Project Mantra crashes into Ottawa Ontario!

March 7th, 2016 by  |  Published in Interviews

CD Release Poster

Project Mantra, a Brockville Ontario folk-pop/punk band with rugged and bold music, is crashing int our nations capital this weekend at the Avant-Garde Bar to debut their brand new album Fusion Manifesto.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Leigh Bursey, frontman for Project Mantra to discuss the release of their debut album and their local music career.

  • Band members: Leigh Bursey, Justin Steacy, Alex Hodges, Audrey Cahoon and Matt Vanderbarren


Q: Thank you for joining me here today, Leigh. I suppose the proper starting place is to ask you why you want to record and release your own music?

A: Most modern music analysts believe that the art of making an album of songs has been dramatically replaced by merely releasing one song at a time in a strictly digital format. I guess our band never really saw it that way. We admire many modern artists and I cannot begin to explain just how powerful a recognized digital presence can be to an underground band who are working to build their credibility and fan base. That, and we chose to make a live record that is authentic, sincere and visceral as our debut. We have always wanted to hold a tangible compact disc in our hands like a novel and say to ourselves ‘we made this, and we want to share it with you, and we want you to hold it in your hands.’ We have been playing our music now in one shape or form for a number of years, and having this musical scrapbook is an accomplishment that I know we are all eager to share with the world.

Q: You mention a musical scrapbook, you have titled the name of this album Fusion Manifesto, how important is that name to you?

A: Initially, we played with more morbid language like ‘eulogy’ or ‘farewell manifesto,’ as some of these songs are very personal, and part of making this record is my attempt at saying goodbye to some of of the darker parts of my personality that have dragged us down as a band. We grow as songwriters, we change our techniques, motivation and inspiration, but some of these songs were written a decade ago, while others are very fresh. Recognizing how many times music has talked me off of a ledge, being able to pay homage to that growth of character and commemorate that struggle to get here has become extremely important to me personally. This album helps pay tribute to all of our transformations, all of our positive and negative memories, and allows us the opportunity to adventure down a rabbit hole into something new and fluid and organic. Furthermore, while prophecizing on a bar stool or on a stage at my favourite local watering hole, manifestos have become what we are famous for. Our lack of a definitive genre, and our yearning to create our own mutual manifesto made the naming of this album incredibly easy.

Q: It sounds to me like music is a deeply personal thing for you, Leigh. What one thing, or one story do you want your music to tell?

A: This is a broad question, really. We have songs like Words Written on a Napkin That I Used to Clean Up the Mess I Made Before You Came Along which is the story of how a momentary infatuation and fascinating introduction to someone captivating can nurture the creation of the most surreal version of yourself that changes your outlook every day as you move forward. We have songs like Blinded By the Fingers In Our Eyes that highlight how numb we have become to violence and desolation because it is easier and safer to be vacant and apathetic. Songs like Scream for Me are about man’s struggle with mortality and facing a God he may not believe in. As for the eight tracks on this record, we have songs about vigilante justice in Darkest Before The Dawn, standing up against oppressive societal systems in Who Watches the Watchmen, suicide and depression and drug use with songs like Tripping On the Stars in the Sky, Wake Up To A Morning Maker, The Suitcase Blues and Small Town (which pays homage to our recently deceased friend Jesse Major), flirtations with darkness and psychosis with the eccentric Annabella Gingerpuppy, and a very unique live demo called If You See Frank, Tell ‘Em Old Tom Is Looking for Him which pays homage to the king of storytelling, Tom Waits. But I suppose if I had to use one word to describe our music it would be passion. If you want to see perfection, we are not the band for you. But if you want energy, anger and eccentricity, then we welcome you to join us.

Q: Where do you usually get your song writing inspiration from?

A: Tom Waits, David Bowie, the ridiculousness of modern political language, Kurt Vonnegut, The Pixies, beautiful girls with incredibly eyes who break hearts and rock fashion, Irish whiskey, classic hip hop, a call to action against first world poverty, and love between our musical family. As a song-writer, I grew up on The Smashing Pumpkins and The Clash. But the influences of our band members range from Coheed and Cambria to Ice T. And our literary influences are just as varied. I would say each other and our families are our biggest inspiration.

Q: Knowing you personally, Leigh, I know how deeply serious you take the process of making music. I know that you believe that music can change the world, but what deeply rooted social issues are you trying to bring attention to through your music?

A: No one should be homeless, alone or hungry in the first world. Mental illness is a scary element of a scary world. But I am a believer that I would rather be an authentic mess than a pretender. Let your frustrations out, let your freak flag fly, and remember to ask the critical questions and push the envelope, and challenge heteronormativity and all forms of social bias. We have too many people sitting back waiting for these issues to fix themselves, when it takes all of us to make life better for those around us. We can all be everyday political citizens. You don’t need a degree or an office to build a platform and stand on a podium.

Q: You speak all the time of how deeply personal music is to you, and how it has talked you off of a ledge many times, but what does success look like for Project Mantra – how would you define the word success in the context of your music?

A: When I find out, I will let you know. Right now, just keeping the lights on, the whiskey flowing, and the stories being told is a huge accomplishment. Being a band with a family of musicians that I love and adore is success to me. We have two dads in our band; a loving couple; and members that have a nearly twenty year age difference. The fact that life hasn’t pulled us all away yet tells me that we have something that makes us feel a certain level of fulfillment that no money can buy.

Q: Thank you Leigh for taking the time to sit down with me and do this interview, before we conclude tonight, please tell us what is next for Project Mantra.

A: Our Fusion Manifesto record release show is on Friday, March 11th at the Avant Garde Bar. Come join us, buy a CD and a t-shirt. And enjoy a refreshment. And watch us pour our hearts out like a faucet spewing love letters written in cursive stronger than any Bloody Mary that Frank’s old wife used to make before he burned their house down. If you want Halloween orange, or fire chimney red, come watch us set ourselves on fire in the sweatiest 35 minutes of our lives, and be sure to check out to learn about where you can see us next. Come watch me sing to that girl in the front row with the faraway eyes, and come be apart of our manifesto. The record release show starts at 8pm and is $8

“I am telling the story of a mans transformation from humble idealist to angry pessimist who is desperately trying to recapture the purity of that idealism. The story of many songwriters who struggle with their own shortcomings. Our live performances tell the story of a group of musicians who depend on each other to create organic tapestries” Bursey tells us. 

And may those organic tapestries and inspirational stories of soul-stirring music be a beacon of hope, a beacon of refuge, and a timeless reminder that the complexities of life haunt us still.

For Spotlight Ottawa, I’m Jon MacDougall.

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