Chatting with New York Staple, MAKAR
If you are from the New York area, chances are you have heard of MAKAR. Made up of husband-and-wife duo Mark Purnell and Andrea DeAngelis, the two bring to life a familar sound which is starting to branch out across the nation; and beyond! Their most recent release, Funeral Genius, helped to put the group on the map, garnering accolades from critics and radio personalities alike. Fast-forward to 2016 where MAKAR has a BIG year ahead of them. We will see the release of their newest, and highly anticipated venture Fancy Hercules, and as always, expect to see them on the stage. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mark and Andrea regarding their upcoming record, future plans, and what inspires and drives them. Read below!
Your latest release “Funeral Genius” has been making a nice amount of traction among the indie music circuit. How have you seen the recognition of the band grow with this release and into your upcoming endeavor?
Thanks Emily, and thank you so much for interviewing us and taking an interest in Makar’s music.
As far as recognition goes, we’ve definitely received a positive response to our second album, Funeral Genius, which was called “essential” by Rust Magazine. It recently got us featured on M Pire magazine, interviewed in Vents and Independent Artist Buzz, and earned us a top 10 spot on The Deli Magazine’s Top 300 Best NYC Indie Pop Bands along with Vampire Weekend, Fun., MGMT and Santigold. We played CMJ’s music festival at the Pyramid Club, were named Rust Magazine’s Critic’s Pick and have had continuous airplay across the United States, Canada and the UK, on such stations as WROM, CIUT 89.5 FM (Toronto), CKRL 89.1 (Quebec), Radio Alchemy, The Waiting Room (UK), Rutgers Radio, Hub Radio and Insomnia Radio’s “Daily Dose.” Makar was also included on The NBTMusicRadio’s Top 100 Tracks/Singles and Top 100 Albums ahead of David Byrne and St. Vincent and we charted ahead of Rush on the US College Radio Charts, which warmed the prog rock hating cockles of Makar’s indie folk pop rocking souls.
Most of this attention has been a result of a lot of elbow grease, sending CDs out, and making friends with a lot of cool bloggers, DJs and music lovers in the indie world. We can’t wait to drop our third album, Fancy Hercules, Fall 2016! It’s going to be very exciting to see what happens, and some amazing DJs that we love are waiting to play it in the US, UK and Canada!
What influences brought you together to find Makar’s signature sound? and was finding your sound difficult?
Andrea: There’s just too many influences so it’s best to take you on my journey as a listener.
I loved the Beatles growing up and they were the majority of what I listened to. My very first concert was Ringo Starr and his all-star band. I listened to the foursome along with The Doors, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones and of course, Wings. I really didn’t feel connected to the top forty hits or heavy metal that my classmates listened to.
But gradually, towards the end of high school and college, other artists like Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, The Replacements, The Smiths, The Pixies, The Sex Pistols, Liz Phair and David Bowie edged their way into my obssessions. In college, a frenemy pulled me into deejaying an early eighties night with him. We would fight over the playlist constantly. Basically, he’d want to play every single tune from Erasure, Jimmy Somerville and Annie Lennox (not the Eurythmics and not early 80s) while I’d yell at him to play Prince, Depeche Mode, Madonna, Billy Idol, etc.
After college, I got more into punk, new wave, folk and glam. Listening heavily to The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Green Day, The Cars (Ben Orr was super glam just watch Musikladen’s episode featuring them), Donovan, Patti Smith, The Zombies and Roxy Music. So it’s a wide range of influences, a cauldron of what I love to listen to starting from the base of the Beatles when the Yellow Submarine infected my mind as a child. Mark says that whenever I like a song from another band, it’s because it sounds Beatlesque like Electioneering from Radiohead’s Ok Computer and Fading into Obscurity by Sloan to name two examples. So there’s this sixties base to everything I write and sing, but I also came of age in the nineties and riot grrls and combat boots so I hope that nineties grit is apparent as well.
Folk and punk don’t feel incompatible at all to me, they feel like natural allies. One of the few bands I listened to in high school other than The Beatles was the Violent Femmes and if they aren’t the perfect combination of folk and punk, I don’t know what is.
So I guess the idea of finding our sound wasn’t really plotted or constructed, it just happened from the music we were interested and were listening to. You can even hear dancey rhythms from my stint at early eighties night at the Oberlin ‘Sco in our track Worth It.
As a married couple in the band, how does that effect your musical-working relationship? Does it strengthen the bond?
Andrea: The bond is definitely stronger although in the past we did tend to piss each other off more. Ha ha!
No but seriously, I could never imagine being in a band without Mark. And I never expected to be in a band in the first place! We can depend on each other in a way we could never depend on any other band member. Because people’s lives change, they move away, they get too busy or they just don’t work out. That enduring reliance in each other is at the core of our song “Belong Here” and the heart of the lyrics to me.
After our first band fell apart during the recording of our first album, 99 Cent Dreams, I wrote the “Belong Here” lyrics about my fears and desire to continue to write and perform our songs. It was a newfound desire, but a potent one. And when our first band disintegrated I thought now what? Because even though I’m not entirely comfortable on stage due to nerves, I still want to belong there. The lines that carry the most resonance for me are “We lost everybody and everything / but this is what matters to me / what will I do when you go too?”
It is such a joy to sing and play with each other. Something I never imagined. We are so lucky to share that. Or as our friend Joe, from the awesome band, Hello Nurse, put so succinctly, even if MAKAR plays to a minimal crowd, we’re still spending time with each other and therefore it’s a date.
Each track on “Funeral Genius” intertwines without flaw. When creating the record, how did you select the songs you wanted to include?
Mark: Well first off, thank you very much for saying that. I obse…take a long time to think about which song should go where and why, whether it’s a live set list or an album order. Many of our songs are cannibalizations of previous songs, so sometimes the end chord of one song will be the beginning chord of another. For Funeral Genius, we started with about 50 songs that were in various stages of completion. We listened to each one and decided (based on how the song made us feel) if it was a song we had to work on and if it fit with the others we had already selected. That’s pretty much how it goes for us, if the song stirs something within us we just start working on it immediately until it’s finished. That goes for new songs we write during rehearsals. If we’re noodling around and someone comes up with an interesting chord progression we just start working on it and sometimes have a chorus, verse or entire song by the time rehearsal is over. Wherever the music leads us we always follow without question. Well not entirely without question, as one of our mottos goes, just because you hear it, doesn’t mean it’s right.
Which kind of guitar(s) do you use on the record?
Andrea: On this album we used a new guitar, an Epiphone Casino Coupe Hollow Body electric. I was looking for a new song, kind of a crashing fuzziness and found this sleek red beauty at Main Drag Music in Williamsburg. But I still relied on my beaten-up brash Crafter mini bought back in 2001 from First Flight Music in the East Village. I really do love my Crafter, it’s small but mighty and has a biting rocking sound, sounding like a full blown electric at times instead of an acoustic electric. I also used my Dad’s old Martin Senorita on the end of So Slow to warm it up and add an additional guitar for sonic fullness.
When it comes to singing, who do you look up to as inspiration?
Mark: Anyone with a great voice who connects with your soul and makes you feel things deeply. That’s why I play, write and listen to music in the first place, to feel as intensely as possible. Life is meant to be lived intensely, because one day that’s going to be it, your bell’s gonna be rung for the final time, so you better have lived and done all the things you wanted to do while you were here. Nothing moves me quite like a great singer and we have been blessed with so many. I’ll just bring up Jim Morrison as I recently watched the Doors performance of their incredible song, The End, at the Isle of White. It’s like 18 minutes long and The Doors literally take you on a journey that you aren’t quite sure you’re going to make it back alive from even though I was watching it on Youtube. I mean it must have been absolutely terrifying and mind blowing live. He can do anything with his voice, it’s like a Charles Manson horror movie one moment, and then a deep movie about friendship, death and beauty and by the end you realize that you’ve been transported somewhere, that the music transcended time and space and became more than just a song, it changed the very molecules I was breathing. When an artist can do all of that with their voice, music and lyrics sign me the hell up, please!
Being a New York band, you often play area shows a lot. Which are your favorite venues to play?
Andrea: Recently, I’ve really enjoyed playing Leftfield on Ludlow, it’s a small little club on the Lower East Sside and it feels like family playing there, you feel protected by the intimacy. We also really enjoyed playing St. Paul’s Lutheran Church for Voices at Brooklyn gig paired with the organizers from Worker’s Justice Project. It was great to participate in something so important (addressing racial and economic injustice that day laborers and domestic workers face in their jobs) and larger than ourselves. And we loved playing the historic Pyramid Club. First, we love going there to boogie down to eighties night and secondly, such awesome acts like Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers also played shows there. The sound was amazing.
What I’ve come to realize is how much all these musical endeavors whether a club, band, reviewer or DJ is that the best of them are labors of love and a hell of a lot of sweat.
Mark: So many have closed as the rents in NY have gone insane, but the ones still around that we dig playing at are Pianos, Knitting Factory, Pyramid, Freddy’s Backroom, An Beal Bocht, Local 269, Leftfield, R Bar and Lovecraft. Places we loved playing that closed were CBGBs, Galapagos, Bar East, The Hook, Kenny’s Castaways and Luna Lounge.
What is your favorite song to play live, and why so?
Mark: It has always been either I Hate My Job or Damion Day because I Hate My Job sticks it to the man and Damion Day is just balls out crazy business. The ending is sheer madness and pretty much as hard as Makar can rock, so that was always our closer. Go on youtube and check out our live versions of Damion Day at the Knitting Factory or Luna Lounge and you’ll see what I mean. Now it’s a song called Devil in a Dream from our upcoming album, Fancy Hercules, because it’s just spooky and bluesy and calls out to the hounds of hell on Robert Johnson’s trail and says to them that it don’t mean a goddamn thing that they’re on our trail too. Kind of Makar deluding itself that our demons don’t mean a goddamn thing. And you know what…they don’t!
Do you have any plans to go on tour soon?
Andrea: We do plan to do some mini tours at least once we finish recording Fancy Hercules. And maybe even before then. The unglamorous obstacles we face are what every unsigned indie band faces– saving up the mula for such tours and scheduling time off our day jobs. At least we don’t have to coordinate a whole band, it’s just Mark and me, so until we hit the big time, it’s little tours for now. But we plan on making it back to Canada to Toronto and Quebec, jetting across the pond to the UK as well as overstaying our welcome with friends up and down the east and west coast and hanging out in Toledo, Ohio with Kayla from Radio Alchemy and jamming with Joe Crespo from Hello Nurse fame in Denver, Colorado. I personally hope to break many guitar strings in the process.