The story opens with Mike Mangione, a singer songwriter, in early 2000. He traveled the country in his van playing songs in all 48 of the contiguous United States. Mangione played solo, unaccompanied except for an acoustic guitar, and gained notoriety in the singer-songwriter circuit as a restless, hardworking, and ever-present songsmith. Around mid-decade he was joined by his brother, Thomas, and they refashioned the format into a harmonic, acoustic duo. The two wrote new songs, toured, and started looking soon thereafter to build a band. The purpose, they reasoned, was to widen the sonic palate that they had at their disposal.
It was within the years of 2006-2007 that the band was assembled, piecemeal and meticulously, thereby initiating the second part of the storyline. At this point Mangione’s music began to coalesce, and it gained the qualities and characteristics that are familiar to most now. At first, upright bass was added, followed by cello, violin, and at last a trap kit. The musicians themselves are, respectively: John Collins, Patrick Hoctor, Kristina Priceman (Weller), and Nez. Further, to reposition his place within the space of this framework, Thomas Mangione switched to an electric guitar.
Time Out Chicago has aptly described The Union as, “a more atmospheric take on folk-rock.” Their first album, Tenebrae (2008), was warmly received in the press. For example, All Music Guide selected their work as an “Album Pick,“ New York Magazine featured the band in a spotlight, while Blurt Magazine refered to the “tearstained folk, Memphis-styled gospel and bluesy-flavored pop” as “luminous.” Tenebrae, then, was the debut of the band; and it became at once a touchstone and springboard for everything that followed. Green lights glowed ahead. Touring followed and the band logged an average of 100 shows per year.
In 2011, Mike Mangione & The Union released Offering on their own imprint, RODZINKArecords, with sync and digital licensing by DUALTONE Records. In this year the band garnered a nomination for video of the year by the Midwest Independent Film Festival for their song You Don’t Wanna Leave and RadioMilwaukee nominated them for band and album of the year.