A Quick Conversation With “MAKAR”
Sntmag recently meet up with a (happily married couple) a famous band Makar and take interview for our readers 🙂
When youndecide it’s time to make a new single or record, is that more exciting or stressful?
Mark: Completely exciting. There was a visual artist who created 12 albums of visual art. They looked like records on the outside but didn’t actually have any music on the inside. It was just the artist’s love for music that made them create these albums. We have that kind of love for making records, but with us you will definitely find music inside. We also love creating the visual art for each album. We’re both shutterbugs and love taking photos of everything and anything. I think if we were major label artists it might be more stressful because of deadlines and large budgets, but as an indie band we can take our time. Make sure the album is exactly how we want it. It’s kind of the luxury of being independent.
Andrea: It’s great to be indie although it would be wonderful to make music, write, take photos full time, instead of squeezing it in the in-between hours. I love recording, but I used to be more fearful of getting things right or experimenting. With this new record, I feel less hesitant to try new things. My mind has opened up and I’m hearing additional guitar parts and harmonies. I heard a lot of strange things for our Halloween single, Zombies Have Rights Too and many of them made it into the recording. Overall, I feel more confident to experiment.
Sometimes, when you’re in a studio that isn’t your DIY one at home (that you fold back into the closet like a magic act when you’re done with that day’s recording), you feel more restrained. At least I do because I stress about the money we’re spending and worry about the judgement of the engineers. Recording can be such an intimate and personal endeavor that anything that intrudes on that seclusion makes me anxious. But every time we finish a record, I feel excited and relieved that it’s out there in the world.
You write all of your own music; where do you draw inspiration from when you write songs and what’s your favorite part about the process?
Mark: At this point, Andrea and I usually come up with songs while rehearsing. We used to start a song individually then work on it collectively. Now it’s the opposite. Usually we cannibalize our own chords coming up with new songs by just noodling around during practice. We just wrote a funny song called Zombies Have Rights Too because we’re huge fans of the Walking Dead. The song came from noodling around with the I, IV, V chords of a song off our debut album, 99 Cent Dreams. As soon as we heard the chords together we knew we had the beginning structure of a song, but had no idea what the lyrics would be. Then Andrea started singing them and it was one of those moments when you look at each other and get goosebumps. That’s the magic of music and why we keep coming back again and again. You don’t even know what you’re going to create until it gets created and at that moment you are as much a fan of the work as the creator.
Andrea: Inspiration can come from anywhere. I find I’m a very visual person so sometimes when I’m walking around the city, I see or misread a street or store sign and that becomes the impetus for a new song. That’s what happened with the title tracks on 99 Cent Dreams and on Fancy Hercules. Both were names of actual stores! My songwriting process can be all over the place. Mark reins me in, focusing my stream of consciousness. I think the hardest way to write a song is to come with some inflexible notion of what you want the song to be. A song always has its own ideas and you have to respect that.
Timeline wise – it’s all over the place. Some songs you can dash off in a rehearsal and it remains basically unchanged when recorded, other songs take a long time to get right. We’re working on this one song now called I Want to Be Loved where the melody came to me in a dream but I couldn’t figure out the chords for them. Months later, Mark came up with a catchy chord progression and I sang the melody over it. But we’re still working on this one since it’s not quite right. Time Flies, another song on our upcoming album Fancy Hercules, was the first song MAKAR ever wrote but the final tweaking in the writing didn’t happen until this album, over a decade in the making.
Currently to jumpstart my creative juices, I find myself flipping through D&D monster manuals, not sure if any of those creatures will make their way into future songs but who knows?
What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town?
Mark: My earliest and fondest musical memory is being in the marching band in an elementary school production of The Music Man. I had some lines in the play, but I also got to march down the aisle of the theater with a French horn, which was just a prop because I couldn’t play anything besides a recorder, but still, the feeling of being part of this musical band and the sound coming out of the speakers and really feeling like we were making this incredible music just floored me. It felt like the coolest thing on the planet, which music is. A kind of Sgt. Pepper Beatle moment with Mr. Kite and the band beginning to play. From that moment on I was hooked.
Andrea: One of my fondest childhood memories was playing and singing the Beatles’ Paperback Writer for my guitar teacher Walt when I was in the seventh grade. I had never sang in front of anyone before so it was nerve-wracking, the cracks in my shyness started then.
I am still proud and amazed of us playing our very first live gig in 2002 at the Green Lounge in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Leftfield on Ludlow – playing Fancy Hercules songs for the first time. The entire album. We had never done that before.
How do you balance your music with other obligations in life? How does it get effected if so?
Mark: Andrea and I try to live a balanced life. We love making music, but we also have other interests and obligations. Andrea is working on her debut novel, Pushed, and she is also a published short story writer and poet. I’m working on my own debut novel called Little Owen Way, a coming of age story that takes place on Martha’s Vineyard. So we try to do all the things we’re interested in while at the same time handling all the duties and responsibilities that come with being in a band. Being an indie musician you wear every hat that a label would divide among an army of staff members, but recently we’ve had huge helping hands from our publicist, Melissa Nastasi at City Bird Publicity, and our radio promoter, Peter Hays of Twin Vision, which has allowed us to focus more on our music. But there’s always the obligation of working day jobs, which we’ve done since graduating college to fund our music and put food on the table. Just last night we got home at 6 p.m., ate dinner and jetted off to rehearsal with our new drummer, Livia from the End Men, to work on her drum parts for our next album, Fancy Hercules. So on a daily/weekly basis we find ourselves juggling time and energy and trying to make it all work. I think at the end of the day, because there are two of us and we can split the work load for Makar it’s much easier than if we were solo singer-songwriters. It’s very encouraging to have a partner, especially, in our case a spouse to be a part of the whole band process. It becomes less overwhelming, though it is still very overwhelming. There are things I hate doing that Andrea loves to do and vice versa, which is wonderful. If anything, all outside obligations like work make our time spent writing and performing music more precious. We cherish the time we get to spend together making music and following our dreams and feel very lucky to be able to do it. Andrea writes a lot of songs, like Belong Here, that encourage her to keep creating and they wind up encouraging us all the time, even during live performances when a lyric will just connect with us. Recently the whole Trump nightmare has brought our song America Where Are You into sharper focus. We wrote that during the dark days of GW’s presidency but it’s even more relevant now considering that Trump is even crazier and trying even harder to destroy the soul of America.
Andrea: It is difficult to balance things especially when you’re indie and unsigned. It’s an immense help and peace of mind to have City Bird Publicity on our team. There’s so much administrative and social media stuff that every indie musician has to handle today whether they are signed or not. Sometimes, it makes me feel, if I can’t get to something or I slack, that I’m directly responsible for whether or not we’re “making it”. That need to be “making it” can quickly become very toxic and unrewarding. The constant feeling that you’re not doing enough to “make it” is draining and undermining.
Additionally, the 9 to 5 jobs I have had are continually trying to push your boundaries and encroach on your personal time. It doesn’t matter how many times you say no, they still someday expect you to say yes to being connected all the time, but so far I’ve resisted and will continue to do so.
What is your favorite song to sing live?
Mark: It’s a toss-up between Devil in a Dream Part II from our upcoming album, Fancy Hercules, and Damion Day from our debut album, 99 Cent Dreams. Funny enough, I don’t play keys on either song. I just get to sing, ha! But both are fun songs and challenging in different ways. Devil in a Dream is a dark bluesy number where I’m trying to play down my fear of the Devil. Trying to convince myself that it don’t mean a goddamn thing that I saw him in a dream and at the same time wondering if it isn’t just a sign for me to put my sins behind me and start over, and if that’s even possible. The song asks the eternal question of whether we can be forgiven for our sins or if the weight of some sins are just unforgivable. Love the atmosphere of the story and Andrea’s guitar playing. Damion Day is just a song that we always used to finish our live sets with because it gets faster and faster and at the end is just an all-out, give it everything we’ve got number where I get to belt out a huge note and try to hold it as long as I can. If you watch our set at Freddy’s Backroom or Knitting Factory on YouTube you’ll see what I mean. The crowd usually goes crazy over that one and I get to scream like a madman which is really fun to do as a singer.
Andrea: I do love playing Devil in a Dream Part II and Damion Day. Sometimes I play Damion Day a little too fast. I like to see if Mark can keep up. You can often catch me saying “not too fast” to myself before playing that song (and others). I also really enjoy playing The Monkey live although one time on the beginning power chords while we were all sick with a cold, I knocked a mic into Mark’s head but he kept singing. The power of cold medication and concentration! But honestly, nothing makes me feel better than playing and singing I Hate My Job. It always revs me up and someday I hope the audience will sing the chorus – “I hate you” back to us.
Do you have any events coming up or recording going on right now aside from your newest single “America Where Are You?”
Mark: We’re currently recording our third album, Fancy Hercules, which is a 14 song album consisting of Makar’s usual poet, pop, folk, rock, blues, punk mix of sounds, but which 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 and a reworking of Devil in a Dream from our second album, Funeral Genius. There are also very strange horror film/Mars attacks type chords and an examination of the myth of Hercules and how he slaughtered his entire family as our title track. And we sing about the devil a lot. Good times! We’re also going to start doing weekly live shows on Stageit starting Monday, March 6th at 7:30 p.m. We’re calling them Makar Mondays because we’re going to be playing 20 minute sets to lift people’s spirit on the worst day of the week. We’ll be running through our entire catalog which should take about 9 weeks culminating with a final set where we play our Zombie song possibly in zombie makeup. We’re pretty excited about it.
Andrea: This new album feels even more personal than our last two. The older I get the more comfortable I get with vulnerability. Although with the majority of songs that I originate, there’s always this message to myself in the lyrics to keep on keeping on. The most personal song on this upcoming album for me has to be I’m Glad. It’s basically about my joy and relief that my mom recovered from a brain tumor that was undiagnosed for a decade.
At what age did you start singing and what inspired you?
Mark: I started singing in elementary school in an all-boys choir. We would perform in front of the entire school and also sing Christmas carols for holiday shoppers at Lord & Taylors, a major department store on 5th avenue in New York. Forget about getting away from the droning Christmas music over the PA. You had a live choir right in the middle of the store going for it in all our pre-pubescent soprano glory. My first music teacher, Mrs. Smith inspired me to start singing one day when we were in music class. She had us working on a new song and said “Mark, you have a lovely voice. Have you ever thought of singing in the choir?” She also said she was impressed with my ability to find the pitch in the song she had just presented to the class. She was a sweet woman. I miss her to this day, but she was the first person who inspired my love of music and believed that I had musical talent. I don’t think I’d be doing music today if it weren’t for her and her belief in me.
Andrea: The first time I remember singing in public was for my guitar teacher Walt in the seventh grade. I sang Paperback Writer and my singing voice came out higher than I imagined it to be. It was quite a few years (and stumbles) later that I sang in public again because I was a very shy person and was afraid to try something new. Mark is who ultimately inspired me to sing and write songs with him and be less afraid of going for impossible dreams.
How easily do songs tend to come to you?
Mark: Writing songs is a lot of fun. Andrea and I love writing in general, and it’s especially fun when we write songs together and are riffing off each other musically and lyrically. So I guess my answer would be, writing songs comes pretty easily for us, but finishing a song to where we’re happy with it is hard work. We love crafting the music and lyrics. We love revising and figuring out where parts should go and what the song means and if the lyrics really communicate that. So that makes it easier. If you love the craft of songwriting or the craft of doing anything it makes the process more enjoyable. We love watching any show that has people crafting something, whether it be food on Top Chef or refinishing houses or designing clothes on Project Runway. We love people who create art and are heavily invested in their craft. We love honing something to our own personal sense of perfection. Once we have a song in its final form it just feels so good to say we’re done.
Andrea: For me once I get into the whirlwind of songwriting, it flows pretty easily. But sometimes it seems overwhelming to begin writing a new song. If a new song comes organically from rehearsal, it’s a much more natural progression. But sitting down and saying I’m going to write a new song today feels contrived and stressful to me. That being said, once I sit down and start strumming on the guitar with an idea in my head, ideas start to coalesce and come to fruition.
If you had a soundtrack to your life what song/songs would have to be on it?
Mark: Hey Jude and Behind Blue Eyes would start me off as a kid heavily influenced by the Beatles and The Who. Tainted Love, Charlotte Sometimes, Love Will Tear Us Apart, Enjoy the Silence, Small Town Boy, It Takes Two, The Song Remains the Same and One Tree Hill would sum up my high school years. Break On Through, No Quarter, Behind the Wall, Biko and Where The Streets Have No Name would typify my college experience. And from then till now it would definitely have to be…I Hate My Job.
Andrea: As a child, there was no greater influence on me than the Beatles and their animated fantastical Yellow Submarine. So any soundtrack to my life would have to begin with “In the town where I was born,” from the title track. So in a mostly chronological order of influence on me, here they are –
The Yellow Submarine – The Beatles
Puff the Magic Dragon – Peter, Paul and Mary
Paperback Writer – The Beatles
Lean on Me – Bill Withers (although I first heard the cover by Club Nouveau)
Sitting on the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding
Band on the Run – Wings
Goody Two Shoes – Adam Ant
Love is a Stranger – Eurythmics
Think – Aretha Franklin
It’s the end of the world – REM
Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2
Invisible Sun – The Police
Looking Glass – The La’s
She’s Not There – The Zombies
Piece of My Heart – Janis Joplin
The End – The Doors
6’1 – Liz Phair
Monkey Gone to Heaven – The Pixies
Sadly Beautiful – The Replacements
Secret – Madonna
Kiss Them for Me – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Hedgehog – Luna
The Last Day of Our Acquaintance – Sinéad O’Connor
Groove is in the heart – Deee-Lite
Dance to the Music – Sly & Family Stone
My City was Gone – The Pretenders
The Time Warp – Rocky Horror Picture Show
Anarchy in the U.K – Sex Pistols
The Time of Your Life – Greenday
Know Your Rights – The Clash
Overcome – Tricky
Needle in the Camel’s Eye – Brian Eno
Bye Bye Love – The Cars
Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago – Soul Coughing
Hi It’s Been a Long Time – Donovan
One Headlight – The Wallflowers
There’s More to Life Than This – Bjork
Don’t Look Back in Anger – Oasis
Love and Happiness – Al Green
Beginning to See the Light – The Velvet Underground
You know you’re right – Nirvana
Eleanor put your boots back on – Franz Ferdinand
The Fox – Sleater-Kinney
Jigsaw Puzzle – The Rolling Stones
Everybody’s Changing – Keane
Cherry Bomb – The Runaways
Gloria – Patti Smith
Short Skirt, Long Jacket – Cake
Common People – Pulp
Heroes – David Bowie
Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols
Rip Her to Shreds – Blondie
L.E.S. Artistes – Santigold
Fading into Obscurity – Sloan
No Expectations – The Rolling Stones
Electioneering – Radiohead
Dreaming – Blondie
To Go Home – M. Ward
The Underdog – Spoon
I went a little overboard here but when I think of the songs that meant something to me and illustrate how I was feeling and what I was going through at the time. This is a condensed list.
For our readers who have never heard your music, explain your sound in 5 words?
Mark: Poet, pop, folk, rock, blues, punk
Andrea: Indie Rock, Punk and Poet dance together! (oops that’s 7 words)