Offshore Country is a film about What Up Mang‘s attempt to record a country music album while floating on a boat 30 miles off the coast of California. It was a complete failure.
Here’s the backstory…
About two years ago, a few of us dudes took a weekend fishing trip to the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. While we were out there losing our minds and slaying fish, we mostly listened to a Spotify playlist I made called Central Coast. The playlist was partly inspired by country-ish tunes I heard on the central coast radio station KPIG. It was a lot of John Prine, Todd Snider, 80’s/90’s Hawks & Doves / Old Ways / Harvest Moon-era Neil Young, etc. All the good stuff.
That heady combination of California sunshine, sea air, endless Modelos, and the Central Coast playlist really altered our DNA. We started talking about a plan to come back to the boat to record a What Up Mang album of California country music. We’d call it “Offshore Country.” Scott owned a banjo, I’m from Cinci-tucky, and Bartlett never wears underwear, so it was our destiny.
The Offshore Country idea was discussed often in the ensuing months, but little progress was ever made. Finally, while camping in Big Sur about a year later, we buckled down and wrote a few demos for the album (including Jonny’s “I Get Lost”). This was the motivation we needed. Soon after, we booked a return trip to record Offshore Country.
Fast forward to November 2019. Scott, Bartlett, Matt, and I met in Santa Barbara and set sail on Scott’s boat, the Hale Kai, back to the Channel Islands. Armed with little more than 3 unfinished demos, this would be both a writing and recording studio session.
We spent two days and nights aboard the boat, bouncing island to island. We wrote, recorded, and drank around the clock, only taking breaks for fishing, swimming, and eating. We anchored offshore a few times and paddled surfboards to the islands. We dove off the roof of the boat into the chilly Pacific. Bartlett became one with the seals and snorkeled in the shallow kelp forest off of Sant Rosa Island. It was a magical weekend.
Upon arrival back at Santa Barbara Harbor, we now had another half dozen or so demos in the bank. Our plan was to get together again soon on land and finish the those songs in the studio. This was November and nothing has happened since then. Everyone got busy with their own lives and did’t have time to record bad country music. By the time the pandemic hit, it was obvious we weren’t going to finish the album any time soon. During quarantine boredom, I decided that I should try to mix down what we had already recorded and use those songs in the video you are watching here today.
Is this the best music What Up Mang has recorded to date? Definitely not. It’s pretty clear from our output that we ain’t no country musicians (most of the songs we wrote didn’t even sound like country). But that’s not the point. The point is that we went out on the ocean for a few days, played some music, and had some good times with friends. That’s all that you can ask for these days.
What Up Mang began life as the music project of San Francisco songwriter/producer James Carnes. Accompanied by his neighbor Caty McKenna and his landlord Scott Mayfield, the band seamlessly blended electronic dance music and psychedelic pop on their first album, Golden Hour. With the addition of guitarist, Matt Browning, and drummer, Jonny Bartlett, the group then dipped their toes into the unsanitary waters of garage rock on their second album, Floral. This album tackled serious themes like the death of a close friend and the challenges of squeezing out a decent life in the Bay Area. Since their inception in 2014, What Up Mang has shared the stage with a strange collection of acts including Men Without Hats, Public Service Broadcasting, The Flavr Blue, Marc E. Bassy, and Twenty and Bored.
[Opening for Public Service Broadcasting at the DNA Lounge] What Up Mang managed to bring some pretty cool kaleidoscope disco psychedelic beats from the Lower Haight to SOMA. The band was definitely out there and were having a great time and I never would have thought I’d say that disco and psychedelic music could go together, but it seemingly blended all too well together. Plus, they had some great blissed out harmonies. The lead singer was quite the dancing machine and she was enthralling to watch. Plus, they even managed to have a crazy cover of Billy Ray Cyrus’ ‘Achy Breaky Heart‘ and they made it even better by slowing it down and adding some heavy Hawaiian luau beats. So if you ever just want a fun night out, this band will deliver, plus you’ll end up dancing the night away.
–Red Head Music Snob