Friday, April 10, 2009



Fences' Ultimate Puke EP doesn't quite deliver what its title implies—to me it implies crusty, 45-second basement-punk songs about spanging and drunken fisticuffs. In fact, this collection of sparse, melancholy folk songs is pretty much the antithesis of the assumptions I had when the EP landed on my desk several months ago. Frontman Chris Mansfield sings about his troubles with the weary resignation of someone who's been kicked around by life and doesn't expect the situation to change anytime soon. But unlike the work of other songwriters whose songs are so saturated with pathos that they're difficult to listen to unless your psyche's in a similar state, Mansfield's pretty folk melodies command such attention that at first you might miss the brutal statements that pepper the album—statements like "I never felt love" and "I didn't always feel like shit." Fences' presence at SXSW this year is strictly unofficial, but since Mansfield's currently in Victoria, recording with Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara, don't be surprised if next spring finds the band on a newfound record label, playing an official showcase with a whole new lease on life.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

lots and lots of change.

some very good, some scary, haunted band.

stay with me everyone.
big news/changes soon.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Maybe we wont need food stamps.
only tramp stamps. cause...
matt works at a tattoo place and
dolphin bong back shit is all so free.

anyways, keep listening, were playing to hundreds now
instead of 40.

but i still love 40.
by that i mean, women the age of 40.

wah wah.


Ultimate Puke (Expanding Brooklyn)
3 stars
Chris Mansfield, the songwriter behind Fences, is comfortable with his battle scars. As laid out on his debut EP, all emotional baggage is game for the troubled, tattooed Seattleite who, on the lead-off track, “The Knees,” sings, in his slightly quavering baritone, “These bruises are my friends.” Instrumentally, the misleadingly titled Ultimate Puke is an understated affair, with Mansfield’s minimalist acoustic guitar lines and brushed drums backing his crooned journal entries. The songs themselves are on the short side, about two minutes each, fading in and out as if they were only passing thoughts, which provides an album filled with emotional brutality something of a light touch. On the softly galloping ballad of dispute, “My Girl the Horse,” Mansfield sings “Neither one of us will make it down this hill alive” so matter of factly, it’s easy to miss. Such understated damage, though, is a little taxing, loading the listener with emotion without allowing a catharsis. Where Mansfield is his best is on the few tracks where the music works with the words, as on “Same Tattoos,” where the introduction of the drum, mid-song, calls attention to Mansfield’s line: “It’s not like you were really gone gone gone gone, but you were and I never felt love.” In those moments, when Mansfield drops the thin veil and truly lets his listener feel his pain, his true talent shines. MARK BAUMGARTEN
Standout Tracks: “Boys Around Here,” “Same Tattoos”
Fences' Chris Mansfield is a tough-looking guy. Or so the story says. Maybe the band should have included a picture of him doing something totally bad-assed, like putting Mike Ness in a headlock, cleaving cinder blocks using only his bare hands or eating a salad made entirely out of horseradish and habanero peppers, because Fences is really, really hoping the tough-guy/soft music thing makes The Ultimate Puke work.
Even if it came with videos of Mansfield single-handedly disrupting the plans of terrorists and criminals in a high-rise, an airport and in a cat-and-mouse game over the phone, The Ultimate Puke EP wouldn't work as well as Fences would hope, for two reasons. Firstly, the quiet side of a punk angle's been driven into the ground. Secondly, Fences just aren't more than mildly interesting or good at what they do.
The home-recorded collection of acoustic pop tracks is stuck in the rut of unplugged singer/songwriters who desperately want to avoid any connection to folk music (which, to be fair, is a pretty tough feat Mansfield pulls off). Its pop charms are stretched too thinly and we're led to gape at Mansfield's capacity for emotion.
Most of The Ultimate Puke is stuck navigating the same avenues that early Bright Eyes did. Mansfield's voice is often shockingly similar to that of Conor Oberst, and his treatment of his songs only underscores that. "The Same Tattoos" could be a Bright Eyes cast off, while "Boys Around Here" dabbles with ghosts of country western, but without enough conviction to make it work. "Your Bones" and "Song Joseph" come off better, with Fences using more than minimal production, though we're still left to rely upon the depth of Mansfields' soul which, presumably, he lays bare on this EP, to really appreciate this.
It's a little too late -- like a dozen years -- for anyone to be blown away by the weight of anyone's feelings, no matter how tough-guy or pantywaist they are.
- Matt Schild

Chris Mansfield bears his soul from the get-go on his debut as Fences, The Ultimate Puke EP.   Put out there because, “I figured I might as well name this group of songs I’d been writing and have something to do with myself”, Mansfield brings about some touching alt-folk.  While not revelatory, there’s certainly a good deal to build on with the (admittedly badly-titled) Ultimate Puke EP.
Fences begin with the high and pretty alt-folk of “My Girl The Horse”, which sets the stage well for what is to come.  Mansfield than channels is inner Bright Eyes (QRO album review) with “The Same Tattoos”, but it’s the stuff you like about Conor Oberst, with Fences’ single-worthy acoustic folk-pop not over-done in the feelings department.  There are other tracks where Mansfield gets perhaps a bit too emotional, and a little thin, such as the penultimate “The Knees”, while the soft “Fires” is a touch too soft, and the soft-but-grand “Sang Joseph” never quite explodes like it should.  But he also varies it up, including two very different renditions of “Your Bones”: a close-up, lo-fi bedroom recording in the middle, and a slightly disco-trance backbeat/background version to the end the EP.
However, The Ultimate Puke EP is maybe at its best when Mansfield plays things a bit wrier on “Boys Around Here”.  The low-key number has an interesting attitude and a more of a hook, something Fences will hopefully expand into in the future.  But as it is, they’ve got the planks to go higher.
When I first ran across Fences, I was totally thrown by the fact three heavily tattooed guys were making this music -- it's stereotypical, yes, but it happens. And, truthfully, it adds to the mystique of the band. 

Fences debut, The Ultimate Puke EP, conjures up memories of acoustic/folk past: Elliott Smith; Mike Kinsella / Owen; David Bazan. But the Seattle (by way of Boston) trio adds their own flair. On songs like "My Girl the Horse" and "Boys Around Here," the common 'verse/chorus/verse' formula has been thrown away, heeding to a quasi-Mark Kozelek-ish drone of a constant riff with only subtle changes in vocal melodies or auxiliary percussion. Hushed vocals and careful strumming make for a very slow build of almost every song on this EP, and it works. 

The Ultimate Puke EP could easily be the sleeper hit of the year, if it's accepted. I see Fences as more of a bands' band, opposed to anything the random girl next to you in lecture would be listening to. But in the same breath, I could easily see some of these songs on movie soundtracks or in the background of a few television shows. But if I had my way, I'd just like to hear them play "The Same Tattoos" in my basement while everyone sang along. 

the stranger
Hey Marseilles, Fences, Kate Tucker & the Sons of Sweden
(Tractor) Local singer-songwriter outfit Fences write stripped down, compelling songs about ordinary subjects—girls, estranged fathers, relationships. So what? Boys in America sit down with an acoustic guitar and sing about those very subjects every 2.7 minutes. But there's something that makes Fences' efforts sound more genuine than most. Singer Chris Mansfield's lyrics are delivered with a gentle guitar and coy mumble, forcing you to really listen to hear the stories he tells. It's almost like he's ashamed, like he's playing this song because he has to and he's not quite comfortable about it yet himself, but the only other option is death or insanity. MEGAN SELING
A former jazz student, Chris Mansfield abandoned his upright bass in Boston for an acoustic guitar and the indie scene in Seattle. His self-released debut EP, a home-recorded labor of love, is sparse, scattered with small moments of softly brushed drums and simple key melodies. Mansfield’s hushed, quiet vocals call to mind the reflective tones of fellow Northwest singer-songwriter Joshua Morrison
 Performing since 2007, Mansfield has become highly visible on the local Seattle scene, but he continues to adjust his playing style and vocal delivery. The unhurried version of “The Same Tattoos” during his live set on KEXP is perhaps a better copy of the same up-tempo song on the EP. As he continues to play more shows and prepares for a tour in 2009, perhaps Fences’ eventual LP will find Mansfield rehearsed and ready for the spotlight he is undoubtedly headed for.
 -gwendolyn elliott
- January 5, 2009

Saturday, October 11, 2008

FENCES PRESS (more to follow)


if there is one thing the Northwest is not in short of supply of, it’s acoustic-based low-key songwriters. In the sea of all the music fit for sitting down and self-reflecting, having the right key elements will lead you to be noticed. Add to the acoustic roster new-comer Fences, aka Chris Mansfield. Already garnering attention from the music blogs and local magazines, this solo project holds all that is good about the genre: an ambiance conveying the right mood for a rainy Seattle afternoon or uplifting enough for a lazy sunny outing; catchy lyrics repetitive enough to sing along after only your first listen; a beat poppy enough to nod your head along; introspective and analytical lyrics. Mansfield’s influences are evident, yet I will spare the name-dropping; you will know who I would compare him to after taking a listen. The edge Mansfield adds to be outside the rest is the gentle percussion he adds, thanks to a person only listed on his MySpace page as “Matt.” There is also a breezy jazz feel mixed with a classic country sound throughout the songs. I was told Fences is based out of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood — this fact adds a new perspective to two lyrics in particular that caught my ear. In “My Girl the Horse”, he repeats, “Neither one of us/will make it down/this hill alive.” Sung from the perspective of a girl, “Boys Around Here” contains the observation: “Boys round here/ don’t respect a thing/ don’t respect a thing at all.” I am not aware of his intentions with these lyrics, but to some they could hold a truthfulness to his current locale; however, they could easily be related by the listener about many places or situations, which is another positive quality of his work. Even if you are feeling a bit burned out on the quietude of all the acoustic music flowing around the area, it is worth listening to one more project with Fences’ The Ultimate Puke. RACHEL LEBLANC


The solo project of one Chris Mansfield, Fences is a welcome addition of quiet folk to Seattle. While the man can mix a tender whisper with some urban grit (in this case, tattoos), he is no Elliott Smith rip-off. Mansfield simply has more uplift to his lyricism. Spare, stoic and beautiful, “The Same Tattoos” (and the rest of the demo it arrived on) signals a bright new talent MARK BAUMGARTEN


"Solo Act of the Week Sporting a Name Like a Band. We can’t say we’re totally wild about the tattooage (actually, it freaks us out a lot), but Seattle’s Fences, aka Chris Mansfield, is something we could see ourselves getting pretty darn wild about. Don’t let the skin d├ęcor fool you (like we clearly did), Fences is soulful, starkly intimate, and downright passionate in his delivery and songcraft. We’re reminded in moments of heroes like Rocky Votolato, and even, gulp gulp, coulditbetrue??, Elliott Smith. Is enamourment a word? Okay, we’re enamored. Fences will be playing the February installment (and return) of EERIE, at the Mars Bar with Blue Checkered Record Player and Neal Burton (of Patient Patient). Before then, check it:" WIGFITSALLHEADS.COM


"Art, home accouterments and dead people's furniture" is ex-Murder City Devils frontman Spencer Moody's (Now in Triumph of Lethargy) description of his store The Anne Bonny in Capitol Hill. The shop is a full of fun stuff to check out and currently is also home to a really impressive gallery of art done by Derek Erdman. Aside from all this, Spencer also throws occasional yet always special, intimate music shows in the space.

Previous nights have showcased several northwest musical legends including David Baazan and Ben Gibbard. Although younger than them, Fences fit right in the packed upstairs of the Anne Bonney. His songs tell a different story than you'd expect from first glance at the tattooed, and as he says he's sometimes perceived "sketchy" Chris Mansfield. Love, Temptation, Regrets, and Family are all sung about in the many stories told in his simple yet intriguing music.

Fences took the stage in great spirits, playing to a packed uppstairs area of the Anne Bonney. The room had a warmth that truely felt fitting on a crisp fall Seattle night. The crowd was attentive yet still fun during the personal set. Between songs Chris told some stories of his past in the Eastcoast and dedicated several songs to friends and family that have affected his music.

The performance was filmed for an upcoming DVD which should be a great look back at such a unique showcase with a songwriter who seems like truly promising talent in a city he has grown to love."- KYLE JOHNSON


"Stumbled across them in Tegan and Sara's Top Friends (biased? just a little..) on Myspace. Disguised in a gorgeous mass of tattoos.. these tough looking guys have more up their sleeve than one would imagine.

Completely opposite from expected, their music is nice and relaxing. Surprisingly delicate, too, melody wise. Their lyrics are simple but well thought of. Metaphorical, literal and symbolic. It's all mixed up in a lovely way.

My personal favorite is The Knees, from their EP The Ultimate Puke (so says their Myspace). It sneaks up on you and catches you unexpectedly with its amazing lyrics. "Holding on to battle scars, and cuts below the knees I've got from you. These bruises are all my friends."

In short, it's a band to keep an eye on. I think lots of great things can be expected from them.

(and, seriously, the tattoos are amazing)"


"Every now and again, the hours spent clicking random Myspace links pays off in a big way. Seattle’s Chris Mansfield and Matt Beacham, collectively known as Fences, are easily my best accidental find of the year. An intimate, introspective brand of poppy acoustic folk music that isn’t just another drop in the bucket of Northwestern singer/songwriters. Everything about the four songs I’ve heard from the forthcoming The Ultimate Puke EP (due out in September - don’t let the name fool you) is instantly memorable and will have you singing right along after the first play. This is a beautiful collection of songs to say the least.

I haven’t been this excited about an acoustic songwriter since Mike Kinsella started recording as Owen — it’s that good. I suspect that you’ll be hearing a lot about Fences in the future, so you might as well hop on board now."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


This shit is whats up. Ribsss, Sangria...Tiny Vipers, Homie from Pearl Jam...Head Like a Kite. Heres us Playing. Basically it's a bunch of musicians sitting at a huge table and eating food and getting drunk then we played a song...I cant complain, thanks to everyone involved!

Friday, August 22, 2008


We, Fences, signed on with Ryan Craven from the agency group to be our agent/booker.
I couldn't feel more at home. He also works with Beirut, CasioToneForThePainfullyAlone, XiuXiu, Bishop Allen, Say Hi, just to name a few. We are 3 lucky young men. Or quite possibly just nice sounding? I do not know anymore. When I listen to the E.P I don't hear what they hear I'm sure. Sunday we play with Mirah.
yah, I know.