Marrow: The Second Time Around

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Six months ago the dream was all but dead.

Kids These Days officially broke up on May 8, 2013. Two days later I was behind the wheel of my Chevy Trailblazer heading north to Wisconsin. The seven piece funk/soul/rock/hip-hop group that had captivated a generation of a city was no more, and they had retreated north to make sense of it all.

As I drove through the newly warm spring air with drummer Greg Landfair, his girlfriend and a friend, we listened to the eclectic sounds of Traphouse Rock and Hard Times. The group had spanned nearly four years together, essentially amounting to what would later be referred to as their “college days”. With college over, we pulled up to a hastily-erected sign on the side of a seldom-used street in what seemed like the middle of nowhere of  Wisconsin to return to where it all began.

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As we pulled up to the main house of the Postock farm, the ominous sounds of Macie Stewart’s voice could already be heard emanating from the large, old barn located just on the other side of the red brick structure.

For a group of young adults that achieved so much, the end of the band was almost jarringly abrupt. After a series of tense discussions and numerous arguments, Kids These Days rode out their tour through New York and called it quits. Horn players Nico Segal and J.P. Floyd left from there to join Frank Ocean on tour, Vic Mensa immediately embarked on a solo hip-hop career and the rest headed back to Chicago to figure everything out.

Stewart, Liam Cunningham and Lane Beckstrom had arrived a day earlier to set up in the cavernous barn, where they had played their first show as Kids These Days half a decade earlier. Tacked on the wall was a four foot long, haphazardly torn piece of brown construction paper with words scrawled over it.

When I asked Liam what was written he just looked at me absentmindedly and said, “They’re the new songs.”

Counting the lines on the paper as it swayed in the Spring breeze, I counted thirty. Determined to record them all that weekend, the friends turned the summer getaway into a sort of boot camp, waking up early and playing late into the night. One thing was obvious; the band was hurting, and they planned to work through the pain with music.

With Segal and Floyd on and off tour with Frank Ocean and Landfair spending his summer playing with Chance The Rapper, the skeleton of KTD came together to form Marrow.

“At first I felt an incredible sense of urgency to put something out, stay on the scene,” said Beckstrom. “The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realized none of this should be rushed and I think that mentality has been really beneficial to us as we’ve evolved the band.”

Three months after my visit to Wisconsin following the break-up, I found myself back north, this time for the annual Postock Festival, a small weekend gathering of music hosted by the Cunninghams and friends. Having debuted Kids These Days at one of the first Postocks years ago, it was fitting that the band’s first foray back into public domain would be in the barn that saw it begin once before.

Since then, Marrow has quietly been circling the city playing gigs, working things out, rehearsing in the front room of Liam’s house, cluttered with foot pedals, drum sticks and guitars.

“A typical week is four rehearsals, maybe work on lyrics for a couple songs and just try to keep the ship going,” said Cunningham. “But if we’re not doing that, I’m constantly thinking about how I want to be doing stuff with Marrow and that’s a good feeling. For awhile, it was hard to not have a project to be working on.”

December 19, the journey that started all those months ago on the farm come full circle as Stewart, Cunningham, Beckstrom and newcomer Matt Carroll debut their re-incarnated band with an album release show at Schuba’s on the north side of Chicago for their aptly-named EP, Two.

“We’re really happy to have Matt on board, he’s a very different player than Greg,” said Cunningham of the band’s newest addition. “Once we got to know him and he expressed how far he was willing to commit to the band, it became obvious to us that he would be a great fit.”

With Cunningham and Stewart writing a majority of the music, Marrow enjoys an eclectic sound that plays wonderfully between Liam’s deeper, bluesy feel and Stewart’s powerfully angelic voice with ease, and songs that deal with more than what happened on the weekend. There is a semblance to the old band, but only here and there. The four-part group is a more mature, sure-of-themselves experiment that allows for a kind of freedom, musically, they haven’t felt in awhile.

“After everything happened, Liam called me on the phone and said he still wanted to make music with me and of course I did too,” said Stewart. “With Marrow, people can hear our songwriting a lot more; which is a big deal. Also, since people have last heard us we’ve matured immensely, so it’s all just really exciting.”

For help with their re-introduction, the group turned to a familiar face in director Austin Vesely, who crafted and shot the group’s first video, which spanned both songs on the debut EP. The artistic, Kubrick-inspired, eight-minute romp across the prairies of northern Illinois is a fitting storyline. A long train journey wrought with irregularities and odd encounters that ends with a freeing experience somewhere far away in the country; it’s hard not to see the symbolism.

As the three old friends prepare to start all over again, they do so with a clear conscious and endless possibility.  next June, the four will likely head back north to the Postock farm to play once again in the barn that has seen it all. There’s no telling where the group will be then, but one thing’s for sure. Six months later, the dream is still very much alive.

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