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Stumpfest Interviews 2015: Muscle and Marrow

Aaron Sharpsteen / May 5, 2015

muscle and marrow

The second night of Stumpfest afforded me the chance to catch a band I had been intending to see for a while, Muscle and Marrow. After being pummeled by their cathartic and powerful set, I met up with the pair to relay Prizehog’s questions and ask some of my own.

So when I do these for Stumpfest, I try to get a kind of chain-mail effect. I interviewed Prizehog yesterday. You know them?

Kira: (K) Yeah

So they gave me three questions to start off your interview.

K: Got it.

Usually when I do this it either gets deep or silly, and these are definitely silly.

K: Damn it. That’s ok, I’m going to get deep.

First up from Prizehog, what is your favorite cheese? And if you want to get deep…why?

Keith (Kh): That’s a tough one.

K: I like an uncomfortably sharp cheddar, or like a classic brie.

Kh: I like, what’s it called…fromage d’affinois.

Fromage daffinwa?

Kh: It’s like a brie but even more mellow.

K: It’s almost like eating butter.

Kh: That or a really citrusy blue.

K: He’s being pretentious.

Haha. Ok, second question,  and again I’m sorry. Your favorite Hobbit, and why. I was told there is a correct answer to this.

K: I have to expose myself as not a nerd right now, I don’t have an answer to this question. I don’t know.

Kh: Hmmm….

K: Who are the options?

Kh: Frodo, Bilbo, Samwise…from Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit…I don’t know…

K: We’re failing! I’m busy reading Infinte Jest

Kh: I like Sam.

Ok, there we go. The correct answer was Bilbo, according to Ben. So, sorry.

Kh: Sorry Prizehog.

Third question, When are you playing with Prizehog?

Kh: I like that question.

K: Actually we asked…tell Prizehog that we asked them to play with us and Drunk Dad and Diesto in June, and they took too long to get back to us.

Oh shit.

Kh: (laughing) They blew it.

They blew it. Ok.

K: So we told them we had to fill their spot in the lineup, and Veronica was like “Ok, we get it, we’ll play sometime soon.” So we’ve been emailing back and forth. It will happen.

Ok. So no definite date, they missed their chance, but, sometime soon?

K: Exactly.

Cool. So their questions are done. And just to plant the seed in your mind, at the end of this, you will get three questions to ask Billions and Billions.

K: I’m fucking ready.

My questions now. Is there an overriding philosophy that guides your aesthetic choices? Maybe something succinct, I’m sure if we had more time you could paint a full picture.

K: I would say that a big part of it is embracing an otherness that I’ve always felt. A difference from other people. Also that we can always be stranger, always be weirder. A big part of it also is because I specifically am in a heavy band, we play primarily to and with men, so, I’ve had to really find a distinctly feminine voice that is as strong and as frightening as men who play metal. So its…fucking with the patriarchy essentially.

That’s your intention. Do you think that is a consequence? Do you think that is actually happening?

K: A little. We’ve been really surprised. Honestly the people that primarily care about our music are men, so it’s been really nice.

Is that ok?

K: Yeah, it’s ok.

Would you prefer it not be that way? I guess.

K: I’d prefer it be a little more proportionate, ideally. But there’s also a part of me that really loves it, honestly.

Kh: We’ve been surprised by the reception. We feel really welcomed by this community. It’s not something I would have necessarily guessed.

K: We haven’t been very succinct.

Kh: Yeah that was kind of rambly.

Its fine. So difference based feminism is in there.

K: Yeah.

Kh: And the inevitability of death.

K: I think a goal is to manifest an existential sadness that we all feel, that we have to talk about.

Kh: It’s something everyone to a certain extent has to address.

K: Death consciousness.

Death consciousness. I have “Tempus Edax Rerum” tattooed on me. That’s “Time Devours All Things.”…I’m sure someone has asked you this before and I’m sorry. So Muscle and Marrow. Two band members. Who is who?

Kh: I like your disclaimer. We like to say that we are each both of those things.

You both have muscle and marrow.

K: I think the obvious answer is that he is the muscle, he’s the drummer, the force, but I think the further we’ve gone along, the less that is true.

Kh: I don’t necessarily feel like that…

K: My scream has gotten really good.

I mean the standard phrase “muscle and…” usually ends with “bone.” Muscle and bone. So the marrow is the inside of the bone, it’s gooey, but it conveys vitality. It’s where…red blood cells are made…? Anyways.

K: Yeah. For me the word marrow primarily speaks to bone. The term muscle and marrow is from a line in a poem that I wrote, and it speaks to everyone’s fragility and strength. It’s this idea of intense sadness, but the act of creation, the act of making something from that pain is the most optimistic, affirming thing you can do. So that is power, that is strength. So sadness, fragility, bones breaking, with the power of what we are doing.

Cool. Are there any other dualities that you two encompass? Yin and yang, sun and moon. Ugh I’m reaching here, I’m sorry.

K: I think we like to play a lot with ugliness and beauty…

(Chuckling) Who’s who as far as that?

K: Well sonically.

Kh: Sonically.

K: We never want to be pretty. But the idea of it being beautiful can be something more profound. This idea that I have a voice that I could make pretty to someone, but I also want to fuck with people and have it be really disgusting or hard to listen to sometimes.

So beauty and the grotesque. But sonically, not visually.

Kh: I hope not.

Going along with more intra-band dynamics, I tend to ask about band roles. Are there things that each of you are responsible for?

K: Well we are also in a romantic relationship, so..

Oh…

K: He drives a little more, and carries heavy things a little more, right?

Kh: She books all the shows though.

K: I do all the booking. So when I book these horrible tours, so I’m like “Yeah, you’re going to drive a little bit more, because I was up 5 nights in a row doing nothing but sending emails.”

It’s funny, the mention of smashing the patriarchy along with some of those things. But it’s also reminding me of last night because Veronica said the same thing last night, that she does all the booking. Because I’m kind of stuffed up right now, I heard “I do all the cooking.”

K: That’s amazing.

So when you said you do all the booking, I wondered, “Do you also do all the cooking?”

K: No, no.

Kh: I cook 75% of the time. Wouldn’t you say?

K: Oh my god! We’re going to have a fight!

No, don’t have a fight.

K: Holy shit. 75?

Kh: Do you think it’s less?…

…This is all going in.

K: Yes. 54. That is humiliating.

Kh: For me or you?

K: Me! I am an adult, I cook. Is this how you view our relationship?

We are getting too deep here. His perception is 75…

K: When’s the last time you cooked for me?

And what was it?

Kh: It has been a while. When was the last time?

K: No idea. Ok, lets move on.

Ok. Wow.

K: Haha.

That is juxtaposed very well with my next question, which was going to be along the lines of the challenges of being a two piece band specifically. Knowing that you are in a relationship, do you think that makes it easier to be a two-piece band? Or harder?

Kh: Both. Way harder and much easier. In terms of being on the road, bands break up because they go on tour and end up hating each other. We live together, but we both have jobs, we are both busy people, so a lot of times when we go on the road its like, finally, we can actually spend some time together.

You get to hang out.

Kh: Exactly. It also gives us a certain dynamic if we were just friends or just co-creators. If we’re mad at each other that day, practice is going to be shitty.

I was just wondering, if you are interested in making ugly music, do you ever think about how breaking up could catalyze that?

K: Yes. I’ve actually had to really dig for the aesthetic that I’m interested in, being in this relatively stable long term relationship, for pain to tap into.

You could…start a heroin addiction? I don’t know.

K: Haha, no, I’m nearing 30, that shit is not happening.

Kh: That ship has sailed.

I don’t know what to tell you.

Kh: What’s that band, Dark Dark Dark? They had a situation like that, they aren’t a two piece but two of the members were in a relationship and broke up. So that album was a lot of break-up songs.

The same thing recently happened with Royal Thunder. That was the context of their new album as well, the singer and I think one of the guitarists used to be together and broke up.

Kh: That’s some Fleetwood Mac shit.

K: We also feel, sonically, a little limited by being a two-piece, but we are so adamant about not adding anyone else into this world that we’ve made. So our compensation is that we make backing tracks, and samples. We want a full and complex sound.

Kh: We want a fully populated and immersive world.

K: Only sometimes do we feel that sparseness very sharply. There are some times when I think “I would kill for a lead right now” but that’s pretty rare.

There’s always a loop pedal, you could loop some riffs and lead over…

K: It’s true. We would do that before we would let anyone else in.

Kh: I also feel inspired or emboldened by the limitations of being a two piece. In terms of having a full sound, it’s a challenge.

K: It pushes us.

I was reading up on you a little bit before this, you seem very literary, so take a minute to compose a haiku.

Kh: Good Christ.

K: This is so embarrassing, but what are the syllables?

Kh: 5-7-5.

It doesn’t have to be strict, it can just be three lines.

Kh: Alright, I did this in my head so…

No one is going to judge you.

Kh:
Stumpfest interview.
Prizehog asked about cheese prefs,
Who really cooks more?

K: Haha.

Nice.

K: Mine is more morose, are you ready?

Sure.

K:
You will do it all
Before death eats your pink face.
Black mouth, open wide.

Nice.

K: I’m a muthafuckin’ poet.

I’ve already asked about philosophical inspiration. Are there any literary inspirations for your lyrics or anything else?

K: Definitely. Lyrics are primarily my world. I read a lot of contemporary poetry, like females that shock me. There’s a woman named Alice Notley that I love, she’s been around forever. She’s really weird, in the best way. We’re always looking to be influenced by weird film or any kind of art-work that makes us uncomfortable, or pushes us to a place where we wouldn’t have gone.

So you must really like Black Pussy then.

(Both laugh)

K: I actually got into an internet fight with Black Pussy.

I had an hour and a half long interview with Dustin, and he beat me in a chess game, recently. Anyways, I didn’t mean to derail that answer.

K: It’s interesting, I would say, no, we’re not talking about that particular shock. How would you distinguish between the shock of Black Pussy and the shock of Alice Notley?

Kh: I’m not sure…

K: I think there has to be a specific intention behind it.

Kh: Something that rings true, and expresses the feeling of what it’s like to be alive in a really specific way.

K: There’s a photographer named Francesca Woodman that killed herself. (chuckling) Basically any woman that’s killed herself, I’m probably inspired by. Like Virginia Wolfe…

Kh: Sylvia Plath…

Did Emily Dickinson kill herself too?

K: She did not. She was…interesting. People disagree about how reclusive and sad she really was. I’m reading a book about her. I really love her. I’m embarrassed because I like her character more than I like her poetry.

You don’t have to like her poetry. Nobody is required to.

K: I know, but I think my idealized self cares more about the art than the artist.

Kh: There’s a mythology about her that kind of overshadows her work as well.

K: Exactly. There’s this amazing letter written by a really prominent male poet to another prominent male poet, and they called her a “bitchy little spinster.” I hope that I can do that. I want to take every stereotype applied to women and throw it in their faces.

Kh: Courtney Love too…

K: Very into Courtney Love lately. Maybe wouldn’t want to be her friend, but really into the idea of Courtney Love. She’s a psychopath, she’s my inspiration before I go on stage.

Last of my questions before you give me three. This is one I have stolen from one of these chain mail interviews in the past. Describe a recurring dream you have had.

K: So morose and intense. I have one, do you?

Kh: I have one. Go ahead.

K: I have one where I approach death, and the moment that I approach, time is slowed down, and I have to deal with and fathom the unfathomable.

How are you dying in that dream?

K: Car crash.

Ok.

K: So I slam on the breaks, and in my head I say “This is the moment of your death, you have to say goodbye to consciousness, to the earth, to being a person, so deal with it right now, go.” And of course I can’t deal with it, so I wake up. And the other recurring dream I have is that I’m stepping on tiny little kitty cats. And then I realize that I’ve adopted thousands of other cats, and they are dying slowly in the closets and corners of my house.

Kh: That’s an anxiety dream.

Sure. That’s the second anxiety dream about cats in this series. Veronica had one too.

K: We’ll have to talk about it.

In your email about playing together, you can bond over cat anxiety dreams.

Kh: I have one that used to occur a really long time ago, it’s not that interesting, but I remembered another time where I was lucid dreaming. I knew I was dreaming, and my friend and I were standing in a neighborhood in a row of houses. And my friend said that if I went to one house, I would wake up, and if I went to another house, I would keep dreaming forever. I chose to stay dreaming forever.

K: You chose death.

Kh: I chose fantasy.

How did you wake up from that….Did you wake up from that?

(All laugh)

I mean I guess you don’t really know, I could be a figment of your imagination, and solipsism could be real.

K: That’s so fucked up.

Time for Billions and Billions questions.

Kh: How are you able to do anything, knowing that you are going to die someday?

K: That’s a good one.

Question number one, how can you do anything knowing that you’re going to die?

K: That’s deep.

The Albert Camus question.

Kh: So my question is, when is the last time you cried, and why?

Alright. Are you guys going to coin flip for who gets the next question?

Kh: Whoever thinks of it first can have it.

K: What was your relationship like with your father?

Nice.

K: Fathers can usually fuck up people in a lot of ways.

Kh: Interesting that is attributed to fathers.

K: It’s because men are told they aren’t allowed to feel. There’s this idea of nurturing, and men can be as nurturing and as loving, but a lot of men aren’t taught that. You better nurture the fuck out of your kid Aaron.

After another deep discussion about why I am against having kids and enjoy being with a partner who feels the same way, we heard the echoes of another heavy sound check beckoning us back inside to enjoy the music of Stumpfest.

Check out Prizehog’s interview to see how they ended up asking about Hobbits and cheese. And make sure to read the conclusion of this interview series to find out how Billions and Billions handle that question about death.

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