I recently sat down with Call Marvin, a reggae-rock group from Detroit, to discuss their recent EP release, The Opinions of Sheep, among other things. Sean, Steve, and Mike were nice enough to answer a few questions about their formation, their music, UFOs, and working with Tempermill Studio. Read on for more information about this up-and-coming local band and get your fill of smooth grooves and lax vibes!
Katt: How did Call Marvin start? You guys were in a different band before this, correct?
Sean: Call Marvin started from the breakup of the other band- The Chasers- so we’re kinda the remaining three. The girl who was singing with us is now a nurse anesthetist now… I hope I said that right… She puts people to sleep. And our ex-guitar player, Tony, is now playing in a band called Leading Lifted…So yeah, we’re the remaining three
Mike: We wanted to start fresh and not call it ‘The Chasers’ anymore. Sort of to redefine ourselves.
Katt: So, as The Chasers, were you playing reggae?
Sean: We played, like, everything… Alice In Chains, Black Sabbath, yeah. We had a reggae song but then we had a rock song, and then we had a blues song…A Latin tune…
Katt: So you had an identity crisis?
Steve: Yeah, really. We didn’t know what to do so we just did everything.
Mike: With 5 of us, we were all into different stuff, so we just played what we liked. And then as Call Marvin we just kind of, ya know, pulled it together- we figured out what we were good at… I mean, I’m a huge metal fan, but I’m not a big fan of playing metal, ya know?
Steve: We just gravitated toward reggae.
Sean: [Steven] and I started singing harmonies and we thought, ‘Hey, we can do this. This sounds cool.’
Katt: Can you pinpoint what the defining moment was where you guys decided, ‘Why don’t we play reggae?’
Steve: I remember we really talked about it.
Sean: I don’t think I can really remember
Steve: I think that it was just what we knew the best. So we just started playing more of it, because it sounded so good. I mean, we knew seven Bob Marley songs-
Sean: -and we needed to come up with a set for this gig-
Steve: So why don’t we just play all those songs?
Katt: Wow, so you kind of formed on the fly?
Sean: Yeah, you know?
Katt: That’s cool, though, that you went from a hodge-podge group before to this sudden definite change… it seems more genuine
Steve: Yeah, I’m thinking organic…Gluten-free, you know? That vegan stuff.
Katt: How did you come to call yourselves “Call Marvin”?
Mike: We were sitting around at my house and we were trying to think of what to call it-which is always tough, y’know. It’s tough to leave the old name with the original group and start something new, but we wanted to start from scratch, so we wanted to have something catchy. Anyways, we were sitting around in my house and, at the time, my dad was unemployed. My mom had a note up to call MARVIN (Michigan’s Automated Response Voice Interactive Network)-the Michigan unemployment line- and we we were all kinda looking at it and thinking about it, and eventually somebody said, ‘What about Call Marvin?’ and we all thought, ‘yeah’, and it stuck! We figured people in Michigan are gonna love it y’know, because a lot of people here are unfortunately calling MARVIN…That and it’s a cool name anyways.
Katt: I can hear a lot of Marley and a lot of The Police in your music. What are your main influences?
Steve: I like Pink Floyd a lot. You can hear that incorporate that in my riffs.
Sean: I like the Police a lot. I grew up listening to The Police. We get some influence from Sting, too. Simon and Garfunkel, too, in terms of harmonies.
Mike: Our major influence in harmonies that these two are failing to mention is Phil Collins.
Sean: I mean, that’s a given.
Mike: I love all that stuff too, I have a Pink Floyd background, but I really like Slayer, Slipknot, and all that. I really like metal. But I also love Bjork and all that stuff. I guess I’m all over the place.
Katt: I didn’t expect that from you! I mean, you put some serious groove work in your bass, I would never expect such a heavy background in metal!
Mike: Oh yeah, Pantera, Metallica. Y’know, I’m really just all over the place… Too much stuff.
Katt: So, how was working with Termpermill Studio?
Sean: They were great! We were really happy with the production quality. Eric Maluchnik was our engineer and he was just wonderful! Really nice guy, great work. Really solid!
Katt: As a listener, I definitely enjoyed the quality. It wasn’t mixed to be loud, unlike some other studios out there.
Mike: I felt like he did a good job as being a producer- he stepped in when he needed to, y’know, to give us suggestions, etc., and respite that it was ultimately our decision. But [Eric[ had great ideas. We could tell he was into the music, so he actually was coming up with some cool stuff that we actually used, like playing tambourine on some of our tracks and such.
Sean: I was really happy with the mix. The mix was phenomenal. I was away for the finalizing of the first track and these two goons emailed me the track and I kept listening to it, on all different kinds of headphones and was extraordinarily pleased with how the mix turned out. Plus, we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback with these guys. So, yeah, way to go Tempermill!
Mike: Each time we recorded, we’ve been really happy with it . We really keep progressing with Tempermill Studio. They make sure we know that we keep getting more out of it, and we definitely do! And he definitely had fun recording us too!
Steve: He did some stuff for us that he’s never done before with anyone else… Some really weird stuff…
Katt: Such as…?
Sean: I think we had better leave that a Cal Marvin secret… Al I’ll say is that he did some weird stuff on ‘What I’d Say To You’, our second track off of the EP… It’s on beat 4. And Eric said that it’s one of the top weirdest things he has ever done at the studio. There, that’s all I’ll say. The rest is a mystery…for now.
Katt: Speaking of ‘for now ’ related things, I know there are a few bands in the local scene who have no problem staying just a local band. You guys have been on the scene for about 4 years now. Do you hope to progress further, i.e. get signed and tour?
Sean: We’d like to! We’d definitely like to! We’d love to spread to anyone who will listen… Get signed, play shows. We wanna let people just actually listen to real music, instead of eletro-dubbed everything. –Not to say that isn’t music! It’s just… We want people to be able to hear a return to insturments other than samples and synthesized everything for a change.
Katt: Kind of tired of the “check out my auto-tuned bleep-bloops”, I take it?
Steve: Yeah, definitely.
Sean: We just want to return to people appreciating music. We’re pretty music asking people to take time to appreciate the amount of time and raw talent and energy that we all took to write these songs. And we all took the time to actually learn our instruments well enough to perform! All we really want is for people to hear our music and appreciate the musicality, musicianship, and authenticity within it.
Mike: And we want everyone to know that our music is for everybody. You don’t have to be a typical “reggae-listener”-I guess college stoner- to be able to listen and enjoy our music. It’s easy to listen to- it’s got a nice groove, nice harmonies, and nothing is overbearing. It’s cohesive, and we want to return people to the idea of perfectly blended instruments, instead of all of this reliance on so much bass, etc. We even layered in other instruments to give our music some more texture…
Katt: Speaking of which, how did you find your organ player?
Sean: His name is Jimmy Blues. He and I actually play in a jazz group together, called the Jimmy Blues Trio… He’s the man. He’s phenomenal! I asked him one day if he could lay down some organ solos on our songs and he happily agreed to it! We just told him to “let it loose” and, I mean, damn. We were mesmerized just from watching his hands and fingers flying around, like, everywhere. Even Eric was mesmerized. I wish we could have video-taped it or something. He’s a great player- we’re very lucky to have him! Thanks, Jim!
Katt: Can listeners expect a full-length release from Call Marvin anytime in the near future?
Steve: When we get the money, yes.
Sean: Seriously if we get the money, we will. Your best way of helping us get there is by purchasing our EP! We’d really love to make an LP.
Katt: Who does most of the songwriting? IS it a collaborative effort musically and lyrically or is it more individualized?
Steve: I’d say it’s mostly Sean
Sean: I kinda come up with most of the lyrics and initial structure… Then I’ll propose it to Steve and Mike and then they’ll go from there. We’ll tweak it. If we don’t like it we’ll trash it; if we like it, we’ll keep working on it.
Mike: And we’ve been playing for so long that we kinda know after a practice or two if we really have a song that’s working out both musically and for us.
Sean: So, yeah, it really is a collaborative effort.
Katt: That’s commendable that you guys as a group know when to scrap something or whether to stick with an idea with no one’s feelings hurt.
Sean: Oh definitely, we just want to make sure that we all really dig it if we’re gonna play it and perform it .
Katt: Which of those 3 songs off of your EP is your favorite to perform?
Sean: This Game
Steve: This Game
Mike: This Game. It’s really fun to play. It kinda revs itself up into the chorus. IT’s got a lot of different stuff going on with it. It’s really got a message.
Steve: The organ solo is phenomenal in that song.
Sean: I actually wrote that songs when we were still the Chasers and I had just gotten my wisdom teeth pulled. Years later we, as Call Marvin, just happened to come across it again and dig it up…Really revive it. And it really worked, so we stuck with it- revamped it and everything. It was originally a rock song, and we revamped it to give it a Call Marvin reggae sound. It’s a totally different song now- different structure, Mike added Syrian drum… It’s really fun playing percussion on that track. It’s really bouncy. I just love it.
Katt: So you titled your EP ‘The Opinions of Sheep’ and I looked on the back to see a question that you posed in fine print that read, “Lions aren’t concerned with the opinions of Sheep. Which are you, the lion or the sheep?” Is that a particular message to anybody?
Mike: Where that came from was… at work, in the receiving area. It’s actually inspired from Game of Thrones. Back in the receiving room, the manager, also a Game of Thrones nerd like me, had a poster of a quote from one of the characters that said “A lion doesn’t concern itself with the opinions of sheep. Which are you, the lion or the sheep?” and I thought it was cool. It was our homework assignment for the week- finding something to call the EP- and I just kind of always liked it whenever I saw it. So, I ran it by them and we liked that the best. We felt like it had the right meaning for us. And we had been playing for so long: first as the Chasers and now Call Marvin, and we’ve played all sorts of different kinds of music. I mean, we were playing music and told we were too young to be playing that kind of music in this place, that place. We figured that at this point, we’re the lion now.
Katt: I noticed on your EP that on ‘This Game’ and especially on ‘What I’d Say to You’, you seem to really be struggling with the opinions of sheep. Can you elaborate on that at all?
Steve: Yeah, it’s definitely a heavier track- it’s deeper in meaning.
Sean: Hmm… It’s really just about being judged, and being in a situation in which you’re really the odd man out. It really was to reflect some of the discrimination that I’ve experienced in multiple situations in my life. So rather than be sorry about it, I decide to write a song about it.
Katt: I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been in so many of those situations. On a lighter note, what can you tell me about ‘Waiting for the Aliens’?
Steve: Oh, man, Sean can relate. I mean, look at him, he just screams E.T.!
Sean: I really do. Long neck; skinny with a weird gut… My heart glows during practice. They lure me into the basement with Reese’s Pieces.
Mike: He really looks like E.T. when I ride around on a bike with Sean in the basket.
Sean: ‘Waiting For the Aliens’ is actually a cover by a band called The Toyes. Our buddies Eric and Mikey had us listen to the song, and we ended up learning it and we kept playing it, and we got a lot of audience response with it.
Steve: There was a time when we were playing it at a show and this girl got just the mose disgusted look on her face, and I thought, “That’s awesome!”
Mike: We always get a response from the audience- people either love it or they hate it.
Sean: So we called them up and asked them if we could use it on our EP, and they gave us the go! We also shot a music video for it, which should be out soon!
Steve: We shot it in a cornfield with Greg Court producing it. Our personalities really come through in it. He’s a great videographer. It was a lot of fun.
Mike: It had a lot of corn in it.
Katt: I mean, it was shot in a cornfield…
Mike: Well, yeah…
Sean: We’ve seen the rough copies of it, and it looks really good! If only we could have actually found UFOs for it.
Katt: Out of all of the placed you guys have played, which is your favorite venue?
Steve, Sean, Mike: Festivals. We love playing festivals.
Steve: WE had some pretty good shows at the Pike Room & the Crofoot, too.
Sean: I really love Arts, Beats and Eats.
Steve: And breweries.
Mike: Really anywhere.
Sean: We love playing shows anywhere where there will be people who will listen to us.
Katt: Alright, I always like to make my last question a fun one: If you could watch an celebrity mud wrestle an alligator, who would it be?
Steve: Rob Schneider.. Well, we’ve already seen that happen.
Sean: I would like to see Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray dressed form Kingpin try to do it.
Mike: I wouldn’t mind seeing Morgan Freeman mud wrestle an alligator AND narrate what’s happening as it goes.
Steve: I’d actually rather see Phil Collins take a shot
Katt: Really? You wouldn’t want to see Sting take a shot at wrestling an alligator?
Mike: No, no, for Sting it would take 2 weeks, and even then… Maybe Bono.
This is Call Marvin a reggae-rock group from Detroit, MI. You can pick up their E.P. The Opinions of Sheep on CDBaby and iTunes.