I still remember the day I opened up my computer and went to the social media insulin that is Facebook. I had recently been trying to find new bands to listen to, extremely bored with my current state of musical destitution. Marbin popped up on my screen immediately and I check them out. I was very impressed with their sound and tight scale arrangements, as well as their unlimited capabilities to change, or maneuver around chord/scale structures. I quickly became a fan and downloaded some of their albums. I showed them off to my friend’s, waiting for an opportunity to see them live.
That was 2014, this year I interviewed and covered their recent hometown show here in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Harrisonburg is a small college town with very limited musical acts coming its way, mostly country: (I think this year the county fair featured Hank Williams Jr; who’s last appearance in the valley was tainted with horror stories of bags of excrement being thrown at the crowd from HW, but anyway that’s another story all together.) But here is one of my favorite, new acts coming to a local venue. I had to meet them and talk with them about their music. So, I got into contact with Danny and to my surprise he messaged me back immediately with a response that they would be happy to meet with me.
I met Marbin at the Artful Dodger, a downtown coffee shop and bar, once the only haven for transvestites and drag shows in the Valley. When I arrived, I saw Dani Rabin strumming on his guitar smiling with a pleasant air about him. Danny Markovitch, the sax player was laughing at his side, as well as Jon Nadel, the bass player and Blake Jiracek the drummer came along a little later, he was likely breaking a few rules of the road.
Jam Band Purist: How many shows have you guys played now?
The band discussed it for a second.
Dani and Danny: “Conservatively around 1200.”
Jam Band Purist: Holy hell that's a lot of shows. I thought you guys would be bigger than you are by now.
Dani: “So did we. It just takes a lot of time and effort to get to where we need to be, it's taken us 4-5 years just to break into the music festival scene.”
Jam Band Purist: Have you just not found your niche?
Dani: “No, we have our fan base but its just having our niche accepted. We do things a little different than other bands.”
Jam Band Purist: “If you play that many shows, you must have a lot of crazy experiences, what are some of yours?
Jon the Bass Player: “Almost driving into a river.”
Dani: “No, not too crazy stuff just the normal incidences when you go on tour you see all kinds of crazy people and when drugs and alcohol are involved...”
Danny: “Well, alcohol mostly.”
Jam Band Purist: What's the story behind the song “Escape from Hippie Mountain” that's got to be relevant to these crazy experiences?
Dani: “We were at a festival called Spring Fling, I think it was there. There were two chicks getting into a fistfight.”
Danny: “The one kept introducing herself as Jessiker”
Dani: “Her and another girl were fighting but were still trying to be all ‘hippy’ about it and when we first got there, their was the other hippy with blood all over his shirt and when we asked him what happened, he said it wasn't his blood and that made things even worse. Jessiker was eventually banished from Hippie Mountain, people yelled ‘Go West,’ it was cold and freezing and we left as soon as we could. We saw her hitchhiking on the way out.”
Jam Band Purist: Sounds like quite the escape. You use a lot of interesting scales and modes within your music, what are some of your favorite scales and why?
Dani: “We like all scales equally, our music changes scales so quickly that we have to understand them all equally. For us as a band, it's more about the melodic statement.”
Jam Band Purist: So, what's up with the rotating cast of band members? Are you just trying to keep things new/fresh and interesting? Or are there other reasons?
Dani: “There have been all kinds of reasons for us to have different members but mostly musical differences.”
Danny: “We can put up with a lot of personal stuff but musically we can’t have it. Those guys are dead to us.”
Jam Band Purist: So, part of why I love music is lyrics, you guys are great but any thoughts on lyrics or are you strictly instrumental?
Dani: “We are strictly instrumental. We have no thoughts on changing that.” (Later, Dani would sing me a few of the songs he wrote which I really liked.)
Jam Band Purist: There are a lot of bands using social media to gain fans and followers, for me you guys helped pioneer or start that whole trend but you have played over 1200 shows, while most of these bands have barely played out of their basement. What can you say to that and to the bands that are up-and-coming using that model?
Dani: “We are just now getting to the point where we can use social media to gain hundreds or thousands of followers/likes but that took a long time. I say good for them, if they get likes and can get big off just social media that's their prerogative, some bands just can't tour and they aren't meant to tour like we do.”
Jon Bass Player: “I think the promotional videos that were are putting out have really helped gain access to the music.”
Jam Band Purist: Anything planned for tonight, maybe set-list wise?
Dani: “The band has never made a set list, we play what we are feeling.”
Jam Band Purist: Ok, final question but a serious one; any musical guilty pleasures?
Dani: “You should ask the bass player.”
Jon Bass Player: “Oh Here we go.”
Dani: “The problem is that he doesn’t feel guilty about them”
Danny: “He likes Lincoln Park and bands like that, haha”
We all laughed at him for a moment.
Jam Band Purist: I would make fun of you too. Thank you guys so much.
After I conducted the band interview I headed home for some R&R before the show. I came back to the Golden Pony, A newer restaurant/bar/small venue in downtown Harrisonburg. I had yet to check it out in its newly renovated form and I was impressed at some of the artwork and the sound system was fairly decent. The opener was a very dissonant and cacophonous group, The Jorge Arana Trio; I think I heard some non-existent chords in there. When I told Jorge himself that, he just responded, “That’s kind of the point.”
I talked with the guys from Marbin and really hoped more people would arrive to the show. What can I say, it was a Sunday in a small town.
Marbin played with the intensity of a band playing for thousands of people, not the 30 or something that showed up. There were times I would think to myself “Holy F*** these guys are way too good to be here.” They were too good to be in the small town, hell too good for $10. I've seen well over 300 shows and Marbin contended with almost every single act I have ever seen, musically. As a musician, I can honestly say, Dani and the band are well beyond their years and have surpassed any band their age with talent and bravado. These guys are serious musicians who know their stuff, all their scales, all the modes and everything in between.
The set-list included a ripping “African Shabtay” that had me dancing up front, with unbelievable guitar work from Dani, his black hair whipping wildly with the music. The band worked up a great “Redline” and “Goat Man” had a funky western vibe that made me feel like I had just stepped into a spaghetti western where Dani and Danny were both playing at some saloon with cowboy attire and all. Danny moves side stage during guitar and bass solos, I asked him why he does this later that night and he responded, somewhat jokingly, “Because Jon likes the spotlight.”
“Arkansas Jumper” a new tune they had recently composed, was raw and uncut. I could feel the emotion of the song itself coming through; the melodic statement that we had discussed in the interview was clear in this song. And it opened up my eyes to the way the band worked while writing and performing their songs. Dani pointed me out of the crowd and said “This one is for you” as they went right into, “Escape from Hippie Mountain.” After the show my friend and I hosted the band for the evening and we stayed up discussing music all night.
These guys know everything about music from Miles Davis to the ins-and-outs of the Jam world. I felt like I was a part of the band for the night. We discussed everything from Jimmy Herring’s phenomenal guitar work to Joe Bonamassa’s ego, never seeming to grow out of his 11-year-old blues persona. Most of the other discussions were off the record but lets just say we all had some very strong opinions concerning music and musical acts.
What can I say about this band that I haven’t already said: Just take a look for yourself and you be the judge. I encourage everyone who reads this to go out and support Marbin in their endeavors, these guys are the real deal and deserve so much more. There are some bands out there that couldn’t even hang with these guys and I give Marbin a lot of credit, striving for success and perfection in everything they do. I am proud to call these guys my friends and while we didn’t agree on everything musically, I appreciate the willingness to discuss it and talk it out. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Marbin and I truly hope they become successful beyond their wildest dreams.
Jam Band Purist
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.