Jonesing for a dynamic guy/girl duo to add to your music repertoire? Look no further music lovers. Not only is this duo talented musically, they are after this music fiend’s own heart considering that the members are writers aside from their songwriting, Andrea is even a published poet. They are quite out of the ordinary as you will find in listening to their tunes, and their range is broad which offers ear solace to any kind of music lover. Badass Band 47 is New York’s MAKAR.
MAKAR is another band that found me, and once their tunes hit my ears, I had a hard time deciding which of them I liked best. It was almost as if I went into super ADD mode, I was clicking on all their tracks trying to decide which I liked best right off the bat and they were all so different I couldn’t settle on one. I ended up forcing myself to just download them all and listen to them in order from start to finish. So, that being said, let’s start by talking about the vocals. Andrea’s vocals I can really only describe as light and refreshing. They have power, but not in the traditional sense, in the sense that they are so soft and singsongy that you just can help but listen. For me this is especially exemplified on songs like ‘I Wanna Know What I Don’t Know’ or ‘Belong Here’ As for Mark, his voice is deep but also keeps the more light, singsongy quality that Andrea’s has. His voice almost reminds me of vocals that were more prevalent in 50’s tunes. A great example of this would be on the track ‘Show Me That Look in Your Eyes’. Their voices seem to be the male and female counterparts of each other, and they combine gloriously.
Music and lyrics wise, MAKAR is a band that you won’t be bored of. I remember thinking they we probably just going to be a folksy band, but they can’t be categorized. They have slower folksy tunes, upbeat 50’s style tunes, old school Southern country type songs (Think O Brother Where Art Thou) and even some that lean towards punk. They describe themselves a guitar and piano driven indie-rock band that makes Punk and Poet rejoice and dance together. That sounds pretty damn accurate to me. Lyrically, their songs are beautiful. Their topics are broad, ranging from dark to humorous, love to hate, social commentary, etc. Again their versatility musically and lyrically is their strong suit.
This is definitely a band you want to listen to. Mark and Andrea were kind enough to talk with BBB and below you will find the answers to your burning questions about MAKAR like: What does the name mean? How does their creative process work? Why do they think I should listen to them? What are their ‘day jobs’? Etc. So read on music lovers, and be dazzled by this radical musical duo.
When and why did each of you start playing?
Mark: My first memory of playing an instrument is probably the same as everyone else’s, a brown recorder in elementary school. But God was that thing magical to me. Then I sang for my all boy school’s choir and we would sing at stores like Lord & Taylors during Christmas time. I played a fake French horn in a school production of the Music Man as a kid. We marched down the aisle of the theater past the people to the stage fake playing our instruments and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever done, but it wasn’t until High School that I started taking lessons; first guitar, then piano, then voice. I found learning an instrument pretty boring unless I was playing the blues and being able to improvise around a scale. That was the fun part. But learning scales, chords and music theory put me to sleep. I minored in music in college and really focused on my singing and a little bit more on my piano playing. It wasn’t until I was writing songs that I became more interested in becoming a better piano player, which I still need to become. It’s a long journey, but each breakthrough allows me to express my musical ideas more fully, more maturely. How each musician gets to the point of musical mastery is totally individual, a lifelong pursuit.
Andrea: Sorry Mark. The recorder was never magical to me. I was like how can I stop making this thing sound worse?!
I started playing guitar because my older brother started taking lessons and I wanted to learn. At nine years old, he was already writing songs and it was magical to see and hear his long fingers work out melodies that didn’t exist before. I still remember one of his songs. It was about running away, of course, because don’t all kids want to run away?
This wanting to do what your older sibling is doing is pretty common. However, it all turned pretty gothic. My older brother Chris’ first guitar teacher was this nice hippyish guy in town. Sadly he was going through a severe depression and hung himself.
I remember my dad and us driving into our small Americana town as usual parking near the barbershop, Chris getting out with his cardboard guitar case and trotting up the stone path to the door. He rang the bell but no one answered. Chris returned to the Avanti and my father got out and tried the door, knocking. Nothing. It was several days later that we heard Chris’ teacher took his own life. It’s unbelievable to this day, that my parents told me what happened.
“He hated his father so much that he hung himself.” That’s what my dad said. I don’t know if he said it right after it happened or years later but it became some kind of mantra. Timing memory always seems to get compressed.
Understandably, my first guitar lesson didn’t come until over a year later.
Our new teacher, Rocco, was a forty minute car drive away – an eternity for kids. Rocco was an elderly classical guitarist and even as a little kid, I knew that children weren’t his first choice as students or at least I wasn’t, being one of the least malleable and disciplined students he’d ever had. He wanted me to learn to play like Django Reinhardt but I just wanted to learn how to play the Yellow Submarine. Out of the two of use, Rocco preferred Chris, his lesson was always first, which was painful if you had to pee since you had to go through the lesson room to get to the bathroom and you weren’t allowed to interrupt a lesson in process. My bladder hurts just thinking about it.
Rocco also had the largest naivety scene I’d ever seen, circling the perimeter of the lesson room like a toy train set. He had everyone ever mentioned in the Bible in the miniature menacing figurine form. It was both creepy and fascinating. So music has always held a bit of darkness for me.
Rocco wasn’t a well man, perhaps due to the fact he lived near a sewage processing plant. He frequently coughed into a blood-splattered handkerchief especially when he was angry and I tended to piss him off quite often.
I didn’t last that long with Rocco, my parents eventually found much more suitable guitar teachers for us a year or so later, but by then I had lost interest in practicing. My guitar often sat in the hallway for a week and half before my bi-monthly lesson even though this new guitar teacher, Walt, promised me he’d teach all the Beatles songs I wanted to learn. My earlier experiences had muted my desire so at twelve I gave up playing. I always regretted it, but it wasn’t until Mark that I was persuaded to take my guitar out of the close and play it again and for that I’m forever thankful.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How does that differ from what you listen to now?
Mark: I remember my friend Marcus Cederquist introducing me to The Who in the third grade and being completely obsessed with Who’s Next. What an amazing album. I remember playing it on a hand held cassette player during a car ride with the family and my sister’s friend Stephanie, who I had a little crush on and was trying to impress with my musical taste. The Who’s music is so powerful. And of course the Beatles, especially Hey Jude, which always reminds me of my childhood best friend Ali Theodore who went on to become a rap artist. His mother, Lee Theodore, was the dance choreographer for the American Dance Machine and I remember her always playing the Beatles whenever I was hanging out with Ali at their house. The White Album was my favorite.
Now I listen to everything and anything, mainly because Andrea opened my mind to how great current music is. I was a bit of a classic rock snob, not thinking anything could be better or comparable, which is ironic because I make current music and also loved many 80s bands, but there is so much wonderful music being made every day. So many great bands. I put my IPod on shuffle and just let it take me on whatever magical musical journey it wants.
Andrea: I try to listen to everything but songs that tend to become engraved in my mind are the most Beatlesque sounding ones of any artist’s work. It’s just how I am. I don’t even realize it until someone points out – “Oh you’re fixated on Radiohead’s Electioneering because it sounds like the Beatles underneath all that crunch-crunch.” It’s that ingrained in me.
Which musicians do you admire? Why?
Mark: Robert Johnson for loving music so much he’d make a pact with the Devil to be able to play it better than anybody ever could, Jaco Pastorius for his musical genius and gifts, making even the great Jimmy Page nervous to play with him, the Beatles for telling the world all we need is love, war is over, and to Imagine a world free of bullshit, Led Zeppelin and the Who for being incredible musicians, The Doors for creating dark myths and a uniquely carnivalesque American sound, Elvis for being like nobody before or after him, just a hunka hunka burnin’ love, Jimmy and Janis for showing everyone how far you can take your musical ideas and push the envelope, U2 for their anthems, energy and light, Pulp for giving us Jarvis Cocker, Common People and his dodgy dancing, Radiohead and Nirvana for creating incredibly catchy commercial songs then having the balls to take a turn into something more profoundly and deeply musical, Nick Drake for his infinitely listenable melancholy, Ani DiFranco for being a kick ass indie artist way before the current movement and kicking Major label’s asses, and finally every musician who’s had the balls to put their music out there, follow their dreams and suffer for their art because they love playing music and can’t stop. Because it really is a long way to the top if you want to rock ‘n roll!
Andrea: Mark, do you really believe Robert Johnson made a pact with the devil? I think the jury’s still out on that one.
My earliest musical heroes were The Beatles. As a kid, The Yellow Submarine would intermittently play on TV. My brothers and I could never catch the whole thing until one day, we managed to tape it. We must have watched that movie ten times in five days. Our grandmother was ready to kill us since she had the only VHS player in the house. That was when I needed to know every song the Beatles ever did. It’s funny that Mark brings up The White Album because that album always scared me. I suppose it was because I didn’t understand the references – the sexual ones (like Happiness is a Warm Gun) and the anger that seemed to be pinned under the melodies. And the Beatles were so angry on this record. Helter Skelter, Yer Blues, I’m So Tired even Birthday has always seemed menacing to me, the way they scream-sing – Dance! And Revolution 9 was just freaky to my preteen self. I was simultaneously fascinated and disturbed by The White Album. It was a record that I was careful not to listen to when my folks were around. Someone said to me a long time ago that still rings in my memory, “I only liked the Beatles when they were young and happy.” It was such an honest annihilation of the different aspects of the Beatles as people that it always stayed with me, that someone felt it was perfectly okay to make this assessment, this censorship.
Of course, now I love the flare-ups of uncontrolled emotion in music. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it?
There are so many individual idols but if I were to pick one, it would be Paul McCartney. It’s funny most people are shocked when I say that. But they don’t really know me or understand Paul McCartney. His unrelenting spirit is what makes him eternally compelling. He loves to perform and to write new songs. He is still going at seventy. I fell in love with his yips, yells and howls. One of my favorite parts in any song are all those ad libs, all that grit.
Paul McCartney said in a recent Rolling Stone article – “You get the argument ‘Make way for the young kids.’ And you think, ‘Fuck that, let them make way for themselves If they’re better than me, they’ll beat me.’”
What is the significance of the name MAKAR?
Mark: Makar means Poet in 15th century Scottish. The Makars of yore helped keep the literary tradition alive during the Dark Ages while Makars of today apply the poems of Mark and Andrea to song, keeping the indie rock flame and poetry alive in lyric and musical form. Also, Andrea is a published poet and short story writer working on finishing her first novel, so there’s that angle and some people think it’s an anagram of my name. But it was arrived at by Andrea thumbing through the dictionary, seeing the word and loving it!
Andrea: I still think Mark likes it so much because it has all the letters of his name.
Describe your show visually & musically for those who have never been.
Funny you should ask. We just played a show last night at Local 269 down on Suffolk Street in the East Village put on by Unregular Radio, a radio station out of Boston, and musically we razed the place down to its foundation. We’re just a two piece acoustic folk punk rock duo, but some kind of alchemy happens when we play. The energy is high and people expecting something quieter get a wave of energy and sound coming at them that they didn’t expect. Our songs and sets usually have all kinds of tempos in them so you’re never getting hit over the head by a one note show that’s more like Chinese water torture than a varied musical experience. There’s always a strong dynamic to any of our songs or live sets.
How does your creative process typically work?
We’ll either write a song based on a already written poem or create the song structure through chord progressions adding the words later as the music affects us. We work on every song together, but the kernel of the song usually starts with one of us.
What do you think you biggest break or greatest opportunity has been in your career so far?
Being named one of the top 300 best NYC bands by Deli Magazine along with Lana Del Rey, Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Santigold, Rufus Wainwright, Julian Casablancs and 293 other groovy artists. That pretty much floored us. Our publicist, Gina Sigilito of Ginaraq PR, was like you’re ahead of some huge bands on that Deli list and we were just like holy shit, how the fuck did that happen! But Funeral Genius is getting a ton of airplay, great reviews and some serious attention. The reaction has been overwhelming so far!
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
The biggest challenge for us, like so many other musicians, is trying to make a living at music. Trying to get that big break that puts you on the map, like a Letterman or SNL spot or having our songs in a movie or on TV. The money is all gone so making a living at music is next to impossible unless you play covers. They say only the top 1% of original recording artists makes a living and out of that 1% only the top 1% make significant money. The average full time working musician makes $35,000/year and that’s on average. Plenty of people making much less and having no health insurance and with people not paying for CDs there’s no money whatsoever. Touring can’t sustain 99% of musicians so with CD revenue gone it’s pretty much a labor of love and yeah you know we loves it. So yeah, making a living at music has been our biggest challenge.
Andrea: Stage fright.
What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you in the coming year?
Right now we have about 50 songs that we’re working on. They’re in various stages of completion, some fully fleshed out, some just a few chords strung together that we really like the sound of. So far we have a very bluesy vibe to this next album. Devil in a Dream from our latest album Funeral Genius is getting a full makeover, and is barely recognizable from the original album cut, which was really just a bonus track, an extra treat for listeners.
Why should people listen to your band? What makes you unique? If your band had a slogan, what would it be?
We actually do have a slogan which is: Makar, a guitar and piano driven indie-rock band that makes Punk and Poet rejoice and dance together. People should listen to Makar because we make songs from the head and heart. There is humor, drama, social commentary, love, hate, everything in the human psyche that we express and it’s all coming from a real place. In the past one of the comments we’ve gotten is that we’re a real sounding band with real emotions and yes that’s true. We play around, we get serious, we have fun, we use our brains. It’s all in there and it’s all real. Crafted with love and blood, pain and joy, but more than anything we make songs that are immensely listenable. We don’t want you to be bored listening because we don’t want to be bored playing. Boring music sucks and you won’t find that on a Makar album or at a live show. We promise. Last show friend’s said they thought the people watching were mesmerized by us or on drugs or both. Transcendence is where it’s at musically and that’s where we want to be and take our listeners.
If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
I wish the music industry had better A&R and developed more bands. Kid Rock had sold 100,000 albums before he was signed to a deal and that’s just an unnecessarily high number to have to sell before someone realizes, hey, this guy’s got some talent. Maybe we should market him. Umm, ya think? Hey everyone passed on the Beatles except for George Martin, and even he was sold more on their personalities than their music (of the best band of songwriters ever! Ever!), so yeah, I wish the music industry had better taste and talent hunters. Lord knows how many amazing bands pre-internet we never got to hear from because they lay undiscovered out there. Sends shivers down my spine. They say the cream rises to the top but most times it doesn’t. You need someone to go out and bring the cream up to the surface. There are people who are good at marketing, have strong personalities etc, and they make it, great. But that doesn’t mean they’re the best musicians. Plenty of amazing musicians are shy, quiet, not interested in being carnival barkers and they are going to slip through the cracks. That’s really sad. And finally with the ability to market your stuff all over the internet without even having to play a live show these quieter, less ostentatious artists have a shot at being heard and making a living, but then no one is buying CDs so they get fucked again. It’s a sad cycle, but in the end you have to be in it for the love because making a living at music is next to impossible. The guys making money today are not the labels or the artists, but the people who create sites that people rip music from freely. They’re the guys who are getting rich off the artist’s backs today without compensating the artists.
One song you never get tired of.
Mark: Where the Streets Have No Name
Andrea: So many but right now – Gloria by Patti Smith.
What is the best live show you have ever gone to?
Mark: PJ Harvey at the Beacon, U2 at the Garden
Andrea: Pulp at Radio City Music Hall
Favorite things to do NOT musically related.
Mark: Going to art galleries and museums, running around the reservoir, creative writing (working on my first novel), hanging with friends, movies, exploring new areas of New York, eating out at restaurants, seeing plays, going to readings.
Andrea: Everything Mark said including photography and dancing.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
Mark: The Crow
What kind of jobs did you have before (or currently) you were in the music industry?
Mark: Currently working as an admin assistant in a law firm to pay the bills
Andrea: Same – we work in the same place actually – just down the hall, two cubicles away.
If you ran Badass Bands Blog, what is one band you would feature? (Exempting yourselves of course.)
You guys should feature The Battles of Winter out of the UK. They’re working on a new release that is sure to blow peoples’ minds.
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