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Listen + Interview: Mark Lind

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    I first stumbled upon Mark Lind a little over three years ago. It was during the time of my unhealthy obsession with punk music, and a shout out to a band named “The Ducky Boys” popped up in Dropkick Murphy’s “Barroom Heroes”, a song I probably listened to 10+ times a day. Though at the time of my listening frenzy the song off Dropkick’s debut album, Do or Die, was probably pushing seven years in age, I still felt the need to investigate these “Ducky Boys.”

    Upon realizing the band were not only Dropkick-approved, but also a fellow punk rock band from Boston, I quickly got my hands on Three Chords and the Truth, the band’s third full-length studio album. Offering sincere, down-to-earth lyrics and catchy as hell guitar rifts, I instantly became hooked, some would say obsessed by a group few outside of Boston had ever heard of. I told everyone I knew – family, friends, the random person I found myself next to at concerts – all about the band you could use names like Springsteen and the Replacements to describe.marklind2 Listen + Interview: Mark Lind

    The Ducky Boys have since disbanded, releasing one last album, 2006’s The War Back Home, before taking an extended, perhaps eternal hiatus. The leader/frontman of the band, Mark Lind, made the decision out of will, rather than need, choosing to instead focus on the more easier controlled, individualistic route.

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    The result is Mark Lind, the solo artist. While still the talented singer/song writer who first broke into the Boston music scene some 13 years ago, Lind now finds himself a more developed and experienced musician, taking a decade worth of experience not only to heart, but to sound.

    The early recordings by the Ducky Boys lacked pretty much everything but feeling. We didn’t know how to construct a song. We didn’t know anything about musical theory. We didn’t know how to harmonize our vocals. We didn’t know anything about the recording process. All we really did was plug in and play. We were kids playing to kids and that was a major part in us planting our flag here in Boston. It was essentially raw emotion be it anger or whatever else we were yelling about.

    Nowadays, you can find Lind putting these lessons to good use. Since first dabbling in a solo carrer with the release of 2006’s Death or Jail, an album he describes the result of a tax return, the 31-year-old has released two more projects under his name, an EP entitled Compulsive Fuck Up in 2007 and his second full-length effort, The Truth Can Be Brutal, last month.

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    While with each release comes more gripping lyricism, more complete sounds, in the end, Lind’s newest album is by far his best. With the inclusion of a new backing band, a collection of notable Bostonians (Jeff Morris, Mike Savitkas, and Jason Messina) who call themselves “The Unloved,” Lind has added a musical prowess that bring even more depth and power to the songwriter’s already captivating words, leaving a riveting 30-minute exploration of life’s emotion as the end product.

    Blending styles ranging from the full-fledged punk-rock of “Your Revolution Song” and “Coke and Jack” that brings back memories of latter Duckys Boys work to the more withheld, solo driven rock ‘n roll of “Hell My Brother”, The Truth Can Be Brutal offers a taste of not only Lind’s ever developing sound, but the varying styles that have at one point or another defined the Boston natives’ musical career. Songs like “So She Says” and “Dagger” combine the best of best worlds as musical richness and lyrical intensity come hand in hand.

    As I now find myself again introducing folks to Mark Lind, I continue to befuddled as to why an artist so creative, so honest, backed by a band whose talent probably can’t be accurately be described by words, continues for the most part, to go unnoticed in the music world. Over the last three years, my tastes have changed and phases have come and gone, but one thing remaining consistent is Mark Lind’s spot in my listening rotation, something that can also be said by the many others who have given him shot. Do yourself a favor, join the club.

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    Check Out:
    “Familiar Face”

    “New Year’s Day”

    CoS’ full interview with Mark Lind:

    AY: Since you started The Ducky Boys back in 1995, you’ve essentially always been “in the spotlight” so to speak. In other words, you’ve always either been recording and/or performing live. In your mind, what are the benefits and negatives of this?

    ML: I guess the benefits are obvious: I’ve had a great time and I’ve been able to do a lot of things that I never imagined I’d do even within a limited scope.  Most people start bands to just kick around and have some fun a few nights a week with their buddies and that’s where we started to. But we just also happened to take the thing worldwide to some degree and build up an audience when we never really set out to do that, at least at the beginning. Timing played a big role in that with all of the Boston bands exploding just shortly after we threw our hat in the ring but what’s happened has happened and we’ve reaped some of the benefits of that.

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    The downside, I suppose, is that I was 18 years old when this started and I had no idea what I was doing. Some people actually like the old stuff we did but I look back on it and see it as juvenile at times. But hell, I was a juvenile. So in a lot of ways I’ve grown up on CD and everything is out there for people to see if they choose to. Some people go through a lot of growing and changing in those important years of life and sometimes they like to sweep some of their actions under the carpet. I can’t do that because it’s all documented and available to everyone. Ha. I guess the other downside is that I’ve put a lot of time into this over the years. And that is time I won’t get back. But in the end I wouldn’t change a thing.

    AY: Relating to that, I think one of the most compelling aspects of your career is that just by going through you catalog of music, a fan can listen to your development in both styles and sounds. What are your thoughts on that and what attribute of yours do you feel has most improved over the years?

    ML: In a lot of ways I feel like we started at 0 so everything has improved since then. The early recordings by the Ducky Boys lacked pretty much everything but feeling. We didn’t know how to construct a song. We didn’t know anything about musical theory. We didn’t know how to harmonize our vocals. We didn’t know anything about the recording process. All we really did was plug in and play. We were kids playing to kids and that was a major part in us planting our flag here in Boston. It was essentially raw emotion be it anger or whatever else we were yelling about. But that sort of sound has a shelf life of about 6 months so it was a matter of sink or swim and I quickly started doing the doggy paddle in order to stay afloat. Our second record was better. But it wasn’t where we wanted to go. I had to take a few years and really just listen to a lot of music. I needed to decide what I liked and what I didn’t like and I needed to apply it to what I was doing. Those were the Sinners & Saints/Dirty Water years. And I feel like I came out on the other side with not only the ability to play and sing better but the vision that I needed to make the records I had always wanted to make. So the songwriting, arrangements, vision and performance all really improved over the years since.

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    AY: What are the similarities and difference between Mark Lind, the Duckys Boys frontman of 1998 and Mark Lind, the solo artist/frontman of the Unloved of 2008?

    ML: There are very few similarities… or so I’d like to think. I suppose if someone walked into a club today and saw us playing they might recognize me as the guy that had fronted the Ducky Boys back then because my voice is unique and identifiable. Plus the style we play is really just an improved and enhanced version of what we did back then so I think there is a visible connection. But the differences definitely outweigh the similarities. I’m much calmer as a person and that comes through in the music. I’m also more mature – or so I’d like to think – and that is also evident. Back then I was hungry to take what we had to the world. Today I’m confident with who I am, what I do and what I have. So I guess I was lacking that confidence back then… or maybe trying to overstate it to compensate. Nowadays I know my abilities and limitations and I’m not so sure that I knew those things back then when I was younger.

    AY: You are often acclaimed for your song-writing. Do you find writing easy? Are you influenced by any particular musician?

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    ML: If I’m acclaimed for that then I guess my work here is done. All I’m really trying to do is make some decent songs. It’s such a simple concept that I think most bands overlook it especially in the underground. I’m sure people that read your blog and follow big time acts probably are thinking to themselves that quality music is an obvious essential. But I feel like it’s so lacking in the underground. Bands and artists focus on unimportant things like image, crowd reactions, merchandising and they either forget about what is really important or they let it influence the songwriting. For example, what kind of sensible person would ever drop a hook in a song in favor of a part that will allow the audience to put a fist in the air and chant something like “hey”? Well it happens all the time in punk rock. The music becomes just another product to sell at the merch table no different than a t-shirt or a skateboard deck. These bands are so short sighted that it makes me wonder why they even bother.

    Sure, they might blow up and make tens of thousands of dollars. But where is the self respect? Where is the art that they can be proud of? I’ve been on both sides; I’ve catered to live audiences when I was young and I’ve catered to myself and to music lovers as I’ve got older. They can’t compare at all. Putting together a great song that is completely satisfying to the ear and the soul is better than anything on earth. And all you have to do is let yourself go. Just be yourself. Use your ears and come up with something you’d like to hear on a CD that you buy. And there it is. I really wish more bands would put away the charts and bar graphs and just care about what really matters.

    AY: You are often acclaimed for your song-writing. Do you find writing easy? Are you influenced by any particular musician?

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    ML: If I’m acclaimed for that then I guess my work here is done. All I’m really trying to do is make some decent songs. It’s such a simple concept that I think most bands overlook it especially in the underground. I’m sure people that read your blog and follow big time acts probably are thinking to themselves that quality music is an obvious essential. But I feel like it’s so lacking in the underground. Bands and artists focus on unimportant things like image, crowd reactions, merchandising and they either forget about what is really important or they let it influence the songwriting. For example, what kind of sensible person would ever drop a hook in a song in favor of a part that will allow the audience to put a fist in the air and chant something like “hey”? Well it happens all the time in punk rock. The music becomes just another product to sell at the merch table no different than a t-shirt or a skateboard deck. These bands are so short sighted that it makes me wonder why they even bother.

    Sure, they might blow up and make tens of thousands of dollars. But where is the self respect? Where is the art that they can be proud of? I’ve been on both sides; I’ve catered to live audiences when I was young and I’ve catered to myself and to music lovers as I’ve got older. They can’t compare at all. Putting together a great song that is completely satisfying to the ear and the soul is better than anything on earth. And all you have to do is let yourself go. Just be yourself. Use your ears and come up with something you’d like to hear on a CD that you buy. And there it is. I really wish more bands would put away the charts and bar graphs and just care about what really matters.

    As I said earlier, writing music as a concept does not come easily to me. It’s taken years for me to really carve out my identity. But that’s also true about every person in life. But what does come easy to me is listening to and loving music. And that makes it easier. Now that I know what I do and what I am incapable of, being me comes easily and I come up with lots of ideas. Not all of it is good or even listenable. But it’s all just a part of me. Some people keep a journal or a blog or what have you. I just keep my memories of the day on a cassette tape and I accompany it with a few chords. It’s easy for any of us to identify what we like and what we don’t like. And as long as you keep sight of that then anyone can make up a song. Especially someone that has an extensive knowledge of music and a lot of influences to draw from.

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    There are a lot of songwriters that I like. Tom Petty keeps it simple and I find him inspiring in the way that so many guitarists were inspired by the simplicity of the Ramones. Of course, it’s all very deceptive. Tom Petty may be one of the best songwriters to ever live but he sort of makes you feel like you could do it too. Others that I’m really into are Springsteen, John Lennon, Paul Westerberg, Elliott Smith, Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes, Tim Armstrong from Rancid. And then some of the newer ones I’ve been getting into include Ben Kweller, Ben Harper and even Beck. My stuff doesn’t sound like any one of these people but they’re all in the stew I suppose in some way that none of them would probably recognize as a contribution.

    AY: You often describe your debut solo album, Death or Jail, as a collection of leftovers that did not make the cut for The War Back Home. At the time, did you view your solo career different than you do now?

    ML: Definitely. Then I was just making a record because I had a tax return to spend and some extra songs kicking around. I didn’t at any point sit down and try to construct the best album that I could make. And I didn’t even do that when I was working on the EP that I released in 2007. None of it was throw away but I still didn’t see it as my main focus at the time. Things have changed and this is what I’m doing now. So after I came up with a bunch of songs that I was happy with I took a lot of time to think about how I could improve them from a craftsman standpoint. There was still a lot of improvised inspiration in the studio but these tunes were on my mind every chance I had for a long time leading up to the recording. In other words, it became my priority where it had not been just a couple of years earlier.

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    AY: What are both the positives and negatives of working by yourself vs. working with a band?

    ML: When I decided to set Ducky Boys aside and pursue what I’m doing now I stated that I didn’t want to be “in a band”. Of course in many ways I still am. I’m hardly the only guy on stage or the only guy on the record. In fact I have some of the most talented guys and girls in Boston helping me see these things through. But we don’t practice 2 – 3 nights per week like we used to. I’m not chasing people around for financial contributions to keep the band going. It’s much more relaxed now. I have to take the heat if someone doesn’t like what we’re doing and I have to pay for our expenses out of pocket but it’s is much less pressure in some way. And the guys in the band agree. They show up and play. They always play well and add great ideas but it isn’t something they have to worry about all the time. And for some reason I also worry less now than I did when it was considered more of a “band”. I see absolutely no negatives to this current arrangement. I have the best band in town and I’m promoting the best release I’ve ever been a part of. It’s really a win/win across the board.

    AY: As someone who has used the internet to your advantage, you released the Compulsive Fuck Up EP as a digital download and often share raw demos with fans online, what are your thoughts on not only file sharing, but the future of the music industry as a whole? As an independent artists, are you inspired by the actions of bands like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails?

    ML: I wish I knew more about this to answer this question. A lot of people are grappling with this right now and trying to figure out what is going on or what is going to happen and the truth is that no one knows. Those mega sized bands that released their records online did a cool thing. But they’re mega huge bands and they can do that. If a small to mid-sized band did the same then many people would assume it was of lesser quality because it’s free. So their example can’t really be applied to many acts.

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    File sharing doesn’t bother me. I try not to take part in it myself unless it is sanctioned by the artist. But I did “steal” two albums this year because they leaked before the release date. Both of the records were horrendous and I won’t be buying those releases when they hit the street. So I suppose that band lost the sale that I may have given them. But there is also something to be said about someone that is even willing to take a listen to something. Maybe that person would not have checked the release out otherwise. There has to some middle ground and there are a lot of brilliant people out there that should be able to resolve this controversy in a way that makes everyone happy.

    AY: Your new album, The Truth Can Be Brutal, features The Unloved, a group of musicians, who are not only a group of musicians very familiar to the Boston music scene, but are often applauded for their talents. What is it working with a group you yourself often describe as some of the most musically gifted people you’ve ever worked with?

    ML: It’s fun and easy. Before we play a show I email them a set list of what I want to play. We get together and run through them once or twice and we’re good to go. They’re so good at what they do that it’s almost effortless. We can even pull songs out on stage that we never practiced. And it’s constantly evolving. We just added a girl named Brit to the band that can sing like you wouldn’t believe. And she fits right in with us and has the same vibe as the rest of the guys. Jeff, Mike and Jay are some of the most talented people in the area at their respective musical jobs. If we were on a major label then I’m sure Jeff would be on the cover of guitar magazines and heralded as some sort of modern day Brian Setzer but what can you do?

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    AY: And on the topic of bands, I have to ask, the future of The Ducky Boys? I know you’ve said in the past, “maybe one day”. Any update, change of plans?

    ML: It still remains “maybe one day”. We’re all friends. We’re all alive. But we’re all busy. If it does happen then the record needs to be better than anything we’ve done before so it will be challenging but it’s a challenge that I’d be willing to accept if the fellas want to do it.

    AY: Today, so many bands make their living off of touring. You however are someone, especially as of late, who rarely performs outside of the Northeast. Is there a specific reason for that?

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    ML: I think touring compromises a lot of bands. This goes back to something I said at the beginning of this interview. Lots of bands are so concerned with image and stage choreography that the music becomes an after thought. Lots of these bands are touring so much that they might get a month to write and record an album. Well unless you’re The Beatles then you know the record can’t be very good or thought out with such a small window of time to get it done. I don’t want to be one of those bands.

    Also, I hate it as much as any one hates their job. But music is something that no one can take away from me. It’s my salvation. I know a lot of guys in professional bands and they hate it as much as most of us hate our day jobs. I won’t let my love for music turn into a chore or something I dread.

    AY: As someone who has played with everyone from the likes of Dropkick Murphys and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones to Rancid and Anti-Flag, which band was the greatest thrill to play on the same bill with? Your most memorable encounter?

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    ML: That would definitely be the first time we played with Rancid in 1998. The show was insane. But they were also such nice people. And they were the band we looked up to most during our early years. So it was a thrill that I’ll probably never see replicated. There were just so many factors at play in that night. Plus we sold like 250 shirts which was totally unexpected so it felt nice to be so well received.

    But one of the most interesting encounters we’ve had happened with The Unloved. We played with John Doe of X and his band. Now this guy is a total legend and he would have the right to act like a total rock star douche if he wanted to. But he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in music. He came in and introduced himself to all of us and, more importantly, he remembered all of our names all night. And he offered the use of his gear and anything else we wanted or needed. We didn’t take him up on it because we didn’t want to damage his gear while he was on the road but it was an incredibly nice gesture. And both Jeff and Mike are huge fans of his music so we all left very happy that night with what we experienced.

    AY: Ok, I’ll put you on the spot. What do believe is the best attribute of your new album? Best song? Favorite line?

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    ML: I think the best attribute is the naked honesty of the record. I put myself out there in a lot of ways and I’d like more people to do that. As far as the best song, different people have chosen different songs. Right now I really like the song “Coke and Jack” but that could change tomorrow. My favorite line at the moment is “I’m sorry if I made you cry but it’s just the way I show I care” because who the hell says that? Well, I guess I do.

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