The band Gamenight may be a Knoxville stalwart, but the band was really born at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Currently celebrating the release of its new album, “Buddro,” the band started in 2005 from the ashes of a group called Capulet. Co-lead songwriter Chris Hill was departing the band, and brothers Josh Manis (guitar, lead vocals) and Brandon Manis (drums) decided to keep the group going with a different name and more members.
Josh at the time had been giving guitar lessons to Robby Kerr, who seemed like a perfect addition for the group.
“We spent a week in Myrtle Beach that summer, and I think we wrote the whole first record at the beach,” says Brandon.
“Well, a good portion of it,” says Josh. “Not that you have a lot of people going to Myrtle Beach for inspiration for artistic projects!”
“We went out and got some henna tattoos and shark-toothed necklaces for inspiration,” jokes Brandon.
The trio would wake up and go to the beach for a few hours before returning. Josh and Kerr then would come up with new songs.
“I’d just lay there and listen,” says Brandon.
When the friends returned to Knoxville, Caleb Boaz (now with Teen Spirit) was brought on as the group’s original bass player. Shortly thereafter, he moved on to pursue his own projects, and the band’s longtime friend Charles Presley (who then went by the name Matt) quickly stepped in to fill the role.
The band’s music is poppy modern rock that has elements of Knoxville-formed greats Superdrag and Royal Bangs, a little of the math-rock characteristics of Maps and Atlases and some more mysterious sources, as well. Josh says it was being young and hearing a Jimmy Eat World album that made him want to write songs that made the listener actually feel something.
“It made me want to write more than guitar parts,” says Josh. “It made me want to be an interesting songwriter and not make anything sound the same. I wanted to write songs where you listened to both the music and the lyrics.”
In the summer of 2007, Gamenight went on tour for the first time.
“We left Knoxville with $150,” says Brandon. “So many dates I remember sitting on the sidewalk and thinking, ‘We’re not making any money tonight.’ Then we’d have an amazing show that would get us through the next two weeks. It was just such an adventure.”
Gamenight opened for the group Park, which had been a favorite of the Manis brothers since high school. The Illinois group later asked their pals from Tennessee to open for its last performance. Gamenight has been a favorite opener for Mock Orange, another act long-loved by its members.
Josh and Brandon say things are a little different now than they were when the band started over a decade ago.
“At first, we were trying to tour, and we had a couple of long tours that were fun. But now we’re primarily writing albums,” says Josh. “We play regionally here and there.”
“Work and life happens,” says Brandon. “People get real jobs, but we always manage to fit it in and make it a priority. We’ve been active the entire time. We practice every week. It helps to have good friends in the band. Maybe you don’t feel like practicing every week, but you get to hang out with your friends.”
“It is work,” says Josh. “But at the end of the day, you work all day and then you get to get together and play music. It gives us an opportunity to keep our friendships fresh.”
The two say the band never has had any ego issues that would cause strife in the group’s dynamic. While Josh writes the lyrics, the music is credited to the entire group. Josh and Kerr generally come up with melodies and riffs, but everyone contributes.
“One person isn’t writing all of everything,” says Josh.
The band will do regional weekend tours to promote “Buddro.”
“This is the first album we’ve recorded and mixed all ourselves,” says Josh. “I was just learning stuff as I went. I just want us to keep getting better at that. It’s also the first time we’ve released an album on vinyl.”
Josh says the group’s goals aren’t “anything spectacular.” They just enjoy the process and playing.
“It’s just gotten to the point where it’s just what we do,” says Brandon. “Whether only a few people hear it or a ton, we’re gonna make another record.”