We recently interviewed Mark and his wife Andrea’s band Makar. Sharing it with our readers here.
Pro Media Mag : Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Mark: Hi, I’m Mark and I play piano, sing and co-write songs with my wife Andrea in our band Makar.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea and I make the magic happen! Haha! I play guitar, sing and write songs with Mark.
Pro Media Mag : Who or what inspired you to start the MAKAR Band?
Mark: Andrea inspired me to start Makar. I was a singer looking for a band when we met and I wasn’t finding anything I really wanted to join. Andrea said, why don’t you try writing your own songs. I had played some piano and guitar and received a minor in music in college, but had no idea really how to write a song. I thought you had to study forever until you knew everything and then could write one, but this dude at the Keyboard Collective said, no man, it’s just chord progressions with a melody sung over them. That’s it? I said. That’s it, he said, and I haven’t looked back since.
Andrea: I never expected music. I always loved music and played guitar when I was a kid but never thought of writing my own songs and thus lost interest. Because if you can’t imagine expressing yourself creatively a lot of the driving inspiration dissipates. When Mark was auditioning for other bands and nothing was quite right, it was easier for me to see objectively that he should start writing his own songs. I didn’t imagine that path for myself because it had been a long time since I played music and composing an actual song seemed so elusive to me. But everything impossible is actually possible once you start to imagine it and once I imagined it for Mark, I could imagine it for myself.
Pro Media Mag : Tell us about your upcoming Album ‘Fancy Hercules’?
Mark: Our upcoming third album is called Fancy Hercules and will be available everywhere, maybe even in vinyl Summer/Fall 2017. The similarities between our last release Funeral Genius and Fancy Hercules can be found in Makar’s usual poet, pop, folk, rock, blues, punk mix, but Fancy Hercules definitely veers into weirdest album yet territory with the addition of whacky musical theater musings, songs about insomnia, depression, brain tumors, the meaning of time, family problems, the old ball and chain, a reworking of Devil in a Dream and very strange horror film/Mars attacks type chords. Not to mention an examination of the myth of Hercules and how he slaughtered his whole family as our title track. And did I say we sing about the devil a lot?
Initially we were going to do an acoustic album, but now we’re working with Livia Ranalli, the drummer from the End Men, and our good buddy Joe Crespo, the bass player from Hello Nurse fame to round out the sound.
Andrea: As per usual, there’s going to be some bratty numbers, again in the vein of you can’t tell me what to do. Always my favorite feeling to sing about.
It’s funny the first song MAKAR ever wrote – Time Flies – is going to be on Fancy Hercules. Sometimes songs really need to percolate until they’re ready to be sung.
We just started playing with Livia and the power of the drums just cored me. It’s a strange feeling because we’ve only ever played these songs acoustically so it’s new and exciting to hear drums on these compositions in rehearsal. It’s really weird that we’re potentially recording this album backwards but it’s also exciting and unexpected.
Pro Media Mag : Any particular song(s) on the forthcoming album you enjoyed working on more than others?
Mark: We’re pretty excited about all of them, but it would have to be our title track, Fancy Hercules. No one really thinks of Hercules as having slaughtered his entire family, but Hera put a spell on him that made him go crazy and do just that. Fancy Hercules is a re-imagined Hercules in a blues song as a hobo/vagrant tramp following the train lines, trying to come to terms with what he’s done, circling the void, which is illustrated by the weirdest chord in Makar history, D7b5th, rarely used in music at all, but of course Makar had to bring it out of hibernation. The train is gonna come means he’s going to pay for his crimes and penny on the track felt like a natural addition, an urban legend that a penny placed on the tracks will derail a train. It doesn’t but still seems to be a potent part of modern mythology. Can’t wait for this myth heavy blues doozy to be fully realized!
Andrea: I’m excited about all of them but I’m especially excited about a song we have almost finished called I Want To Be Loved. The melody and words originated in a dream I had about a zombie singing and dancing loose-limbed and spasmodically (if you can combine such a thing). I kept dreaming about her and my pressing need to write it down when I awoke, getting stuck in a repetitious cycle of false awakenings. When I finally woke up, I recorded the melody but had no idea what chords would accompany the vocal. It was a mystery to me until Mark noodled around on the piano and now it’s almost there.
Pro Media Mag : What kind of response you are expecting from the upcoming release? Something like your last Album “Funeral Genius” or even better? What are you striving for on the new release?
Mark: As an artist or just someone trying to achieve something you’re always trying to outdo your last effort. We would love Fancy Hercules to get the incredible love Funeral Genius has been receiving, but as an indie band what we really want is to build on the momentum from the first two albums to shoot Fancy Hercules into the stratosphere. Funeral Genius has been getting a lot of great radio play from stations like KBOO, KCSB, WROM, WRUW, KMUD, KVNF and CIUT 89.5 FM and it just landed us on RadioFlag’s Top 55 Song Chart for most spins on independent, college and internet radio in October 2016, so we’re hoping once we release Fancy Herc all this momentum will carry it even further. We have some truly epic songs on this album that if we get right could cut people like Kato.
Andrea: As long as I feel I’ve grown in my guitar playing, singing and songwriting, it’s a success! On our upcoming album, Fancy Hercules, I find myself more willing to try different parts, vocally and instrumentally. I used to be afraid to try anything that I wasn’t 100% sure about going in but now I’m more open to experimentation. And honestly, I feel fortunate that people listen to our music and it affects them, that something we created is out in the world and into people’s earwaves, that whole process will always feel extraordinary to me. That and that these songs even exist.
Pro Media Mag : You must be very happy with the way Funeral Genius was appreciated and the kind of response it got. What can you tell us about the reception of the record?
Mark: Andrea and I have been over the moon with the response Funeral Genius has received. Funeral Genius was called “essential” by Rust Magazine, and has helped land us interviews with Paste Magazine, Buzzfeed, Peverett Phile, Ethnocloud and Vigilantes Radio (2016) as well as a top 10 spot on The Deli Magazine’s Top 300 NYC Indie Bands along with Vampire Weekend, Fun., MGMT and Santigold (2015). Our title song, Funeral Genius, was played on Detroit’s #1 station, WROM’s The Quinn Spinn show, for their 2014 Guest Appreciation Edition. Funeral Genius helped us play CMJ’s music festival at the Pyramid Club October 2014 and got us named Rust Magazine’s Critic’s Pick of 2013 as well as receiving continuous airplay across the United States, Canada and the UK, on such stations as KBOO, KCSB, WRUW, KMUD, KVNF, WROM, CIUT 89.5 FM (Toronto), CKRL 89.1 (Quebec), Radio Alchemy, The Waiting Room (UK), Hub Radio, Radio Crystal Blue, WFDU, WRSU, and Insomnia Radio’s “Daily Dose.” I think one of the coolest things was that Funeral Genius got included on The NBTMusicRadio’s Top 100 Tracks/Singles of 2012 and Top 100 Albums of 2012 ahead of David Byrne, Sigur Ros and St. Vincent. It also charted ahead of Rush on the College Radio Charts in September 2012 and won us the title of Band of the Month for January 2012 on Ear to the Ground radio.
Andrea: The response has been truly incredible and it inspires us that so many thoughtful people in the indie music scene have written such kind words and played our music. We have met such amazing people – other musicians, indie radio hosts and music writers through this strange journey. Some of these extraordinary people I feel we will know for the rest of our lives and be the better for it!
Pro Media Mag : What do you enjoy more performing on stage or working in a studio setting?
Mark: They are both amazing experiences in completely different ways. The experience of playing live is indescribable. The energy, the fear, the excitement of having to nail everything right there in front of an audience, especially because I do and don’t like being in front of an audience. It’s like my ultimate nightmare combined with my ultimate dream. You feel plugged in to the universe and to yourself. You’re buzzing and it channels into your playing and singing. It gives you this incredible energy inside and lifts you into the stratosphere. Recording is a different beast, one that is not easily tamed. You have to get used to doing it the same way you have to get used to playing live but it’s different. You have to generate the energy from within and you don’t have the benefit of the audience or the fear from without. You have to connect to the song sometimes in the dark in an enclosed space, cut off, insular and project everything into that microphone. And it’s got to be perfect. You have got to be as pleased on the thousandth listen as you were on the first. Live you can make mistakes and no one will notice, recording you can’t. People listen to songs over and over again and they will eventually hear a mistake or an untruth, so you have to listen and listen and listen until you are satisfied that you have delivered the best, the most honest, the most riveting performance you can deliver. You practice over and over so that when you play live it’s as good as it’s going to get in that one shot, but recording you play and sing over and over until it’s perfect for all time. Sometimes you nail it in one take, sometimes it takes a long time to get what you want. In the end I like them both evenly, but if I had to choose, I’d take recording over performing. The intimate pure connection to the music. Not performing for anyone but yourself and what the song demands.
Andrea: Me too. Recording is a record of what you have done, a record of a certain point in time in your life even. But if you don’t perform live, you definitely feel off and out of sorts.
Sometimes when performing live, I’m terrified or at least I feel that way, it’s hard to tell the difference between excitement and nerves. But I do relish pushing myself to perform because I was a very shy kid growing up. But then I attended this progressive school Gill St. Bernard’s which would let anyone graduating speak at their middle school and high school commencements. My English teacher, Ronna Storm, encouraged me to read something when I graduated 8th grade. The idea of speaking in public frightened me but I knew if I didn’t do it then, I may never be able to do it. I’m always pushing and propelling myself forward in live performances and I feel a real sense of immediate accomplishment every time we end a show.
Pro Media Mag : Are you influenced by any particular music genre?
Mark: My musical influences are rock, folk, blues, punk and 80s music, and I was in some musicals when I was younger, The Music Man and Hair. The first bands/albums I was obsessed with were The Beatles/The White Album and The Who/Who’s Next. The Beatles songs Hey Jude, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Let It Be were always favorites of mine, so all these elementals go into Makar’s songwriting. Nick Drake, PJ Harvey, Public Enemy, The Zombies, Cat Stevens, Fats Domino, Van Morrison, Run DMC, Elvis, Chuck Berry, U2, Little Richard, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Cure, The Verve, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Aretha, A-Ha are all musical acts I love and many more so when I write songs on piano all those influences come out as Makar music.
Andrea: We like a lot of different kinds of music and combine different elements deliberately and subconsciously – punk, garage, folk, pop and blues. Indie Rock is a very freeing genre overall. I don’t like to pin us down in any specific genre so if the shoe fits, we’re going to wear the soles out.
Pro Media Mag: What’s you next goal to achieve? Any particular target in mind?
Mark: Well we just released Makar’s first zombie song in honor of The Walking Dead entitled Zombies Have Rights Too. We’re huge fans and sent it into the fan portion of the Talking Dead with Chris Hardwick after watching an episode of Fear the Walking Dead where zombies were viewed as being spirits stuck in purgatory that need guiding to the next world. That they aren’t monsters at all, but still partially human. It mirrored the first episode where Rick feels bad about killing the half zombie woman crawling along the grass. Brought us back to how innocent that time was when we still thought of zombies as having been human once which led to us writing a song about zombie rights. That maybe they have the right to be housed somewhere as wandering spirits, or spirits waiting for the next part of their journey instead of getting their heads split open like cantaloupes by a heavy leaden tool. Besides that little toe tapper and the Fancy Hercules release we’re gearing up for in Fall 2017 we’re always working on new material. I probably shouldn’t talk about this now because we haven’t even finished Fancy Hercules, but we have a side project in the works, a kind of solo album from the band that both Andrea and I are working on. It kind of splits our personalities down the middle as far as the title, and we already have quite a few songs for it. We’ll keep you posted on that one. Not sure how it’s going to pan out.
Andrea: Yeah, the album after Fancy Hercules already has a title: The Balladeer and the Banshee. I’ll let you guess who’s who.
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