December 11, 2019
Tune-In Tuesdays #48: Marcelyn on Music, Meaning, and Money
Marcelyn plays the Ukelele in front of a flowerbedSource: Marcelyn on Instagram
Marcelyn is a local indie-electric trio with an infectious personality.
On Sunday, the band took us behind the scenes of their latest album “This is Woman’s Lib?” with an added inside scoop on their upcoming music video. We also shared a few laughs as we bonded over our love for Philadelphia.
What kicked off your interests in music? How have you influenced eachother?
Marcelyn: Our parents had a rule for us that you had to pick a musical instrument and pick a sport. If you didn’t like it, you didn’t have to stick with it, but you had to at least try it.
We all started picking different instruments and we eventually found what we liked the best.
There’s a pretty big age difference between us.
Mike: It’s 17 years.
Marcelyn: So we bring a lot of musical influences by introducing the music we like to each other.
Travis: [Working with them] really pushed me to think outside my box. I’ve been recording everything by myself for a while now. Getting back into the swing of things with other people is new, fresh, and fun.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences? What genres have you always gravitated towards?
Marcelyn: I am a classically trained singer and I’ve been doing musical theatre for a really long time, so I come from a very trained side of music. I really love a lot of choral music, so I think a lot about complex harmonies.
Aside from that, I grew up in the age of emo and pop-punk, so I love anything like My Chemical Romance. There’s a cover of “Helena” on our album.
Now it’s transferred over to artists like Mitski and tUnE-yArDs.
Mike: I’m still listening to the stuff I was listening to in college. Late ’90’s stuff, college rock for me.
When I was growing up, I had three bands that I listened to: There Might be Giants, The Dead Milkmen, and Weird Al Yankovic. That’s just where I come from.
Travis: When I was growing up, I had Fleetwood Mac on repeat for about three years. I was pretty big into ’60’s soul and psychedelic stuff, and then anything classic rock from the ’70’s and late ’80’s.
What are your favorite memories from growing up together?
Marcelyn: Mike is 17 years older than me, so he was almost in college when I was born. But we still ended up spending a lot of time together. He was nearby, so we used to hang out a lot. I would go over to his place after school.
Travis: I don’t have any memories from their childhood.
How did you meet Travis and how did he join the group?
Marcelyn: Mike and I decided after we went on tour that we wanted to step up our game and have a drummer or other musicians so we could play more live – we were using backing tracks for awhile.
We posted all over Facebook and Craigslist, and Travis answered. We’ve been playing together since…
Travis: Since August.
Marcelyn: Yeah, we’ve been playing together since August now. We’ve only played a couple shows together so far, but we’ve been slowly writing some new music.
How would you describe your songwriting and producing process? Is it a three-way split in writing and producing, or does one of you write while the others focus on production?
Marcelyn: For this passed album, I did a lot of writing by myself. Mike would write out a bass part or something electronic, and then I would write my part on top of that. It was pretty even.
Mike: Sometimes I tend to write an idea, and then she would add on top of it. We’d just go back and forth for a while.
Marcelyn: We kind of feel uncomfortable writing together [laughs], so it works that we would do our part separately.
With Travis, we’ve been trying to write more stuff together. We’ve been passing it back and forth to each other through email a little bit.
The cover of “This is Woman’s Lib?” features a barn in Malvern, Pa. with the very phrase painted on the side of it. What were your first thoughts when you saw the barn years ago?
Marcelyn: [“This is Woman’s Lib?”] has been on that barn since the ’70s, so it’s been around for even longer than we’ve been around.
It’s like a landmark in the area, I’d pass it on my way to school.
Mike: It’s literally around the corner.
Travis: I didn’t know that story until just now, but I drove out to see it because I Googled it and realized it was an actually place. I was like, “Well, why is that written on a barn?”
I’ve got to say, I live in Philadelphia, and it’s much nicer than the graffiti we get in the city.
In your own personal spaces, what have been your favorite moments from working on your music? Did you have any “light bulb” moments that you feel particularly proud of?
Marcelyn: We have a really weird track on our album called “Funny / Not Funny” that doesn’t fit with the rest of the album, and that track kind of felt like an accident – but a very purposeful accident.
Mike: We worked on it for about a year, and we couldn’t come up with a good vocal line for it. We were going over and over and over it, and every take that we would do I would take something from it.
We did this one take where Marcelyn did a radio interview where she would say “Umm” or “Ah,” and we put that as the vocals. Like, she’s got this one part from the interview where she says, “Yeah!” –
Marcelyn: Several parts. I did that so often and I don’t know why. I was so nervous [laughs].
Mike: So I took that and it leads into the chorus. Every part we kept stacking more and more because we couldn’t figure out where the song was going.
Then one day we got the keyboard and we made this line and we were like, “That’s it! Finally, we are DONE.”
Marcelyn: We just ended up loving it so much we decided to put it on the album whether it fit with it or not because we worked on it so hard.
This is really, really nerdy, but it kind of reminds me of a fugue in baroque music where there’s a subject that’s repeated by different parts and a countersubject, which is another line that’s repeated by different parts.
That’s kind of what “Funny / Not Funny” felt like to me when it finally came together.
What are your favorite tracks on “This is Woman’s Lib?”
Marcelyn: Ah, it’s like having to pick your favorite child.
Travis: My favorite is “Jealous Heart” because it’s really fun to play live.
Marcelyn: Yeah! It really is. We need to re-record that.
Mike: We changed [“Jealous Heart”] after we recorded it. Well, we had it written originally, but we couldn’t figure out how to make Garage Band slow down, so we just left it.
Travis: There’s a tempo change at the end of the chorus.
Mike: We have to record a live version.
But to answer your question, my favorite song is “#1 Babe.” It’s like, the best song I’ve ever written.
Marcelyn: This is the first time we’re talking about it, but we’re releasing a music video for “#1 Babe” on Jan. 3.
Oooh, is there anything you can reveal about the music video, or is it all hush-hush right now?
Travis: We have a fantastic director.
Marcelyn: Mike is directing and editing it.
Mike: After this interview, we’re going to go down to the basement and shoot a couple more scenes. It should be edited by tonight, but I don’t want to give away the joke.
Marcelyn: It’s… a portion of a family home video that we discovered during Thanksgiving. We won’t say much else about it or spoil the joke.
As the artists behind the album, what does it mean to you as a whole?
Marcelyn: This was an album that I had wanted to make for a while, but I didn’t really know how. I’ve always been a singer/songwriter, so it’s been difficult for me to add my own instruments like live drums, bass, or other things. I really needed to start working with other people, and when I did it opened up a lot for my writing style.
Mike: My answer is not nearly as interesting, but it’s where I was for the passed year. I was in a good place for a year, so here’s a good album.
Marcelyn: I was in a weird-ass place, not a good place. I had just gotten out of college and I moved back home into my childhood bedroom, so it was a weird mood.
Mike: I think “Here” sums that up.
Marcelyn: I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t know what I was doing, so I just wrote about it.
You guys also play a lot of shows in the Philadelphia area. Where are some of your favorite venues?
Marcelyn: I kind of like basement shows, which I think we are possibly outgrowing, but I got my start in basement and house shows.
I had a favorite venue where I went to college called “The Hush Room.” It was just an awesome art gallery where they had drag shows. It was just so cute down there.
I love Anthorna Gallery in Philly, it’s a similar kind of vibe. It’s a good space with good people.
Oh, Phoenixville! Phoenixville’s a really fun place to play. The Pickering Creek Inn –
Mike: Great American Pub, PJ Ryan’s. The Phoenixville shows are always fun.
I just miss The North Star.
What about you, Travis?
Travis: All of the above.
I’ve only ever been to one house show, but the vibe is really fun. I just remember everyone was drinking alcohol near the heaters in the basement and I was like, “Oh my god this is not safe.”
Marcelyn: Oh my god, they’re never safe. I played a show in a basement that had recently flooded and we had to plug in our equipment down there, which is definitely not safe.
I made them clean it up before we plugged anything in, which I think was… the right call. I won’t say which house show though.
What’s your favorite part about playing live?
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What a fun gig! Thanks to @jane.inred for this shot and thanks to the Nail for having us✌🏼 . . . #marcelyn #dontpanic #indignitiesanddepravities #thisiswomanslib #singersongwriter #singer #femalesinger #uke #ukulele #tenoruke #5stringuke #indie #electropop #philadelphia #philly #phillyartist #phillysinger #indieelectropop #indiemusic #indieartist #popmusic #unsigned #unsignedartist #electronicmusic #pennsylvaniaartist #pennsylvaniasinger #diymusic #music
Marcelyn: [laughs] Ohhhhh, wow.
Mike: I’m in it for the money!
Travis: That’s the right goal, we’re in it for the money.
Marcelyn: We make $10 per show.
Mike: That’s it. At our last show, we got $10. That was the best $10.
Marcelyn: I’m looking to like, use my music degree! Speaking of my music degree, I’m very classically trained and I do a lot of choral shows where there are very strict rules. There’s just a protocol you have to go through.
When I play with the band, I can do whatever I want.
I’m starting to get used to going wilder. Just having fun [is the best part]. There’s a different kind of fun when you’re performing other music that’s more intense and focused.
Going forward, what’s next for Marcelyn? You have the music video for “#1 Babe” coming up, but do you have any music in the works or any shows planned?
Marcelyn: We’re just trying to write our next album. It’s coming along. There will be more music eventually, possibly more music videos.
We’re also working on a tour from Philly to Memphis and back around with my friend Ally and the Walrus that we’ll be doing in mid-May.
Mike: That seems like forever from now.
Marcelyn: It’s not.
How do you hope to impact your listeners through your work?
Mike: Through their ears.
Marcelyn: I really love artists that can say a lot about what they’re feeling, even if they don’t say that much – if that makes sense.
I really strive, when I’m writing lyrics, to have an impactful message or feeling that I’m getting across in as a distinct but poetic way as possible. Am I making sense?
Marcelyn: I love artists like Mitski who really can capture an emotion in a song. I try to write like that and I try to have that kind of impact, and I hope that when our listeners hear my lyrics and the expression in my voice that they can relate to the intensity of what I’m feeling. Yeah?
Marcelyn: What about you?
Mike: I just want to be in Bass Player Magazine.
Travis: The personal connection is what it’s about.
Marcelyn: That’s a much better way to say it, wow. Thank you.
Travis: If you can even just connect with one person watching you play it makes it all worth it.
Being that you’re local, what are your favorite parts of Philly?
Marcelyn: I spend a lot of time in the Gayborhood and the South Street area. I also do burlesque sometimes, I’m involved in the cabaret scene here and there’s just a lot of really fantastic shows going on in that area. I love hanging around there, there’s a great nightlife.
I’m a grad student at Temple right now, so I’ve been exploring the surrounding areas, like Fish Town. I think it’s cool there. And our art district is great.
I love Philly. I love it here.
Mike: I lived in West Passyunk for a couple of years and I’m in love with the Melrose. I could play there for hours, the cliff sandwiches are decent.
Marcelyn: It’s kinda kitchsy, too – and there’s parking!
Mike: Yeah, but I wouldn’t park, I’d just walk there.
Travis: I’m not from Philadelphia, I’m transplanted here. My favorite place is probably Roxborough because we have Charleys Steaks, which is better than Dalessandro’s if you want to get into that.
Do you have any additional comments or final thoughts to share?
Mike: Buy our music [laughs].
Marcelyn: Yeah, book us for shows!
Head on over to Bandcamp to buy Marcelyn’s music, or give them a listen on Spotify and Apple Music!
Be sure to give them a follow on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with their latest song releases and show dates.
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