The latest New York artist that everyone is talking about is Brooklyn born and bred Russell Manning. He is a classically trained jazz musician, the former bassist of Twin Shadow, and is currently the front man of his solo project Rush Midnight. During his spare moments on tour with Twin Shadow, he recorded the tracks that now make up his debut EP +1, which includes songs produced by George Lewis Jr. His music reflects his effortlessly downtown cool persona. It’s indie electro dance pop that is sexy, dark, and inspired by the late 1970s disco era and early 80s synth pop. Russel describes it as “tragic disco” and it’s the perfect soundtrack for late night drives and dance parties.
We caught up with Russell to discuss his new music, his adventures in Brazil, and where he’ll be hanging out this summer in New York.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how Rush Midnight got started?
After graduating college/conservatory I began playing pop and r&b around NY. I did some studio work with artists in NY, Montreal, and LA before joining Twin Shadow. I began writing songs on the road with TS and during my time off I would properly record all the parts. Soon I had about 15 songs and my friends encouraged me officially to release it. That is when I met Jeff Bratton from Cascine, who helped me curate my best songs for +1.
How would you describe your sound and who are some of the artists/bands that have influenced your music?
I adore ’80s and early ’90s dance music such as Nu Shooz, Inner City, Kool and the Gang, Talk Talk, The Police and Janet Jackson. I aim to make music you can drive and dance to. Some of the newer stuff sounds a bit darker and more mysterious, so I like to think of it as Tragic Disco. Right now I’m exploring elements of hip hop, reggae, and dance rock.
You are the former bassist of Twin Shadow and George Lewis Jr. produced a couple tracks on your EP +1. Rush Midnight seems to have a similar nostalgic 80s tone to Twin Shadow, what are some of the main distinctions between the two bands?
Some of my new material may have an ’80s sound because of the synthesizers I use. But in general, my new songs sound a bit more like dark, New York, late ’70s disco. The biggest distinction is probably our voices and our live shows.
We read that your trip to Australia, Brazil, and Turkey helped inspire +1. Any stories you can share with us about the people, places, or things that inspired you along your travels?
I went to some amazing parties in Sao Paolo, Brazil. We played a VICE party our first night there, and we had 3 more days left to hang out. I made friends our first night and they took me out every night. They brought me to house parties, we drove around and listened to Kanye west. We did normal things, but that’s my favorite way to get to know a foreign city. The first night you need to make friends with the locals who will show you an authentic side of the city.
You also have an appealing “downtown cool” aesthetic to your music videos and personal style. What are some of the influences on your style and are there any particular brands/designers that you admire?
I wear a lot of Various Love Affairs (variousloveaffairs.com). I love wearing tank tops when I perform and DJ. I don’t shop very often, though. Occasionally I’ll buy vintage or I modifying my old T shirts and jackets.
If we travel to NYC this summer, where would you recommend that we hang out?
You should join me at Tiki Disco in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Its a daytime party every Sunday with some of the best DJs in NY. I don’t go to clubs in NY too often. I usually try and DJ house parties or play shows 1-2 times a month. There’s always a show to go to!
What’s next for Rush Midnight? Any future plans to tour in South America?
We have some cool US dates coming up in August. I’m almost done with my debut LP. I’d love to tour Europe and South America in support of the LP. I’m working on some new music videos with rollerblading. I’ve never visited Argentina, but a great friend of mine lives there!