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The best kept secret in music


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The New Gun - LP
Single -"Lolita Live and Learn"
Mardo - LP


Feeling a bit camera shy


In a world of Eighties revivalists, bling-bling hip-hop and weepy indie folk singers, there aren’t many bands left that know how to make flat-out, high energy rock, let alone with a classic sense of melody and song. But Aron and Robert, the Mardo brothers that make up the melodic, heavy riff band Mardo, are both effortlessly exciting showmen and expert craftsmen, playing almost every note on The New Gun, their latest album on House of Restitution Records. Born out of turn-of-the-decade buzz band The Spies, Mardo is building on the momentum from their self-titled debut of last year, as well as high profile gigs with REM and Green Day. After two decades of playing together, they’re poised for a hard-earned breakthrough, with radio bereft of driving hooks, Mardo are the right band at the right time.

Yet, they have never worried about being timely. “We don’t just follow the trends,” stresses Aron, lead singer, bassist and older brother. “And we’d rather be hated for what we are than loved for what we’re not.” As this attitude implies, the brothers’ upbringing was certainly out of the ordinary. Born to an Armenian family in Fresno, California, art and music were a central part of the household. Their grandfather, Jack J. was an artist who worked with Warhol: his psychedelic influence can be felt in Aron’s artwork for the band. Their father was also a music fanatic, and from an early age both brothers were deeply immersed in everything from the Beatles to Dave Brubeck to ZZ Top. Aron – who survived being born with a brain tumor – was banging out Buddy Holly songs with his dad by the age of five, and working on a farm for over fifteen hours a day by high school. By nine, Robert had gravitated toward the drums. Not long after, of course, they were a band. Laughs Robert, “I don’t think any parent likes when they’re kid forgoes college, but both our parents were very supportive. Our father told us not to go into either law or music. At least neither of us went to law school.”

In their teens, the brothers started playing anywhere they could, from school talent shows to coffee shops. It didn’t take too long for them to become the biggest thing in their hometown, with 2,500 kids showing up for Friday night shows. A demo tape, played on a Hawaiian radio station, caught the ear of an industry executive, and the next thing the brothers knew, they were an LA band, selling some 30,000+ copies of their album in the wake. While the usual pressures of the D.I.Y. system broke up The Spies in 2002, Mardo’s self-titled debut was confident, filled with infectious riffs, and a notable reinvention of Huey Lewis and the News’ “I Want a New Drug” in a funky power-rock mode, as a clever take on the decadence of the L.A. music scene. Constant touring has built up a world-wide fan base, including the main stage at Germany’s gigantic Rock-am-Ring Festival, along with Velvet Revolver, Incubus and REM, who then asked them to open other dates for them.
The New Gun, written in a four-week creative burst, is a commanding leap forward. For one thing, though Robert and Aron continue to play the bulk of the instruments (everything from guitar to pipe organ to Theremin). Keyboard prodigy Sonny Sly brings in soulful influences that culminate in a cover of The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Sly also composed the title track, breezily integrating himself into classic Mardo style.

“Sonny is a 19 year-old prodigy,” recalls Robert. “We were playing a lot of high schools a couple of years ago – we’d just set up and bring the music to the kids. And he walked up to us and asked if he could play some songs – he knew our material! When he sat down and showed us what he could do, we immediately asked, ‘when do you graduate?’”

Producer and guru Les Pierce contributes a big, spacious sound to the record, particularly in the intricate vocal arrangements, such as the a Capella breakdown in “Hide Your Mirrors.” Many of the songs, such first single “Lolita Live and Learn,” “Bombs Over Broadway” and “Thin White Line” take on the classic concerns of the underbelly of Los Angeles and the backbiting of the rock ‘n’ roll scene. The dark side adds a contrasting tension to the drama of the music.

“I’ve carried the title of this record with me for years,” explains Aron. “Young Hollywood, no rules, drinking at fifteen. Every week there’s a new gun, without talent or skill,”

“I do really question Fame and Celebrity. It seems the bigger they are, the more they fall to Earth. When we were playing with Green Day, Maroon 5 or Weezer, they were friendly – it was the younger bands that gave us attitude. But cream will rise,” adds Robert.

And The New Gun should provide plenty of proof.