Mardou is a young Cincinnati band that’s made a name for itself as an energetic Post Punk quartet. Having played their first show May of 2012, the members of Mardou have released their debut offering of four songs, known as Cardigan EP.
What comes to mind when you think of cardigans? A beautiful day in the neighborhood with Mr. Rogers? Not with Mardou. Though they may look it, the guys in Mardou make music that is nothing like Buddy Holly, Rivers Cuomo or any other famous thick-rim-bespectacled nerds who wear cardigans. Their gritty tune “Dirty Streets” echoes with the line, “These dirty streets don’t need to be clean, no.” It sounds like Iggy Pop collaborated with Public Image Ltd.
Fronted by Dylan McCartney, Mardou began as a few songs composed on his Danelectro bass guitar. After connecting with Eric Lindsay (drums) through Cincinnati D.I.Y., a
now defunct online community of artists Facebook page that supports burgeoning projects and shared distaste for “corporate-run hype-machine bullshit,” Eric Dietrich soon accompanied on bass as McCartney graduated to guitar. Aaron Watkins joined after several months to provide additional guitar.
The group’s name (pronounced “Mar-Dew”) is taken from one of the chief characters in Jack Kerouac’s novella The Subterraneans. When asked if the book’s character Mardou Fox held any special significance to McCartney, he says, “Not in a particular way. I was reading that book and other Beat literature. It was so inspiring to me at the time that it’s definitely the reason I wanted to start making art again, which happened to be music.”
McCartney inserts literary references throughout Mardou’s songs — “Rimbaud” was written while he was reading Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud and their song “Metamorphosis” (which you can only hear live at the moment) is an obvious nod to Franz Kafka’s inexplicable tale of mutation.
“The first show (Mardou) ever played, we were billed as ‘Literary Punk,’ ” McCartney says.
But this isn’t 21-year-old McCartney’s first foray into music.
He started as a drummer, playing for a Metalcore band in high school. Last year, Mardou played a Halloween show and, immediately after finishing their set, McCartney played the role of Tommy/Marky Ramone in a Ramones cover band on the other side of town. (Fun comparison: Joey Ramone was originally The Ramones’ drummer before he was determined to get behind the microphone.)
Mardou’s work has been compared to Sonic Youth, Joy Division and The Buzzcocks, among other bands. While some gripe about this, it’s not a bad thing to draw comparisons with the greats. (As a collective audience, we’ve grown spoiled and insatiable in our arbitrary search for startlingly authentic and original music. No matter how you approach an instrument, you’re going to inevitably mimic some sort of melody or rhythm previously heard.)
But everybody’s straight-faced and somber while they run their set before a show. McCartney does not play his guitar like a calculated virtuoso. He’s loose and natural, decrying convention with every strange pluck of his Fender Jazzmaster’s mostly-tuned strings. In other words, it perfectly recaptures the chaos of early Punk, but the band’s not trying to sound like anything in particular.
“I don’t want to feed into the cliché of saying that our music is too unique to be classified under a single genre, but it’s fair to say that we take a bit of a bipolar approach to songwriting,” McCartney says. “Some of our songs are dark Post Punk tracks, others are fast, noise-poppy tracks, sometimes we just write some Shoegaze stuff with warpy guitars. It seems to depend on what’s going on in my life, honestly.”
With the rest of the band’s rhythmic backbeat, that often eerie and grim sound is washed thoroughly with reverb-drenched vocals. McCartney tends to sing in a monotonic fashion similar to the late Ian Curtis of Joy Division, which is a fitting accompaniment to Mardou’s Post Punk drive.
As for the future of Mardou, there’s going to be a slight lull in live performances while the band takes a month or two to compose new material for another EP.
Mardou will be featured on a lathe-pressed, two-song record coming out on Torn Light Records, a record label/record store set to open soon in Newport. Look for it in late August/early September.