Marrow has something to say, and it’s not “Play That Funky Music.”


Out on a Limb

[audio: Out on a Limb.mp3]

Band Members:
Jeremy Fortes: Producer, Lead Vocals and Synthesizer
Erin Fortes: Producer, Lead Vocals, Piano and Synthesizer
David Earl: Producer, Synthesizer, Piano and Vocals

Tech Industry Affiliations: Pyramind Studios and the “sflogicninja” of YouTube fame

SVR: Tell us about your band. How did you get started? How long have you been playing?

David Earl: Erin, Jeremy and I met around 1999 via an artist named Frank Garvey. I had left Frank’s collective around then, and was working as a producer on my own. It was about 6 months later that I saw my first performance of SCABARET!, Erin and Jeremy’s twisted cabaret/musical/anti-redemption story. I watched the show in awe as T.V.-headed characters danced, businessmen got caged, and one of the performers leaped from the stage to bust his ear open and bleed all over himself while he continued to act. Stoically. It was something else. I had just finished a very… uh… intense project that I needed distance from and in some ways needed the antidote of working with Erin and Jeremy. First as actor, then mixer, then producer, then finally full-on totally committed member of the project. Erin and Jeremy are like extended family to me, and as busy as we all are, we have managed to work solidly together as the core members of this ever-evolving project for 6 years.

SVR: Who are your major influences?

DE: Hardest question ever. I would say Nine Inch Nails, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Ravel, Steve Reich, Killing Joke, BT, Xenakis, Rachmaninoff, Miles Davis, etc. Hell, I even think I’ve been influenced somewhat by George Jones.

Jeremy Fortes: I’m always looking for new/old music that makes my ears perk up. Off the top of my head Saul Williams, Aphex Twin, Tim Exile, Skinny Puppy, Lauryn Hill, Dead Prez, DJ Shadow, DJ Spooky, NIN, Queen, J.S. Bach, Mahler, Mozart, Pharcyde, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Cyndi Lauper, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby McFerrin, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, George/Ira Gershwin, Digital Underground, all Mike Patton projects, Eurythmics, Dr. Dre, Pigface, Ween, Busta Rhymes, Fela Kuti, Marilyn Manson (circa 1996), Brain Eno, Nirvana, The Beatles for starters.

Erin Fortes: There are so many. My first piano teacher introduced me to The Beatles at age 6 and it was over. How can you like terrible music when your first favorite band is the Beatles? Granted, it was the 70’s, so he also introduced me to Bread — but luckily that didn’t stick quite as hard.

To pick some specifically right now, I’d have to say Aphex Twin, Fischerspooner, Nine Inch Nails, Saul Williams, the Gershwins, Cole Porter, The Cure, Grace Jones, Peaches and Gustav Mahler.

SVR: What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune in the music business?

DE: Fame? Whatever. Fortune? Certainly! Mainly, I would say getting to make what we want with as little compromise as possible. We have made HARD decisions to keep our integrity intact. Erin and Jeremy and I are the kind of people that aren’t looking for anyone to whore us… unless we get bags of money and absolute creative control. Really, people should be asking Erin and Jeremy about marketing ideas in the current music environment. They are brilliant. Personally, Marrow is a way for me to push my own comfort zones and try to create the most impactful productions possible.

JF: We’re always exploring new sounds and looking for new ways to engage our listeners. In the end we’re looking to make great music, music that is forward thinking. That interests us deeply. Hopefully we can present the work to our audience in a way that makes it easy for them to support and sustain us.

EF: Fame? Sure. As long as it’s on our terms. We’re all lucky enough to have day jobs that we enjoy, but they’re still for corporate clients. What we want from our music is to create art that makes sense to us. If it makes sense to other people and they want to talk about us, that’s a fantastic side effect. If you’ve got great music and no one’s listening to it, that’s not entirely the point… Fortune? Well of course! But it’s a new age in the music industry and we, again, are creating music that makes sense to us — we’ve already run into people promising us fortune whose basic pitch is “Hey, we love you guys and what you do — it’s so different! Now let’s change it to make it more commercial…” So, as Marrow, the emphasis is on creating great work and trying to get as many people to hear it and see us perform. (Not to say we wouldn’t shamelessly whore ourselves out for a million dollar project. But I think we might change our names for the interim…)

SVR: What are your day jobs?

EF: After years as a brand manager and designer in the financial sector, I’m now running my own boutique design firm doing everything from creative directing to getting my hands dirty with code by designing and developing websites.

DE: I am director of production at Pyramind, Inc. I am a full time music composer for games, TV, film, and industrial projects. I also am involved in a training program here.

JF: From 2004 to 2008 I was a full time audio/video producer and editor for the international branding firm Landor Associates, doing multi-media work for AMD, Citi, Hallmark, Snapdragon, Westfield, Brocade, PG&E, Beringer, Microsoft and FedEx, among others. I continue to do freelance video production/motion graphic work for Landor and other branding and advertising agencies in San Francisco.

SVR: How does your music influence your work or vice versa?

EF: My work influences my music because it affords me the time and money to work on it.

DE: The music I create during the day I create for others who pay me. Marrow is a personal investment into art that I hold myself accountable for.

JF: I agree and second the motion.

SVR: Why is music education important?

DE: Training the next generation is important culturally, economically, and keeps a fire solidly lit under my ass. I have been saddened to see trainees who come to Pyramind that don’t know their musical ABC’s. They can’t even spell a major scale! In the marketplace of ideas, we are becoming bankrupt. We need kids who have the basic knowledge of music theory so that we can progress and create art that is complex and culturally significant, building on and breaking the rules laid down throughout the ages. So many kids are creating music these days due to the proliferation of inexpensive products that record and play music. These kids can usually make a “beat,” but to become compelling storytellers, they need more tools under their belt. If we don’t get kids interested early on, I fear that the quality of music will further decline overall… However, I’m sure there will always be exceptions, but we need competition in the arts like we need competition in the auto industry. If we don’t get a lot of really passionate, excited artists, we are going to pay a very disturbing price.

EF: Music education is not just important, it’s essential. Music stimulates learning in other areas. Where the hell did my math education get me? I got all the way through calculus and I can’t even figure out a tip on a restaurant bill. Music education instills confidence in a way that no other discipline can — other than sports. Granted — you’re probably not going to find many kids who are trying out for musicals AND the basketball team, but the fact that both of these disciplines are now considered optional or throw-away is just mind blowing to me. I know how bored I was in high school. I was an outsider, like many art kids. Our music classes gave us something to belong to and shaped us in ways that no biology class ever could have.

JF: Even after you’ve studied music theory and composition and you can perform all of your scales on 12 instruments, it takes a while for you to find your voice. They say it takes comedians 10 years on stage bombing and succeeding the whole time before they really find who they are as a comic. I believe the musical journey is similar, especially if you’re creating original material and not in a corporate band playing “Brick House” and “Play That Funky Music.” If you understand the language of music and how to use tools to create it early on, that’s the head start to get to the REAL work of finding what the heck you’re going to say.

SVR: What was your own experience learning music as a kid? Who flipped that switch in your brain?

EF: I don’t know what I would have done without my music teachers as a kid. I was lucky enough to grow up next door to a professional jazz musician who also taught down the street at one of the high schools. He took an interest in me and I started my jazz piano training with him at the age of six. By the time I started second grade, I’d already completed college level theory courses under his tutelage. My music teachers from then on were completely supportive — and it gave me a reason to stay interested in school. I went to a very small, rural high school. And I hated it. But now looking back on it, all I remember are the times spent snacking on Doritos during rehearsal for the musicals, or hanging out in the music room with the chorus teacher practicing for our next concert. I tried going to college for something practical. That lasted a semester and I turned straight to my old home, the music department, where I spent four of the best years of my life and graduated with my BA in Art Song. That’s not going to get you a good job right out of college, but for me, I graduated with the strength, poise and confidence to stand up in front of a hall full of strangers and have them in the palm of my hand… while singing to them in German.

JF: My dad was a multi-instrumentalist in lots of bands during the 70’s and 80’s. He played saxophone, keyboard, guitar and he sang. Some of my earliest memories are at his rehearsals. He played a lot of funk, soul and top 40. He had me audition and join the San Francisco Boys Choir when I was 9. We read SATB classical choir arrangements (I was a soprano), and sang in Latin, Spanish, Italian and French. This gave me a head start to the music programs I was involved in all through middle and high school and eventually college. Everyone along the way showed me something about music that inspired me to want to learn more and explore new things.

DE: I started with trumpet and piano simultaneously around the 4th grade. I was excited by the trumpet, and showed some interest in piano which promptly landed me in piano lessons. I studied for a certificate of merit in my early years, learning theory and playing recitals. In 1985 I discovered computer music, and went completely nuts over it. High school was where it really hit full force, though. I was exposed to modular synthesis, created my own award-winning brass ensembles, and composed computer music like mad… teetering into classical composition and 20th century works. There was a single mentor and friend of mine at the time that really inspired me to explore and work on my creativity in general. He was a great teacher, and we are still in touch to this day.