An Interview With the Alternative-Rock Trio, The TOMMY MARZ BAND!
Posted On 06 Feb 2018
Last week on February 2nd, the alt-rock trio THE TOMMY MARZ BAND released their sophomore full-length album, Seventy-One Trips Around the Sun. The first single and video from the album is called “Coffee Cigarettes & Judge Judy.”
This is an intensely personal album for TOMMY MARZ; the title refers to his father, who passed away during the production of the album at age 71 from cancer. “My father fell ill last year and passed on Valentine’s Day of this year, at the age of 71,” he explains. “We spent a lot of years with a strained relationship, and being there with him daily until he passed gave us time to find our way back to and really appreciate one another. This album is a concept of that time and his life. I’ve never been this open and vulnerable before in my music.” Additionally, MARZ did all the instrumentation on the album himself.
Seventy-One Trips Around the Sun mixes the band’s rocking edge on songs like “Coffee, Cigarettes and Judge Judy” with melodic guitars on “Misery” and soaring harmonies on “Reborn.” It also includes their own unique version of Stone Temple Pilots’ tune, “Tumble In The Rough.” song “Living Stronger” is directly about the fight with cancer, and being with his dad until the end. Perhaps surprisingly, MARZ’s song, “Chasing the Tiger,” was inspired by the Duran Duran album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger. “Wander” is really a two-parter: it was written during his father’s last days, and was completed a few weeks after his passing.
The first single/video, “’Coffee Cigarettes and Judge Judy,” was actually written from his dad’s point of view. MARZ reveals, “That was basically his life at the end; I would come by his apartment and he’d be drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and watching ‘Judge Judy.’”
THE TOMMY MARZ BAND has been featured on the iTunes Home Page, their debut album Bringing Alpha charted on the iTunes Top 30 Rock Albums and garnered positive press reviews. They’ve shared the stage with many national and regional acts, including The Verve Pipe, Scott Weiland, Great White, Scott Stapp, Fuel, Brian Vander Ark, POD, The Dan Band, Everclear, Seven Mary Three, Days Of The New and LA Guns. They’ve also played several festivals, such as The Rolling Rock Town Fair, Stars and Stripes Music Festival, Uncle Sam Jam, Riverfest, Thirsty Melon Music Festival and Dougfest. MARZ has had his songs appear on two episodes of “Last Call With Carson Daly”: “California Chic” from the Lemmy episode, and “White Horse” from the Johnny Knoxville episode.
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Learn more about The Tommy Marz Band in the following All Access interview:
Happy New Year! Thanks for your time for this All Access interview! Where does this interview find you today?
Happy New Year! I am at the recording studio working on a few things right now.
What is one song that you are loving right now?
‘Jet’ by a band called Basement. I love their sound. One song of ours that I love to listen to is ‘Reborn’. I sort of listen to that one as if it’s not by us. It just felt special while recording it.
What is a song that you all disagree about loving right now?
Both Jason and Chris say their favorite song on the album is ‘Reborn’. We all agree we love it, but for different reasons. Jason is in love with the harmonies; Chris finds that he loses himself in the song when listening to it. I feel the song has a great groove to it. The lyrics have a personal meaning to me. This song makes me feel a sense of letting some things go, while making sure to relish the important things in life.
So first things first, what all are you most excited about for this year?
I’m most excited about our new album, Seventy One Trips Around The Sun, being released. There was a lot of blood, sweat and literal tears in the making of it. I’m just so proud of it. Then, being able to play these songs live for people is so exciting! We get messages, posts, tweets, etc. from people asking us to come to their cities to perform. That is not only flattering, it’s inspiring. Makes us want to grab our gear and hit the road!
Did any of you make New Year Resolutions? Care to share any of them with us?
Playing more live shows than we did in 2017 would be the top resolution! Good things happen when we play live, so I think that’s definitely a priority for us.
Can you recall the moment when you all thought you could be in a band together?
The three of us have been playing music together for a long time. We were in a band called Go To Zero, and it was there we developed a nice chemistry on stage. I think the thing that works for us here is that we enjoy playing music with one another and really get along. The disagreements are pretty minimal, and if there is something we disagree on, it gets resolved fairly quickly.
Was it hard to come up with a name that you all thought fit your sound and who you are?
I did a solo project a few years back just as Tommy Marz. After one of the songs, a cover of George Michael’s ‘Faith,’ received a bit of attention on YouTube, iTunes, etc., Jason suggested that we should call it The Tommy Marz Band. I was on the fence about it, but Chris agreed with Jason. And then, so it was. To be honest, it took a while for me to be comfortable with it, but now I think I’ve become used to it. Now it feels much more natural to say the name of the band. But every now and again, someone will call it Tommy Mraz or write Tommy MARS. I just go with it!
Let’s talk about your sophomore full-length album that you will be putting out next month. What was it like putting this collection together?
When I first started writing the new album, the themes were probably a little angry. I had a few things to say regarding the battle of addiction and emotional distress. But I was probably writing more metaphorically early on, and not really wanting it to be SO personal. After my dad passed away, the direction and the feel of the album took a turn. The themes actually got a little darker…but less angry. And then, I felt like I wanted to be super personal. Instead of letting people in, I wanted to go out and bring them in. I wanted them to feel these songs the way I was feeling them. I wrote 18 songs for this album, but knew that I wanted to include only 12 on the final release. I feel strongly that the songs on 71 Trips… tell a story and represent what I was feeling in 2017 when they were recorded.
How do you think the band dynamics have changed since your first album was made?
Jason had a bigger role helping me with the harmonies we laid down in the studio. He really pushed the limits of where we wanted to go vocally on this album. He helped produce this album into what you are hearing. I think Chris has changed completely with his live performance. Not only has he progressed on the bass guitar, but his stage presence has also really started to show up. I feel like he has broken out of his shell, performance-wise. For me, the change was not trying to write 12 three-minute songs. I just wrote words and music, and didn’t worry about how long the songs were. I just wanted to tell a story. And finally, in the studio I wasn’t trying to sing the perfect line; I just wanted to try a capture the emotion I was feeling that day.
How do you think your already released single “Coffee Cigarettes & Judge Judy” prepares listeners for the rest of the forthcoming album?
It’s the hardest rock song on the whole album. This song coming out first prepared the listener for what was coming next, from a lyrical standpoint, on the rest of the album. The song pretty much details the last few months of my dad’s life. He spent those final days not eating much, but drinking lots of coffee, smoking cigarettes and watching ‘Judge Judy.’ He loved watching her. He thought she was hilarious, but tough. The song is 100% from his point of view and is based on conversations we had daily. He was very open about his life, as well as his condition at the time. The bridge of the song is from an actual conversation we had. He said he’d like to tell me some things, but would try and not vent too much about being sick. But in true Dad fashion, he said that if I didn’t have time to stay and listen he would understand, and that he’d miss me when I left for the night.
Can you pick out a few other songs off this collection and talk about how they came to be?
‘Tumble In The Rough’ is a cover of the Stone Temple Pilots song. I’ve always wanted to cover something by STP. But “Tumble…” just felt like it fit in with the theme of this record. I felt like he (Scott Weiland) was fighting something that was consuming him. In my case, it was sadness.
The song ‘Living Stronger’ is about the fight against cancer. The chorus still sort of gets me when I hear it now.
The song ‘Spiritus Mundi’ was written partly before my Dad passed away, and finished afterward. In fact, the ending after the aggressive bridge was not there originally. I guess I just sort of felt wrong or guilty, and wanted to resolve the song. So I added that last part. “Time to dream.. Spiritus Mundi.”
Finally, the song ‘A Horse With No Name’ was a favorite of my dad’s. I was driving that summer up the east coast, and I must’ve heard the original by America 20 times. Finally I said to myself, “I wish somebody would record a rock version of this song.” And so, I did!
Would you say that you have a general songwriting process that you try to follow?
Typically, I’ll write and record music, and then I’ll start the lyric process. On this album, it was probably more of a 50/50 split. During the recording of part of the vocals, something out of the ordinary for me also occurred. I was having trouble laying down vocals on ‘Reborn’ and ‘Spiritus Mundi.’ The long notes in the verses of ‘Reborn’ were giving me a bit of trouble. So I ran out of the studio, went to a refrigerator and grabbed a can of beer. I’m not really a big drinker, but I drank half of the can straight away. Jason, sensing I was little more ‘relaxed’ said, “Okay, let’s try those verses again!” So I did, and those are the vocals you hear on the recording. Got them all on the next take. Since I was now warmed up, we cut the vocals for ‘Spiritus’ right afterward.
Tommy, can you elaborate on how this is an intensely personal album for you?
I’ve never written anything this personal before. Losing a parent is a hard thing to cope with, but fortunately, I had music to sort of lose myself in. I wrote about things that might have seemed embarrassing to me before. In the song ‘My Former Self,’ I mention that the old me would’ve never broken down and cried outwardly, but now all of that pride seems unimportant. During the song ‘Wander’ I talk about getting on my knees and praying that everything will be okay, but knowing that I will have to come to grips with reality soon. The album has more vulnerability than anything we’ve ever done before.
What was it like having your father pass away during the production of it?
I had a moment of wondering if I was going to finish it. I thought about getting a fresh start, and even wondered if I’d even finish it at all. About a month after he passed away, Jason called me and asked me to meet him in the studio. We talked about whether or not we wanted to continue with the album. I really don’t know how it started, but I just started writing lyrics and guitar riffs and then we started arranging them into songs. The song ‘Wander’ was the toughest, since most of it was written before he passed. So that was one of the ones I saved for last. Then I wrote the second half and recorded the vocals.
How do you think that impacted you as a musician and the collection as a whole?
It made me focus on the lyrics a lot more. Like each word was sacred, and I had to make sure I was doing a good job of telling his story. As far as the collection, it had a huge impact on the direction of a few songs. Maybe less anger, more sorrow. Another way it impacted the tracks on the album was re-writing, recording and including an older song I had lying around, called ‘Out Of Body Experience.’ It’s the last track on the album, and is about Astral Projection, which is something my dad talked about a lot when I was a young boy. It just felt right to get that song just right and include it on this album.
This band has shared the stage with so many incredible acts so I am curious to know what performance/experience has really stood out the most to you?
That’s a tough one. We just played a show in our hometown of Detroit with The Dan Band at St. Andrews Hall, and it was a full on rock show. Crowd was ready, we were ready, and we all had a blast. The vibe in the place was on another level. Another show that stands out is a show we played with Scott Stapp. Our set was so much fun, and I have to be honest and tell you: I listened to those Creed albums over and over when I was younger! So getting to meet Scott and hear those songs again, sitting where I was sitting, was something I will never forget.
Do you have any 2018 tour dates lined up already? Where can fans see you perform next?
We just got off of a mini tour with The Dan Band, and it was a great way to start the year by playing the new songs off of the new album! We are planning on bringing the rock show to the Midwest this spring/summer. We would be honored to have people hear these songs live. We plan on bringing the energy from this last show in Detroit to every show we play this year!
Who would you love to work with in the future?
The Holy Grail would be working with Brendan O’Brien on a record! I would also LOVE to have Steve Jordan produce something.
Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
I’ve been listening to the new Greta Van Fleet record a lot. It’s so sick.
What would be a dream collaboration for this group?
Two words: Mike. Patton.
Where do you think you are all happiest- on stage performing, in the studio recording music or elsewhere?
I think we’re happiest on stage together, doing our thing. Playing our songs and connecting with members of the audience is an unbelievable feeling. But I’ll admit, being in the studio is also a special time, and has almost caught up to playing live. Almost.
We are living in a crazy and at times rough world right now so I am curious how you think being in this band gives you the most joy in life today?
With all of the craziness, music affords the opportunity to break away; it’s like an earful of optimism. Even with all of the dark themes on this new album, there is still a ray of hope at the end of the day. You gotta keep on keeping on, and we all need to do a better job of truly taking care of each other.
Do you think that new music being created today is going to reflect these difficult times?
It absolutely will, just like Bob Dylan, Steve Winwood, Eddie Vedder, etc., wrote about things happening during their generation. People will write the songs today that people will listen to in 30 years and try to imagine what it was like now.
What do you hope is the message of your music?
Our message is this: Enjoy your time with the people care about for as long as you can. Life can be short and it is certainly precious, so might as well enjoy it!
What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
I hope they were able to connect with the story of the song. But if it doesn’t get that deep for them, I hope they can find something that keeps them coming back for another listen. Maybe a guitar riff or drumbeat will inspire someone else to write his or her own songs and maybe start a band. I’ve had so many songs I’ve listened to when I was younger that did just that for me, and now here we are on our second full-length album.
What do you hope they take away from one of your shows?
It would make us happy to know they walked away wanting to see us perform again!