Mark Earnest (aka Mister Vague)
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Mark Earnest (aka Mister Vague)

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From Sat. Nov 24 edition, 2007:

The Reno, Nev., band Mister Vague's take on "Bandit" "was so amazing that I actually ended up signing them to my label," says Eric Hester, "and we've put out two records with them since then."
- Wisconsin State Journal


Published 10/25/07:

Mark Earnest doesn't answer questions well. He dodges. He circles. He's evasive. A former co-worker once commented, "It's OK ... I understand, you have to be Mister Vague." Earnest subsumed the crack, and the epithet instantly became the name of his musical project.

Starting out as a solo act playing the local open-mic scene in 2003, Earnest performed a number of stripped-down shows around town with various players until hooking up with guitarist Neal Kramer in 2005. The current lineup, which has become more of a band than a man, didn't form until the last minute before the recording of their new album, Allergic to Everything.

Earnest approached local percussive virtuoso Jason Thomas in January. Then his bass player dropped out of the picture two weeks before leaving for the recording studio in Duluth, Minn. Earnest needed "someone crazy enough" to skip town for a couple of weeks to record an LP. Thomas recommended Marcus Mayhall, with whom he'd played in Above All Things. With the new record, Earnest wanted more of a band feel, and lucked into a lineup of seasoned players with the creative drive and musical personality to make the project complete. But when asked how old they are, the band unanimously demurs. "We're old enough to bend your average emo band over our knee and spank 'em," replies Thomas with a grin.

Describing Mister Vague's music doesn't come easily. It's heady stuff and quickly fills a room with thick imagery and surprisingly simple layers of sound that come together to form a complex amalgam. The best description comes from Thomas: "We sound like Pink Floyd meets Nirvana with a touch of Neil Young."

In addition to their new LP, Mister Vague has previously released two other CDs: Square One in July 2004, and File Under: Trial in February 2006. They also have a song on the Neil Young Bridge School tribute benefit CD to be released later this year. Earnest is currently working on putting together a Reno show with some of the other bands on the album.

A helplessly prolific songwriter, Earnest has a few solid song ideas every month, meaning he pens about 20 new songs a year. He confesses that he writes continuously, afraid of what will happen if he stops. Going forward, he says, the band will play a more important role in writing the new material.

Allergic to Everything was crafted from a mad dash to the studio, which was available for only a narrow window of time, and the band practiced a mere four times before recording. Seven months later, the songs have evolved, matured and ripened through regular live performance and are now much "more precise," explains Kramer.

A Mister Vague live show is a completely different, more visceral experience. At a recent XOXO performance, the guys of Mister Vague, casually clad in dark T-shirts and jeans, filled the small room with a sound unlike anything else in town: unrivaled dynamic control, the haunting tremolo and thrum of dual guitars, and Mayhall's riveting bass work. Thomas excels on the skins, and Kramer's fretwork is soul mate to Earnest's stripped down Telecaster twang—no pedals, no effects, just piercing rhythmic riffs and wildly strummed chords.

Mister Vague is addicted to playing live and skips town about three times a month for shows ranging from Tahoe to Seattle to Boise. As Kramer explains, they're "playing for the better side of music, not for what other people are doing, but just trying to create our own sound."
- Reno News and Review


Written by John Monahan.

A reflection of Reno is definitely felt through this trio of Indie folk/rockers called Mister Vague. All songs have a ghostly melodic charm that reminds me of the Eels, Beatles, and Will Oldham wrapped up together. Their debut CD 'Square One' has been a great success, and the band is looking forward to their next.

Playing regularly at Walden's Coffeehouse in NW Reno, they've also played the complete opposite type venues like the Zephyr.

So if you haven't had the chance to catch these guys live, I really think ya should. It's a band that needs Reno's support, and pushed up to the next level.

A good source to listen to some of there stuff is at CDBaby.com.

The Interview

1~ Where did the name Mister Vague come from?

It was my nickname at my old job. I had to tell someone sketchy details about some financial situation or new hire or something, and my co-worker said, “It’s OK, I understand if you have to be Mister Vague.” And then the light bulb went on above my head. It took 5 years to find the right place to use it, though.

2~ How long have y’all been playing together, and if you don't mind will you introduce the band for us?

Sure! It’s me, Mark Earnest, on guitar and vocals, Neal Kramer on bass and vocals (and guitars sometimes) and Dean Kramer on drums. We’ve been doing this for almost 2 years now.

3~ How would you describe your music?

I usually say something like “Laurel Canyon folk gone angry.” So basically, acoustic-based music, with melodies, but dark and moody and not really a party band.

4~ Some of the bands influences are-

The common ones seem to be Dave Matthews Band, Sleater-Kinney, Low, the late great Elliott Smith and the later works of The Beatles (The White Album is the best album ever).

5~What are the some of the goals for Mister Vague?

Simple ones, actually. We just want to be able to keep putting out CDs, want to play in places other than Reno, want to get more Reno folks to listen to us, want to keep progressing musically. Everything beyond that is gravy.

7~ What is your favorite Reno Venue?

As much I like to play the Zephyr because of personal history and the folks there, I gotta go with Walden’s Coffeehouse. The audiences are attentive and fun. The room has fewer ghosts, too, so you can change the temperature there pretty easily, which is a bit harder at the Zephyr. There’s a bunch of places we haven’t tried yet, but we’re all of the CBGB mindset: find a couple of places in a town and stick with them, instead of trying to play every bar that’ll have you.

8~ What in your opinion does Reno lack?

A non-bar-like all ages venue that’s large enough for bigger indie names, but small enough to not just do radio-rawk bands and shit-metal. Ark-a-ik was just about perfect and now it’s gone. It would be good to find a place to fill that void in a reliable fashion, a place where bands could get paid a fair wage at the door.

9~ Best place to grub is Reno? Bangkok Cuisine. Excellent Thai food and cool staff there.

10~ If you were a dog, how would you be spending your time? Sleeping and growling.
- renorock.com


By Jason Kellner

Reno rock band Mister Vague marks the release of its third album Friday at a CD-release show. "Allergic to Everything" documents the band's transformation into a louder, four-piece band — up from a sometimes three-piece, sometimes two-piece, sometimes solo band.

"People expect us to be more mellow and slower," said Vague guitarist Neal Kramer. "We've definitely gotten a little harder with (drummer) Jason (Thomas) and (bassist) Marcus (Mayhall). With them adding their touches and us reflecting off each other, it's more vibrant."

Singer-guitarist Mark Earnest (disclosure: he writes for the RGJ sometimes) continues to write most of the music for the band, and explores dark personal and hometown themes on the new 10-song disc. "Allergic" is a leap in artistic quality and suggests a band that has settled into a well-tuned four-piece configuration. Opening track "Ill Wind" sounds like a forgotten Pearl Jam track.

"I'm playing lead guitar now, and I'm not switching back from bass and guitar anymore," Kramer said. "I know what I'm doing every show."

Mister Vague had some good artists to provide feedback in the making of the new album. The band headed to Duluth, Minn., earlier this year to record at Sacred Heart Studios, a converted church that's more than 100 years old. Alan Sparhawk, part owner of the studio, is also in the quiet rock band Low, and was on hand for many of the Sacred Heart Sessions. The band also had access to some good gear and unique recording techniques.

"I had my choice of any guitar I wanted to play on," Kramer said. "(Sparhawk's) got a house full of guitars."

The studio engineer also had the band put their guitar amps in the church's bathroom for recording, taking advantage of the all-tile construction to get the guitar tones.
It's a busy month ahead for Mister Vague. On top of the new album is Mister Vague's contribution to "More Barn," a CD of Neil Young cover songs due Nov. 13 in a benefit for the Bridge School, with which Young is heavily involved. Mister Vague and Reno's Kung Fu Sophie recorded "Bandit," from Young's "Greendale" album, and it's one of the featured tracks on the "More Barn" web site.

"Everyone else was doing golden-era Neil Young stuff," Earnest said. "We were, like, the only band doing something of his from the 21st century."

Both CDs are being released via Slothtrop Records, an indie label based in Wisconsin.
Mister Vague's CD-release show is at 10 p.m. Friday at XOXO, 1220 S. Wells Ave. The show is free, but, of course, the band hopes you'll buy a CD. - www.rgj.com (Reno Gazette-Journal)


I've only time for one posting tonight as I'm up before the dawn patrol for tomorrow's launch of Discovery, but this is really special. I received an unpretentious email from Mark Earnest, singer, songwriter and founder of a band with an awesome sound, Mister Vague. From Reno, Nevada, they've recently released their third CD, Allergic To Everything. Now I'm not one to go into full-gush mode very often over new music, but I bet I've played these songs a few dozen times on the way to and from work today. This, without a doubt, goes right to the top of my list of best finds this year; I encourage you to have a listen and enjoy it for yourself. I'm sure you'll like this as much as I do. - www.localvertical.blogspot.com (Florida)


The following U.S. stations played Mister Vague on the airwaves in recent months.
* These stations played Mister Vague the most outta this group!

WEGL, Auburn, Alabama
KHNS, Haines, Alaska
KHSU, Arcata, Calif. *
KFSR, Fresno, Calif.
KUCR, Riverside, Calif.
KCSB, Santa Barbara, Calif.
KSCU, Santa Clara, Calif.
KZSC, Santa Cruz, Calif.
KBUT, Crested Butte, Colo.
KCSU, Fort Collins, Colo.
KOTO, Telluride, Colo.
WRTC, Hartford, Conn.*
WNHU, West Haven, Conn.
WKPX, Sunrise, Florida *
WVFS, Tallahasse, Florida *
WMNF, Tampa, Florida
WPRK, Winter Park, Florida *
KALA, Davenport, Iowa *
WIDB, Carbondale, Ill.
WHPK, Chicago, Ill.
WMXM, Lake Forest, Ill.
WECI, Richmond, Ind.
WMPG, Portland, Maine*
WMEB, Orono, Maine*
WRFR, Rockland, Maine
CJAM, Dearborn, Michigan*
WFMM, Frostburg, Maryland
WMUA, Amherst, Mass.
WMBR, Cambridge, Mass.
WZBC, Chesnut Hill, Mass.
WTCC, Springfield, Mass.*
WXOU, Rochester, Mich.
KMSU, Mankato, Minn. *
KFAI, Minneapolis, Minn.
KUOM, Minneapolis, Minn.
KOPN, Columbia, Missouri *
KTRM, Kirksville, Missouri
KGLT, Bozeman, Montana
KNDS, Fargo, ND
KNRU, Lincoln, Nebraska
WXDU, Durham, NC
WPVM, Asheville, NC
WRSU, New Brunswick, NJ
WCVF, Fredonia, NY
WPUB, New York City NY
WRUR, Rochester, NY*
WSBU, Jamacia, NY
KXZY, Stillwater, Oklahoma *
ACRN, Athens, Ohio *
WCSB, Cleveland, Ohio
WRUW, Cleveland, Ohio
WUSO, Springfield, Ohio
WJCU, University Heights, Ohio
KWVA, Eugene, Oregon
KLC, Portland, Oregon
KPSU, Portland, Oregon
WKDU, Philadelphia, Penn.
WPTS, Pittsburgh, Penn.
WVIA, Pittson, Penn.
WRKC, Wilkes-Barre, Penn.*
WUSC, Columbia, SC
KAUR, Sioux Falls, SD
KVRX, Austin, Texas
KRTU, San Antonio, Texas
KTSW, San Marcos, Texas
WLUR, Lexington, Virginia
WDCE, Richmond, Virginia
KAOS, Olympia, Washington
KEXP, Seattle, Washington
KUPS, Tacoma, Washington
WBCR, Beloit, Wisconsin
WORT, Madison, Wisconsin
WSUM, Madison, Wisconsin
WMSE, Milwaukee, Wisconsin *
KUWS, Superior, Wisconsin *

Canada likes us too! Yeah!
CJSR, Edmonton, Alberta
CKXU, Lethbridge, Alberta
CFRE, Mississauga, Ontario
CKUT, Montreal, Quebec
CHUO, Ottawa, Ontario
CITR, Vancouver, BC
CFUV, Victoria, BC

Special thanks to Nina and Apples & Cats for the great publicity work! - Slothtrop Music


These folks play us on the Internet radio
Bagel Radio, San Francisco
M3RA Radio, New York NY
UTD: Richardson, Texas

These folks play us on a podcast
Insomnia Radio San Francisco
Podcast Paul, UK

These folks play us on the radio in the USA
WJLQ FM: Mobile, Alabama</br>
WEGL FM: Auburn, Alabama</br>
KRUA FM: Anchorage, Alaska </br>
KHNS FM: Haines, Alaska </br>
KXCI FM: Tucson, Arizona</br>
KCSC FM: Chico, California</br>
KDVS FM: Davis, California</br>
KUCI FM: Irvine, California</br>
KCSB FM: Santa Barbara, California</br>
KVMR FM: Nevada City, California</br>
KFSR FM: Fresno, California</br>
KSJS FM: San Jose, California</br>
KIDE FM: Hoopa, California</br>
KMUD FM: Redway, California</br>
KUCR FM: Riverside, California</br>
KMSA FM: Grand Junction, Colorado</br>
KOTO FM: Telluride, Colorado</br>
KVCU FM: Boulder, Colorado</br>
KGNU FM: Boulder, Colorado</br>
WESU FM: Middletown, Connecticut</br>
WJLQ FM: Pensacola, Florida</br>
WPRK FM: Winter Park, Florida</br>
KKCR FM: Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii</br>
KTUH FM: Honolulu, Hawaii</br>
WESN FM: Bloomington, Illinois</br>
WICR FM: Indianapolis, Indiana</br>
WFHB FM: Bloomington, Indiana</br>
KIWR FM: Council Bluffs, Iowa</br>
KRNL FM: Mt. Vernon, Iowa</br>
KJHK FM: Lawrence, Kansas</br>
KRVS FM: Lafayette, Louisiana </br>
KSLU FM: Hammond, Louisiana</br>
KLSU FM: Baton Rouge, Louisiana</br>
WMBR FM: Cambridge, Massachusetts</br>
WBRS FM: Waltham, Massachusetts</br>
WCFM FM: Williamstown, Massachusetts</br>
WUMD FM: Dearborn, Michigan </br>
KMSC FM: Moorhead, Minnesota </br>
KRLX FM: Northfield, Minnesota</br>
KQAL FM: Winona, Minnesota </br>
KSMR FM: Winona, Minnesota </br>
KMSU FM: Mankato, Minnesota </br>
KFAI FM: Minneapolis, Minnesota </br>
KCUR FM: Kansas City, Missouri</br>
KSLU FM: St. Louis, Missouri</br>
KWWC FM: Columbia, Missouri</br>
KMNR FM: Rolla, Missouri</br>
KDOT FM: Reno, Nevada</br>
KTHX FM: Reno, Nevada</br>
KUNR FM: Reno, Nevada</br>
WVPH (RLC-FM): Piscataway, New Jersey</br>
KRUX FM: Las Cruces, New Mexico </br>
KUNM FM: Albuquerque, New Mexico</br>
WARY FM: Valhalla, New York </br>
WASU FM: Boone, North Carolina</br>
KNDS FM: Fargo, North Dakota </br>
WRUW FM: Cleveland, Ohio </br>
WCSB FM: Cleveland, Ohio</br>
WLHS FM: Liberty Township, Ohio</br>
WIOT FM: Toledo, Ohio </br>
WBWC FM: Berea, Ohio</br>
KRSC FM: Claremore, Oklahoma</br>
WIRE FM: Norman, Oklahoma</br>
KEOL FM: La Grande, Oregon </br>
KRVM FM: Eugene, Oregon </br>
KBVR FM: Corvallis, Oregon</br>
KLC FM: Portland, Oregon</br>
WESS FM: Medi Berwyn, Pennsylvania</br>
WARC FM: Meadville, Pennsylvania</br>
WCUR FM: West Chester, Pennsylvania</br>
KAUR FM: Sioux Falls, South Dakota</br>
WAWL FM: Chattanooga, Tennessee</br>
KOOP FM: Austin, Texas</br>
KPFT FM: Houston, Texas</br>
KTRU FM: Houston, Texas</br>
KSYM FM: San Antonio, Texas </br>
KRTU FM: San Antonio, Texas</br>
KTSW FM: San Marcos, Texas</br>
KTCU FM: Fort Worth, Texas</br>
KRCL FM: Salt Lake City, Utah</br>
KWCR FM: Ogden, Utah</br>
KWCW FM: Walla Walla, Washington</br>
KSUB FM: Seattle, Washington </br>
KTCV FM: Kennewick, Washington </br>
KSVR FM: Mount Vernon, Washington </br>
KAOS FM: Olympia, Washington</br>
KUPS FM: Tacoma, Washington</br>
WIPZ FM: Kenosha, Wisconsin</br>


These folks play us on the radio in Canada!
CFUV FM: Victoria, British Columbia
CJSW FM: Calgary, Alberta
CJSR FM: Edmonton, Alberta
CJUM FM: Winnipeg, Manitoba
CHRW FM: London, Ontario
CFRE FM: Mississauga, Ontario
CISM FM: Montreal, Quebec


- from Space380.com


From Nov. 6, 2006:

Saturday night's explosive performance of Reno bands Mister Vague, Think in French and Retribution Gospel Choir from Duluth, Minnesota helped prove that the XOXO bar is Reno's new up and coming hot spot.

Located on Wells and Vassar, XOXO bar has become hugely popular in the Reno nightlife after being open for less than year. Owner Joshua Boyden keeps his modesty about the bar. “It's getting better and better,” he said with a hopeful smile.
Boyden has used the help of Scrapbook media creator Ryan Goldhammer for booking the amazing shows held at XOXO.

They both stood proud on Saturday night after the huge turnout of Reno locals who anticipated the show. Goldhammer is responsible for booking some of the most popular shows in Reno's alternative nightlife.

Mister Vague, consisting of singer/songwriter Mark Earnest and bassist Neal Kramer, opened the show with cool guitar riffs and sweet slow melodies to warm up the crowd from the cold outside...... - Reno Gazette-Journal


Rating: 7.8 out of 10
By Senior Writer C.W. Ross

Mister Vague is a band with a quirky side from Reno, Nevada that plays a minimalist indie pop style of music. The band's latest release Allergic to Everything is their third.

Their previous two releases are, Square One (2004) and File Under Trial (March 2006 and re-released October 2006). They also are part of the Slothtrop/Redeye-distributed release More Barn: A Tribute to Neil Young , a benefit for the Bridge School of San Francisco. More Barn: A Tribute to Neil Young is a compilation style release that also features artist like Waco Brothers, The Silos, Steve Wynn and many more.

The lineup for Mister Vague is, Mark Earnest (guitar, vocals), Neal Kramer (guitar, vocals), Jason Thomas (drums) and Marcus Mayhall (bass).

Although from what the band's press material says for their live shows you never know what you're going to get line up wise from the guys. Shows range from intense solo or duo sets to full-blown trio/quartet shows.

The band list, The Beatles White Album, Guided by Voices, Sleater-Kinney, Elliott Smith, Low, American Music Club, Mountain Goats, and Death Cab For Cutie as some of their musical influences.

The album was produced by Alan Sparhawk, from the indie-pop band Low, along with Eric Swanson at Sacred Heart Studios in Duluth, Minn.

On Allergic to Everything you'll find moody dark melodic sounding tracks along with some that are more rock it out ones. The vocals drench the songs with the sweat of emotion while the guitars and drums drive the song's tempos from soft dark and gritty to fast, loud and rocking.

The band's sound is a mixture of Pink Floyd meets the Violent Femmes with a side order of Elvis Costello and Coldplay.

The band has been playing dive bars and off-the-beaten-path coffeehouses up and down the west coast to build a loyal following in major cities like, San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles.

Mister Vague's Allergic to Everything should help to move that hard earned musical notice to the Midwest, East Coast and beyond.

- www.indieblogspot.com


Discography

As Mister Vague:

Square One (7 song CD): released June 2004, Unsmashable Records
File Under:Trial (11 song CD): released October 2006, Slothtrop Music
Allergic To Everything (10 song CD): released October 2007, Slothtrop Music
Not Lost (5 song CD): released September 2009, Slothtrop Music

As Mark Earnest:
Beautiful Somewhere (10 song CD): sometime in 2011

Photos

Bio

Mark Earnest started playing solo shows in 2003 as he sought his own place in the neon-rock world of Reno, Nevada. Playing mostly as "Mister Vague" with a rotating cast of cohorts, Earnest recorded songs and played shows throughout the West Coast.

This led to a debut release in 2004 from Seattle label Unsmashable Records and two full-length CDs (2006 and 2007) from Slothtrop Records of Madison, Wisconsin. Both albums were played on 100-plus radio stations in the U.S. and Canada and earned sales on iTunes, Rhapsody and Napster. Mister Vague also contributed a cover of Neil Young’s “Bandit” to the critically acclaimed “More Barn” charity CD for the Bridge School that Slothtrop released in 2007.

Mister Vague’s third album, “Allergic To Everything,” was also released in 2007. “Allergic” was co-produced by Alan Sparhawk from the indie-pop band Low (Sub Pop) at his Sacred Heart Studios in Duluth. A couple of years later, Mark also named as one of the "top 101" residents in Reno who built the music scene, as chosen by peers and published in Reno News and Review magazine.

Currently, Earnest is promoting the fourth Mister Vague CD, “Not Lost.” The approach is different all the way around. Earnest is now a solo artist; he decided to work again with Slothtrop to release an EP instead of a full length; and he traveled far from the desert to record “Not Lost” at revered Smart Studios in Madison.

To promote “Not Lost,” Mister Vague will continue his touring ways around the West. Earnest plays acoustic or electric, depending on what he can get away with at each venue. New songs and covers (or is that rewrites?) are often featured. The intense, near-punk velocity of Earnest’s shows have earned him a loyal audience in such rock-centric towns as San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Boise and Salt Lake City. And, of course, Bakersfield.

Future plans include more albums and studio tracks, some for free and some not, and more West Coast shows, again some free and some not. Such is the mercurial world of Mark Earnest.