Based out of El Paso, Texas comes Zechs Marquise. I was able to finally interview the band after a few false starts (sorry guys) and ask them about influences, comparisons and the hometown we share and the way that it has shaped the band. After releasing the "E.P" 34:26 recently and coming off their first tour the band is readying a full length, planning an upcoming tour and took time out of their schedule to answer a few questions. This is not your usual music fare, I highly suggest taking the time to watch the videos the band have posted on their MySpace page. It gives insight to the experience of their live performance and why they have been compared to bands like Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, etc. Chances are if you read this regularly you will dig this band. On to the interview....
The group started out, as you know, in El Paso, TX. The members include Marcos Smith (Guitar), Michael Farraro (Drums), Marfred Rodriguez-Lopez (Bass), Matthew Wilkson (Guitar), and Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez (Keys & Synths). Individually we all have different influences. However, as a band the most influential groups/artists are King Crimson, Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, Can, Led Zeppelin, and Frank Zappa.
How did the band begin? What are the aspirations for the group?
The band began in the summer of 2004 as five friends just wanting to play music, but at the same time we all wanted something more out of it. So, we would meet in our own self-built studio in Michael's parent’s house whenever we could all get together. We would go over riffs that we had individually or write collectively as a group. As time went on we realized that the music that we were playing never left our instruments sounding the same. The main idea of the songs would stay much the same, providing a sort of skeletal structure for the group to bounce other ideas off of, almost like that of a motif or fugue. From that point the music as a whole would remain as something fluid and constantly changing on the surface, allowing the other instruments to weave in and out of the underlying structure. This approach has always kept the music fresh for us and evidently for many listeners as well, often forcing them to question us after the show about weather the music that we played on any given night was the same material from a previous night or not.
Once we started playing in clubs more regularly, and attracting more listeners each night and developing a modest following, we realized that we had something solid. To do this we have promoted ourselves by creating fliers and posters to pass out around town, talking to anyone with an open ear about the group, and by forming a network of contacts through the internet. The harder we work- the more results we see.
As for aspirations for the group, we hope to continue to write songs that others can appreciate while staying true to the music, and to build a larger fan base than we already have accumulated.
You recently completed you first tour, what are some of the most memorable experiences from the trip? Any cities that stood out in particular?
This was the first time we spent more than a week away from home as a touring band. This made for a very memorable experience in and of itself. As for the most memorable experience, it’s hard to pinpoint any one particular instance from the tour. When you are on the road for more than a month you are guaranteed to have many stories to share with others when you get back. Of course, because of the fact that many of the places that we performed at were bars, we have countless memories of belligerent, drunken show-goers acting in the according fashion. However, the best memories that we took from the road were the wonderful people that we met throughout the trip that took care of us, putting a roof over our heads, or a meal in our stomachs.
Other great experiences include the great shows in which we were privileged to perform. For example, in Los Angeles, CA we were invited to play alongside hip-hop artist Busdriver as well as electronic artist Daedelus at a club called The Airliner. The crowd was full of life and the groups that we performed with were extremely exciting.
Throughout the entire tour though, we were fortunate enough to play some really nice venues with great bands like Animatronics (Los Angeles, CA), Kill Kill Orchestra (Seattle, WA), and Tirantez (Sacramento, CA) just to name a few. They really made some of our most memorable experiences on the tour.
Being from El Paso, how has the city shaped your music? The city sometimes has a negative reputation, do you feel that way?
The only way being from El Paso has shaped our music is that it constantly pushes us to work harder. El Paso makes it far too easy to settle for mediocrity. It is a large city with a very small town mentality. EP is very laid back and easy going, without a lot of really exciting things happening here, but it is still home. Although El Paso does hold a negative reputation in other areas of the US, we don't feel that way*. The people make the city seem worse than it really is due to a lack of motivation to make the city more than what it is now.
* I am from El Paso and don't feel that way either by the way.
Your music has been compared to King Crimson, Pink Floyd, etc. It's obviously an honor, do you feel it's a fair representation?
It is an honor to be compared to two of our biggest influences among others, but as for representation we would hope to offer something new to the expanding world of music.
I always like to ask what bands are listening to, I feel it tells a lot and is always interesting. So on that note, what are some of the band members current listening?
Matthew- Fugazi, Mastadon, Weather Report: Sweetnighter, Otis Spann, Muddy Waters: Hard Again, Lava (Spain)
Michael- Captain Beefheart: Shiny Beast, This Heat: The John Peal Sessions, Tony Williams: Emergency
Marcos- Marvin Gaye, Dorothy Ashby, Frank Zappa
Marfred- Frank Zappa, Gong, Alice Coltrane, El Gran Combo, King Crimson
Marcel- The Persuaders, Sonora Poncenia, Bruno Spoerri
What are your plans for the next year? Can we expect a wide release? Another tour?
Yes, tour, tour, tour. We have plans on releasing a single of a song entitled ‘Pattern’, followed shortly there after by an EP. Then we will start recording the full length album, which will be distributed throughout the US.
Is it a challenge being an instrumental band? How does this carry over in your live show? And how much of the performance is improvised?
Actually, it’s not as challenging as one might think. Performing without a vocalist puts more of the focus on the music itself. Each show is different from the last, never playing a single song the same way twice. The idea is to keep it fresh and constantly evolving. About 40% of our set is improvised on an average night, but some nights we don’t feel like playing anything we have ever played before. In this case, we will improvise entire songs on stage and everything from the rhythm, to the beat, and the solos are all created in that moment. This is when the group really challenges itself with improvisation serving as a sort of testament to each member’s personal musicianship. These are the nights that we really have to be on our toes in order to keep the music from collapsing upon itself. Reacting at the right time, making eye contact to catch small signals from one another, patiently listening for the correct time to stand out or blend into the backbone of the song- these are all things we have to keep in mind in that moment to make the experience work well.
And last, tell us about the name? How did you decide on it?
Originally, we had chosen the name Monolith, but as it turned out, there are a handful of bands that go by that name. In the search for a new name, Marfred brought up the name ZECHS MARQUISE (taken from an anime called Gundam Wing) and the rest of us liked the way it sounded.
Photo courtesy of Elena Madrid (www.frontlineartist.com)