File next to: 90’s Canadian Indie-Rock, Flaming Lips, J Mascis, and Lou Barlow.
Playing: Sunday Nov. 2 at the Magpie.
I’m listening to Kurt Marble’s first three songs released under the package, Demonstrative Extended Play, and I’m awash in déjà vu. I can swear I’ve heard this before. Maybe in a half-remembered dream? Maybe in a past life full of over-sized clothing, all-ages shows, and MuchMusic’s The Wedge hosted by Sook-Yin Lee? I begin searching through my old CMJ sampler CDs trying to find that vocal, that guitar tone, that ethereal blend of fuzz and melody that set my teenage soul afloat so long ago. I begin a playlist. I include Spoon, Sebadoh, Blinker the Star, Pure, Nada Surf, Yo La Tengo, classic Flaming Lips, Hum, and Failure — but nothing’s quite right. Kurt Marble is like these things, but he is not these things. The best I can come up with is: Kurt Marble makes music that sounds like you wish the 90’s sounded like. Like a rose-coloured sonic-Instagram filter: modern subject, retro-aesthetic.
You recently released three songs on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Where did these songs come from, are they a part of something bigger?
This December, I’ll be releasing a cassette with six songs that were all written and recorded over the summer up until… I guess up until the deadline of December. With the exception of one of those songs, which was recorded last year.
So these are all relatively new songs then?
Yes. I’ve been writing and recording tidbits of songs since ever, but as of lately some of them have been working out really well. And I’d say one out of three songs I’ve written since the summer is what you’re going to be getting on that cassette. The others are terrible! [Laughter] And will not see the light of day!
What type of musical adventures were you on before this?
I play drums in a band called Tails, which I guess you could say is an indie-pop band. I drum and sometimes write songs with them. They’ve all been very supportive. They’ve helped me record a lot of the songs in our jam space as well. And let me borrow their equipment. And carted me around. They drive me a lot. They’re the nicest!
Growing up in Espanola, Ontario, what type of musical adventures were you on there?
Oh, I was in really crappy power-pop or punk bands in my early teen years. You know, just expressing my feelings towards, I guess getting feelings for the first time. Through power-chords…
More fur, more feelings?
Yeah! And through my changing, squeaking voice, just lettin’ it all out! And then we kind of got a little darker in our senior years, as expected from angsty teens, a little louder and more nonsensical, almost hardcore punk meets screamo… crap. We were so bad. We were so, so bad.
Songwriting wise, the Kurt Marble project, as I’m going to refer to it, seems very informed by the ‘90s. Is that fair?
I guess that’s fair? But that’s not intentional, because in the ‘90s I only listened to, like, skate-punk. I think that’s specifically what I only listened to in the ‘90s. That and Weird Al. And a lot of like the good ‘90s bands that I’ve only recently discovered, I’ve only really heard of in the last ten years or so.
Would you agree to a comparison to early Flaming Lips?
Definitely! Because, I record all of it and that’s half the fun. I would say that’s where I get to be the most creative. With the drumming stuff too, the old David Fridmann style or even the new David Fridmann style of producing drums is so good, so amazing.
Can you expand on Dave Fridmann’s influence?
Dave Fridmann produced a lot of Flaming Lips stuff, and he now produces a lot of more famous acts like, I think he did MGMT’s first one, maybe second album, and then he did the new Tame Impala album. And you know how like fuzzy and loud those drums are. They’re so lo-fi but they stick out. Aw, they’re so good! And from what I’ve read a lot of that has to do with the Flaming Lips. Like he bought old vintage gear and he didn’t know how to use it and he was like, “It just sounds like crap whenever I use it.” But then the band would listen back to it and be like, “It sounds amazing! Do that!” And so then a lot of new artists would come up to him be like, “Can you make our drums sound like that old Flaming Lips album” and what have you. And that’s his whole schtick. I think that’s how he said he got where he is today, by screwing up and people liking it and remembering his mistakes. And so that’s kind of what I’ve been striving for is that sound, of like really loud fuzzy drums. Just ‘cuz for some reason they stick out more. They sound good despite it being a poor quality of sound recording.
[For the record: David Lawrence “Dave” Fridmann is an American record producer and musician. From 1990 onwards he co-produced all releases by Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips (with the exception of Transmissions from the Satellite Heart by the latter). Other bands he has worked with include : Weezer, Saxon Shore, Neon Indian, Wolf Gang, Ammonia, Ed Harcourt, Sparklehorse, Café Tacuba, Elf Power, Mogwai, Thursday, Mass of the Fermenting Dregs, The Delgados, Low, Phantom Planet, Gemma Hayes, Goldrush, Tapes ‘n Tapes, Hopewell, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Number Girl, Jed Davis, Zazen Boys, Sleater-Kinney and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. He has recently worked on new recordings with MGMT, Neil Finn, The Cribs, OK Go, Tame Impala and Spoon. From wikipedia, y’all. You got it all right, Kurt! – ed.]
You wrote the songs and recorded all the instruments yourself for this upcoming release. Can you expand on what type of experience that was? When you were writing the tunes, how did the they take shape? You start writing them with yourself and a guitar I’m assuming?
Pretty much, yeah… I would record mostly just the guitar and vocals at home. Then I’d bring that on an MP3 player or my phone, put on headphones, and record the drums along with that. Then I would usually have to re-track the guitar and vocals and all that after on top of the drums.
So you are tracking free, freely, voice and guitar. Then listening back and tracking drums.
Yes. I think I may have recorded… look at that dog over there.
Oh, he’s pooing.
He’s pooing, but I mean just look at how huge he is.
Yeah he’s a giant dog pooing.
You don’t have to look at the pooing!
No, I’m gonna look! I’m gonna watch this.
You’re watching, this is going to be human-size.
Nope. Nope, just like deer. Just like a little deer.
He must eat a lot of grass, and fiber.
Fiber, yeah. He’s regular. This is totally going in the interview.
Great, can’t wait. Can’t wait! So… I-I-I, where were we… I can’t remember what you asked.
So you recorded all the tunes yourself. Are you fairly satisfied with the result?
I guess I’m surprised at how well it turned out, considering my methods and lack of budget… I’m just, um, yeah I’m very happy with how well it sounds for just home-recorded. I couldn’t be more happy.
And tell me about the sexy babes in your band.
Oh my God, don’t get me started! Scha-wing! I feel bad, I should have invited them to come and say things too. I don’t want them to be saddened that they didn’t get to put in their two-cents. They’ve worked really hard to learn these songs.
[Kurt speaks directly into the recorder addressing the band]
Guys, I couldn’t be more happy with being your friends and seeing your pretty faces all the time.
So please, tell me about the sexy babes. Who are they, how did you meet them, how did you recruit them?
So there’s Steve Kwok — he’s the drummer. He’s a huge part of why this is all happening as well. ‘Cuz I just had these songs and was writing some of them and recording at home for fun. For no other reason, just to maybe share with a friend or two. And then he ran into me at a fast-food restaurant that I used to work at, and he was like, “Hey! You still playing music?” We booked a room at the Rehearsal Factory and jammed-out one day, and it was like, I have to keep writing songs and playing music with this guy. And that’s kind of how this show has come to be.
And then there’s Paul… do you know how to say his last name?
McEachern or McEekern?
From Most People. I just met him at every Wavelength show. He’s the nicest guy. Oh! Because we first met because we played a show together, Tails and Most People. Hit it off right away with those guys because they’re the nicest people… I put out a Facebook message asking people if I could borrow an acoustic guitar ‘cuz I needed to record some, and then he was the first to respond and was very nice. I went over to his place, just to pick it up and then we ended up chatting for like an hour. Same with when I dropped it off, he said “How did it go?” and we chatted for a long time. I think we went out and got ice cream…
And we made a day of it. And that’s when he’s like, “If you’re looking for a guitar player in your band, we should totally do it!,” and so that happened. He’s playing guitar because he asked first. And then the bassist is the lovely Marlena Kaesler. Now I can’t, don’t get me started on how much I love her! She’s my significant other. She’s the best. She’s a really, really good bass player, and we get to practice all the time because I live with her.
How is the band doing at interpreting the material that you’ve recorded or produced solo?
The first practice was scary ‘cuz it was a little all-over-the-map. Didn’t know what was going on. I don’t know if I’m very comfortable in the role of being the “Band Dad.” That’s a term that Jonny Dovercourt taught me. ‘Cuz sometimes you need to be the guy who organizes the practices and says, “Okay enough playing that cover of Lisa Loeb, guys. Let’s get back to work.”
This is just a general question, but have you ever lost your marbles? Literally, figuratively, metaphorically?
Well literally, I’d say no. I have a specific place where I keep my marbles so that they never get lost.
Figuratively, I’ve… so one of my best friends will never go sing karaoke. And I’m a huge fan. So we kind of made a deal that when I would finally cause a scene in public, he would go sing karaoke. So what constitutes a scene is maybe going in a restaurant and yelling really loud at someone, or knocking something over a table. I can’t do it. Right now, I think a big reason why I’m nervous talking to you is because we’re in public. And I asked to be in a park and not inside like a coffee shop is because then everyone would hear this conversation. And, I think we’ve talked enough that you know I’m an extroverted guy. I like chatting with people and talking. But usually in a place where everyone’s talking loudly, or an outdoor event.
Like alone amongst a crowd, right?
Yeah exactly. So I have a really hard time losing my marbles. But on the inside, let me tell ya, I’m going crazy!
You keep your marbles in a very secure space so you never lose them…
Oh wow, you’re really connecting some dots here!
Dude. Bro. Dude.
But I’m working on it. I’ve heard that if you… what’s it called, exposure therapy. You just fake it ‘til you make it sorta scenario. Like if I were to cause a scene, and feel very uncomfortable doing it, it would get better. The next time I would feel more comfortable doing it and sooner or later I would be a perfect asshole. One day. And I’d be happier, but a lot of people around me probably wouldn’t.
Watch Kurt Marble lose his figurative marbles at the band’s live debut, Sunday Nov. 2 at the Magpie, as part of Wavelength #626!
— Interview by Po Karim