NORTH SMITHFIELD – In early February 2021, local indie rock band Twin Foxes released Broken Bell, an album 2 years in the making. The fact that it was completed at all is due to the tenacity of musician, song writer and sound engineer Jared Mann.
“We played the last gig in Providence before COVID shut everything down,” Mann told NRI NOW.
When the clubs went dark, the lights stayed on in Distorted Forest Studio, Mann’s recording headquarters in North Smithfield. Twin Foxes had a record to finish.
The band has been together since 2014. Since its conception they’ve had a few different members. Each configuration brought something new to the table.
“I liked the idea of the music changing, not really being pinned down. I feel like each record is an idea unto itself,” Mann said.
Up until now, he has taken a back seat when it comes to vocals.
“I usually shy away from taking everything on,” Mann said.
But Twin Foxes was in between members when COVID-19 hit, and Mann had two choices: it was either wait out the pandemic and get somebody else in to record – or just finish it himself while the inspiration was there. Mann opted to keep moving forward. He recorded not only lead vocals but nearly every instrumental track himself, with some help from Andrew Fortin on bass, Carlos Molina on percussion, Trevor White on guitar, and Alex Yontz and Cindy Marszalkowski on backing vocals.
The one constant in the group has always been Mann’s songwriting and production – the music has a sound that is unmistakably his own.
“Drums were really my first instrument,” said Mann.
He took some lessons when he was 10, but soon realized that he wanted do more than play covers – he wanted to create his own music.
This proved to be a goal that required years of hard work.
“It took me a while to get some type of chops, and a long time learning how to write songs on my own,” he said. “I began writing at 13, but I was probably 17 before I wrote my first decent songs.”
When his brother Jonathan, who is nine years older, got into guitar, Mann did too.
“We were both left-handed, so we could share,” Mann said.
This was also how Mann got his first opportunity to explore sound.
“When my brother got into recording, he was old enough to afford the equipment, so growing up I just had the stuff around. I got interested in recording because there’s always so much to learn and there’s so many aspects to it – it’s kind of never ending.”
Mann went on to graduate from the communications department at Rhode Island College, but he built his studio skills as an engineer mostly from hands-on experience.
“I’m not a ‘by the book’ kind of guy,“ Mann told NRI NOW. “I made mistakes and learned from them and things snowballed from there. I recorded a few friends and then just got into the culture.”
Sound has always been Mann’s profession. He worked for a time at Aurora, a mixed-use creative venue in Providence, doing audio for their live shows nearly full time. Between that and touring with his band, he was making a steady living. When Aurora closed in 2017, Mann freelanced for a while doing sound on set for film productions, then working for a business in Cumberland that owns multiple audio companies. But all the while, behind the scenes, he was busy building his own dream. Construction on Distorted Forest began in 2014 and the studio, set on 30 acres of land in the woods of northern Rhode Island, became fully operational in 2018. It has been humming with activity ever since.
Mann‘s musical influences come from 90s punk rock roots, 80s bands and further back; today, it would be described as indie rock. But the songs on Broken Bell have an emotional complexity that defy classification. The final cut on the album, David, describes a friend’s decision to end his own life. It is a deeply disturbing subject, but here, in these words, there is an understanding and forgiveness that transcends the darkness. Something about the mix – the simple delivery of Mann’s vocals, the beating drive of the drums – leaves the listener with a sense that life keeps moving on.
Twin Foxes has gathered a large and enthusiastic fan base in the local music scene. When the band set up crowdfunding in order to take Broken Bell to vinyl, their supporters rallied to help out.
“We’re at just about enough money now to put the album into production,” Mann said.
The digital version is available at the Twin Foxes website on Band Camp.com, and streaming at Spotify, but Mann believes that for the best audio quality, nothing can compare to vinyl.
“If you buy the record you get the lyrics, the cover art, the whole package,” he said. “A lot of people still prefer to have the real thing.”
We asked Mann where he sees himself in a year, and it seems the future is already in the making.
“Twin Foxes already has 10 more songs ready for production,” Mann said. “I’ve done it like this for so long that I don’t know how not to. Writing is like a form of therapy. Whatever you want to call it, it’s an outlet for me and I’m always going to do it.”
“There’s no goal other than trying to make a better record next time. If positive things come from it, that’s awesome,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I just try to let things grow organically and keep it as positive as I can – you have to be in the right mind set to make good music.”
“For me, the real pleasure is just that I can do it,” Mann said.
Hear Mann’s music – https://twinfoxes.bandcamp.com/
See the set up – https://www.distortedforeststudio.com/