There is something admirable about a nice musical duo. Perhaps because you view it more as a marriage than anything else; two people coming together based on shared interests, looking to make it work. Except that artists don’t necessarily have to see one another every day. Not sure how often Che Houston and Kevin Marksson of Saint Marilyn take time apart from one another but one can tell they are a perfect pair.
He sets up the shot, she shoots and scores. At least that’s how it went down when I reached out to speak to her and he was nice enough to get the ball rolling. In the end Che was open about how her and Kevin came to be, lessons from their EP, summer heat, and much more…
Kendra: You and Kevin bonded over yard-sale synthesizers, but when I think of New York, I picture too many yards. Where were these going down?
Che Houston: Fair point! Kevin and I met in the Hudson Valley – literal birthplace of yard sales. After we both moved to Brooklyn we started playing at first as a White-Stripes-esque drums and guitar mash-up.
After several half-hearted practices I suggested we trade in our analogue instruments for some electronics. That was when the band really formed. Neither of us had much money to spend on such an experiment, so we used the city’s version of a yard sale, Craigslist.
Kendra: Soon after, you two became musically involved, and a couple years ago you dropped a debut EP, but you’ll soon have the follow up. What are a few lessons you learned in between then and now that helped shape the sound of the upcoming album?
Che: The band was formed, and continues to grind away, outside of our comfort zone–and that’s our preference. New instruments and ideas. It’s kind of messy and exposing, but in the end we think it makes us better.
Our first EP was recorded before we performed any of the songs live, and this last year was spent performing a whole new batch of unrecorded songs. This next album will have a mix of these very lived-in and dynamic songs as well as some reconfigured oldies. Performing the songs first and applying that live feedback from show to show is the seasoning that we hope will enhance the next album.
Kendra: We can kind of hear for ourselves with your latest single, “Frustrate Me.” Instead of the obvious, I want to know what is one thing that could never get under your skin?
Che: Great question, there is so much to get frustrated about right now.
One thing that seems to bother everyone else but me is the heat in the summer. Midsummer, 105 degrees on a blanched sidewalk in Brooklyn is my favorite thing. When else is everyone in this diverse city so unified in thought? I love meeting the gaze of a stranger and sharing the same thought, “Man, it’s fucking hot out here.”
Kendra: Back to the music, electronic is nothing new right now. Many artists are utilizing it, but you guys have a bit of a New Wave mixed in. Do you feel you would’ve been all about that whole scene had you grown up in the ‘80s, or is that an acquired taste you can appreciate more now in current times?
Che: If I had been born a few years earlier and lived in New York, I’m sure I would have gravitated to new wave and post-punk. More like, I would have appreciated whatever was playing at small venues like CBGBs. I’m a sucker for a great live show in a tiny venue. I went to college in Poughkeepsie, NY, and spent most of my free time absorbing live music in whatever basement, bar, or theater it occurred in. That scene was overwhelmingly post-hardcore, noise-core and indie rock in the 2000’s.
But, at the same time, I picked up secondhand CDs for my car whenever possible, and through that I developed a fervent love for space-rock act Grandaddy, and big beat duo The Chemical Brothers. They laid the groundwork for my appreciation of electronic music in the following years.
Kendra: Other than the music, people started to catch wind of you two due to your live shows. Did you come from a performing background, or does being on stage just come naturally for you?
Che: Performance is everything in my mind, and I’m sure the bands I followed and went to see in college have everything to do with this. When I listen to albums from 10 years ago by bands like Foxy Shazam, The Number 12 Looks Like You, Fear Before, The Fall of Troy, Skeletonbreath, or Kiss Kiss…I still see chaos, stars, fireworks. I’d be happy to create the same impact with our shows.
Kendra: Will we be seeing you two out on the road later this year, or are you sticking around Brooklyn for now?
Che: We’ll be in Brooklyn for the next few months focusing on writing and rewriting, with the goal of recording in the summer. Depending on how quickly that process goes we’re likely to tour a little at the end of the year or the beginning of the next.
Kendra: New Wave is still a mystery to some, so if you had to give someone a starter pack mixtape to introduce them to the genre – what five songs would have to be on it?
Che: Since we describe ourselves as “new wave-ish”, here is a “new wave-ish” playlist:
“Don’t Go” – Yaz
“Wishing” – A Flock of Seagulls
“Mad World” – Tears for Fears
“Our Darkness” – Anne Clark
“Being Boiled” – The Human League