An Interview With Marah

My favorite band to see live is Marah, hands down, and they’ll be bringing their high-energy rock n’ roll to IOTA for back-to-back shows on 9/10 and 9/11. They’re currently on tour in support of their album, If You Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry, but, after speaking to lead singer and guitarist Dave Bielanko, it looks like they might have a new record in the works…

So what’s going on with Marah now? I heard you just got back from a studio in Nashville?

It’s pretty interesting what happened. We were working on this project for a film, and then as films do, it got a little delayed…We hadn’t really thought about starting a new Marah record. We hadn’t really written anything, but we had the studio time and we kept it. So we went in and just played and recorded 14 songs that we were just pulling out of everywhere. I’m very, very excited. We didn’t think we’d have a record to follow up If You Didn’t Laugh for quite some time, but suddenly we have like at least half of it done. It came out of nowhere, but the band right now is really, really cool and playing well. Again, it’s all a bunch of first-takers…Nashville is kind of weirdly inspiring in a cool way. We wore cowboy hats. And let it run into our music a little bit. But not too much. In the course of eight days we wrote and recorded a bunch of new songs.

That’s quick! Your current band lineup seems to have really jelled - has finally having a steady lineup given the band a shot in the arm?

Yeah, totally. Suddenly we can record things fast. We can conceptualize things, and those two lads are f*ckin’ badasses (Adam Garbinski on guitars and Dave Petersen on drums). They know how to play and tour. They grew up in punk rock bands, sleeping in their guitar cases and sh*t. You can’t gross ‘em out or make ‘em upset. They’re hard as nails! They’re like pirates, but they play f*ckin’ great. If we do something good, there’s a really good chance we’ll get to keep the take.

If You Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry has a certain live vibe to the record. Do you think these new recordings are similar?

Yeah, I think this is kind of the same thing, except maybe it’s not quite as ragged so far. A little bit more thought out.

Do you have a producer lined up for the album?

No, the thing with a band like us is I couldn’t f*cking dream of affording a producer that I thought could do anything but ruin us. There are great people out there that I’d love to work with, but they cost three hundred f*cking thousand dollars, and I would rather buy a house. It takes corporate dollars, which we do not have. And if we did, I’d probably do something else with them, like go to Atlantic City.

When do you think you’ll finish up the new album?

Now that it’s started, we’ll work on it in every spare moment until it’s done. Hopefully it’ll come out right after the new year.

There are a few brother-based bands out there – in a royal rumble between the Gallaghers (Oasis), the Robinsons (The Black Crowes), and the Bielankos, who do you think would come out on top?

That’s a good one. I think we could waste the Robinsons. The Gallaghers would be tough because Liam’s f*cking out of his head. He would be the tough one. He’d probably bite your throat out. Me and Serge have fought viciously over the years, but we’ve settled down a bit.

Do you and Serge get competitive at times?

I think the competitiveness is what’s really good. We came back from Nashville, and Serge didn’t have any slam-dunk songs written, so he was kind of jealous that maybe mine were pulling out up front. That competitiveness between brothers is what pushes the band to be cool and play hard. We’ve got no problems there. Our problems have been personal in a lot of ways, but we’re making great efforts to grow up and get on anti-depressants…

How do you usually go about the songwriting process? Do you write together, or bring finished ideas over to each other?

We’re writing together right now for the first time in a long time. I think we wrote together a little bit on Kids in Philly. But it’s usually your own thing, or else it’s unfocused. We wait a song is developed enough and has a title, and then we bring it to the other guys.

Do you like to pull song subject matter from real life?

Yeah, I think so. And I think even more so now than ever. And real life also gets very dreamy and obscure at times, too. But I think that we’re pulling from real things that have happened to us and to our friends…In the past we’ve written much about fictitious urban America stuff, and that’s a cool subject, but one that maybe we’ve done enough of at this point in time. I think it’s more important for us to get better about writing about relationships and inner turmoil.

Your music has such an intimate attachment to Philadelphia - How have you adapted to life in Brooklyn?

I’ve been here for 4 years, unbeknownst to people in Philly. It’s cool. I love New York. We toured like 9 months this year, so we’re never home, but it’s a great place to come home to. It’s got an energy and sh*t. You can’t really f*cking be lazy and sit in the coffee shop, which is what I was doing in Philly, or the bar. And like, you have to keep working, because it’s expensive and it’s fast. And that’s really good for us, because laziness in us is bad.

You’ve definitely got a cool stage presence – who do you consider to be some of your influences?

My music has to come f*cking archaic and old. I’m listening to old country-blues guys and Frank Sinatra. Obviously The Velvet Underground and The Replacements or rock ‘n’ roll bands that had a degree of righteousness to ‘em.

You’ve received a lot of critical acclaim, but at this point, do you really care about whether you achieve mainstream success or not?

The thing that scares you to death when you lie in your bed at night is the fact that financially, maybe your band will f*cking run ashore. And you can’t save it, as much as you love the people in it, and you love what comes with it. That’s our only fear.

But where we exist in the world of pop culture, we’re really cool with that. I love the fact that we’re sort of invisible yet very important to certain people. God knows what the future holds. We’re in a cool kind of situation today, because we don’t have records promised to certain companies. We have a lot of flexibility with what we can do…We support ourselves by playing gigs…It’s about f*cking rock ‘n’ roll and having fun on Friday night, and writing good songs and being an artist.

So how’d you get Harry Kalas (the distinctively-voiced Philadelphia Phillies announcer) to record the introduction on Marah’s track, “Rain Delay?”

It was a friend of a friend who was taking photographs for the record. He worked as a sports photographer for either the Vet [Veteran’s Stadium] or the Phillies. He knew him [Harry Kalas] well enough to know that he’d have a whiskey after work at the bar and play games with his voice, and have a sense of humor about it, because his voice is incredible…But we met him [Harry Kalas] and he’s totally cool. We had written several things, and then we picked one. We were like, “Could you read this?” He did it in one take. It was beautiful, and we just high-fived and went our separate ways.

We were trying very much to tie a sense of place into those records. Those first two records were very Philadelphia-centric, and his voice is so Philly. And we couldn’t get Sly Stallone.

*MP3: Demon of White SadnessMarah
*MP3: Freedom Park - Marah
*Marah’s Official Site and MySpace