The entity that is Marion Walker are beautifully ambiguous squared. The three-piece band is comprised of Jessie Marion Smith, Kyle Walker Akins, and drummer Donovan Jordan Williams. In addition to fronting and writing music for Marion Walker, Jessie is also a choreographer, dancer, and filmmaker, while Kyle is a visual artist, sound engineer, and filmmaker. The band also seems to lack a definitive “home,” as they originally split their time between Reno, NV and Seattle, WA, while their latest album was largely written in Asheville, NC and Florida, but eventually recorded on the West Coast, where they currently reside. June 23rd Marion Walker will release their three-song Serious Picnic EP on cassette tape via Casino Trash Records. The album blends a postmodern revivalist take on psych rock with a brash punk attitude, but an aesthetic that is perfect for bopping around and chanting along to… albeit likely in a wonderfully divey locale. They’re currently about 2/3rds into a batch of dates that will have them playing our very own Everybody Hits this Thursday, June 11th. The band recently took some time to let us at PHILTHY MAG know all about the band’s background and what can be expected of their upcoming sounds and performance.
Izzy Cihak: You’re about to release your Serious Picnic EP. How do you feel like this collection of songs compares to previous releases, both in terms of sound and just the process of writing and recording it?
Marion Walker: We are all very excited to be touring/releasing our Serious Picnic EP. We spent a significant amount of time crafting the melodies so they flowed with and into each other (There are some riffs that pop up earlier in the tracks that could act as little easter eggs for repeat listeners.) We recorded it ourselves, so we were able to spend an extended period of time during all stages of the production. This is also the first recording we have with Donovan Williams on drums, even though he has played live for us during every stage of Marion Walker. These recordings also approach a more fuzzed-out/psych-doomy vibe than our older songs.
Izzy Cihak: What would you consider to be the album’s most significant influences, both musical and otherwise (I know you all work in various mediums)?
Marion Walker: These songs are products of their environment and times. The songs were written in July 2014, and in their own way foreshadowed several events within the political climate of American life. The middle track, “Silver Drone,” has only one line, “Hold Up Your Hands.” Originally we had intended that ‘raising of hands’ to be a symbol of people volunteering (as one would do in a crowd)….yet only a few weeks later Michael Brown was murdered and “Hold Up Your Hands” became an international sign of protest and futility against our police state. All the lyrics were already written before Ferguson happened and the only line we changed was adding, “RIP Michael Brown.”
Not very many people have approached us, or commented on this aspect of the song yet, which is not a mystery to us. We all felt nervous and anxious about referencing political events in our music, (especially considering it was created beforehand) but have since realized that it is more our duty to act as a channel and trust what we do. Silence is violence and it’s time to sit down, break bread with our ‘frenemies,’ and have a serious conversation about how to move forward.
Izzy Cihak: I understand you’re filmmakers, so I want to go off on a selfish tangent on cinema, because it’s by far my favorite artistic medium and also my favorite thing in the world to talk about… What’s your favorite film and have there been any recent releases that especially impressed you?
Marion Walker: Donovan and Kyle both agreed that Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original ver.) was probably the most influential movie in their lives (along with The Wiz and Willy Wonka). Kyle saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre at eight years old and it’s certainly influenced every aesthetic within his life. Jessie does not like horror movies, she’s had far more exposure to films such as the beautiful dance cinema stylings of Slovenian choreographer Iztok Kovac and his company En-Knap. (Check out “Dom Svobode” by En-knap!!!)
We haven’t had much time recently to appreciate newer releases in the film world. The one exception was in Fresno, when we had time to kill before our show last week, we went to see the new Mad Max. To refer again to the need to talk about our current political environment, Mad Max has successfully subverted the ridiculous gender imbalance present in our world.
Izzy Cihak: I love that you’re releasing your EP on tape, which is another love of mine. What prompted this? And what are your favorite things about cassette tapes? I’ve actually decided that if I had my own perfume/fragrance, it would smell like the translucent cassette tapes (Is that weird?) (I also love that the CD copies of the album that you sent out contain only one single track, so that critics have to listen to the entire thing, like a cassette, which you’ve said is how the album is meant to be consumed.)
Marion Walker: We wanted to release Serious Picnic on a cassette for several reasons. The foremost being that we wanted to work with Casino Trash Records out of Seattle. Casino Trash, which is predominantly a cassette label, has barely been around for a year and they’re a group of insanely creative and hard working people pumping out and supporting great music. When we first got our tapes in hand to listen to, we loved the sound of it… There is just some added magic that remains unavailable in the digital world of sound.
Izzy Cihak: You’re currently on tour. Have there been any particular highlights so far, whether places you especially enjoyed visiting or crowds that were especially amazing?
Marion Walker: Being a traveling band, you must remain at the mercy of the road. We’ve encountered some serious weirdos, sweethearts, and saints who’ve taken us in, fed us, and even let us touch their crystals. Our van has been displaying some odd electrical issues and dies at very inappropriate times. As we were unloading into our show in San Francisco, our van died, and required six strangers to push it up a classic SF hill as we were offered ‘bird-esque’ salutations from angry commuters.
Izzy Cihak: And you’re going to be playing Philadelphia on June 11th at Everybody Hits. What can be expected of the live experience? Did you know that the venue is actually batting cages? (Unfortunately, I’m going to have to miss it because Belle & Sebastian are in DC that night and they’re my all-time favorite band… other than The Smiths…)
Marion Walker: We knew our Philadelphia show was at Everybody Hits, but weren’t sure if we were playing in the batting cages or not. That is gonna be so much fun!!! We are certainly looking forward to introducing ourselves to the area. We are a performance band, ultimately. We love playing live and touring. There is nothing like the transference of energy that takes place during shows. As far as what to expect during the show, be prepared for some bad inside jokes Kyle insists on sharing, some serious bass-necking and/or high-kicking from Jessie, 11-minute+ fuzzed-out songs, and Donovan on the skins who keeps us all grounded.