Marcus and Megan Stoesz make up The Music Wrong, an oh-so-slightly edgy dream-pop duo that will soon be taking this San Francisco by storm. I had the chance to talk shop with Marcus before their show this Saturday night at El Rio.
For the record, I just want to say that I think the last Paper Airplanes album, Scandal Scandal Scandal Down In The Wheat Field, remains one of my favorite albums. Was that ever officially released? Can you talk a little about the experience of making that album and then making the decision to leave Kansas – and essentially Paper Airplanes – for San Francisco?
Thanks Lynne, I’m so glad you like our record. Making it was an really intense process for myself, and I think for all of us. We spent a good part of three years recording, re-recording — filling each song to the brim with any instrument or instrumentalist that we could get our hands on. I spent a lot of time alone being a control freak. Between practice spaces and studios, we recorded it at six different locations. It’s amazing we ever released it to the level that we did. Mixed, mastered, a run of 300, all hand-made. We never officially released it, but if I could let you in on a little secret, the whole Paper Airplanes discography is available at this website: http://www.fractionsjournal.com/collections. Fractions was a Wichita art zine my friend had put out for a couple issues… which like many cool things Wichitan, went the way of the buffalo.
You have a new project now called The Music Wrong that includes your wife Megan. What’s the story with the name and how is it to collaborate with your partner creatively? Was she involved in previous projects as well or is this a first for you two?
Yeah, and it has been great. Actually, I’ve used the Music Wrong moniker since I was 15 years old, consistently as a solo project. At one point I had a 6 piece band for a couple shows. For the name I took a piece of the lyrics from Built to Spill’s “Stab”. It kinda changed the context of the line, which I liked.
Megan and I have been meaning to play together for 3 years, in a Fleetwood Mac cover band, a project called Prairiewinkle, et cetera. I think I had been mentally committed to a 6 person line-up. It’s taken a long time to adjust to the 2-people-who-have-exclusive-married-sex band. At this point though, I’m such a proponent of the 2PWHEMS band. I mean, there are like a gazillion advantages.
What is the instrumentation of The Music Wrong? Paper Airplanes had a number of players / instrumentalists and The Music Wrong is more stripped down. Is this new set-up something that took some getting used to or are you enjoying the “less is more” vibe?
Well, it’s been a process, like I’ve been saying. For one, it hasn’t been exactly “less is more” for myself as a performer. As before, I would play guitar, sing and maybe deftly switch to the keyboard for a part of the song. Now my set up involves a RS-50 Loop Station, sampler, drum pad, keys, guitar, some really wordy vocal bits, and a buttload of cables. And I’ll make use of them all in the span of a minute. I’m beginning to see the virtue in incessant practice. Megan maintains the calm on the bass and mic. Sometimes she helps me out with guitar and key bits when there is too much on my plate. The majority of my Music Wrong work since moving to San Francisco has been devoted to understanding this techie stuff, and I’m finally starting to get it.
You work at San Francisco’s only rock and roll school for kids aged 4-8, Rock Band Land, does that songwriting process end up inspiring some of the songs you write for The Music Wrong and vice versa?
Yes and yes. Sometimes I confuse the two. I had to scrap the Music Wrong song about the panda bear who got in a motorcycle gumball battle with an eight legged mustachioed man. To the same degree, when working on songs for Rock Band Land, Brian constantly has to remind me not to rhyme “once upon a time…” with “I shat out a landmine”
How does the San Francisco scene compare with the scene when you lived in Wichita, KS?
Um… it’s hard to say, since the people I know here in the scene run in a pretty tight-knit crew, a small pocket of the larger music scene. My impression so far from the people I have been fortunate enough to meet is that there is a whole lot of support between musicians, and a whole lot of determination. The whole Wichita scene was a tight-knit crew. The scene was a more colorful spot of the dull Wichitan landscape. Many in this group absolutely couldn’t stand one another. Many slept with each others ex’s and did a lot of drugs. The most brilliant and consistent musicians and songwriters I know of are from Wichita. Solagget, The World Palendrome AKA The World Palestine, The Monoplex, Lumbar Five, A Trip to the Moon, they’re all fantastic.
Where are some of your favorite places in the Bay Area to see live music?
My favorite live music experiences here have been at tiny house shows, especially at the Ghost Mansion. At shows there I feel like I’m experiencing something really precious and special. Also, El Rio. The Verdi Club. Anywhere with friends.
When you were growing up did music play a key role in your development or was it a love learned later on?
I feel so fortunate that I spent so much of my free time as a kid creating, whether on the piano, teaching myself guitar, or recording myself on all the instruments on a 4-track. I could have been playing video games. Thanks parents.
What were some of the bands you remember hearing as a kid that truly influenced you later in life – or continue to do so today?
The first time I heard Sunny Day Real Estate, I felt like they existed only for me to listen to. I wore out all the Pavement, Superchunk, and Built to Spill cds and tapes. I bought every Radiohead record the day they came out. My best bud in middle school, Dan, made me mixtapes that I listened to until they broke. He got all his music from his older brother Matt, of Ten Grand. There was some hardcore and punk rock on those, but I really dug the softer songs. Chapterhouse, Aspera Ad Astra, some of the tracks from those mixtapes will always be classics to me. I hated The Van Pelt at the time but now I love them.
You toured a fair amount with Paper Airplanes, is this something you would eventually be interested in doing with The Music Wrong? Do you consider yourselves to be the Sonny and Cher of this generation? Can I hope to see you on the television soon with long, beautiful, black hair and perfectly straight bangs? Wait…..
Who knows, it could happen. But if you’re implying Megan is Sonny, she’s vehemently opposed to skiing.
Any closing thoughts on the state of music in the present time? Where do you see the industry going in the next 5 years? To Saturn?!?!?
I’m not too worried about it. I like seeing my friends be successful in big and small ways. As long as this keeps happening the biz is A-OK.
The Music Wrong play this Saturday, May 7th at El Rio. They are on first at 9:30 sharp. Elle Nino provide main support and Foreign Cinema close the night out. Doors are at 9pm and admission is $7.