Although 2007's Civil War is the debut album from Milwaukee's Fever Marlene, I am not going to call them a new band or newcomers. In fact, this album was actually three years in the making. Perhaps that is why the sound of Scott Starr and Kevin Dunphy sounds so polished. The twelve tracks contained on Civil War bounce along like undiscovered pop gems that feel strangely familiar and completely irresistible. Each and every song has the feel of a Top 40 pop single that just happened to be self-released from a 4,000 sq ft. loft in Wisconsin, and not from a mega studio in Los Angeles.
Through out their journey, which began in 2002, Scott and Kevin have lived in three different cities and have gone in various creative directions. It wasn't until their return to Milwaukee that their visions came together, and the songs followed close behind. This duo is the essence of dedication, and really are a self-contained creative unit. They write, paint, design, perform, and create. They have build and maintain their own website, released their own album, and are currently booking their owns shows. After five years of building and crafting an undeniable sound, Fever Marlene is ready to bring this sound to the world.
Recently, Scott Starr was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): From what I've read your debut album, Civil War, was several years and cities in the making. How long did you spend on this album, and what brought you guys back to Wisconsin?
Scott Starr (SS): I think we spent so much time recording the album because we were trying to figure out exactly who and what we were while we were in the writing process. We must of dumped the album about 3 or 4 times until we started to really like where the sound was going. We actually never really meant to be a two-piece either. That just happened because Kevin and I had had been playing together for so long and we couldn't find other members to fill the void. But over time, we felt like we were OK being duo and the sound was made because of it. Our families live in Wisconsin and we found a 4000 sq ft loft in Milwaukee where we recorded a good portion of the album on our own. We could live and work in the same environment which was pretty key to the success of the album. Now that we've got our feet planted and we're a little more confident on what Fever Marlene is, we're taking more chances and recording in different environments; like the new album which will be recorded in a suite at The Chelsea Hotel in New York next month.
OA: There is something to be said about a truly independent band, self-released album, self-produced music video, you even manage you own website. The freedom and control is all yours. However, is this the ideal structure for Fever Marlene or are there other plans for your future?
SS: It's ideal because we do what we want and we have total control over everything. Nowadays its really easy to do everything yourself and you can cut the middle man out. So artistically, it's all very necessary and ideal. It also helps to know a little bit about design and film. But if someone's not going to do it for you or you don't have $100,000 you need to make it happen somehow. I wouldn't trust anyone else doing it anyway, unless it was up to me choose who produced our video or designed our album cover.
OA: The video for "Red Fire" is amazing and very well done. There is definitely a political overtone to the video and the album. Is that simply a product of the times we live in or is there a more direct message to be conveyed?
SS: All said and done, it's just a music video with some fun shots that Kevin and I took while running around outside our loft. We bought a couple GW Bush masks from a local costume store and a couple cheap Violins from Target, which we returned the same day, and had some fun with the camera. YouTube is basically the new MTV. So its cool that its so easy to get your music out there by uploading a video yourself. Blows my mind how easy it is. And there are some really crappy videos out there as well... but they're cool because bands are putting this stuff out themselves and most overly produced videos suck anyway. As far as politics, we're not very political... but we'll have some fun with our ideas and beliefs whenever we can. Because we can. Go Obama!
OA: As a duo I imagine the song writing process as a very collective effort, Scott writes part A and Kevin follows with part B. How does the song writing process typically go?
SS: You're right on. I usually write the songs on piano or acoustic guitar. Then I'll introduce it to Kevin and he'll come up with good structures or better production around the song. And living together gives us a lot of time to write and shoot stuff back and forth. Kevin's a music freak, and he knows a good song when he hears it. So I trust him. He's good at telling me when my songs are "listenable" or "boring".
OA: One of the first things you see on the FM site is a link to Kiva. How important is giving and charity to the overall perception and ideology of Fever Marlene? Why did you choose Kiva?
SS: I was given a gift certificate last year for Kiva. After that, I was giving gift certificates to friends on bdays and holidays. It's just a really cool idea and it's exciting to see the progress people make with so little.
OA: What's next for Fever Marlene?
SS: We're continuing to look for a good record company that'll put us on tour and support the album. We still need distribution and we're left without a booking agent at the moment so we can't get out and play as much as we want. Time will tell. The record business is a funny thing. We're just going to keep playing, writing, and recording and whatever happens will be. But as artists, that's all we can really do. Hopefully someone with a lot of money will love the songs as much as you do, contact us on myspace, and put us on a world tour ;)
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is you favorite type of coffee and where is you favorite coffee spot?
SS: I prefer scotch :) But if I'm going to get out and get coffee in the morning, there's a really cool spot in Milwaukee called Anodyne. I'm not sure how spread out they are. But they've got killer beans. And I believe it's all fair trade.
Red Fire (mp3)/All the Kites in the World/We Are All Colors (mp3)/Khemitones/When Daniel Goodings Made it Rain/Civil War/Some Saturdays/Fast Machines/Melodies in Four/Somethings Going to Carry you Down/AM radio
For more information on Fever Marlene and to pick up a copy of Civil War visit their website.