Hey there, good afternoon, and welcome to the Phile for a Monday. What's up? A Mexican flag on top of Trump Tower is up. Haha. On Saturday, construction worker and Mexican-Canadian Diego Reyna posted a photo of himself on Facebook sitting beside a Mexican flag on top of Vancouver's Trump Tower. According to the post, Reyna placed the flag on the tower (still under construction) because he was fed up with The Donald's relentless insults about Mexicans since his candidacy began. "I put a Mexican flag on the roof of the Trump Tower in Vancouver, just to show that he is benefiting from us and that we are working hard on his projects and that we are not all criminals," wrote Reyna. Unsurprisingly, the flag was taken down this past Sunday morning. But still standing is Reyna's post, in which he pleads with people to "PLEASE HELP ME SHARE THIS MESSAGE SO IT CAN GET TO MR TRUMP'S NEWS FEED, THANKS!!!" Perhaps he wants to see Trump's face turn from bright orange to fiery red. There's no word on whether the photo caught Trump's attention, but the construction worker's gloriously defiant photo garnered over 2,000 shares. "Look at that building, look how beautiful it is... and that is a result of a coordination of all the ethnic groups in Canada," Reyna told CBC News. "I've seen every race and every religion working in that building." According to the CBC, Holborn Group, which owns the Trump building, would not comment on Reyna's stunt.
Benedict Cumberbatch was in New York on Sunday filming the Marvel movie Dr. Strange, so he stopped by JHU Comic Books in full costume. This was greatly pleasing to fans of the comic book character and upcoming film. It also meant that a few unsuspecting nerds browsing the store had the best Sunday of their lives. Notably absent from the comic book store were so-called "Cumberbitches," female fans who are obsessed with the actor. Perhaps they will now start stalking New York comic book stores for a chance to bump into the legend himself. By the way, I've been to JHU Comic Books.. it's a pretty cool store.
The Fit4Less gym location in Long Eaton, England has been getting much more publicity than it intended due to a billboard featuring a nice-looking alien and a bit of fat-shaming, according to the "Daily Star." "They're coming... and when they arrive they'll take the FAT ones first," the poster reads. Natalie Harvey, founder of Combat Bullying, has trouble seeing the humor in the ad. Forty-four-year-old truck driver Gary Turner told the "Daily Star" that the ad was "a classic example of fat-shaming" that made him feel "a bit self-conscious. "It is just embarrassing that a big company like that has to resort to the kind of childish bullying humor you would get in a playground," he said. Jan Spaticchia the head of Fit4Less's parent company, said that ad was "harmles fun" and has been "very successful." "We don't take ourselves too seriously," he said. "There is such a thing as being overweight and healthy, not everyone has to be skinny." No one, it seems, has any interest in alien abduction and chose to read the advertisement as a massive compliment, or incentive to gain weight. Here's the billboard by the way...
Police in Citrus Heights, California, recently released a sketch of a serial peeper wanted in connection with a sexual assault investigation. Since January, police have received at least nine reports of a suspicious man seen lurking around apartment complexes, looking into windows at women. The suspect has not been caught. But police released this sketch of the man, which has gone viral because jeepers creepers, where'd he get those peepers?
Important detail: he has giant yellow eyes. So far, possible suspects include only cats. If anyone sees the suspect, they should try to trap it in a box. But seriously, contact Detective Deborah Bayer at (916) 727-5584.
On Saturday, country singer Carrie Underwood showed off her super fit physique in a bikini selfie she posted on Instagram. She also showed off that bikini, which is from her activewear line, Calia by Carrie, designed in collaboration with Dick's Sporting Goods.
Upon close inspection, this photo does not appear photoshopped in any way... no weird wavy lines in the background or conspicuous gaps in human anatomy. Last year, Underwood went undercover in a brown wig and glasses, posing as a Dick's Sporting Goods salesperson in Nashville, selling her clothing to unsuspecting (and some suspecting) customers. The onslaught of celebrity bikini pics heralding the arrival of spring has begun in earnest. Get ready, people.
So, do you kids have a Fitbit? I was thinking about getting one but changed my mind. Anyway, I am thinking maybe I should now. They have badges for lazy people.
Have you seen Bernie Sanders lately? I don't think he's looking too good...
Hahaha. Why is he in the White House already? Hmmmm. So, tomorrow Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out on Blu-ray and DVD. It has a brand new scene added to the movie. I just happen to have a sneak peek.
Cool, right? There's a whole bunch of new merchandise coming out as well, including this gem...
Hahaha. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York here is...
Top Phive Startling Similarities Between Donald Trump And Burger King's New "Angriest Whopper."
5. Has a disturbing, unnatural orangey-magenta hue.
4. Appeals to people's basest appetites.
3. Is full of second-rate bull.
2. Might seem interesting at first, but you wouldn't want a steady diet of it for the next four-years.
And the number one thing similar between Trump and the new Angriest Whopper is...
1. Is the perfect, depressing embodiment of America in 2016.
If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. So, did you see the season finale of "The Walking Dead" last night? I didn't, as I'm way behind. But a friend of the Phile saw it and wants to say something about it. He's a singer, patriot and renaissance man. You know what time it is...
A few thoughts about the season finale of "The Walking Dead" and the introduction of the character Negan... I have been telling you all for quite some time that when we DO finally meet Negan... he would make The Governor and those who ran Terminus look like choir boys. I have several clients who work for AMC and on production staff of "The Walking Dead." When I first heard the talk several seasons ago about the casting of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, I was very excited. I have been a fan since his work in films like Watchmen and The Losers (where I first met him back in 2007). I was always fascinated by his quiet cool and charismatic, cavalier approach towards playing incredibly violent men who you love to hate... and hate to love. Without giving anything away (for anyone who HASN'T seen last night's episode yet) the long awaited introduction to Negan happened... and I must say... I was not let down in the least by HOW it happened. It was the perfect way to bring him into the show. Jeffrey was indeed the best choice to play this iconic figure and I wish him the best of luck. Strap yourselves in my freaky little darlings, next season is ALL about Negan. And don't bother asking me what I know... I ain't tellin' you shit.
A Fitbit is how people who used to wear "Livestrong" bracelets are looking stupid in 2016. Except you, Sam.
The 46th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...
Author and Phile Alum Jim Korkis will be a guest on the Phile again in a few weeks.
Okay, today's pheatured guests are the two kids that make up the New York City based band Makar whose album "Funeral Genius" is available on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile from Makar... Andrea DeAngelis and Mark Purnell.
Me: Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile. How are you?
Mark: Hey, Jason! The kids are alright, thanks. Hope you’re doing well too and thanks for interviewing Makar. We just started working on our third album, "Fancy Hercules," so we’re extremely excited about that.
Me: Okay, makar is another word for poet... and Andrea, you are a poet, right? Is that where the name comes from?
Andrea: The name came about randomly, but it stuck because the Makars were the poets of the dark ages or something like that. It’s a term from Scottish literature though neither Mark and I are Scottish nor have any of our past bandmates been Scottish. As I understand it, the word means both maker and poet which is interesting because writing or any kind of creating is all about crafting and making.
Me: Which one of you two came up with the name?
Mark: Andrea came up with it one day while working on her debut novel, "Pushed," and reading the dictionary.
Andrea: Because I’m that cool.
Me: Okay, so, where are you two from?
Mark: We currently live in Queens, New York.
Andrea: We’ve also lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Me: Are you both originally from New York?
Mark: I am. Was born on 16th street at Beth Israel on the lower east side. Andrea was born and raised in the Jers.
Andrea: We don’t call it the Jers in Jersey though. I grew up in northern rural suburbia, a small town called Mendham.
Mark: A small hamlet.
Me: So, I am guessing yes, but are you two a couple?
Mark: Yes, married many many happy years together.
Andrea: We’re very lucky to be a couple that also writes and plays music together.
Me: I like your music, kids. Which one of you does the songwriting? Andrea, you're the poet and writer so I imagine you do.
Andrea: Thanks for the kind words. Actually we both do the songwriting. Music and lyrics. Personally, I never imagined I would write and perform music even though I played guitar as a child. Mark pulled me or I butted in while he was writing "The Monkey." Over the years, the songs have become even more of a collaboration. Mark is also working on a secret novel, so I’m not the only writer in the couple. He likes to keep it on the downlow though.
Me: Makar as a band has been around for quite a few years, am I right? When was the band formed?
Mark: Around 2002 we formed and played our first nail biting exciting gigs on the lower east side with drummer Jorge Arias, bass player Dan Coates and a second guitarist and singer-songwriter of three classic Makar tunes ("The Country Song," "Soonest Mended" and "No Shot Was Fired"). Vicente Viray, who has since moved to San Fran and is working on writing and publishing short stories.
Andrea: We’ve been around a long time, so long we were on the Internet before Myspace! So long I can’t imagine our lives without Makar.
Me: So, how did you two meet?
Mark: We met at work of all places, at the College Board, the maker of the SAT. There were a lot of creative types working there at the time, musicians, visual artists, writers, poets. One day the office manager introduced me to Andrea, who had just started. She was wearing an exceedingly short red dress with white patterns of abstract flowers woven into it, a fitted red granny sweater, Eddie Sedgwick tights and tiny black Mary Janes that wrapped her small feet in environmentally conscious pleather. She had dark wavy brown hair cut in a cute bob that reached just below her chin, and she had these beautiful green eyes, hidden behind the cutest oval shaped glasses I’d ever seen. All I could think was, who the hell is this awesome girl? We became best friends in three days, like we’d always known each other, but a few months later at a bar on the upper west side, it was a bartender who told us we were in love with each other. We were too oblivious or too busy having fun to realize it, but once he let the cat out of the bag, we knew he was right. The funniest part, is that when we got married Andrea hadn’t played her guitar since she was twelve, was just beginning work on her debut novel, "Pushed," and had no desire to be a musician. I had unknowingly just married my songwriting partner.
Andrea: It wasn’t that short of a dress! The first thing I said to Mark was “Have you always been this rude?” He wasn’t rude to me but to the office manager who walked me around introducing me to everyone. She was like, “and this is Mark.” And Mark waved her off as he stood over the copier, saying something like, “Not now, I’m busy.” He was joking, but I was taken aback by his cavalierness. It was my first job so I was nervous. Then when my boss told me he was a singer I thought she meant singer like the voice majors I was used to back at Oberlin. Which is funny that I associated singing with voice majors because I’m not a classical music buff and come from more of a punk / riot grrl point of view.
Me: Your first release was eleven years ago with "99 Cent Dreams." In 2011 you kids came out with the follow-up which you are still promoting called "Funeral Genius." How are the two albums different?
Mark: "99 Cent Dreams" was released in 2005, "Funeral Genius" in 2011, and "Fancy Hercules," our third full length album, will be out fall/winter 2016 just in time to submit to the Grammys! "Funeral Genius" was on the 55th Grammy ballot under pop of all categories, sandwiched between Madonna and Maroon 5. What chance did a little indie band with a small budget stand there we wondered. Answer… not much. The similarities between "99 Cent Dreams" and "Funeral Genius" can be found in Makar’s usual poet, pop, folk, rock, blues, punk mix, but the difference was mainly that there were entirely different players on both albums and we were much more confident and experienced when we recorded "Funeral Genius." Not to mention we recorded it with Dawn McGrath, the legendary NYC drummer, playing to a click track so it’s super tight, except for the last song, "Devil in a Dream," which we recorded on a hand held recorder out in Jersey with Robert Johnson’s hell hounds on our trail. The difference between "Funeral Genius" and our upcoming third album is that "Fancy Hercules" definitely 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, a reworking of "Devil in a Dream" and very strange horror film/Mars Attacks type chords. Not to mention an examination of the myth of Hercules and how he slaughtered his whole family as our title track. We’re also planning on doing this album acoustically. No drums, no bass, just piano, guitar and vocals, so that’s a huge and exciting departure for us. It’s Makar stripped down to the bare essentials, which is scary because you wonder if radio will care that there is very little production, but it’s just how we want to record this one, especially the song, "Devil in a Dream," which has been reworked with a big chorus and more structure then the first time around on "Funeral Genius."
Andrea: It’s freaky that we’re planning this new album as just being us. It feels both very vulnerable and empowering. We’ll see how it goes, we just started recording this week. We have other plans in place if recording at home (in our kitchen and coat closet to be exact) doesn’t quite pan out or our neighbors hire hit men.
Me: Okay, so, why the long gap between the releases, kids? You do have lots of songs on both albums, is that why?
Mark: Our usual time between releases is 5-6 years, which mirrors Adele’s and suits us just fine. We love living life besides creating and performing music. Music is a big part of our life, enhancing it, making it magical and amazing, but we also love living in the city. Enjoying all that it has to offer, going to our favorite spots, walking around Central Park, the boroughs or the village, absorbing all the incredible culture and art, hanging with friends and family. Music is a part of our lifestyle, much as writing or photography is, and seeing great films at the Film Forum, MoMA or Walter Reade theaters (we’re closet cinephiles), and because we’re independent we can make all the rules, instead of some label. The other reality is that we take a year to write the songs, a year to rehearse the songs and a year to record the songs so at the minimum it would be an album every three years, but life happens, man.
Andrea: We’ve also lived in apartments where our neighbors lost their minds if I tuned my acoustic guitar at 6 pm. These were the same neighbors who would move heavy furniture for all hours of the night into the morning on weekdays. We’re living in a better place now but it definitely saps you. I’ve also had bad bouts of tendonitis from computer heavy jobs, but it’s much better now. I think in an ideal world, where we didn’t have to have the dreaded day jobs to support our music, we could record a new album every two years. We definitely like living with the songs for a year. The other thing is that Makar is a very indie operation. We have no manager. We handle all the social media and day to day stuff ourselves. City Bird Publicity has been taking over some of the promotion and increasing our exposure introducing us to cool folks like you. But still we spend a lot of time on it ourselves. Ever since "Funeral Genius," we’ve done the bulk of the recording, mixing and overdubbing tasks ourselves. With "Funeral Genius," we spent one day in the Seaside Lounge Recording Studio, getting Mark Nilges’ bass and Dawn McGrath’s drums down for 11 songs. Then we overdubbed and recorded the piano, guitar and vocals at home. So it takes time. Then you need to get your album out to the people and you don’t want to start recording the next one until you’ve gotten as many people to listen to it as possible. I wish it didn’t take us so long, but because we don’t have a major label doing a 3 month international campaign for Makar, it just does.
Me: I enjoyed the video for "I Hate My Job." What a positive song. Haha. That video looked liked it was a lot of fun to make, was it?
Mark: Thank you, we had a blast filming it, but it was a lot of work. A two day shoot, starting early and ending late. Brian Schulz directed it for free and did a fantastic job. Unknown fact: The drummer isn’t a real drummer, it’s our bass player’s wife, Mary Nilges, who stepped in for Dawn because she had another gig that weekend. Fun fact: We were signed to an independent label called Sizzleteen Records at the time and our then label head, Melissa Nastasi, is in the video on the couch. It took many takes to get that scene because she couldn’t stop laughing. That is the only take where she didn’t laugh.
Andrea: Melissa was also the impetus for making a music video. She’s the one who got it played on MTV2.
Me: Where was it filmed?
Mark: At Andrea’s parent’s house in Jersey and that was Andrea’s dad as the driver, with the first car he ever owned, a 1960 corvette.
Andrea: Mark first asked my dad, in an email masquerading as me, if he could throw a pie in his face for the video and my dad responded, “Tell my son-in-law that no one throws a pie in my face, but if he’d like, I can run him over with the Corvette instead.” So at least that didn’t happen. Brian Schulz made my parent’s driveway look like an actual road. He tricked it out by wetting it down with a water hose and shooting from multiple angles. My parent’s place was perfect and most importantly free. It had a real office since my dad moved his consulting business to an addition on the garage. The waiting room was a portion of my parents’ sunken living room, their furniture is so very seventies. And any kind of video on hating your job has got to have seventies décor. The scene where we tie up the evil boss is the mirrored hallway to my parent’s bedroom. We’re very lucky that my parents were cool with us filming in their home and that they have such an interesting and versatile place and pool!
Me: I expected somebody to fall into the pool (or get thrown into the pool) at the end. So, who came up with the premise of the video? It's very funny.
Andrea: It was truly a collaboration between me, Mark and Brian, the director. Mark is still bummed that there wasn’t a Yeti in the video. We had all these crazy ideas which Brian distilled into something that was possible to achieve in a weekend. Our whole premise centered around fighting The Man, of course. Whether The Man is the boss at your day job or a record label who takes all your money and controls your creative output. We were so fortunate to have two phenomenal actors in it... Erica Lies as the put upon label assistant and wacky secretary and EJ An as the evil voodoo doll wielding boss and maniacal record head. It’s funny the more I think about it, the more the surrealness is realistic because we’ve all had those evil bosses and they do seem especially attuned to when you have something planned in your real life that is very important and they will do anything to thwart it. Both of these actors did an amazing job as well as Mark Nilges, our bassist, his lovely wife Mary, our friend Tom Tostanoski and Melissa. Brian Schulz and his DP were consummate professionals so we had a lot of fun but they kept us on track.
Me: You have a new single out from "Funeral Genius" and that is "I Wanna Know What I Don't Know." Will you be releasing a video for that song?
Andrea: Eventually we’re going to start to create videos for a lot of our songs and "I Wanna Know What I Don’t Know" is on the top of the list. Currently, we’re deciding if we want to do it on our own or have other people do it. It’s a big ask for other people to be involved. But it’s in the plans. It will come together one way or another.
Me: So, what does "Funeral Genius" mean?
Mark: A Funeral Genius is someone who is a genius at being negative, a Debbie Downer type, who obsessively looks at the negative side of things. Unfortunately we know someone like this and he’s the reason we wrote the album, but has no clue and we’ll never give up the name, coppah. Muhahahaha!
Andrea: The phrase actually came from one of my poems called "crayola-colored poem." It’s about childhood, the dual and dueling aspects of imagination, hanging off the bed upside down and staring at the ceiling, seeing the world in a new perspective but also the darker more nightmarish elements of creativity, always imagining the worst case scenario. I think we all have a funeral genius inside of us who tries to bring us down. I know I do. I was born on a Wednesday and how the rhyme goes is Wednesday’s child is full of woe. Like melancholy is something inescapable. I think that people always assume that being negative is the only way to be truthful and positivity is false and naïve and it can be. But what if we thought or said one positive for every negative one? It’s a strange song because the lyrics were inspired by three separate unpublished poems of mine... desired dismemberment, of California and the one I’ve already mentioned. All about different people who were extremely toxic to me. The song "Funeral Genius" is a rebuttal to them all.
Me: Okay, Mark, you play keyboards in Makar... how long have you been playing?
Mark: I took a few lessons in high school and college, where I minored in music, but it wasn’t until after college that I asked a guy how you write songs and he said just use chord progressions and sing the melody. Simple as that. He also had me improvising on blues scales which I really enjoyed. I think once I saw the fun in playing an instrument, instead of all the theory and scale work, it really clicked and although I could definitely progress much farther with my playing by putting in more of an effort I’m definitely happy where I am musically.
Me: And Andrea, you play guitar. How long have you been playing?
Andrea: I first played guitar as a child from when I was about 9 to 12 years old. But I lost interest when I hit the 7th grade which was a shame. My first guitar teacher didn’t really enjoy teaching children especially a kid like me who was only interested in learning how to play "The Yellow Submarine." He wanted me to play classical guitar. He also wasn’t a well man and passed away after about a year or so. By the time that my parents found another guitar teacher who was great with kids and totally cool with me learning whatever I wanted, I’d lost interest. I still regret that. I think I lost interest because it all seemed so impossible playing other people’s songs. I mean the original would always be the best or the most true. I never thought that you could write your own songs. I think it’s important to encourage creating music as well as learning it. Because when you’re writing, you truly have something at stake, something to lose and it becomes so personal and such an important outlet of expression. Continually thinking how you must be the best at playing before ever attempting to write something of your own is so daunting and discouraging. There are so many ways to become a songwriter and no one path is the only path. When I met Mark, I hadn’t played in over ten years. I always had my old student classical guitar, but it was shunted away in the closet. Slowly, he got me to start playing again. Around 2000 when we started recording demos of what would become "99 Cent Dreams" in Hackensack NJ, I was playing more regularly. Mark inspired me by saying, “Why don’t you try writing your own song?” after I’d butted in on him writing "The Monkey" from our first album, "99 Cent Dreams." That song was "I Don’t Know God" and I’ve been playing guitar, singing and writing songs ever since then. So about 3 years as a kid and then 15 years as an adult. It was always one of my biggest regrets that I gave it up and one of my greatest personal triumphs that I picked it up again.
Me: You both have turns singing? How do you come up with who sings which parts?
Andrea: We wrestle.
Mark: The force is strong with her, so she just waves her hand like Obi-Wan and says, “I will sing this part.” And I say, “you will sing this part.” And she says, “I am the star.” And I say, “woman, Jedi or not, the star’s Makar… I mean, you’re the star honey!”
Andrea: Ha ha. You know it’s really whose voice works the best. Usually when someone originates the song, they sing the lead if it’s a one lead vocal song. But over the years, it’s gotten more and more organic and song-based instead of who started writing it.
Me: Andrea, I mentioned you are a poet, but you also are a writer. What kinda stuff do you write?
Andrea: That’s a hard question. I’m interested in a lot of things. I should email you a picture of my desk as visual evidence of my cluttered mind but I’ve recently cleaned it up, the desk not my mind, unfortunately. Poetry comes the most naturally to me because it’s the way my mind works, firing off different phrases and ideas into the darkness that can be combative at times. Some of these tangents miraculously connect if the poem is successful. Sometimes poetry is the only way to express an emotion or a moment. In poetry I tend to write about vital moments, epiphanies in my life or the visceral experience of how something looked or felt. A quick look back. It’s a very visual medium. I write fiction... short stories and flash (flash is fiction under a 1000 words)... as well as my endless novel and other novel or novella ideas I’m working on. Lately, I’ve become fascinated with folklore and mythology. Recent fiction I’ve had published have been based on "Bloody Mary," "Baba Yaga" and "Leda." I find myself wanting to tell a continuation of the known story or from an unlikely point of view. It’s funny how basing a story on a well known folklore or myth can be both freeing and challenging. You know the basic parameters but now you have to surprise people within those well-trod boundaries. I love writing. Every time I write, I feel at peace even when it’s a struggle.
Me: You are also writing a novel, am I right? What is it about, and does it have a name?
Andrea: The name of my novel is called "Pushed" and I’ve been working on it for a long time because I had to figure out what I was doing and travel from the abstract point of view I’m used to in poetry towards the clarity necessary to write effective prose. Like most literary novels, it’s hard to sum up. But basically the protagonist, Jules, jumps or is pushed in front of a subway train and the rest of the novel is spent trying to understand how she got there. A psychological mystery and the Killer inside of all of us that pushes us. It started out as very non-linear but now after having a professional editor review it, I’m trying to make it more linear and digestible.
Me: When it comes out I have to have you back and feature your novel in the Phile's Book Club. Whatcha think?
Andrea: Of course, I would love to! It’s been a very long journey for me. I actually sent what I thought was a finished version of the novel out in late 2013 and received really complimentary rejections telling me that I needed developmental editing. I had no idea what that meant. I’d had a lot of really insightful feedback from fellow writers and friends over the years but it wasn’t enough. I needed a professional. So I went through New York Book Editors and now I have another year of work to do but I’ve lived with this novel so long what’s one more year to get it right? I’d be honored to talk more about my whole process of writing and getting my work out there once it’s published.
Me: Mark, what other hobbies do you have?
Mark: Love going to art galleries and museums and being inspired by all the amazing art. Andrea and I just saw Picasso’s sculpture retrospective at MoMA and it was incredible. Also love going to readings of authors Andrea and I know and love in Brooklyn like Paula Bomer and John Reed or at the KGB bar. Seeing shows at places like Irving Plaza, Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, or the Music Hall of Williamsburg, which used to be North Six. Walking around New York on little adventures with Andrea and our friends discovering new places out in Red Hook or Bushwick or Long Island City, because there are always new places cropping up. Love reading fiction and nonfiction books and am working on my debut novel, called "Little Owen Way," a coming of age fictional story. I love reading and editing Andrea’s incredible short stories and poems, and we’ve been working hard on her debut novel, "Pushed," which has been an absolute pleasure to read. Like that amazing book, "Coming Through Slaughter," about the jazz musician Buddy Bolden, Andrea’s book is a true work of art and I love inhabiting that space. We’re also foodies and Queens has every imaginable cuisine from 50 different countries. Queens is the most diverse place to live in the U.S.
Me: Oh, I have to congratulate you both for being voted Top NYC Indie Bands from "Deli Magazine." That's cool. Did you get anything cool from them?
Mark: Just the after glow from being on the list, let alone getting that high on it. We printed out copies as we were moving on up just so we’d have proof, the whole time thinking it was some kind of glitch.
Andrea: We are planning on framing our highest indie guitar pop charting which was number 10 for like 10 minutes, but we’re still holding out for number 1!
Me: You kids have been compared to Bjork, Bowie and Blondie... a few months ago as you know Bowie passed away... were you both shocked and surprised?
Mark: God yes. I had just watched his "Lazarus" video and wondered why it was in a hospital bed, and now it’s just so sad, but also amazing because he was creating until the end. What a talent and visionary and he championed African Americans on MTV when it was lily white and aimed at middle America. Called them out on it. He was a brilliant brilliant man. A true genius, which you can tell just from hearing him speak, let alone all the amazing music he left us. "Heroes" and "Fame" are my favorite songs and "The Man Who Fell To Earth" is one of my all time favorite movies. He truly was an alien dropped on this planet. A beautiful wonderful soul who will be deeply missed.
Andrea: He always seemed timeless and ageless to me. Immortal so it was a shock. You never expect your heroes to die.
Me: What is your favorite Bowie album or song?
Andrea: Currently, "Rock n’ Roll Suicide" and "Five Years." I love his album "Ziggy Stardust," it’s amazing, but it’s the passion and pathos in these two songs that really affect me. In "Rock n’ Roll Suicide," the whole horror of being young and losing that hubris and the dread and fear of getting older in a youth obsessed culture. But then that’s a universal experience... losing your youth and getting older and possibly devalued so you’re not alone. I find "Rock n’ Roll Suicide" to be a surprisingly uplifting song due to that self-affirming cries of “you’re wonderful” and “give me your hand”. "Five Years"... there is so much optimism in that song. I love how these two songs bookend each other. So much hunger... if you only have five years left, what are you going to do with them? The following lines especially resonate with me... “My brain hurts like a warehouse it had no room to spare” and “never thought I’d need so many people”. Such passion drawing life down to its embers.
Mark: "Heroes" and "Fame." Unbelievable songs and the video of him in "Heroes," just beyond. They don’t make rock stars like that anymore. Or stars period.
Me: So, who were your influences growing up, you two?
Mark: The Who, "Who’s Next," was the first album that I obsessed over and that made me want to be a musician, the vastness, pomp and splendor of it all as well as the Beatles’ "White Album," for its genius and atypical quirkiness, but it wasn’t until college and the Doors that I said this is definitely what I want to do. The fact that Jim Morrison was interested in Carl Jung, poetry and intellectualism gave real depth to the music and the creators behind it, without which I wouldn’t have been as into it. 80s music had a huge impact on me as well. Groups like Bowie, Blondie, The Cure, Depeche Mode, U2, Joy Division, The Smiths, New Order, the way they completely changed the musical landscape into something almost alien from what came before, but with positive social messages, like "People are People," that fought against entrenched bigotry, misogyny and homophobia. I was also influenced by country artists like Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash as well as rock, jazz, soul and blues artists like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Elvis, Robert Johnson and Otis Redding. And even though Elvis was reputed to be a racist by some of the people closest to him, he still bridged white and black people, knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or unwillingly, through the expropriation of black music, which I believe he genuinely loved and admired. I believe he didn’t mix as much as he would have liked given the times and living in the South, and at heart wasn’t a racist. Many of these early artists’ concerts were the first times black and white teenagers were together under one roof celebrating something together which helped defeat segregation and intolerance in a major way. What we don’t know we fear, so exposure is always the quickest route out of ignorance. And now I’m influenced by so many new artists, known and unknown like Sharon Van Etten, Sigur Ros, Goldfrapp, Nous Non Plus, the Dead Exs and Hello Nurse. It constantly amazes me that new music can keep being created from those 12 notes. It’s like lotto, so many combinations (479,001,600 to be exact with 12 note combinations) and chances to win. You gotta be in it to win it though, and Makar is definitely in it to win it.
Andrea: Growing up, I listened to the Beatles pretty exclusively. I saw the Yellow Submarine as an impressionable child and it infected my mind. It wasn’t until high school that I expanded my horizons to The Doors, The Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin. Then college, I saw the Pixies perform and punk rock started to speak to me. My parents always were big fans of folk music, having spent time in the village in New York City at Folk City and other clubs. So my brothers and I grew up listening to Peter Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel and Pete Seeger on the old turntable singing "This Land is Your Land" and "Puff the Magic Dragon." My dad plays a mean harmonica and always took me to Beatlefests.
Me: Okay, so, Andrea, you are also a photographer... did you take the picture of the bird on the album cover for "Funeral Genius"?
Andrea: What’s wonderful about today, with all the digital cameras, is that so many people can explore photography and document their lives very inexpensively. It’s really inspiring. I don’t remember who took the album shot. We were in San Francisco at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts sitting outside and this tough little bird landed near us, practically mugging us for crumbs. We didn’t want to startle him because he’d already seemed to be through a lot. I don’t know if you noticed but he’s missing a foot.
Me: No, I didn't. I'm not her observant. How did that picture get picked and what kinda bird is it?
Mark: That bird was so awesome it kind of picked us. We were sitting out in the Yerba Arts Center in San Francisco enjoying the summer sunshine when this little black bird hopped over to our bench. It was unlike any bird we had ever seen and had a look to it that said it had seen the rougher side of life. It was missing part of its feet and stared at us like you better give me some crumbs or else, so instead of letting the tough little hombre give us the beat down, we gave it some of our pastry. When we were deciding on shots for the album, the photo of the bird was not only one of the strongest visually, but made the most sense with the theme of death and funerals. A black bird or cat is often representative of death, so it was a no brainer after that.
Andrea: I wish I knew what kind of bird it was.
Me: Thank you so much for being here, kids. Are you gonna be coming out with new music soon?
Mark: Our third album, "Fancy Hercules," will be out fall 2016! And now that we have a recording studio in our apartment, we’re going to be able to put out a lot more music as singles and not wait for a completed album. Just create, record, put out. That’s where it’s at now anyway, and we have so many songs that need to be finished and just put out in the musical universe, so stay tuned.
Me: Why don't you go ahead and mention your website?
Me: Will you come back when your next release comes out?
Mark: Absolutely! Thanks for interviewing Makar and being awesome.
Me: Good job, hope this was fun. All the best, kids.
Andrea: These were amazing questions. Thank you so much!
That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Laird Jim and Andrea and Mark from Makar. The Phile will be back next Sunday with Phile Alum Tommy Henriksen. Spread the word, to the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Tooting is the best!
Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker