who had to go and paint in the basement before; I had to paint up on the roofs. It was pretty terrible. But honestly, the part-time job I’ve had the last five, six years has been great.
STEREOGUM: So Starbucks started a record label. You’ve probably seen all the Paul McCartney-related activity…
RK: Have you seen the picture on the poster?
STEREOGUM: You know, I haven’t.
RK: You should check it out. It’s pretty disturbing … There’s like this 60-year-old dude trying to look cutesy … It’s very strange.
STEREOGUM: I have seen his iPod commercial.
RK: Do they bring up in that commercial how about he sued Apple for its name? [Laughs]
STEREOGUM: Oddly they don’t. [Laughs] My question, though: If the Last Drop started its own label, what would you guys put out?
RK: Where I work is real loosey goosey. We can do whatever we want. I mean, that’s the only reason they keep bums like me around. I just play whatever I want to play. Sometimes, depending on how I felt, if I had a CD that scratched at one point and formed an endless loop of a single drumbeat, I’d play that. Whenever I want to get people out of my hair and leave me alone, or if I want to change the vibe of the shop, or the energy, I’ll just put on Jesus Lizard really loud.
STEREOGUM: If only I was quick enough to make a “Boilermaker” joke … So you still drink coffee? I mean, working around it for six years, do you ever get sick of it?
RK: When I was working there I would drink a lot, but when I’m on the road I don’t drink coffee at all. But yeah, I love coffee. I like drinking my coffee black.
STEREOGUM: Do you consider yourself an expert on coffee drinks?
RK: A job’s a job. It’s funny, I’m not even that affected as a barista. I’m being humble. I feel like every time I make a latte or I poor a coffee, I can hear my mother crying somewhere, “Why are you doing this with your life?”
STEREOGUM: Future work plans?
RK: I could get a job as a mover, maybe, because that’s basically what I’m doing on tour … moving equipment into a club, moving equipment out of a club. Some of the dudes in that band work for moving companies. Currently I’m unemployed, so if anyone needs me as a barback or a bartender they can shoot me an email. [Laughs] Really, if there are any claims that any members of this band are trust fund kids … you know, go fuck yourself.
3/14 @ The Scoot Inn (Vimby Party)
3/14 @ The Scoot Inn (Solid PR/Sailor Jerry)
3/15 @ Emo’s (Alternative Press Party)
3/15 @ SXSW Party at A Warehouse (“an actual Warehouse” … check ManSpace)