The Marble Vanity are a supergroup of sorts. They are comprised of members of CoCoComa, the Hipshakes, and Hollows, including Lisa and Bill Roe, proprietors of Trouble in Mind Records. They released their self-titled debut 12” June 19th on Chicago’s Slow Fizz Records. I had a chance to chat with three of the band’s four members recently. I could tell you more, but they pretty much said it all…
Izzy Cihak: What inspired you all to come together for The Marble Vanity? You all partake in quite a few other musical ventures as well.
Bill Roe: The genesis of The Marble Vanity started to happen in late-2010… Lisa and I had just put our previous band, CoCoComa, on hiatus and we had been demoing out new tunes on Garageband in our Mac that were way different than anything we’d been working on in CoCoComa – poppier in a more obtuse sort of way… I wanted to work on vocal harmonies more (something we’d started doing on our last album) and we were listening to a ton of pop-psych, sunshine pop, baroque-pop, etc. Our friend Andrew Anderson (of the U.K.s The Hipshakes – our great friends and tour mates) had been studying in the US and just graduated from a masters program in Bloomington, IN… He had a window of time where he was sort of “homeless”… The lease on his place in IN was up and since his flight back to the UK wasn’t for two-weeks, we just told him to come up and hang out at our place for the time. One night we were polishing off a couple of bottles of wine and watching the Nilsson documentary (which I’d already seen), so I went into the office where the computer was and started dinking around on this chord progression I’d been picking out on the guitar with my meager guitar-playing skills. I’d intended it to be a demo – recording some vocals too… Lisa and Andrew came in a while later and asked what I’d been doing – I played them what would become “Simian Stares” and we just ran with the idea. In the remainder of Andrew’s stay, we fleshed out the five or so demos we’d done and wrote six more tunes together. That was the genesis of the collaboration right there. The whole album was recorded in Garageband in our 8′ x 10′ front office: drums, horns, everything. Also, our pal Mikey Young needs some serious kudos – he’s essentially our “fifth Beatle.” After recording everything and getting all the edits where we wanted them, he actually mixed the entire album for us. Did a great job too- he saved the record and we owe him our deepest gratitude! Both he and Jason Ward at Chicago Mastering Service made our record sound waaaaaaaaay better than even we imagined (thanks, guys).
IC: What are the Marble Vanity’s biggest inspirations, musical or otherwise? Your press release name-drops the Situationist International, which I was quite taken with, as a die-hard fan of Debord.
BR: Well, not to burst your bubble, but I think the whole “Situationists” dig is a Philippe Debarge reference by the label – he was a millionaire French playboy who was also a huge Pretty Things fan. In 1968 he actually paid the band to come stay with him and write and record a record with him. Crazy. It’s a really amazing record too, and one of the records we were listening to at the time of recording. We’re also big fans of what we call the “2nd tier” bands from the Sixties (i.e. bands that were influenced by bigger, more popular bands) that perhaps recorded with the intention of sounding like a certain band (Beatles, Byrds, Stones, etc.) and fail at it in the most glorious way. Bands like The Index, The Yellow Balloon, The Bachs, who all were trying to emulate their idols and ended up creating something unique unto themselves. We also were pulling influence from a lot of 60’s/70’s pop like Boyce & Hart, Love, The Cyrkle, The Left Banke, Nilsson, as well as the “studio projects” like The Millennium, Sagittarius, The Association – stuff like that. Bands who were created in the studio by producers looking to capture a certain sound.
Lisa Roe: It was a fun exercise to try and come up with music and make it “feel” like a particular song. In CoCoComa I would occasionally just blatantly rip off a song but it’s kind of more fun to just grab the essence. That is definitely all over the record, like Bill mentions the Pretty Things and Millennium. The opening song on the record is meant to sort of combine both the opening tracks on their LP’s. I don’t know that we succeeded, but it was fun to try.
Andrew Anderson: I think we were also inspired by how much fun home recording turned out to be. It was nice to be working on something creative with friends, especially since drinking and Nilsson were involved. It was also rather silly, which was great. Oh, and Bill and Lisa’s daughter, Ronnie, was a big inspiration, since a lot of the things she is interested in overlap with the interests of a bubblegum psych band. She even came up with the chorus line for our first single.
IC: Is there anything that you think is especially important for potential fans to know about the band? Even with the internet the band maintains a relatively ambiguous identity in terms of the information available about you. Is that intentional?
AA: I think if you have a song called “You Can’t Step On A Rainbow,” then saying more about yourself would only be disappointing.
BR: Ha! There’s no real intentional ambiguity… We just feel like it shouldn’t be about the individuals, but the sum of the parts that make the project what ever kind of success it became. Better that it remain a “studio band.” We are the Marble Vanity, They are the Marble Vanity, You are the Marble Vanity.
LR: We actually wrestled with not ever revealing any members of the band, but I think maybe we’re too lazy to try and maintain anonymity.
IC: What are your thoughts on contemporary consumption of music? Hard copies of your debut are quite limited and I’m guessing, as people aware of the Situationists, you have some “political” viewpoint of the way people currently attain their music.
BR: I feel the whole “limited” aspect of this (and other similar) releases isn’t any sort of statement of any kind, just a necessity of a smaller label. Slow Fizz isn’t at the level of your “Sub Pop”s or your “Matador”s, where they can financially afford to press up thousands of copies of a record or CD. They have to be realistic of the audience for every release. Some warrant larger pressings, some smaller. If a “smaller” release sells well, then by all means press up more! I’m all for allowing to exist as many copies as are in demand. As far as my “political” viewpoint on how people obtain their music – pay for it. Geez – it ain’t rocket science.
IC: What are your plans for the rest of the year, or the rest of the project in general? Can we expect more releases from The Marble Vanity and/or possibly tours?
BR: We are prepping a new single for our own label, Trouble In Mind Records, with our new smash hit “Elephant Tears” and are working on a new long-player. It’s a suite of songs about moving, travel, and new places. Hopefully it will be done this year sometime. We’re about halfway finished. Andrew had to move back to the UK, so work progresses slowly across the Atlantic (and Lisa and I just had our second child, so we’ve been a touch preoccupied lately). It’ll happen, there’s no rush.
AA: It would be great to play some shows. We have bought the costumes, including one outfit best described as “Full Crosby,” so I suppose it will happen someday.