“We wanted to be able to just take our time with what we were doing and not feel like we had to rush through anything. Because, you know, that’s when things get hard (laughs). As long as we take our time we’ll figure out who we are in the process, and I think it’s been working so far.”
Soon after the dissolution of their former group, Kids These Days, keyboardist Macie Stewart, guitarist Liam Cunningham and bassist Lane Beckstrom started a new band with drummer Matt Carroll. Writing and recording under the name Marrow, the Chicago based musicians have been busy helming their debut full-length album, The Gold Standard, in-between various individual projects. For Stewart, time away from the band meant touring with Chance the Rapper and forming Homme with fellow songwriter, Sima Cunningham. Speaking to Pancakes and Whiskey in mid-April, Stewart spoke candidly about how her previous work with Kids These Days lead to the formation of Marrow, and how growing up around music has made her the musician she is today.
“My mom’s a professional musician in Chicago. When she was younger she played around the world. She played on cruise ships and stuff…pretty awesome (laughs). But yeah, she’s been playing her whole life. My dad is a music enthusiast, although I’m sure if he tried to pick up an instrument he’d be really good at it. He used to build synths and keyboards and stuff, just for fun. And he has introduced me to a lot of awesome records that I probably would not have listened to otherwise.”
Beginning piano at age three and violin at four, Stewart mainly played classical music until she was eleven or twelve. Heavily influenced by the music she was hearing at home, she was introduced to a slew of various artists and records that have stayed with her to this day.
“Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Brian Eno. There’s this record called Evening Star and another one called No Pussyfooting which is Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. Robert Fripp is from King Crimson and it’s basically just an awesome record of soundscapes and really great guitar tones and synth tones, and I don’t know if I would have found that if it weren’t for my dad. He was really big into prog rock and classic rock, too. So he has all the Zeppelin records and stuff like that. But I have distinct memories of being like eight on road trips with my dad and him playing Kate Bush and me really hating it (laughs). But you know, that’s because I was eight and now I’m like, “That was a great thing to be exposed to at such a young age.” Although Stewart does acknowledge how growing up around different kinds of music is what has probably made moving across genres feel so natural.
“If you just stick to listening to one type of thing, you’re not really going to be able to branch out so easily, because you’re not used to that kind of music. I think by doing so many different things I’ve broadened my horizons a lot. And yeah, it definitely makes it easier. I don’t even realize when I’m doing something that crosses…I think everybody crosses genres now. It’s impossible to remain within one genre anymore just because music has been happening and has been being recorded for decades, you know? You have to combine and branch out to make something new.”
Incorporating elements of rock, blues, soul and hip hop, the eight-piece band Kids These Days set out to make something new, earning the then-teenagers national recognition which lead to the group’s subsequent appearances at the Coachella, Lollapalooza and Firefly Music Festivals. And while they only recorded one album during their time together, 2012’s Traphouse Rock, having Jeff Tweedy produce the record had a profound effect on the way Stewart approached making music.
“He really changed how I thought about making a record. He spent a lot of time figuring out sounds and ripping apart things and putting them back together, like ripping apart the structure of a song and putting it back together in a new way. It was really great working with him. His studio, the Loft, is fantastic. There’s so much awesome equipment in there. And Liam’s been touring with his band, Tweedy, for the last couple months.” Although more than anything, Stewart, Cunningham and Beckstrom’s time in the group inspired them to explore new avenues by shifting their attention to songwriting.
“I remember after Kids These Days ended, Liam called me and he was like, “I still really want to make music with you and Lane.” The hard thing with that…I enjoy writing music and songwriting and crafting a whole song that could then be played, and Liam liked doing that, too. But it was very hard when there’s horns and there’s also a rapper…it couldn’t possibly be the way everybody wanted it to go. So Liam wanted to start a band where the songwriting was the main focus and the songs were the main focus of the band. And I was like, “Let’s do it, let’s try it…” And so far it’s been going really well.”
“When you have so many people, it gets chaotic quickly because there’s simply so much volume in the room. I feel like there’s a lot more room to move around with this band. And I also have been wanting to branch out into different synths and stuff and bring in me playing guitar. And I feel like with less people, there’s just more room for exploration for each individual musician.”
When asked how they arrived at a name, Stewart laughed before stating, “First of all, we thought it sounded cool (laughs). It looked nice written down, but Marrow like bone marrow- it’s at the core of your bones, the core of your body. And that meant something to us. In a way, I guess it was more symbolic than anything. And there’s also, this is like the more embarrassing answer, but one of my favorite songs by St. Vincent is called “Marrow.” And so that’s just like a little side reason (laughs).”
The Gold Standard will be Marrow’s second release following their 2013 EP, Two. Premiering online a few days ago, The Gold Standard’s lead single “Paulson,” is indicative of a strong rock and roll influence, sharper edged and harder hitting than the dreamy, folk-blues feel of the EP tracks, “She Chose You,” and “Mother of Maladies.” Although as Stewart explained, the song provides its listeners with the opportunity to uncover another facet of the band’s personality.
“We wanted to release “Paulson,” because it was the most up-tempo, and song-y of the record (laughs). We thought it would be fun to show a more rock side to our band because it’s a huge component. And with releasing just “She Chose You” and “Mother of Maladies,” they’re a little bit softer. We wanted something that had a little bit more edge to it.”
Stay Tuned for The Gold Standard’s Release Date and
Don’t Miss Marrow at Milkboy in Philadelphia on 4/21
And at the Studio at Webster Hall in New York on 4/22
Article by: Caitlin Phillips