Universal Care, the new album from Boston noise rock outfit Kal Marks, is out now via Exploding in Sound Records.
I was at a stag do at the weekend. Now, I am sitting at home with a twisted ankle and listening to the new album from Boston noise rock trio Kal Marks. It is the perfect musical accompaniment to my current predicament. An album that explores melody and noise, it is also a record that explores the oddness and unpredictability of the human experience. It’s a record that explores inward at our own faults and looks outward at the faults of others. Ultimately, it is a trip. A trip through noise and humanity.
We wanted to learn more about the album, so we asked the band to tell us all about it. As they are gentlemen, they gave us the inside scoop.
1Fuck That Guy
Overblown: ‘Fuck That Guy’. Is this ‘guy’ a literal person?
Kal Marks: This is one of the earliest songs written for this album. We almost always open with it, so it made sense to start the record with it. It’s a song that you can direct a lot of your aggression at and it’s quite relieving. It is about an actual person, but I’d rather not name him. He is or was a very bad man. If I found out he was dead, I wouldn’t feel any sadness. I don’t wish death on anybody but I don’t care what happens to this person. Sorry, that’s messed up.
Overblown: I’m not sure why, but the title track (‘Universal Care’) reminds me of the Meat Puppets. Where did the more melodic aspects of this track stem from?
Kal Marks: I had this song just sitting around. Probably the second one that was written for the record, but I was afraid it was too poppy. Now I don’t care. I have to try whatever my dumb brain desires. How the songs are written and how melodies come about are a little bit of a mystery. I don’t have a mathematical mind and don’t write with a formula. I just screw around with guitar or an idea that’s in my head. What I sing takes awhile, but it comes from my soul.
Overblown: ‘Loosed’ is one of my favourites on the album. It has this hypnotic and somewhat psychedelic rhythm section that is engrossing. The bass even kind of takes the lead in the verses. How did that come about?
Kal Marks: This really came from a lot of jamming. I originally had the band Silver Apples in mind for the rhythm, but it didn’t really turn out that way. I also think there’s a little James Brown feel to it. Alex and Mike really define this one. We really aimed to make something hypnotic and captivating with it.
4Springtime in January
Overblown: After the relatively reflective nature of the previous tracks, the aggressiveness of ‘Springtime in January’ is quite jarring in my opinion. Was that the intention?
Kal Marks: I don’t think there was any intention to be jarring. We just try to let the songs be whatever they need to be. Originally this was a much slower riff, and again this one we really jammed around and chiselled down. It’s one of the most fun to play live.
Overblown: The peacefulness of ‘Ode’ is also quite jarring after the desperation and frantic nature of ‘Springtime in January’. Why sequence these two songs next to each other?
Kal Marks: All records need a break from the mayhem if they are gonna be longer than 30 minutes, this seemed an opportune time.
6All Error Is
Overblown: ‘All Error Is’ what? Human? Inevitable?
Answer: All error is a reason to start again. Pretty simple line, but true. Life would be really uninteresting without some mistakes. This was the last song written for the album, but the opening guitar line had been lying around for awhile. I always thought it sounded great I just didn’t have a whole song for it.
A ‘grand mal’ is a type of seizure. How does that relate to the song?
Kal Marks: I have a friend that’s been having really bad seizures for the last few years. Doctors keep treating him, and can’t quite figure out what’s the problem. It’s torture. It’s been very hard to get a hold of him, and I kind of hate myself for losing touch. I think I was trying to express how much it sucks, and how much I miss my dear friend.
Overblown: What do you think happens in the afterlife?
Kal Marks: Who knows what happens in the afterlife, or if there even is one. If there is one, I imagine it’s beyond our living comprehension. I imagine it’s not bogged down by superficial bullshit and prejudice. Something truly transformative.
9A Place Amongst The Angry Hordes
Overblown: Despite the title, I think that ‘A Place Amongst The Angry Hordes’ is the most playful song musically on the album. Was that deliberate?
Kal Marks: This one has more a playful rhythm but it’s still pretty dark in tone. It has a Stevie Wonder type drum beat, but it’s about chaos.The world seems way too noisy. It’s louder than ever. Not a whole lot of peace of mind. People really do deserve silence.
Overblown: If the previous song is the most playful, then I feel that ‘Adventure’ is the most soaring and epic. There’s a hopefulness to the song in my opinion. I feel this is the climax of the album and it has been building to this point. Is that fair?
Kal Marks: I don’t really think in terms like hope. I think more about accepting whatever life gives and figuring out how to work with it. I try to work hard at what I want. I don’t need much. I just like to have a life rich in experience, but also have my breaks from the noise. I honestly don’t have a better explanation for this song, because I don’t think there really is the answer in the end. Just live, and live in peace. Don’t beat yourself up about how your life is going. It was never going to be perfect. Maybe if you stop with all that noise you’ll realize how much more interesting life is.
‘Reprise’ is nearly like an interlude in my opinion. Why place this song here?
Kal Marks: This one is fair to call an interlude. It’s very short. It also goes really well into the next song, so we just ended playing them live back to back. Most folks I don’t know what “Reprise” is a reprise of. It’s actually the same exact chord progression from the end of Grand Mal. Once it’s slowed down it becomes a lot prettier, then mean and angry.
12Today I Walked Down To The Tree, Read A Book, And When I Was Done, I Went Back Inside
Overblown: I love the mundanity of the title ‘Today I Walked Down To The Tree, Read A Book, And When I Was Done, I Went Back Inside’. I love songs about the average and every day. Is that what the song deals with? The ordinary?
Kal Marks: I think I imagined myself as an old man for this one. One without a lot to do, and having a lot of time to reflect, whether they want to or not. Thinking about the people they loved the most, and not caring about unnecessary material concerns.
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