Katherine Polcari

Behind the Music: Jake Barinholtz of Manic Focus

Katherine Polcari
Behind the Music: Jake Barinholtz of Manic Focus

After Manic Focus’ last show at Zydeco in September, I  noticed a familiar face hanging outside the doors of the venue. After approaching, I realized it was their drummer, Jake Barinholtz. I was lucky enough to have a conversation with him between sets. Jake is one of the most hard-hitting, rhythmically talented drummers I have seen live. He is also among the humblest, easy going people I have ever spoken with. His taste in music and respect for peers exhibits his authenticity inscrutably. Not only did our conversation boost my appreciation for his music, it left me optimistic for the future projects coming from Manic Focus.

I was lucky enough to have a chance to speak with Jake a couple days later over the phone about his background in drumming.

Louis: Jake, thanks for taking the time to speak with me.

Jake: No problem, man.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood.

Jake: Well, I was born in the suburbs of Chicago, but I grew up in Elgin, Illinois. I moved to Champaign for college and got my accounting degree at UI.

What got you into drumming?

Jake: I started drumming at age 11 and what really got me started was Travis Barker of Blink 182. I was kinda into that punk, emo realm when I was at that age and his energy really inspired me. A little later on down the line I started smoking weed which opened me up to bands like The Beatles. I have a lot of respect for Ringo, not only for his drumming ability, but also for the creative control that he held within The Beatles. I think some of that rubbed off on me because I really enjoy helping out JmaC on the creative end of our music. Some other drummers that I felt connected to were Kris Myers from Umphs, Zack Velmer from STS9, and of course Adam Deitch.

What were some of the early projects you were involved in?

Jake: I started out in some steel bands early on, but the first serious project I was involved in was The Coop. We all met in Jazz band and started out playing shows at UI, which ranged from skate parks to college house parties with 200+ people packed into somebody’s basement, but we eventually made our way to some big name festivals like Eforest, Waka, and Summer Camp. Sound Tribe was a huge inspiration to our jammy, jazzy, electro dub sound and we all appreciated the idea of bringing instrumentation to the electronic music scene. An ongoing project that my sis and I have been working on called Jib-Jab has also been a lot of fun.

Who are some of your favorite guys to tour with?

Jake: Well, we’re on tour with Wick-It right now and he’s a fun dude to have around. I have to mention Grant (Griz) because he has really helped put us in front of the people that have led to our band’s success. The first time Griz played a set in Chicago I was on the drums for him and we had a blast. Dom and Jeremy from Big G are great dudes and so much fun to hang with. Oh and I’ve got to mention the Floozies. Those guys are hilarious.

What are your top three most fun sets you’ve ever played?

Jake: In no particular order I would have to say Electric Forest 2016, The Majestic Theatre, and North Coast Festival. At E Forest we had easily the biggest crowd of our career. It was an awesome time, we had Marvel Years on the guitar and Kat V on the violin with the biggest crowd we’ve had at a festival. The Majestic Theatre is always a lot of fun. We’ve had a great crowd there before with the Coop and sold it out with Manic Focus. North Coast was another one that had a great turnout for the Coop. I feel like I need to throw the Portage Theatre in there too; my parents came to see my play with the Coop and it was a really special moment for me.

What shows on the Rising Minds Tour are you most looking forward to?

Jake: Opening for Pretty Lights in Chicago is going to be legendary. We’ll be there with Static and Squabi..the lineup is really great. We just added a stop with the Floozies for Halloween which will be a lot of fun..also I’m really looking forward to Hula. I’ve wanted to play a set at Suwanee for a while now.

If you could have any rapper lay a verse on one of your tracks, who would you choose?

Jake: I really just started getting into rap and hip-hop pretty recently. I would have to say Kendrick. I love his style and he has a great message in his music. Another rapper I really like is Logic. He’s got a great flow and delivery.

What’s next for Manic Focus?

Jake: Well the tour is named after our next album, Minds Rising. That will drop in the early winter. It’s cool because John and I have really worked out a system that allows me to have some creative influence on the tracks. John will bust a sample on the keys and I’ll pump out a drum sample that gives the track some structure. We combine to create some dope shit in Static’s studio and leave with the groundworks of a completed song. John then takes it to his lab and does his mad scientist thing to get it sounding right. The album has really come together and we’re excited to see how the fans react.

Thanks man I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me and I looking forward to hearing it!

Jake: No problem.