Marah in the Mainsail's Austin Durry: I wanted to add some grit to bluegrass

Marah in the Mainsail's Austin Durry: I wanted to add some grit to bluegrass
Photo via Tori D Photography

Marah in the Mainsail fuse biblical influences into their aggressive folk music with striking contrasts. The Minneapolis band is getting set to debut their new EP Devil Weeds & Dour Deeds. So much of what makes the album so enjoyable is its organic songwriting.

Before their release show at the 7th Street Entry, Gimme Noise spoke with lead singer Austin Durry about what influenced the sound of the new album and his love for folk-core.

Gimme Noise: Where does the name Marah in the Mainsail come from?

Austin Durry: Marah is a well in Exodus 15 in the Bible. The well is full of bitter water, but Moses comes along and puts his staff in the water to turn it to sweet. We use the word Marah, which means bitter or bittersweet, to represent change. The transformation from death to life, contrast. And it's "in the Mainsail" because that message of transformation is what is pushing us forward. I think I like the idea of being on the open seas. There has been consistent nautical influence in almost all of my writing since this band first started. There's nothing more frightening then open water to me. It's dangerous but beautiful at the same time. It's calming and peaceful, but unpredictable and wild. I think I like the adventure in that.

GN: Marah's music mixes sounds from a lot of genres together. What drew you to this fusion of bluegrass and punk? What are the band members' backgrounds in music?

AD: That's a good question actually. I don't think it was really a conscious decision. I grew up listening to punk and hardcore mostly, so obviously that's what I wrote when I first started making music. Later I got a little more interested in acoustic sounds, and more natural sounding stuff, but I wanted to add some grit to it, ya know? Some aggression.

That's when I started MITM. I've always played pretty aggressively. I guess I like the idea of making big, mean, loud music, and not needing anything to amp up the sound. The music is written to be aggressive, we don't need five electric guitars to get the point across. Originally, I just liked how fast and panicked the banjo sounded. It wasn't really meant to be any genre when we started, it just kind'a happened that way. Then later we added in the accordion to give the sound some body and some interesting texture. I like the term punkgrass, or folkcore, but honestly, I have no idea what "genre" we are.

GN: With whom did you work on this album, and how did you come to choosing them?

AD: Well, we didn't actually choose the producer/studio we used. Last year we joined a local battle of the bands, not really thinking much of it. Turned out to be a lot bigger then we thought, and for some reason we won. We were all pretty shocked. One of the prizes was studio time with SkiesFall media. So last year we headed out to WI to record what we could in the time we were given. Originally, we thought we could only record three songs, but they liked what we were playing so much that they decided to give us a bunch of extra recording time for free so we could finish the EP. They did a fantastic job.

GN: I love the subtlety of "Drag You Down" and how it builds into a totally different song. Who wrote this piece, and how did it come about? What's the story behind the song?

AD: "Drag You Down" is the third track from the six song concept EP Devil Weeds & Dour Deeds. Each song tells a piece of the story of "the Devil's son," a wanted criminal in the old West. He's the son of the crime lord known as "the Devil." He's judged and hunted based only on the family he comes from and not on his own actions. This part of the story is kind of the turning point, up till now he had been an innocent man that was falsely accused. But after being wrongfully imprisoned, he decides to extract vengeance on the mayor that imprisoned him.

GN: Any favorite tracks off of the EP?AD: I really like the fourth track, "Short Drop." It's the next song after "Drag You Down" where the character actually catches the guy he's after. The whole feel of the EP changes at the end of short drop, where he loses his innocence and kills the corrupt mayor that had been hunting him. The whole story is really all about judgement, vengeance and forgiveness.

GN: What's the plan with the album? Do you want to tour?

AD: YES! We're hoping to do a west coast tour later in the summer. But really everything depends on the success of this EP.

GN:What can we expect to see at the release show?

AD: Basically this show is gonna be all about the fans. We wanted to just put together the absolute best show we could -- as a thank you to all of the fans that helped make everything happen. We made it cheap, and booked some truly incredible, lesser known openers. We're hoping people will come to see us and fall in love with the other bands as well. These guys deserve a lot more recognition then they've been given. We made up a whole new set with a few surprises in store. So even if you've seen us before, this show is gonna be something totally new. We're really pulling out all the stops to make this show a really special one; we've never done anything like this before.

Marah in the Mainsail will release Devil Weeds & Dour Deeds with the Bitterroot Fires and Clocks & Clouds on Monday, May 20, 2013 at the 7th Street Entry.
AA, $6, 6 pm

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