Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Mar 8th 2010 11:40AM by Jesse Ship
How would you describe your sound?
All the arrangements are based around song, and the songs are based on the '60s folk tradition more so than the 'old time' style, although we do play a lot of traditional stuff as well. We use mostly organic instruments that we've collected, as well as vintage ones. We have stuff like a pump organ, melodeons, harmoniums, and antique reed organs. We love to take them apart and fix them up if they're not working. Jeff plays the upright bass, we have these vintage drum sets with cat skin heads, they're so classic and have a nice warm sound. There are seldom any electronics on stage although we do play electric guitar for our more conventional rock and roll songs. Our style is sort of bipolar. We go from these groovy and aggressive rock songs to very sparse, spatial and textural folk songs. We always improvise our set list based on the crowd; we can go on very different paths depending on where the night goes. We also have a lot of vocal harmonies and we're always switching up our instruments. If you see us more than once in the time of a few months, you'll find that we've changed our arrangements a lot in that time period. None of us are masters on any of these instruments, but we all have the basic skills to play on different ones.
Do you have a favourite instrument?
Yeah, I'd say the portable pump organ. It supposedly went to France during World War One and was dragged around by the priest on the battlefields. That's what the portable ones were manufactured for. They could give a funeral service anywhere they were. It has a natural wooden sound. We also have an E-Flat horn that we found in Jeff's uncle's attic. He played it in the middle school band and it still has his report card in the case. It's sort of like a French horn but the bell has been adapted, it's up at the front. It has a very slow attack, with such a nice breathy tone. Those are my favourites.
Where did the name come from?
The name comes from an Ayn Rand book by the same title. We didn't realize this until we had been together for quite a while because it was thought up by one of the original members, an old childhood friend, who no longer plays with us. I have actually read the book and I don't like it much at all, so it is a bit strange to have that name, but at least the name is abstract enough to be interpreted in different ways.
How did the band form?
Jeff Prystowsky and I are the only two original members who still play. When we started, we had just graduated from college, and Dan Lefkowitz, this blues singer/songwriter from Virginia, was still in the band. We played as a trio all around New England at local bars, NYC, got a bit of a small scale following in a few cities. We were trying to do enough gigs to pay rent, which was hard to do for a while, but then Dan left and we were just a duo for a long time. In some ways that was good for the growth of the band because that's when we were doing a lot of instrument switching which allowed for us to play with the textures. Jocie Adams came along because we needed a clarinetist for the first album, 'What The Crow Brings,' but she didn't realize what she was getting herself into. We invited her over to just play some music, but she didn't realize we had eight microphones set up and music printed up for her to play. She initially started playing with us live just for a song or two, but that quickly built up and before we knew it, we realized that she was very good at playing all these other instruments that were weren't very good at ourselves. It all came together very naturally with her as a full time member. We picked up a friend, Mat Davidson, who had been touring all over Europe when we met him. He didn't have enough money for a plane ticket home, so he joined our tour then. He's an incredible musician; he can play anything, like the accordion, and even the musical saw and fiddle.
What can you tell us about your 'Oh My God, Charlie Darwin' music video?
It was made for us on consultation by good friends of ours in England from End of the Road films. We gave them a lot of free reign with it as long as they didn't do anything too explicit with the song, in terms of religious imagery. There was one part where the storyboard had a bit with the priest and it seemed to imply too many things. We wanted to leave it as open-ended as possible. The whole thing was stop-motion, clean framed, and hand animated. Those guys worked their asses off for months.
What's in your festival survival kit?
Earplugs, a sleeping mask, big jugs of water and short shorts.
Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
No, I feel pretty good about everything I listen to. I'm into a lot of old music -- I wish I could break out of that, but I keep moving backwards instead of forwards -- a lot of blues, old country, '60s folk, abstract and experimental group from back then, even some British folk. It's never guilty music.
Where do the themes in your songs come from?
Some of it comes out of very traditional ideas in American songwriting, especially songs about "looking for home." There are also the more "out there" themes with the 'Oh My God, Charlie Darwin' song that can be interpreted in a lot of ways. I think it is still a song about pro-action of society and our inability to deal with our differences, like an environmental song. We're destroying ourselves; we don't know how to see past the gulf of our differences, our ability to do that is broken. So that's another current on the record. I follow politics very close and I want our country to confront the problem of building too high and mightily.
What's the craziest thing you've seen or experienced on tour?
We've been to some of the most oddball towns in the middle of nowhere in Europe, especially Holland, those towns blow my mind. But to be more specific, the last time we went to SXSW, our van broke down around 6PM and we were trying to find a U-Haul truck with a hitch, because AAA wouldn't take us and everything was closing. We finally find this guy stoned out of his mind, drinking beer (and offering them to us), selling U-Hauls out of his convenience store. We manage to jam five of us into the front of the U-Haul, but we end up on a dead end street by accident that kept winding and snaking into the woods. We got to the end and there was no way we could get out. We tried to back up, and the dolly goes flat on us! We thought we were going to die there in those woods. We had to walk what seemed like miles and miles back to the road to civilization.