We live in a world of technology. Who doesn’t have a cell phone and isn’t always checking their social media?” asks Of Mice & Men’s Phil Manansala.
The 27-year-old guitarist of the Southern California metalcore crew is discussing the themes of his group’s hypnotizing new video for “Broken Generation.” In a sort of low-budget musical homage to The Matrix, the video shows millennials unplugging a wire implanted in the back of their heads.
“The cell phone is almost a terrible device in that it takes you out of the real world,” Manansala says. “Our generation has to put aside our devices and live in the real world. We want people to go out and do something rather than refresh their Instagram page.”
Like some people are cell-phone crazy, Manansala is guitar-crazy. He picked up his first ax at 10 years old and has barely put it down these past 17 years, though he’s never once taken a formal lesson.
Of Mice & Men formed when the guitarist was touring with the band A Static Lullaby. There was another metal band on the bill, Attack Attack! And from those two bands came the outline for Of Mice & Men. “Austin [Carlile] was the frontman of Attack Attack! We became close friends on that tour and had the opportunity to write music together,” Manansala explains.
Rounded out by drummer Valentino Arteaga, rhythm guitarist Alan Ashby, and bassist Aaron Pauley, the five-piece group has thus far released three albums: 2010’s self-titled debut, 2011’s The Flood, and last year’s Restoring Force. It also recently reissued that newest record as Restoring Force: Full Circle; it features three new songs.
“A year after releasing it, we listened to the record and decided what it needed to bring it full circle,” Manansala says of the reissue.
One of the new songs is “Broken Generation,” and to hammer home that anti-technology message, the band included an acoustic version of “Feels Like Forever.”
It figures that a metalcore crew that named itself after a nearly 100-year-old John Steinbeck novella might have a soft spot for the past. The group chose that book title for its moniker because the members believe “everyone should be living off your own American dream,” Manansala says.
Keeping with its literary origins, he mentions that everyone in the band reads, and not on a Kindle either but actual books. “I read a lot of biographies. I liked this one called El Narco about drug trafficking. When I was a kid, my favorites were Winnie-the-Pooh and Goosebumps and 1984.”
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That dystopian classic 1984, written in the 1940s, foresaw a future when governments would infringe on our freedoms and control nearly every aspect of public life. If you read the book, you can see how it influenced both the lyrics of “Broken Generation” and the visual imagery for the video. But three decades after the ’80s, it has become clear that it is not only the government that we have to worry about controlling our thoughts but also our technology. It is a heavy theme, but Manansala isn’t fretting about it going over the audience members’ heads.
“Our fans get what the songs are about,” the guitarist insists. “They’re always telling us how the lyrics mean so much to them. And if people are able to use the song in their lives not in the way we meant it, so what?”
As Of Mice & Men rages against machines on its current tour — which will bring the band to Revolution this week — Manansala is excited that, even if only for a night, his music will keep people away from their phones. “It’s going to be a great time, and we’re always excited to get to meet everybody.”
With Crown the Empire and Volumes. 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-449-1025, or visit jointherevolution.net. Tickets cost $21 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.