Marrow begins new music journey for notable Chicago ‘Kids’
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By Selena Fragassi | For the Sun-Times
There’s no need to worry about Kids These Days. The band at least. Although the prophesied “next big thing from Chicago”— made up of a crew of Whitney M. Young Magnet High School savants who proportionately combined rock, soul and hip-hop into one concordant package — quickly called it quits in 2013, all the members have gone on to do considerable work the past two years.
When: 9 p.m., November 27
Where: Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln
Info: (773) 525-2501; lh-st.com
Vic Mensa signed a record deal with Jay-Z’s imprint and has been palling around with Kanye West; horn players J.P. Floyd and Nico Segal have worked with the likes of Bette Midler and Frank Ocean; and singer/keyboardist Macie Stewart and guitarist Liam Kazar have respectively toured with Chance the Rapper and Jeff Tweedy’s eponymous offshoot. Not bad for a bunch of now 22-year-olds.
The most recent project to come out of the ashes is Marrow, an indie rock troupe that features Kazar, Stewart and bassist Lane Beckstrom as well as newcomer Matt Carroll on drums. They released their debut “The Gold Standard” in September and already have been regarded by publications like Spin as “one to watch.”
“It’s been really cool for all of us to be able to continue in this [industry] and do it in a capacity that we want,” says Kazar, who hints at being the instigator in the dissolve of Kids These Days, which he calls a great band, “but not the band for me.”
“I didn’t really want to be just a guitar player. I was more interested in being a songwriter and it became obvious — by no one’s fault — that that wasn’t the format Kids was designed for,” he says. Which is exactly where Marrow comes in, a place where “[Macie and I] can maintain the writership.”
The marks of a strong songwriting duo really start to emerge on “The Gold Standard,” which finds the band abandoning much of their soul and hip-hop history and instead taking a clear rock stance. There’s a classic A.M. radio vibe on the opener “She Chose You” before it delves into revivalist surf rock on single “Paulson” and the Beatles-inspired “Corsicana.” There’s also dark material in the mix with a brooding love letter to jazz on “Leave It On the Side” and the album’s most impressive song, the wartime tearjerker “Cities.”
“We probably most explored the idea of sound manipulation on this record, using a lot of synths and loops,” says Kazar, admitting that it took he and Stewart a “long time” to find their musical common ground as Marrow. “Our influences as songwriters didn’t match up right away, it wasn’t immediate. And I think we’re still searching. I don’t know that we’ll ever stop.”
The sense of discovery was something that was ingrained as music students at Whitney Young, says Kazar. “Those classes taught me that inspiration can come from anywhere,” not the least of which would be later working with people like Jeff Tweedy, a long-time supporter.
Kazar first met the Wilco frontman as a child when his family lived in the same neighborhood. He and Tweedy’s son Spencer also both attended Near North Montessori. “I used to live with the them during much of high school,” Kazar recalls of the times when his parents would travel for work — his father is Peter Cunningham who previously worked for the Obama administration (Kazar has recently been using his middle name as his surname).
Though Tweedy wound up producing Kids These Days’ “Traphouse Rock,” Kazar took the lead on “The Gold Standard,” setting up sessions in his brand-new recording studio. Called Foxhall Records, it’s named for a bar in Ireland his great grandmother once owned and is located in a multi-unit Logan Square building that he and his family all currently live in, too.
Foxhall has since worked on almost 15 additional albums, mostly for other Chicago alums, which has fostered a good environment for Kazar. “I’m really proud to be part of the Chicago music community and happy to be constantly around musicians,” he says, also quick to tease, “you never know who might show up” at Marrow’s 2016 closeout show at Lincoln Hall this weekend.
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.