Full disclosure: Chris Stewart and Ty Kube are old friends of mine. Chris dated a different friend a while back, and I met Ty about ten years ago. I'd usually see him in the morning when I was leaving for work, the time of day when he'd be on my couch watching Headbangers Ball with my doped-out roommate. Since then, Ty went on to front the cartoony party punk band Team Robespierre, and when that seemed to be done with, he and Chris started Black Marble, which is a dark, synthy, wavey band. They rule, and I'm not just saying that because they're my buddies. For some proof, you can listen to "Static" below. It's a cut off their debut full-length, A Different Arrangement, out on Hardly Art October 9th. You can pre-order the record here, and listen to "Static" by pressing that little orange button below:
A few weeks ago we all drove out to a shady gay cruising spot near Bergen Beach with a bunch of explosives and some old gear. Even if you live in New York, you might not have heard of Bergen Beach - it's way out south of Carnasie, just on the edge of the Flatlands, and you can sorta see it from the bridge to Fort Tilden. Its the sort of spot I imagine David Wojnarovicz would troll when he needed to clear his head.
I sat on the photos for a few weeks because I'm lazy, but yesterday Chris called me up to chat about coffee robots, the new Black Marble record, and how Grimes is a hack. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the photographic evidence of our dumbscapade.
Noisey: So what do you want to talk about?
Chris Stewart: What do I want to talk about? I don’t know hold on. I’m being rude to people at my job... I didn’t realize the kitchen was going to be full of co-workers so I’m going to walk downstairs. I have to run down to the… what's it called? Dining area.
You have a dining area at your job? Cushy. What do you do these days?
I'm an art director in advertising. I do interactive, web-based stuff. Some stuff is really fun, and a lot of it sucks, like making banner ads and shit.
That sounds shitty.
Yeah, that’s why i’m in a band.
I haven't seen you in a while… I guess the most recent thing we did together was blow up a bunch of old gear in the woods.
Yeah! I was really psyched - I’d wanted to do that for so long. I was really excited about it photographically. Plus I had gotten arrested a week before when I tried to pick up the fireworks.
So like a week before we went, I drove to Pennsylvania to get all these fireworks and explosives. Then it was fourth of July weekend so of course I was drunk and shot some off… and immediately got arrested. I was walking down the street with a backpack full of fireworks and these five cops jump out of a giant van and said, “hey kid, come over here” and they pull me to a van and realize I’ve got an arsenal; they were thrilled. I was the best thing that happened to them all week.
Jesus. Did you go to jail?
Yeah, they took me in and asked what made me think I could carry around explosives. I told them it was for a photo shoot. I was really drunk at this point, and really belligerent. I could tell they wanted to keep me locked up all weekend but I guess they had other stuff to do so they basically just let me go, but they kept the fireworks. So I had to drive back to Pennsylvania the next day to get more fireworks and the people there couldn’t believe it; they were like, “how are you back here again, are you addicted to fireworks?”
Ok wow. Didn't know that. So when we were smashing and blowing up those instruments, did you feel any remorse? These things are your stock and trade after all. And you treated them with a lot of hostility.
I feel very attached to my instruments, but I'm not a nerd about it. A lot of bands buy all these wacky modular synthesizers with crazy wires and insane shit so they end up looking like a crazed laboratory. I just play synths I wanted back when I had a Nintendo: Junos and Akais and other stuff that came out between 81 and 84. To me those are more interesting because they remind me of being a kid. I’m super attached to them. And yeah, we smashed the shit out of these crappy synths, but if I even dropped a beer on one of my synthesizers it would be totally traumatizing.
Have any synth nerds ever shit on you for using crappy gear?
Uh, no because I think we’re high up enough on the synth chain to not fall prey to that. There is definitely some snobbery though: let’s say we played with a MicroKorg; we’d get shit for that. But that only matters to a small group of people as we’re in a strange realm where nobody really knows where anything came from, especially people under like, five. Everything is everything, man. Take Grimes for instance. She plays a rip-off of one of my synths she got at Guitar Center--which is a complete piece of shit but she’s literally the most popular synth-based person in the world and I’m sure that her millions of fans aren’t upset that her synth isn’t from 1982. She probably doesn’t care either because she grew up on the internet.
What's the biggest cop-out synth to a nerd?
Probably the MicroKorg. And Roland is making a line that's basically their own stuff from the 80s, but they aren’t even analog and don’t even sound that good, they just sort of look like the Juno and the Jupiter. So it looks like an old synth but it doesn’t sound like one. It’s made of plastic and looks like shit.
Yeah, they're just trying to cash in on the look of the old ones. But kids can't tell the difference between these synths, and if they could tell the difference, I doubt they'd care. They’re post-caring. They see caring about things like that as being for old boring people.
That's Chris on the left and Ty on the right.
Let's talk about your new LP, A Different Arrangement. Is that a composition book on the cover?
No, but it intentionally does look like one. I looked through images for weeks for the cover and actually came across that one while working. I go through a lot of textures for design and while doing something completely unrelated to music—I came across that and thought, “that’s the cover of the record.” I don’t know why I thought it was and still don’t know why it needed to be, but I never really questioned myself about.
Are you a Coldwave band?
No. Coldwave is a style of music that was made a long time ago. Like, in France, in the 70s.
I think so too. But I live in music journalism land where people throw around genres without knowing what they're talking about. I get really upset when people confuse Coldwave, Post-punk, or Dark wave, and generally think they’re full of shit.
Well, like I said the kids don’t care anymore. When no one knows what they’re talking about, everyone knows what they’re talking about. Me and you are the last line of defense against idiots.
Well, I'm glad we met then.
I mean, I do use equipment from that era. If you use that sort of equipment, you can’t help but sound a bit like those genres and I’m not trying to shy away from that music. It's really good. But I’m also not intentionally listening to records from that era and pretending I’m the only one that’s heard them, even though we’re being called out for “ripping people off.” For Black Marble, I can say with clean conscience that I wanted to make a band, I wanted to make music, I got a bunch of synthesizers, and I made it happen.
So what's the next step?
We’re going to make another record soon. Right now I’m going to go down the remix path because I think it’s really fun to work with other artists. Eventually we’re going to do a tour but we haven’t quite figured that out yet. Our new record comes out on October 9th so we’re probably going to try to tour at the end of October or November but don’t have the dates for that yet. After that I want to get back to making more songs; I already have a few that I’ve already sort of sketched out. I’m a better songwriter now then when we started the band. I also really know what I can get out of the equipment now. To not be under pressure—that’s incredible.
A Different Arrangement comes out October 9th through Hardly Art. You can pre-order the record, and order Black Marble's first EP, right here. And if you live in New York, head to Public Assembly tonight to catch the guys with Plastic Flowers, Indian Flowers, and Total Slacker, plus DJ sets from Pictureplane, The Death Set, and Creep. More info on that here.