How Man on Man Created a DIY Album During the Pandemic

When Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum and his boyfriend Joey Holman visited Oxnard, California, a town 60 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, last year to handle a family matter, they suddenly found themselves isolated due to pandemic lockdown restrictions. So the couple started making music together. 

“Roddy was just like, ‘We’re both musicians, let’s just do it to pass time.’ At first, we were just going to share with our friends,” Holman explains Then, after releasing their first track and video, “Daddy,” under their new Man on Man moniker last May, they experienced a surge of gratitude and support from new fans who discovered their music and loved the video that showed the couple dancing and singing in little more than white briefs. “They were like, ‘Thank you, I see myself in this. This is me.’ Which is so cool! People have never seen two gay guys who are a couple making the kind of music we’re making, writing about what we’re writing about, displaying it in the way we’re displaying it.”

They continued to write songs after they left L.A. and headed back east, but before reaching their home in New York, they decided to take a detour to Provincetown, Massachusetts, to decompress — where they wrote the song “It’s So Fun (to Be Gay),” which they’re now debuting, along with a new video. 

Like many of the duo’s songs, the fuzzy synth track hark back to homocore bands from the Nineties, and is ripe to be a new type of queer anthem that celebrates body image and diversity, while also remaining ironic and subversive. All of M.O.M.’s music videos have been quirky and sexy (their last for the song “Stohner” involved 60 pounds of raw honey being poured on them while they kissed), and the latest feels like a winking tribute to our onscreen pandemic interactions and voyeurisms. Composed of a collage of self-made videos, the video incorporates drag performers, sex workers, internet celebrities, and musicians — we catch glimpses of JD Samson, Casey Spooner, Drew Droege, Big Dipper, designers Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra, and many others — while Holman and Bottum sing in an even monotone and are shown frolicking on a pier in one scene and end up playing their guitars together in a bed with a half-dozen baby chicks.

Bottum — who’s also played with Nastie Band, Imperial Teen, and Crickets — says they reached out to people in the LGBTQ+ community that they respected and loved, and asked for a celebration of being gay. “We invited them to share a glimpse of themselves that exhibited a sense of pride and self-love. We wanted to leave it open and up for interpretation and aimed for a reflection of the community that inspires us.”

According to Holman, the only “major snafu” in creating the video was that the chicks “were absolute shitting machines. They pooped the whole time.  On the sheets, on us. But it was worth it.”

The release is the latest ahead of their self-produced, self-titled debut set to launch May 9th on Polyvinyl. Although the duo has managed to produce so much together as a self-sustaining unit, the album does include mixing support from Grammy-winning producer Carlos de la Garza (M83, Paramore, Jimmy Eat World) and Mike Vernon Davis (Foxing, Great Grandpa). “It was really hard not to be there with them,” Holman says, explaining that they would send files to one another and listen to mixes together via various conferencing apps. “Also, the mastering situation was really great and unconventional, too. It was very remote, which was new for me. … From where we started in a truck in the middle of Texas to being signed to a label and figuring out how to make this thing work: It’s mind blowing.”

Bottum jokes that, once they were isolated and started cutting their own hair, there was an epiphany that they could rely on themselves to do even more. “It’s sort of, like, the curtain has been lifted. It’s not that hard to make a record like this, it turns out. It’s actually kind of easy.”

The DIY attitude and ability to collaborate virtually with people no matter where they might be located seems to have freed them creatively, although Holman is quick to add: “Not to say that we wouldn’t love someone to engineer and do a lot of the work for us. … But I had one electric guitar, one acoustic guitar; we had an upright piano; we had one microphone for every single thing we did. When you go to a studio, there’s like 40 microphones. We did it all ourselves with just one. And: Boom, bitch.”

After their year of intense creative, cross-country travels and virtual collaborations, the duo is ready to finally perform its songs for a live audience. They’re still cooking up some unusual ideas for in-person shows in several of New York’s queer spaces as the city continues to allow more limited-capacity gatherings.

“With the virus and the uprisings as the backdrop — it’s very poetic. Like, who goes through this in a lifetime? So it feels like a show of some magnitude has to happen with the release,” Bottum says. “The fact that the music is speaking to people, it adds a whole responsibility to our journey. There’s just been so many twists and turns to this process that really are pretty remarkable. Well, they’ve also been tragic and horrible, but always remarkable. … So we have to make a performance happen.”

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