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Interview: Steve Marino
The Singer/Songwriter Discusses His Impressive New Solo Album
Too Late To Start Again is Steve Marino’s second solo album, but there’s more than a decade of indie rock/punk bona fides behind it. From playing guitar and singing in Bloomington, Indiana, alternative outfit Jacky Boy to performing with Bugg and Angel Du$t, Marino has a varied palette of rock experiences to draw from.
His latest release is an impressive collection of sunshine-y guitar pop songs. I listened to it on a recent drive up the California coast and it was the perfect soundtrack for the sunlight dancing on my windshield and the waves breaking on the shoreline. (The songs were written in Indiana, but recorded in LA—where Marino now lives.)
I had his song “Comedown” on repeat the rest of that trip, when I wasn’t listening to the hypnotic, Britpop groove of “Got You (In My World Now),” Americana-tinged album opener “Satisfy You,” and the hooky blast of energy called “Tune You Out.”
I caught up with Marino by email as he flew to Indiana for a run of shows. We discuss the California vibe of Too Late To Start Again, his evolution as a singer-songwriter, and why he closed the album with Teenage Fanclub's "I Don't Want Control of You."
Steve Marino Interview
I put Too Late To Start Again on for a drive up the California coast...a perfect road trip soundtrack. Do you consider this a California album?
Steve Marino: I think it feels that way to me.
I wrote all the songs living in Bloomington, Indiana, but chose to fly to Los Angeles for a few weeks to record with my friend Ben Lumsdaine. I wanted the experience of traveling to make a record and I think it really influenced the energy and mood of the sessions—get there at noon or later and work until we started feeling even a little burnt. It was a very refreshing way to work.
I think it being my first release as a Californian and it coming out almost exactly a year after moving to LA definitely gives it a strong connection in my mind.
Do you think your approach to songwriting or music has changed at all since you moved to Los Angeles?
Steve Marino: I think it has in the sense I’ve become a lot more open to collaboration. There’s a big sense of that out here. A lot of music friends from Indiana have moved out here and I’ve been meeting a lot of badass players and songwriters. It’s inspiring me to write more songs with different people and work on songs outside of my comfort zone.
Do you consider this new collection a continuation of the themes on your previous solo album, Fluff, or is this more of a departure/evolution?
Steve Marino: There’s a couple songs that feel connected to that time of my life, but most of the record is a departure for sure.
I think I’ve felt more freedom exploring more alternative/power pop influences as opposed to the folk/indie lane I was attached to for so long. Putting out music under your own name creates a sense of freedom that is very satisfying—I can sorta just put out whatever kind of song or record I want. There’s no project name that places a mental boundary on what I’m writing.
How would you explain this new collection to fans who know you from Jacky Boy, Bugg or Angel Du$t?
Steve Marino: I think I was definitely channeling similar energy to the Jacky Boy songs when writing these songs, but to me it feels like a different take on the whole ‘90s alternative/power pop inspiration.
I did use a song on this record that I originally wrote for Bugg too (“Tune You Out”). I wasn’t sure if it would fit but it became somewhat of an outlier in a good way.
As for Angel Du$t, that band sorta captures a whole other type of energy that feels pretty different, and I’m exercising a different muscle when performing and writing parts for those songs. But it’s all coming from the same place, ya know?
I've had "Comedown" on repeat the last few days. It reminds me of other current great guitar pop bands like Dazy and Young Guv. Do you consider them contemporaries? What other current bands are you listening to?
Steve Marino: I’d say we’re drawing from a similar pool for sure, and I’m definitely a fan of both Ben’s and James’s records. If others put me in that category I’d be happy with that.
There’s been so much awesome music coming out this year. Been listening a lot to Classic Traffic, Mana/Wishy, Narrow Head, Dusk, Militarie Gun, Cory Hanson, Pardoner, Spiritual Cramp, Kumo 99. Also been on bit of a death metal and thrash tear lately.
"Got You (In My World Now)" really hits that mid-tempo guitar pop sweet spot, with some Britpop overtones. How did that one come together?
Steve Marino: Thank you! I was experimenting with tuning the G string up to A, which gave these open chords I was playing a really interesting, new feel that I was able to build a vocal melody off of pretty easily, including a pretty blatant “Champagne Supernova” rip.
I like double tracking acoustic and using alternative voicings of the chords to make a more complex, lush arrangement the way Teenage Fanclub does. The song itself became sort of an attempt at capturing the mood “Everything to Everyone” by Everclear evokes for me.
Ben did a really good job bringing that vision to fruition. I’m really happy with how it turned out
On the album, you follow that song with "Kingdom"—which feels like a perfect one-two punch. How much thought did you put into the track order for this collection?
Steve Marino: Track order can take a while to organize, but I think if you have a stand out opener or ender, you can kind of build around that. “Satisfy You” was the obvious opener to me and the cover felt like a nice mellow way to end the record.
There’s also this classic rule I tend to follow of putting two of your strongest tracks 3rd and 4th. I don’t really think that matters that much, but it sort of makes figuring out the track listing a little easier. Thinking of the record in terms of side A and B helps the process as well.
You close the album with a great cover of Teenage Fanclub's "I Don't Want Control of You" from Songs from Northern Britain. What drew you to that TFC song? Is that your favorite TFC album?
Steve Marino: I think it combines all the things I like about Teenage Fanclub musically and the lyrics are just undeniably sweet and life affirming to me. It’s such a compelling love song, and not contrived like love songs can easily be.
Hard to say which record I like the most, but Songs from Northern Britain has two of my top three TFC songs. The other one being Start Again, which is referenced in what I ended up titling the record.
What's next for you? Any plans to tour the new album?
Steve Marino: Yes! Just did a little California run with the Berries. Traveling to Indiana as we speak to do some midwest shows with the Kora Puckett band. Then after that doing a lot of touring in Angel Du$t, including a full US tour at the end of the year that the Steve band will be joining for 7 shows around the southeast and midwest. Hoping to book some east coast dates for 2024!
What would I be listening to these days if I got in the tour van with you?
Steve Marino: Depending on the mood, some driving staples lately have been the new Frozen Soul record, Fugitive, various death and thrash records, Western Cum by Cory Hanson, the Berries, Tenement, Bobo, the new Pardoner record. Like I said, this has been a pretty remarkable year of releases and I love just listening to all my friends’ new records.
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Remember The Lightning—A Guitar Pop Journal
A new semi-annual music journal featuring some of today's best music writers on modern guitar pop, and talented modern artists on the music/genres that inspire them.
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S.W. Lauden on the Whiffs (Our debut cover models!)
Mary E. Donnelly on Sloan
John M. Borack on Juniper
Paul Myers on Tinted Windows
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PLUS: Custom Cover Art By Brian Walsby