By Brenda Hillegas
[C]hicago four-piece Marrow just released an album, The Gold Standard—and it’s actually nowhere near “standard.” The eleven tracks that make up this debut album perfectly showcase the diverse, unique experience the members of this young band gathered before joining forces.
Singer/keyboardist Macie Stewart, singer/guitarist Liam Kazar and bassist Lane Beckstorm spent previous years touring and recording with the now defunct hip-hop group, Kids These Days. Stewart also toured with Chance The Rapper last year, and all four members of Marrow (rounded out by drummer Matt Carroll) were featured on Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s Surf. Additionally, Kazar spent the last year touring U.S. and Europe with Tweedy, as well as performing on a many late-night television shows.
Marrow sounds like an incredibly experienced group of teenagers forming a rock band in a basement. And this works well for them on The Gold Standard. You can hear the fun and experimentation as they jam, and if these four were playing these tracks right now in someone’s basement, those upstairs would think, “Why are they down there? Why aren’t they making a hit record?”
Chances are, they did just make a hit record with The Gold Standard. The band spent free time away from the road recording the album at Kazar’s own Foxhall Studio. Stewart says having the ability to record in a band member’s own studio gave them the unique opportunity to make this record exactly as they intended.
“I think the record definitely would have had a different sound [if recorded elsewhere],” Stewart said. “Since we had this space at our disposal, we didn’t have to worry about running out of studio time. Every guitar tone, keyboard sound, ambient background noise, etc., was something we specifically chose because we had the luxury of recording on our own time.”
The downside, though, is all of that extra time also allowed Marrow to second guess themselves. “Luckily, we had the help of our really good friends Dorian Gehring and Brendan Youngquist who engineered the record,” Stewart explained. “[They] guided us in the right direction sonically, which made it easier to make final decisions.”
Some of those tough final decisions involved narrowing down the track list and making cuts. Like most musicians recording an album, they did end up with some songs that didn’t make the cut. Again, Gehrig and Younquist were there to help the group with their decision. “We knew the album would be too long with every single track so we tossed around a few ideas between the four of us and then asked Brendan and Dorian what they thought. It was more about the flow of the record rather than the songs themselves. We may end up releasing them sometime in the future as a couple singles.”
One track that very much did make the cut, “Paulson,” served as the album’s lead single. “We chose ‘Paulson’ because that song has a sense of immediacy to it. There are a lot of slow-burners on the record (like ‘Gold Standard’) and we felt like we should lead with something fun and fast,” Stewart said. “It also showcased us playing a different style of music than the songs on TWO [the group’s 2013 EP], which we felt was important.”
And the music video for “Paulson”? It came from Kazar’s wonderfully twisted mind, Stewart said. “He had the idea of an ’80s-style workout video where we got murdered by children. And [director] Austin Vesely took it to a whole new level.”
Marrow debuted The Gold Standard back home in Chicago in April. Though there were five months between the listening party and the release date, Stewart says they didn’t plan it with the intention to make changes based on listener feedback. “The party was more like a celebration that we finished the record. We knew it wasn’t going to come out immediately, so we wanted to have some sort of fun event to mark the end of our first record for us.”
Soon, they’ll celebrate the record’s release with a homecoming show at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on November 27, before which Stewart promises more shows (yet to be announced): “We’re planning on touring throughout the fall leading up to our Chicago show at Lincoln Hall.”
The plan is to start the tour sometime in October. But until you get your chance to catch Marrow on the road, pick up The Gold Standard.