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Mars Hollow

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toroddfuglesteg View Drop Down
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    Posted: June 15 2011 at 15:21


Mars Hollow are the atypical modern progressive rock band.Based on the classical 70's progressive benchmark, create a great blend of progressive rock music combined with melodic pop.

The band comprises of four San Fernando members, John Baker (Lead Guitar and Lead Vocals), Stev Mach ( Keys and Vocals), Kerry Chicone ( Bass and Lead Vocals) and Jerry Beller ( Drums and Vocals). Their self titled album was released in 2010 to high acclaim. Production of their album has links with King Crimson contributors, namely Ronan Chris Murphy.

The band has just released their new album World In Front Of Me and I got in touch with the band (thank you, Steve Carroll)

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Mars Hollow exploded onto the scene a couple of years back. You are from the Los Angeles area. Why and when did you all get together in Mars Hollow?  

Jerry Beller: This all started back in ’05; I answered an ad in one of the music rags Kerry had placed here in LA for a band looking for a drummer; it turned out to be Ryo Okumoto’s solo project. I was sent the CD and got the gig the night I tried out; the band lasted only about a year and ½ due to Ryo’s busy schedule. I called up Kerry and told him that I would be forming a prog band and if he would be interested; he said yes so I placed the ads for players and found Steve Mauk and we started writing as a three piece. Then I placed the magic ad and found John Baker and things started exploding and the writing for the fist CD started.

John Baker: After a lot of pop, I was looking around for the possibility re-living my childhood which contained lots of Prog.

Kerry Chicoine: Believe it or not, in 2005 I responded to an old post of Ryo Okumoto’s on the Spock’s Beard site; he was looking for a bassist and vocalist. I somehow miraculously landed the bass gig and then we needed a drummer. I found Jerry via a local trade magazine and the rest is history.

Steve Mauk: I was looking for a prog rock project and saw an ad in the Music Connection (musician’s trade mag) that Jerry had placed.

Which other bands were you involved in before joining up in Mars Hollow?

Jerry: I have been in prog bands before but not for a long time. I was in an LA metal band called Graven Image for about three years that created a lot of buzz in the LA area. I also played in a AOR hard rock band called Multiview that sounded like a cross between Rainbow and Kansas. I also played in an ELP tribute called Knife Edge, along with a hard rock guitar shredder named Iain Ashley Hersey.

John:. My own bands and other "originals only" bands fronted mostly by girls.

Kerry: A bunch of bands a handful of people have heard of, mostly original power-pop and jazz-pop, and I used to play solo gigs of my own material.

Steve: I had played in numerous pop rock bands in the 80’s (Aquatint, Lily White, 99 Temptations) and with recording artist Tom Marvich before joining Mars Hollow.

Why did you choose that name and which bands/artists were your band influenced by?

Jerry: We had another name but our first producer Ronan Chris Murphy told us that the name that we had at the time was already taken so then we went to work but it took us almost three months to get a name. All of the names we thought were good were already taken. Kerry came up with the name Mars Hollow which was a fishing area near where he grew up. As far as influences, I would list ELP, Yes, Rush, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Flower Kings, UK, and so on. We always try to come from our own place when writing the song so it sounds like Mars Hollow.

John: As a kid, Kerry used to fish at a place in Vermont called Mars Hollow. My personal influences come from the jazz end of rock and roll.

Kerry: “Mars Hollow” was the name of a place in Vermont where, as a child, my buddies and I would go fishing for brook trout. The name always stuck with me. My influences range from Mike Keneally to Todd Rundgren to XTC to ELP to YES to Jellyfish to Kevin Gilbert to Beatles. Whatever’s good!

How did you get in touch with your label, 10T Records, and how did you get signed by them ? Was your first album already recorded by then?

Jerry: We had already recorded the debut with Ronan Chris Murphy but from our demos we already had some interest. Steve Katsikas from Little Atlas thought that we would be a good fit for the label so we sent the CD to 10T Records and they offered us a deal. Steve Carroll and Jeff Hodges are not only business partners but friends -- a great label with great artists and they have a good ear for prog and music in general. They are a great label to work with.

John: We made a record (the debut) that was all dressed up with nowhere to go, so Kerry went label-hunting and found 10T. We thought it would be a good match and it certainly was.

Kerry: We’d already recorded the first album on our own with no idea of what might happen, so I asked some of my musician friends about labels and a bunch of guys recommended 10T. We contacted them and struck a deal. Great guys, great label!



Over to your two albums. Your self-titled debut album was released one year ago and it entered the scene like a fox entering a henhouse. In other words; it's appearance was duly noted. Please tell us more about this album.

Jerry: We thought the material was strong but had no idea what reaction it would get -- it’s been remarkable and I’d like to thank our fans and supporters around the world for believing in us.

John: I may never understand why our first record took off like it did. It was done almost as an audio calling card for gigs. No demo, no gigs. Once the record was released, it seemed like the judge always ruled in our favor. We realize with amazement, that all of where we are up to this point is based solely on just one record. Producer and engineer Ronan Chris Murphy helped us make that one and he mixed and mastered it too.

Kerry: We were floored, walled and windowed at the response to the first album – it kind of made a statement like, “We’re here!” We’re most happy it seemed to resonate with a lot of different listeners – that’s important to us, establishing that connection.

That said, it still feels like a “first album” to me; a lot of the songs were written between various members, some of us brought in fully-realized pieces the band tweaked, and some were full-on group compositions (those are our favorites). We felt it was a cool collection of songs and were happy with the result.

Steve: We had all agreed at the formation of the band that we wanted our songwriting to feature great melodies first and foremost, and not have this compromised just for the sake of weird progressive arrangements. I think people really responded to that approach.



Your second album, World In Front Of Me, has just been released. Please tell us more about this album.

Jerry: This CD is different, it’s more complex than the first and yet somehow more poppy. The production is more explosive thanks to Billy Sherwood. He was great to work with and is very talented producer and musician. The songs for this CD were being written shortly after we released the first CD; we had ideas forming so we did not waste any time. The writing process was easier due to the fact that we were already a band for 3 years and the ideas were flowing.

John: Record number two is a bit wiser and less impetuous than the first.

Kerry: For starters, Billy Sherwood produced and mixed the new album so from a sonic standpoint, compared to the first album, it’s like the scene in The Wizard of Oz when it goes from black and white to color. Billy took the sound to a whole new stratosphere, and also helped refine ideas here and there. It was nothing but a blast working with him and we’d love to do it again – today if possible.

That’s not to take anything away from Ronan Chris Murphy’s awesome, vintage-sounding production of the first album, mind you.

Unlike the first album, “World in Front of Me” is pretty much entirely co-written by the entire band; there’s a cohesion among the songs that isn’t there on the first album. It’s hard to explain but I sense a maturation in the songwriting. Which makes sense, because really, we’re just learning to trust each other and we’ve grown more confident in our songwriting abilities. I will say there is a pretty obvious (to me, anyway) arc in the storylines of the songs and it feels like a subtle concept album.

What is the difference in style and songs between these two albums?

Jerry: I think the second CD is more complex than the first one and also has the touches of pop mixed in. One thing we wanted was to add a little pop to the material; we wanted other people to listen to this also besides the prog listener.

John: Record number two is a bit more introverted than the first record. It kind if sneaks up on you.

Kerry: The first album is sort of a patchwork quilt of various songs; there’s no real connection between the songs other than they’re all hybrids of progressive and classic rock/pop. That’s not to belittle the material – we worked very hard to make every song flow exactly as it should with no wasted moments. We’re ruthless that way LOL. We cut way more stuff than we add!

The second album…it’s hard to say exactly WHY, but the songs seem more interlinked musically and lyrically; collectively it sounds more like a total band effort rather than a collection of random songs. We wanted the album to maybe run a little longer than 47:17 but that’s just the way it worked out – it didn’t need anymore.



For those of us unfamiliar with your music; how would you describe you music and which bands would you compare yourself with?

Jerry: We are an old school influenced prog band with some pop mixed in here and there; I would hope comparable bands would be Yes, Rush, Transatlantic, Spock’s Beard – melodic prog bands.

John: Our music is categorized mostly as "symphonic prog" and we are often compared to Yes, ELP and Rush.

Kerry: It all begins and ends with The Beatles in my book; in my 30+ years as a musician and songwriter, I always turn to The Beatles for inspiration. Mars Hollow is a tongue-in-cheek attempt to re-create what The Beatles might’ve written had they stayed alive and together and got bored with writing 3-minute songs. We’re just trying to write good melodic pop songs with recurring musical themes and motifs to make the experience a more interesting one. I’m all for a great 2-minute pop song, but I get much more satisfaction crafting a 10-minute piece that flies by like a pop song. That’s the goal.

Steve: I usually describe us to people as a Rush, Yes, ELP, classic 70’s prog sounding band LOL.

According to Raffaella Berry, our unofficial reporter at this year's Rosfest, your gig was the undisputed highlight of the festival. How would you describe Mars Hollow on stage compared to your studio albums and how important are gigs for you?

Jerry: We love playing live, we try to give it all at every gig. As far as how the live show compares to the studio, we stick to the arrangements with a few little variations here and there to make the live experience interesting. We want to do more; plans are in the works for a possible tour but this is still in a beginning planning stage. We love to play festivals and had a great experience at ROSFEST and Mexicali Prog this year, and PROGDAY last year; we’d love to do more!

John: At shows, we try to play all the notes accurately. That's sometimes impossible so we default to the notion that enthusiasm trumps accuracy (which isn't always true, so maybe earnestness then), whereas on the records you can be more choosy. Gigs are essential for our existence as a band.

Kerry: Raffaella said that?  On stage I like to let go, simple as that. I like to get totally lost and just play whatever I feel. We never, ever play anything the exact same way, and gigs offer a chance to really stretch out and feel the energy of the music. If we’re not having fun on stage, the audience won’t have fun, either. We always keep that in mind: it’s a privilege to be up there, let’s have fun while the spotlights are on.

In the studio, we still rock out even when we rehearse. Capturing our energy on an album is priority number one. We go into a session totally rehearsed and ready to nail it. We don’t spend lots of time editing, nor overdubbing, or tweaking this or that into infinity – too much time wasted. In fact, “World in Front of Me” was basically recorded over five nights at Billy Sherwood’s, with another two months of overdubs at John Baker’s studio. The record took just under six months from the first snare hit to holding the CD in our hands. We don’t want to be one of those bands who sweats every detail; some of our favorite albums have mistakes and a “looseness” to them and it only adds to the charm and humanity.




What are your plans for this and next year?

Jerry: Gigging, doing press, working on our RoSFest DVD, and writing songs for our third album.

John: We'd like to play Europe before the year is out.

Kerry: This year we’re planning our “official” CD release party in Los Angeles (with guests Jibilian/Setar, Forever Twelve and The Source, three great bands); that’s happening July 29th in North Hollywood (see www.marshollow.com for details). We’re also hoping to play at least a couple more shows, hopefully in San Francisco and San Diego, and I am always in contact with various festivals and promoters looking to put something together. Our goal is to play Europe and Mexico City by next year – fingers crossed.

We also have audio and video from our RoSFest performance which we intend to edit and release on DVD, hopefully by end of this year.

And we’re continuing to write new music for our third album.

Steve: We are excited to get back to writing again and hope to put together some kind on mini tour either on the west or east coast. Ultimately we would love to be able to play a festival in Europe.

To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview?

Jerry: Please spread the word about this music (not just Mars Hollow but all the great bands out there today); I think if more people knew about this music there would be more fans and greater possibilities for our band and others like us. Many thanks to Prog Archives for interviewing us!

John: I like it when musicians remain civil about their musical opinions, but I sometimes like it when they get really mad about them as well.

Kerry: That’s a wrap! Thanks to Progressive Archives for supporting Prog music in general, and Mars Hollow specifically. Keepin’ the dream alive is what it’s all about these days.



Thank you to the band for this interview

Their PA profile is here and their homepage's here

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Mellotron Storm View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mellotron Storm Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 15 2011 at 15:35
I really enjoyed their debut and they are a bunch of swell guys.Check them out people !
"The wind is slowly tearing her apart"

"Sad Rain" ANEKDOTEN
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kErrYkOMpOsT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 15 2011 at 18:06

Thank you both so very much for the support -- we really, really appreciate it, please believe.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Conor Fynes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 21 2011 at 12:02
I've been hearing about this band everywhere..
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rivertree Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 21 2011 at 12:57
Originally posted by Conor Fynes Conor Fynes wrote:

I've been hearing about this band everywhere..


'everywhere' must be FACEBOOK predominantly, eh? Smile

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kErrYkOMpOsT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 30 2011 at 16:51
Thanks for the killer review, Conor -- really appreciate it!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Conor Fynes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 01 2011 at 00:12
No problem! Glad to spread the good word.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kErrYkOMpOsT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 01 2011 at 12:17
We've got Facebook covered! Wink
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