A white image of white text, in black outline, reads, "Knapsack".

Knapsack: Trying to Kick the World’s Ass: July 1995


Well, I could spend a whole hour telling you why this band is cool, why their album Silver Sweepstakes is one of my new favorites and why I hate bands that are this young and this good, but I won’t. I called Wendy at Alias and she hooked me up with their drummer, Colby Mancasola so he could give you the story. After we talked, I decided the best reason to like them is that they almost kicked Eddie Vedder‘s ass. 

SLUG: You went to UC Davis and you were a DJ on the college station? 

CM: Yeah and I music director. 

SLUG: What mion was it? 

Four men in a black and white photo stands in what appears to be an outside stairwell. An open sky behind them. They wear black jackets.
After we talked, I decided the best reason to like them is that they almost kicked Eddie Vedder’s ass.

CM: KDVS. (Davis Cal)

SLUG: How did you guys get the other two members of your band?

CM: We tried to put up want ad type things and that didn’t work out we just got a bunch of freak calling and heavy metal guys and stuff. That was a waste of time. We finally found a guy, friend of a friend, that was playing bass. But then he couldn’t go on tour. So at the last minute we knew Rod from playing in his old band and we asked him to play bass and then he brought Jason along to play guitar and then went on tour with us. They learned the songs in like a week, two weeks. They went on tour with us and then their other band broke up after a month or two and all of a sudden we were a band. 

SLUG: Why did you guys call your band Knapsack? 

CM: No real reason. Just thought it sounded cool and didn’t mean anything. 

SLUG: Who did you just get off tour with? 

CM: We were on tour with the Archers of Loaf for a little bit and then we were also by ourselves for a little bit.

SLUG: And then when you go to CMJ what’s the deal?

CM: That’s still tentative we don’t know how that’s going to work out. We could go by ourselves, we could go with a larger band. We’re hoping to find a larger band to go over with. 

SLUG: Led Zeppelin?

CM: Yeah, probably Plant and Page

SLUG: How old are you guys? 

CM: We’re between, I guess the range is 22 to 26. I’m 23. 

SLUG: Who’s the oldest? 

CM: Jason I think (the second guitarist). But it could be Rod the bass player. I always get confused which one is 25 and which one is 26. 

SLUG: Do they pull rank on you guys?

CM: No, never. We’ll have music discussions and it’s funny because things that came out when they were in high school came out when were two, three years younger. It was like sixth or seventh grade and they were listening to all these great records. They always tease us about that. 

SLUG: Like who? 

CM: Like we were talking about The Clash on Train in Vain and Jason remembers it being on FM radio in his area. And I just discovered that song maybe five, six years ago. And so he was teasing me about that. 

SLUG: What does Knapsack listen to? What kind of music do you like?

CM: It ranges quite a bit. The one thing that I always think is funny is that I don’t listen to any of the bands that our reviews always compare us to. 

SLUG: Like? 

CM: Like, we get compared to Sunny Day Real Estate. That’s not a band I listen to. 

SLUG: What about the comparisons between Perry Farrell and your singer? 

CM: That took us by surprise the first couple of times we heard it but now we’re used to that one. 

SLUG: So the writing is done mostly by…? 

CM: Blair. He usually just writes songs on his acoustic guitar and then brings them to practice and we add our parts and I’m involved in the arranging but I don’t know notes at all. I leave those guys up to that. But everybody writes their own parts on top of the song and sort of guides them in a certain way. 

SLUG: It sounds like there’s a quiet clean track underneath the underlying loud guitar. 

CM: Yeah, that’s probably Jason or it’s probably, exactly that. Could be either one, I don’t know. I got bored of being in the studio and stopped watching that towards the end. I did the drum parts and I stuck around for most of the guitar stuff. But those guys are pretty picky about it and I can’t even usually tell the difference. 

SLUG: Who were your heroes? 

CM: Oh, I love Chris Mars, who basically was in the tradition of sort of…a Ringo Starr type guy. The Replacements is always great. I like a lot of the straight forward hitters. And also Keith Moon I think is great. And he is completely over the top. Sort of like a bipolar thing. 

SLUG: So when you were young The Replacements were a big influence?

CM: I think on all of us. I think we’re all pretty big Replacements fans. 

SLUG: So if Knapsack had to be another band what band would it be? 

CM: Other than Knapsack? 

SLUG: Yeah, if you had to be another band. If there was one that Knapsack had to be. Who is it? 

CM: I’d probably pick The Replacements in ‘87 or R.E.M. in ‘84.

SLUG: So R.E.M. prior to their huge success. 

CM: Yeah, I’ve pretty much hated the last three R.E.M. records. But as far as R.E.M. in general I pretty much consider them my favorite band of all time. The early stuff is still magic to me. 

SLUG: R.E.M.’s not a bad call. 

CM: Yeah, I don’t know. I sort of think of bands like bands in their peak. It’s like, there’s always the greatest rock and roll band in the world. It’s sort of fun to figure out, or at least in my opinion, at any given year who is [that]… right now, I would tell you Guided By Voices. I would spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on the fact that Guided By Voices is the best rock and roll band in the world right now. Or where Pavement was two years ago, or R.E.M at a certain time or the Pixies were at a certain time. So, I’d pick any of those bands in their prime. 

SLUG: Well, let me ask you about some bands that are famous now and you tell me what you think about them. Primus

CM: Not a fan. I think the new video is sort of entertaining but I’m growing tired of it.

SLUG: Hole

CM: I don’t know about best record of last year, but I think that last one was pretty good. That song “Violet” I think is neat. And I admire her ability to get press. And if that’s a back-handed compliment, I’m sorry. 

SLUG: Well, that’s well put. We pick on her quite a bit. So don’t feel bad. 

SLUG: Pearl Jam

CM: Not a fan. But we did run into Eddie Vedder at a Taco Bell up in Montana about a week and a half ago. Believe it or not. 

SLUG: And… 

CM: He wasn’t real familiar with the Taco Bell menu. Which to me, how do you not know? He wanted something halfway in between the seven layer burrito and the regular burrito. He wanted a regular burrito with rice and something else, or the seven layer burrito minus a bunch of shit. And the poor girl that was working the register knew exactly who he was and her face was bright red. And he was, like, with two thugs and they finally had to help the whole situation out. “Here’s what Eddie wants.” 

SLUG: Two thugs? 

CM: He was with two, like, thug-looking guys. Like big road manager guys, with a bunch of like guitar tools on their belt. Those type guys. It was funny. And then he sort of wandered around for a while outside and then came back by the time his food was ready and ate and by that time we were gone. 

SLUG: So you guys didn’t say “hey we’re in Knapsack”? 

CM: No we didn’t. I have to admit I was outside I had already had a couple of items and I went in to order a large Coke just to stand behind him in line and see what he was up to. I have to admit I was interested. The one thing that our bass player thought of and would have been really funny to say, and I wish I would of, is going up to him and saying “Aren’t you that guy in the Stone Temple Pilots?” 

SLUG: That would have been funny. 

CM: But I don’t know. I wish when we run into guys like that, we’re going to beat them up to see if we can get on MTV news for fun. Always be known as the guy that beat up Eddie Vedder, but we always chicken out. We ran into Dave Pirner in New York, but we couldn’t get the energy up to beat him up either. So I guess we’ll never beat any of those guys up. 

SLUG: So, Knapsack’s not as tough as they want to be? 

CM: No, not half as tough as we want to be. 

SLUG: Any other bands that you like? 

CM: Oh, I thought Nirvana was an incredible band all the way to the end. I thought In Utero was an amazing record. 

SLUG: No Soundgarden, nothing like that?

CM: No, I’ve never liked Soundgarden. See my dad is sort of a classic rock guy and so he digs most of that stuff more than I do. Like Soundgarden or anything that’s sort of Zeppelin-esque, that’s a way bigger turn on for him. And you know you’re not supposed to like the same rock and roll that your dad likes. That’s taboo.

SLUG: No that’s bad news. That’s bad news cause then he can’t tell you to turn that shit off.

CM: Right. 

SLUG: Is he a fan of you guys? 

CM: Yeah, he’s real proud. All the dads are real proud. They’re funny. All the moms are real proud too, but the dads are funnier about it. It’s sort of a “that’s my” boy type of thing. 

SLUG: So they’re no longer bragging about you being doctors and lawyers. Rock stars make a lot more money. 

CM: Yeah, who knows. We have a good time.

SLUG: Well hopefully you’re not in it for the money. 

CM: No. We would have quit by now. I think about three quarters into the last tour we probably would have hung it up right about when we ran into Eddie Vedder, if we were doing it for money we probably would have hung up the towel.

Read more from the SLUG archive:
B-Movie Reviews: January 1995
Turn of the Century Renaissance Man: April 1995