Interview: The Mark Inside

The Mark Inside @ The Garrison, 05-19-11

Before playing a rockin’ set at The Garrison, I was able to sit down with The Mark Inside for a chat. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, The Mark Inside has been a band for over 10 years, with only one recent lineup change, losing an original member but gaining a new member, Reade Ollivier on drums. Their brand of punk-influenced rock and roll is rowdy, boozy and a lot of fun.

Having been around so long, Chris Levoir (vocals, guitar) addresses how their sound and the band itself has evolved. “A lot of the first music we were writing we were still writing when we were in high school. Even the first four years of the band, we were still pretty much only playing in one club in Oshawa. Really for us to be a full-fledged band playing outside of one town, it took us four years. We moved to Toronto in 2003.”

Geoff Bennett (guitar) elaborates on their evolution. “The earlier music – there was a lot of bluesiness to it that we kind of got away from. I think we found it a bit almost cheesy after a while.”

As for how a band can last so long, Chris says, “We’re all artists of our own accord, always strumming on something or scribbling or doodling on a piece of paper. The band is always going to be together as long as we enjoy doing that kind of stuff together.”

Growing up in a small town has certainly influenced the band. Geoff says, “There’s probably a little bit more of an ‘us vs. them’ mentality in a smaller town. In a smaller town, particularly in Whitby, we were ruthlessly mocked for having slightly longer hair back then.”

Sporting a shorter haircut, he then adds, “I conformed now. I sold out.”

As for their songwriting process, Chris says, “Whatever is brought into our rehearsal space, we have some beers, get a little stoned and play it loud in the room and see where it goes from there. That’s pretty much how most things are sorted out naturally.”

This gets a laugh from the group and Reade says, “It’s called natural selection.”

Their False Flag EP and forthcoming full-length were recorded at Chapel Studios, which is, as the name suggests, a chapel that was converted into a studio. Chris indicates that it was producer Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian) that brought them to the studio. “It’s a really cool vibe. It’s in a pretty rural part of England, like 3 hours northeast of London. Literally, it was one strip of 20 houses with a bar at the end of the road.”

The band is a little familiar with England, having toured there for two weeks opening for The Hold Steady.

On the subject of touring, Chris says, “If you could condense all our touring into a 2-year period it would seem pretty impressive, but some of our stretches have been pretty far between and we’re trying to change that moreso now.”

Continuing with the topic of touring, Chris emphasizes the importance of touring. “You have to be playing and you have to be out there meeting people more and more now. It has to be a real human experience or it just won’t matter at all anymore, I don’t think. Record sales don’t really count as much anymore, but if you can throw a great party in some city where everyone talks about it for months, that will carry you into the next show and if you keep doing that and keep doing that, then that will build.”

Geoff adds, “I can’t remember where I heard it, but it was put that it used to be that when you toured, you made a record and you toured to support the record. Now it’s you make a record as a reason to tour, basically.”

Geoff credits The Phog Lounge in Windsor as favourite place to play on tour. Chris cites The Roundhouse in London, “where Jimi Hendrix played his last show ever, where The Ramones played their first UK show ever,” as a favourite touring memory.

As for how they would sell their live show to get people out, Geoff says, “In small baggies.”

Everyone laughs, but then Chris answers a bit more seriously. “I ultimately hope that people take away that we’re not manufactured in any way, that we’re trying to project what we want to hear from other people and, by that extent, we try to carry on a certain continuity of all the bands we’ve respected through rock and roll/punk rock. So hopefully, at the best, we’re just carrying a torch of sincere, really good bands who really play aggressively to people and really try to change it up.”

The name “The Mark Inside” actually comes from William S. Burroughs’ The Naked Lunch. As for other non-musical influences, Chris is quick to name comedian Bill Hicks. “Bill Hicks talked a lot about him being the rock and roll comedian. I would like to be a rock and roll musician like he was a comedian. He had guns pulled on him and stuff like that just because of content he was saying. He was trying to talk about real human issues without borders, without prejudice, like ideology held up.”

Geoff then says, “Chris and I, when we were kids got into drawing and painting and stuff, so that was probably the early catalyst.”

Chris also acknowledges some musical influences. “Certainly there’s a lot of great bands in Toronto and elsewhere that are influencing us a lot these days. Reade’s big on METZ right now. Kurt Vile [points at Gus].

Gus Harris (guitar) agrees, “Yeah, my two favourite records as of late are Kurt Vile and the new Caribou.”

Chris and Geoff cite their current favourites, Wavves and Panda Bear, respectively. Chris also credits friends for their influence. “It’s nice to be able to go to your friends’ places and be able to go through their record collections and see a lot of good records being played.”

As for drunken stories, the guys seem to be full of them. Chris indicates that they’ve almost been kicked out of their jamspace for throwing parties after shows. He also credits Geoff as being one of the bigger partiers, having “chucked a cymbal out the window 2 storeys up onto the road at like 4 in the morning” or that they once found him asleep on top of Young Rival’s van. The guys also like to go to the casino after shows in Windsor, but the last time they tried, they were too drunk to be let in.

However, the full story they decide to share is one about Gus. Gus is actually the one to bring it up and Geoff says, “Gus had a little too much Southern Comfort.”

Chris tells the story. “We were touring with C’Mon at the time, big party band, drinking band. In Thunder Bay, the club we were playing at, they have this room upstairs with a bunch of pretty wobbly bunk beds and we were all kind of in one room and Gus is on the top one. So Gus all night had been crawling down this thing and going to puke somewhere. In the morning we woke up and Gus was just sleeping it off. We all knew to just leave him to the last minute. We packed up all the gear and put it all in and basically at the last possible minute we could wait, we had to go up and get Gus from sleeping upstairs.”

After they get Gus, the band starts making their way to the next venue. It is at this point that the retelling of the following exchange gets a laugh from everyone:

Gus: Bag.
Everyone else: What are you talking about, man?
Gus: Bag.
Everyone else: Gus, there’s no bag here. We got nothing.
Gus: Bag, please. Bag, please.

“So Gus just starts scrambling for the side door of the van, which is one of those pull open sliding doors. So we pull over to the side of the road just as Gus is yanking at the side of the tour van, grabs on with one arm and swings out like he’s swinging from a pole and pukes all over the road and the side of the van, right in front of a family basically walking from Church or something.”

Gus adds the final touch to the story. “They later bought me a bucket for like $5 or something.”

As for their shot of choice, the band easily agrees on Jameson.

They don’t have any upcoming Toronto dates yet, but they’ve got a mini-tour at the end of June. They’ll also be going back to their roots and will be playing a hometown show on July 9th. Catch this band live and look out for their full-length. For now, enjoy their EP, False Flag.


Categories: Interviews


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