Marcus Rubio has been making music since he was a young lad and since the age of 15 has produced 4 records of his own music as well as performed or arranged dozens of records by other artists from Texas and beyond. At 16, Rubio released his first album entitled "My Head Blew Up (and Turned into the Sky)" with help from Grammy award winning producer Joe Reyes. He would continue to work with Reyes to release Rhapsody in Plaid (at 17) and the Life of Pillows (at 18). The Life of Pillows marked a turning point in Rubio's sound. The previous two records had focused on a more folky sound augmented by bursts of orchestration but the Life of Pillows showcased a batch of orchestral pop songs filtered through a lo-fi production aesthetic with most of the instruments played entirely by Rubio with help from Reyes. Shortly after the release of the Life of Pillows, Rubio put together the first incarnation of the Gospel Choir of Pillows to help perform the songs live. Initially, the project was heavily noise based and focused on deconstructing the songs from the album. However, Rubio soon abandoned this incarnation when he began writing a sweeping range of songs for what was originally conceived to be a full on musical about whales entitled Oceanic Tremors. The Gospel Choir was thus reborn as an enormous chamber ensemble consisting of fellow orchestra members with meticulous arrangments notated by Rubio and had more in common with the Music Man and Steve Reich that a lot of contemporary pop music. Soon, the idea of this actually being a musical was abandoned upon the realization that the songs wouldn't translate to rock venues. So many of the tunes were destroyed and then rebuilt combining electronics and chamber orchestration into the final product which turned out to be two years in the making. During this time, Rubio joined, recorded, and toured extensively as a multi-instrumentalists/co-arranger with the Austin based Mothfight as well as picking up bass/arrangment duties in SA's the Cartographers and you know started a music composition major in college.
Rubio has played on/arranged records by Buttercup, Real Live Tigers, Mothfight, the Cartographers, Druggist, Bill Baird's Sunset, Karrie Hopper and more. He lives in San Antonio where he studies music composition and is actively involved in the pop, noise, and classical scenes in South Texas. He recently finished his Sonata for Musical Saw and Electronics as well as parts of a tape piece based on Tao Lin's Eee Eeee Eeeeeee. He is also a frequent collaborator with SA symphony member Doug Balliet, contributing electronics and musical saw to his popera seria Lucretia and various songs/recording projects. Recently, Rubio has been collaborating with memembers of the Grasshopper Lies Heavy and The Islands and the Sea (as well as fellow composer Isaiah Putman) on various noise/ambient/electronic projects. His Sonata for Musical Saw and Electronics won the CAM award for Best Art Piece with an Original Sound Component and is programmed for performance at the Spark Festival and Electronic Music Midwest for fall of 2010.
Marcus Rubio-Vocals, Electronics, Violin, Guitar, Synth,Saw,etc...
The Gospel Choir of Pillows
Jordan Clark-Vocals,Guitar, Synth,
Meg Lobasso-Piano, Keys, Cello
My Head Blew Up (and Turned into the Sky)-2005
Rhapsody in Plaid-2006
The Life of Pillows-2007
Marcus Rubio, Cola Cola and Gold Trash
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Usually, alternative venues have my wholehearted support, but last night's show at the SMART Art Gal...Usually, alternative venues have my wholehearted support, but last night's show at the SMART Art Gallery space at 1906 S. Flores just made me nervous. Not because of wires dangling in puddles, onstage fights between band and bartenders or unexpected visits by police (all of which have actually happened at "legitimate" San Antonio music venues), but because I feared for Jennifer Ling Datchuk's delicate porcelain work showing on the walls not five feet from all the action. UNSPOILER ALERT: at the end of the night, Datchuk's work made it through intact. Whew.
Datchuk describes her work as silent witnesses to events unfolding around it, and so, I'll do the rest of this review from the perspective of the plaster handkerchief clutched in a porcelain chicken foot, hung stage left of the show. The show was put together just one week ago by Fl!ght Gallery owner and frequent Current photographer Justin Parr for his pal, Cola-Cola bandleader Josh Ben-Noah, which explains the odd venue choice and the odd bill of one-man-band, indie rock group, and dj. Boy wonder Marcus Rubio, sans Gospel Choir of Pillows, laid down an absurd number of effects pedals, and introduced several brand new songs for guitar and logic templates. Staring at either his Mac book pro or his spiral notebook (the kid's still a music theory and comp major at Trinity), the all-by-his-lonesome Rubio started his set with a freshly-written number as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel. "No matter what you do," he sang, "you can't recreate Neil Young's "Harvest Moon,"" to a tune reminiscent of, yes, "Harvest Moon." Only instead of a winsome ballad to faded love, Rubio questions the only identity he's shown most San Antonians since puberty: "You only want attention, for the act of playing a show," he confesses (or condemns?). From his younger years as an outsider folkie on a fiddle, Rubio has progressed into electronic Metal Machine Music glitches and rumbles, looping himself to stretch his expanding knowledge of composition. Even though he may sing like a nasal Jeff Tweedy, the underlying music has more in common with classical's complex structure. For example, another brand-spanking-new song, "I Was a Young Steven Spielberg," begins with sophisticated cow punk guitars, morphs into straight pop, segues quickly into a lustier rock format and finally rounds back to the countrified licks of the song's intro. He pleased the audience by announcing that on June 2, he'll be playing this very space yet again, demonstrating "a really fucked up piece for the musical saw" with lots of noise rock. Whoopie!
And, hey, I'm just a plaster hankie here, but mightn't that be a hard act to follow? Because, comparatively, Cola-Cola's power pop sounded a little flat. The band, on tour from LA and making a sweep across I-10 and up I-35 through Austin, Denton, Norman, OK (good luck!), etc..., was founded by Ben-Noah, a San Antonio native who previously gigged locally with bands the Bombadiers and Dingus. it wasn't that the performance lacked energy. In fact, that bass player really needed to calm the fuck down with the jumping and the power rocking; did no one tell him that is NOT how one acts around porcelain artwork? Bassist in a china shop, everybody, hey-o! Anyway, Cola Cola, a standard guitar/guitar/bass/drums quartet comprised of dudes in sneakers, clearly embrace the mid-90s as their source of musical inspiration, they even covered the Breeders' "Divine Hammer" (1993) and Weezer's "El Scorcho" (1996), and it's fun for old fogeys who graduated pre-2001, but it can also verge on boring since they heard Stephen Malkmus and Jawbreaker the first time. For kids thrilling to discover fresh, vintage indie pop, this band does provide masterful guitar work and charming dual vocals. And to be fair, it's probably a little disorienting to play an gallery full of expensive, fragile artwork with your drummer wedged in the corner, sans benefit of a professional sound guy. (Their new record, Turn On Your Electric Light, sounds 20 times crisper than their live effort.) All in all, they seemed to be good sports, grateful to play in their bandleader's hometown.
Lastly, Gold Trash (a.k.a. the dj formerly known as John Mata) whipped up frothy dance beats for a dwindling, post-midnight crowd, which was still a noble effort for a Monday night. Even deaf people can enjoy themselves during a Gold Trash set, thanks to the dj's talent in inspiring the most fucked up dancing ever. There were power aerobics moves to MGMT, shimmying to Uffie and pogo-ing to David Bowie, with a little Rich Boy rap to keep things dirty. Next time you see a crowd of people attempting the Worm at a Bar Mitzvah or a dance-off during a marathon, look for Gold Trash's green felt banner.
Marcus Rubio and the Gospel Choir of Pillows
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Marcus Rubio makes it clear he divides his set list into two discrete categories. “We’re going to pl...Marcus Rubio makes it clear he divides his set list into two discrete categories. “We’re going to play a few songs about whales, and a few songs not about whales tonight,” he tells the crowd gathered on the roof of the Artpace building.
And this isn’t some stage-banter bullshit, either. Song titles such as “Prom Night in the Ocean,“ “Decompression Sickness,” and “Oceanic Tremors” parts one and two deliver the promised marine-biology themes, and not in some sort of artsy abstraction, either. “You can be my one and only whale,” Rubio promises in “Oceanic Tremors Pt.1,” a resolution near the conclusion of a song that otherwise seems like a (human’s) personal diary entry set to music. It sounds positively triumphant, but probably looks absolutely ridiculous in print. Live, Rubio’s considerable songwriting talent and the layered complexity and intensity of the instrumentals keep the Gospel Choir of Pillows from drowning in quirk.
“Darling Dear,” a song Rubio classifies as “non-whale-oriented,” succeeds through a savage Beatles deconstruction, riding Rick Rowley’s bouncing bass clarinet line into the ground, burying it, like so many of Rubio’s poppiest hooks, in a dissonant breakdown that finds noisy catharsis in the cacophony, re-envisioning Stravinsky as punk rock.
But even the whale songs, unbelievably, aren’t funny. All those lyrics about ocean creatures watching sitcoms and looking for dates to an underwater formal poorly conceal the underlying aura of legitimate angst and pain, immediately made evident in the music. Over a swell of meticulously arranged noise and layers of looped violins, Rubio screams, “I’m warning you that I am a whale.”
Maybe it reads like the ill-advised plot twist in the most drugged-out rock opera the Who never recorded, but onstage, Rubio’s jumping, positively raging like it’s the most bad-ass statement of defiance ever uttered, and the power of the music damn near makes it so. In the audience, a man dressed in a homemade cardboard robot outfit dances unselfconsciously. Why the hell not?http://www.sacurrent.com/columns/story.asp?id=69479
Rubio is a whirlwind of work, whimsy
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By Jim Beal Jr. - Express-News While his peers soaked up the sun, and maybe the suds, at Port Arans...By Jim Beal Jr. - Express-News
While his peers soaked up the sun, and maybe the suds, at Port Aransas or South Padre Island this summer, Marcus Rubio had his own kind of beach thing going. Rubio, 20, a sophomore music-composition major at Trinity University, celebrated the release of his fourth CD, "Oceanic Tremors," with his band, the Gospel Choir of Pillows.
Slight, excitable, but soft-spoken and even rather shy, Rubio has been a fixture on the local and area music scenes, as a player and as a fan, since he was a young teen.
"I started playing guitar when I was 11 or 12," he said. "I was really into the Beatles and what you would call classic rock bands, but I wanted to play songs right away, so I ended up playing Ramones and punk rock."
Accompanied by his mom, Pat, or his dad, Richard, and often his younger brother, Nicholas, Rubio haunted Casbeers, Twin Sisters, Ruta Maya in Austin and any other venue where he could hear Buttercup, Jon Dee Graham, Mitch Webb & the Swindles, Alejandro Escovedo, Guy Forsyth and others for whom words and music carry equal weight.
"I heard Wilco, and that was my moment of clarity. That's what I wanted to do," Rubio said. "I started writing songs right after that, but nothing good until I was about 14. That's when my guitar teacher, Derek Baker, taught me about music theory. I learned theory and was able to pick up other instruments."
Guitarist, Grammy winning record producer, singer and songwriter Joe Reyes, a member of Buttercup and Mitch Webb & the Swindles, has produced and played on all of Rubio's CDs.
"I remember when Marcus was 14 or 15 and I'd see him in Casbeers sitting in with Jon Dee Graham and Alejandro Escovedo. He was fearless," Reyes said.
"He gave me a demo tape of his high school band, the Applesauce Brothers. It was terrible," he added, laughing. "I told him if he wanted to make a record I would help him. His mom was dropping him off, and we'd work for two or three hours at a time. He was constantly soaking up information and getting better on whatever instrument he was playing. He loves music."
Being a fan helped Rubio's musical development.
"It's been incredibly important," Rubio said. "I've learned a lot formally, but I think I've learned more from watching people play instruments. I think it's really important to see people make music. When you go out to see bands you learn things. It's effective. And I think you have to learn from your elders.
"Working with Joe, for instance, or having (Buttercup front man) Erik Sanden as my life coach. Butch (singer/songwriter Claude "Butch" Morgan) taught me a tremendous amount. So did Mitch Webb. Jon Dee Graham has been hugely influential. All these guys gave me a chance. They said, ëLet's see what you can do.' "
Rubio started working on his first CD, "My Head Blew Up (and turned into the sky)," when he was 15. He's since recorded and released "Rhapsody in Plaid," "The Life of Pillows" and "Oceanic Tremors." Rubio's main instrument now is violin, though he's pretty good on guitar, keyboards, glockenspiel, saxophone and bass. His style and music have progressed since the Applesauce Brothers.
"The Applesauce Brothers were a Gourds wannabe band. I was singing in a fake Southern accent," Rubio said, laughing. "Right now, my music is basically classical-informed orchestral pop. The Gospel Choir of Pillows is eight people regularly, and we bring in other people now and then. For a while it was hard to find people who were as into things as I was. But I started composing and notating songs, and then I went up to friends in orchestra and asked them to play cello or something. I eventually found people who get it."
One of Rubio's main influences is Buttercup, the local alt/art pop/rock band that recently released a new CD, "The Weather Here." Rubio's "Oceanic Tremors" is on Buttercup's Bedlamb label.
"I try to knock off Erik Sanden's stage presence whenever I can," Rubio said.
And yes, Sanden is Rubio's life coach.
"That entails me giving him stupid advice I wish someone would have given me when I was in college," Sanden said. "I teach him stage moves, like how to perform knee slides without tearing his pants. And I teach him the proper way to brush his teeth. I suggested he use his nondominant hand so he wouldn't destroy his gums. And I try to buy him breakfast once a week."
Sanden also is a Marcus Rubio fan.
"He's a bundle of energy with a passion for music," he said. "He loves music, and he loves all genres of music. There aren't many kids his age who aren't wrapped up in girls and applause. He grew up going to shows at Casbeers, and he's doing this indie-pop/chamber-pop fusion. He's doing what I wish I would have done at Trinity, take music classes.
"I saw him perform recently, and he's gotten fantastic. I like his voice, his writing and his arrangements. His clever lyrics are a lot of fun, and, he'll put everything — and the kitchen sink — into his music."
Rubio is unafraid of piling it on. "Oceanic Tremors" features about two dozen people playing more than two dozen instruments on 13 Rubio songs based on a whale theme.
"I usually have a pretty good idea of what I want, and usually have a definite idea of how I want the songs to interact," Rubio said, "but I don't always know how I'll get there. On this CD, the whales started off as a joke, but then I thought I might as well go for it."
Rubio expresses his love of life and music through his songs.
"Marcus has this quirky nature about him, and it comes out in the music," Reyes said. "He's studying modern classical composers, but he's still a whimsical guy. The whales concept? That's total Marcus. He got up there fairly fearlessly as a kid and laid it all out. Now he's really good up there on stage. He's constantly working on it."
Whether he spends time in the Elizabeth Huth Coates Library at Trinity University, poring over scores by Karlheinz Stockhausen and Steve Reich, or onstage with Gospel Choir of Pillows at venues such as The Farm, Jack's Patio Bar or Fl!ght Gallery, Rubio's always thinking about the next thing.
"I have ideas for two projects," he said. "I'd like to do a song cycle setting Charles Bukowski's poems to music. And I want to do a CD of pop songs with a very clear vision. It'll have more of a live feel, as live as my records get because I play 90 percent of the instruments."
That'll all make for a pretty good "what I did on my summer vacation" essay.
The Life of Pillows (off the record)
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The Life of Pillows Marcus Rubio isn't your average high school senior. Along with juggling colle...The Life of Pillows
Marcus Rubio isn't your average high school senior. Along with juggling college applications and orchestral competitions, the 18-year-old San Antonio native has written string arrangements for Bill Baird's Silent Sunset project and San Antonio's Buttercup and Druggist and has sat in with Peter & the Wolf, the Summer Wardrobe, and Alejandro Escovedo, who hits Antone's on Friday. Proficient on violin, guitar, piano, and alto-saxophone, among a handful of other instruments, and chaperoned by his mother, Rubio regularly accents the nostalgic sounds of Leatherbag and Real Live Tigers and is a member of the Victorian carousel that is Mothfight. "It's like leading a dual life," laughs Rubio. "Outside of school I play shows and get to go on tour." Perhaps Rubio's biggest accomplishment to date is his third, self-recorded, and homemade album, The Life of Pillows, a grandiose concept album about a socially awkward high school kid succumbing to different societal pressures that sounds like Daniel Johnston exploring Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise. "I've always felt a connection to the characters and continuity in thematic records," Rubio says. "I think it stems from my parents always playing Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell for me as a child." Pillows comes to life on Friday at the Parlor on North Loop.
Rubio electroacoustic: anything involving electronics only performance or with preapared guitar.
GCOP:We typically play a myriad of songs from our album Oceanic Tremors as well as a new songs and the occasional arrangment of a Schumann or Schubert song.