Q&A: Chris Mansfield of Fences

Since the release of his band’s eponymous debut a year ago, Chris Mansfield has toured continuously, spending months at a time away from his Seattle home, playing his melancholy, angst-ridden pop songs in clubs large and small. He has also gone sober, recorded a song about it with Macklemore and decided to move to the East Coast, a fact he shared with City Arts during this month’s cover shoot. A few days later, while he was staying at his mom’s farm near Sumner, Wash., we talked over the phone. 

Are you still growing the mustache?
No. It’s over. Now I’m going to just stop shaving completely.

Usually musicians move to Seattle and then grow a beard. You’re doing the opposite.
I just figured it would be more my style to finally adapt as soon as I left.

Why are you moving?
My girlfriend lives in New york and a lot of my family lives there. When I think about flying to Boston, playing with a new band and starting a tour, I have this very strange feeling that I’m going home. It feels really good. But I still want to play Seattle. I’m excited to go back and play City Arts Fest.

Are you going to be playing new material when you come back? What is the new stuff like?
Yeah, I will. A lot of the new songs have to do with soil and water as sort of an oppressive force, being buried or drowned or baptized. A lot of the new stuff is also sort of religious in a weird way. By no means am I religious, but it’s sort of this weird thing that happens when you’re by yourself and speaking out with your guitar, inevitably you end up speaking to someone, and I end up calling that someone “god.”

Your past songs have never seemed colored by religion one way or the other, but you do sport the upside down cross as a symbol. Why?
I’m not trying to make a protest against any religion at all. The symbol is more of a personal statement about feeling abandoned. I was searching for a way to convey that feeling and get people to look and ask, “Why would you do that?”

Fences plays with William Elliot Whitmore, Black Whales, and Daniel G Harmann on Oct. 21 at Heineken City Arts Fest