Marion Walker is a three-piece psych-rock band of sweethearts with sharp teeth. Their music is a head-on collision between doomy, bleak worlds and fuzzed-out, technicolor tones. Fronted songwriters Jessie Marion Smith (Saint Genet, Dead Bird Movement) and Kyle Walker Akins (Think in French, Yesir) in collaboration with drummer Donovan Jordan Williams (Spitting Image, Penetration Panthers), the band split their time between Reno, NV and Seattle, WA.
In June 2015, Marion Walker will release their tape EP Serious Picnic on Casino Trash Records (Seattle, WA). Look for them in June 2015 on their full U.S. tour in support of Serious Picnic and several other exciting releases (including a split 7-inch with Plastic Caves and a 12-inch compilation featuring songs from 14 Reno bands).
We recently caught up with the band to discuss their chemistry, their one-song EP, and not playing Psych Fest.
How does this project differ from the other bands that you’ve been in?
Marion Walker, as a band, has grown faster, speaking sonically, than most other projects we’ve been involved with. The three of us have spent quite a bit of time rehearsing and honing our craft. We’ve all given the songs enough time to mature to the point where they begin to show us how they should be composed. In reality, we are but mere servants of the songs and the hard part of our duty is remaining open as a channel for them to come through. We know that sounds kinda silly, but when you’re in a room together with your buds and your ears are open, you can find your way out of the labyrinth of composition.
What is your favorite aspect of the chemistry that exists here?
One of our friends deemed our songwriting style “unintentionally math-y.” Probably the most special thing about the chemistry of the three of us is that we all feel at home in our slightly askew structures. Kyle and Jessie both have a natural tendency towards writing asymmetric melodic hooks and unexpected twists and turns within the pacing of songs. And, Donovan always finds a way to wrap a beat around it all without nullifying the form. It’s a pretty unique combo to possess.
When did you begin writing the material for Serious Picnic?
We started writing Serious Picnic in June 2014 when we were in Asheville, NC. To refer back to earlier, the song was basically delivered to us through a series of exercises. In the beginning, the song was mostly about dealing with our own demons, but as the summer progressed the American political environment was dealing with some insanely tragic events. We had most everything composed, lyrics and all, before Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson, MO. There were a few lines in the song that were already written and then actually became a slogan of national protest. (“Hold Up Your Hands” are the only lyrics in the middle section of Serious Picnic.) This is where we had to make a decision, and we chose to embrace these words that were delivered and steered the song into a stream of consciousness reaction to the tragedy.
Why only one track for the EP? Is there an LP on the way?
The track is exactly 11:11 min/sec long. We have a bit of a fascination with numbers and their relationships. Music doesn’t actually exist, it’s a construct that our brain has developed. Music is really a collection of sounds and our brain interprets it through memory and expectation. We hold the last sound in our short-term memory and then live in the grey area just before the next note. The exciting thing about music and songwriting is providing little unexpected surprises for the listener. The 11:11 idea is a graphic way of displaying this concept for us, it’s just a bunch of moments stacked on top of each other. 1111111111111111111111111111111….and yes, there is an LP on the way, but we haven’t gotten to the math of it yet! We plan on recording as soon as our tour ends in mid-July!
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
While we have been touring as a three-piece, we actually had another member who couldn’t make it on the road with us. Clark ‘Rules’ Demeritt played bass for us on the Serious Picnic EP. Aside from that, it’s just us. Kyle and Jessie both play multiple instruments on all the Marion Walker recordings. Because we have been recording everything ourselves it allows us the time to get pretty nerdy with layering tracks.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Kyle engineers and mixes all of our recordings so the majority of the sound design comes from him. But, Jessie and Kyle both write and produce the songs. We each have fairly different ears and it’s always an interesting conversation about the different things we are hearing within the music.
Which of your songs, on the EP or otherwise, have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Some people really love the Serious Picnic EP, some really love one of our older songs, “We Won’t Be In Love Much Longer,” and another group really loves one of our newest songs called, “No Silver Linings” (but sometimes it’s known as “Side-Ponytail Express”…it just depends on the night.) We’ve been having a lot of fun getting all freaked out on our longer psychedelic songs. Those are usually the songs that standout to listeners. People often come up to us and ask, “What was that crazy one somewhere in the middle of everything? Was that one song or three?”
Did you guys play Psych Fest and did you get one of the rad Earthquaker Levitation pedals? If so, have you put it to use?
No, we didn’t play Psych Fest, and no we didn’t get any of those AMAZING Earthquaker pedals….thanks for bringing that up, cuz we really want to do both of those things….but just so it makes it into print we’re gonna say this, “We are coming to get you. Consider this a warning/RSVP.” Also, Kyle is somewhat of a pedal wizard/addict, so if he had one of those in hand he would certainly be putting it to use and getting some wild sounds out of it.
You will be in Dayton shortly. Have you been here before? What are you hoping for from this stop?
None of us have ever been to Dayton but we’re excited to check it out. The coolest part of tour is making new friends, discovering hidden treasures in new towns, and getting to play with all sorts of new bands. We hope for all of these things from Dayton. Come rock out with us and then show us the weirdest parts of your town! We love abandoned buildings, rooftops, drinking beers on front porch stoops, listening to your record collections, and sleeping on your living room floors. Think you can provide any/all of that, Dayton?
(Listen to Marion Walker: Marion Walker – “Seriously” / “Silver Drone”
Catch them on tour: http://www.bandsintown.com/MarionWalker?mc_cid=05485f3600&mc_eid=8198224265.)