We’d usually be hesitant to spend an afternoon in Times Square, but when Andrew McMahon of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate invited us along to celebrate the upcoming release of his latest Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness record—Zombies on Broadway, out February 10—we had to go to the place that inspired it all. Zombies = slow-moving tourists in Times Square, of course.
We start the afternoon at Sapporo, an unassuming spot that’s cash only and no frills with a giant laminated menu of ramen and other Japanese food. “I know Times Square isn’t necessarily considered the hotbed of culinary magic, but this is the place where I ate vegan miso ramen almost every day while recording,” McMahon says. Later, he adds that you could “probably get your week’s worth of salt” in one bowl, so there is a chance he is made up of about 99 percent salt after his few months writing and recording in New York last year.
But more important, where did he like to drink? Not Times Square. “My go-to was a place called Hotel Delmano, which makes a really nice old-fashioned. Or I’d visit my friend Bobby [the guitarist from Jack’s Mannequin] at Olympia Wine Bar in DUMBO, or Hops Hill.” The morning after, he’d wander across the street to Devotion Coffee or hit Sweatshop for the undeniable pull of avocado toast.
After slurping some of the best ramen, we head around the corner to Gregg Wattenberg’s studio, who produced most of Zombies on Broadway. McMahon plays a private, keyboard-only rendition of hit single “Fire Escape” and then shows us the “trashy patio” where he found most of the inspiration for those lyrics.
Both that song and “Shot Out of a Cannon” were written in the studio, whereas other very New-York-inspired songs like “Island Radio” and “Brooklyn, You’re Killing Me” were written when he got back to Los Angeles last year. “Those tunes came out of that experience, and it was kind of my mic-drop about New York,” he says with a laugh. “I gotta go home!” He also notes that it wasn’t Brooklyn itself that was killing him, but it was him in Brooklyn that did him in. “I have big appetites in the city sometimes, and it can get the best of me.”
A change of scenery—he wrote the last Wilderness record in a cabin with no running water—makes for a dynamic shift in both lyrics and sound. If you want to hear it yourself, try to catch his sold-out Webster Hall show on April 11, or head over to Panorama Music Festival in July.
And check out the video of our tour here: