Mardou calls its music “Post Punk/Noise Pop shit,” which is as good a descriptor as any. The fresh-faced local quartet (singer/guitarist Dylan McCartney, guitarist Aaron Watkins, bassist Eric Dietrich and drummer Eric Lindsay) had a fruitful 2013, dropping a pair of addictive EPs (The Kirby Sessions and Cardigan EP), seven tracks in total that recall myriad sonic antecedents (most notably Joy Division and Sonic Youth) yet are intriguing enough on their own to yield genuine excitement about what these guys might conjure going forward.
CityBeat recently traded emails with McCartney, Mardou’s founder and frontman, to touch on everything from his artistic inspirations to his thoughts on the local music scene.
CityBeat: Let’s start with the band’s name. You’ve said that it was taken from Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans, a book that, among other Beat writings, inspired you to “start making art again, which happened to be music.” What was so inspiring about it? Why did it inspire you to make music as opposed to any other creative endeavor?
Dylan McCartney: I just really dug how all those Beat dudes lived their young lives. They seemed to have a more enlightened understanding of the fact that if you don’t capitalize on your opportunities to be weird and crazy and stupid, they’re going to be gone very quickly.
What I took away was, “I want to be a goddamn musician, so that’s what I’m going to do.” And, well, I’ve tried other methods of art. I can’t draw (my drawings look less elegant than cave drawings), I can’t paint and I don’t have the attention span for writing.
CB: There’s a fairly overt 1980s Post Punk vibe going on in your music. As four guys who likely weren’t even alive when that music was made, what about that era do you find intriguing?
DM: It’s no secret to anyone that even knows me at face level that Joy Division is my favorite band.
I have a deep-rooted and admittedly disturbing obsession with that band, so of course they influence me a lot. But that whole time period and niche of music has always been one that myself and the rest of the members of the band connect with. Dub-influenced bass, barely tuned and weird-sounding guitars and stuff. Stuff like Wire and Swell Maps has always appealed to me because sometimes it’s strange just for the sake of being strange.
CB: Your songs are noisy and chaotic, but they’re also pretty compact and cohesive on a structural level. Is that a deliberate decision? Or is the songwriting process more organic?
DM: I love noise. I love feedback and chaos and accidents. But I also like a catchy chorus and a well-written verse and all of that. So I think when myself or anyone else in the band comes together to write a song, there is always an attempt to incorporate both.
CB: How has being from Cincinnati impacted your music and approach to being in a band?
DM: When I started playing music in Cincinnati, I was in a total vacuum. I knew almost nobody who was doing shit in the underground music scene. But that changed almost immediately. And the more people I got to know, the more they influenced me. Sure, there is a ton of music here that sucks, but there’s a lot of good stuff.
My biggest influences now are all local musicians: Jerri from Vacation, Kevin from Weakness, Michael from Gazer, John Hoffman, etc. I find myself caring less and less about popular music around the country and more about the music going on in my own city, because I really like a lot of it. And I know I speak for Eric, Eric and Aaron in saying that. We get really stoked on the good bands our friends are in.
CB: So far you’ve made your recordings available on the Internet for free, DIY style. Is that something you will continue to do? What kind of interest do you guys have in hooking up with a record label of some sort?
DM: I feel really weird charging people for our music. I’d rather they just have it to enjoy without having to worry about spending any of their hard-earned money on it. I mean, the hope is that they enjoy the music and buy a record or a T-shirt or something, because that’s how we make money. And trust me, we need money. We’re broke.
As far as a label goes, of course we’d sign a record deal — we aren’t so idealistic to not understand the merits of a conventional record deal. And if that happened, I’m sure inevitably our thoughts would change on a lot of things. But for now we’re content. A friend of ours has expressed interest in releasing a full-length of sorts, so we’ll just leave it at that.
MARDOU performs Saturday, Jan. 18 at Bogart's for the Best New Band's showcase. Click here for show details and here for more on Mardou.