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Out Loud with Man on Man

by G.W. Mercure

If you like fuzz-drenched guitar harmonies that reach just a little higher than shoegaze—a setting on the tube amp somewhere between the sounds of My Bloody Valentine and Neutral Milk Hotel—you’ll like the sweet sui generis sound of Man on Man. And if you dig the idealism of young men singing simply about love in the manner of late 1950s post-doo-wop radio whores, except doing it honestly and about each other, then you will love Man on Man’s new album, the aptly titled Provincetown.

Man on Man is Roddy Bottum and Joey Holman, a de facto duo that has blossomed from a bit of bedroom jamming into a project and then an album and into a full-on band. Holman is a guitar player and songwriter and a veteran of a number of projects including Cool Hand Luke and HOLMAN. Bottum is known as a co-founder of Faith No More and Imperial Teen—you have heard them, you just don’t know it—and for a range of devil-may-care musical odysseys. The pair are partners, musical and otherwise.

“We started the band when we were basically, like, at the beginning of a relationship and it was sort of what was fresh and new and prevalent to us together as a couple,” says Bottum.

Unlike other queer acts in popular music, or rather popular music acts which happen to be queer, Bottum and Holman write very deliberately about their love for one another, identity forward. While other queer musical acts either don’t write about their personal lives and loves in a discernible way (Bob Mould) or sing sexlessly about a very general love (Indigo Girls), Man on Man brings the rock with a capital C.

“It just made sense to sort of sing about ourselves and proclaim that,” says Bottum about the band’s origin story right at the beginning of the pandemic. “And it was a dark, dark time. So, we were singing a lot about our love. To lead with that felt appropriate at the time.”

Appropriate, and daring. It’s one thing to present the cold-shoulder quiet defiance of Elton John, or the so-fabulous-how-could-he-not-be spectacle of Freddie Mercury, or even the closet clamor that cloaked the true identity of Rob Halford for so long. But that’s not what Bottum and Holman are about. They’re not your Will & Grace party favor queers.

“It’s important to what we do for sure, because we’re very well aware that most of the rock world—the indie rock world—is basically straight,” says Bottum. “It’s not made us hesitate. It’s been more of a motivator than a hesitator. I think we like to be in these spaces that don’t really make sense for very vocal gay men to talk about sex and love and tenderness and our perspective of the queer community.”

One would expect Bottum to be aggressive, but to be in those spaces, you have to bring it, and on Provincetown, the duo does. The album has a musical and conceptual cohesion that rock album buffs keep in rare company. It’s genuine, it’s pure, it’s honest, and it goes end to end with no weak or forced decisions. Usually, those kinds of albums throw the hooks away, but try to get the vicious vamps of “Take It from Me” out of your head. Holman is a singer with tender urgency, breathlessly invested in the songs he sings. “Hush” is a classic march in no hurry at all with deeply-bent hooks courtesy of J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. Bottum and Holman are lyrics-forward and it shows on tunes like “I Feel Good”: Every line is resolved with a surprise that couldn’t possibly have been anything else.

I feel good, I feel great in these United States.

You wanna fuck it up—baby, I can relate.

You and me all the time, still feels good when we ride.

Windows down, let ‘em see we got nothing to hide.”

“I think this time more than last time around, we wrote the lyrics together. We worked really intensely back and forth about what was being said,” says Holman. “This process is so fun for us,” he continues. “When we first started making music, we started making music just by accident. At the beginning of COVID, when everything was falling apart, it was just sort of the sound of what we were doing, was just a cacophony and like the world imploding. I don’t know what that sound is called, that guitar sound we both gravitate towards. We like repetition and we like a sense of boldness and lyric sense.”

That accident led to their debut eponymous recording. For the follow-up Provincetown, there was a bit of myth-making in the mix, along the lines of Bon Iver, Dylan’s The Basement Tapes, or the Stones’ Exile on Main Street.

“I had an injury last summer,” says Bottum of a sprained ankle suffered exploring around Provincetown. “So we were kind of confined to the house. And we set up all our equipment upstairs in a bedroom. And Joey and I just kind of went at it. We had a carousel of people coming in and staying and being there. But mostly it was sort of our safe sanctuary just to go up to this bedroom and record the songs.” One of those friends, Mascis, contributed to Provincetown’s closing track, “Hush;” another friend, Joey Howard from Paramore, is the bassist of record for all of Provincetown’s songs, but contributed remotely.

“Basically, it was just me and Joe,” says Bottum.

Man on Man will be playing Red Room in Provincetown on July ninth, their next date after a special show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City to celebrate Bottum’s sixtieth birthday. The show will feature Man on Man as well as Bottum’s noise-art project Nastie Band. He’ll also appear with Imperial Teen, and as Man on Man with Mascis.

“This is gonna be a big music celebration,” says Bottum. “That’s the plan for the birthday. It’s gonna be fun.”

Man on Man performs one night only, Sunday, July 9, 8:30 p.m. at RedRoom, 258 Commercial St., Provincetown. For tickets ($25) and information visit

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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