marvin's garden
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marvin's garden


Band Alternative Pop


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Story by Rick Tvedt

Marvin's Garden has been causing quite a stir since arriving on the Madison music scene just over a year ago. Consisting of members from noise-rockers Groove Market, melodic metal band Lost Between, punkers Windell Green, urban soulsters Adem Tesfaye and the Soul Rap Movement, and Latin sensation the Prole, the band draws from the backgrounds of its members to create a winning, stylistically eclectic combination. Marvin's Garden itself has multiple personalities. When Kenny Leiser is shredding his fiddle bow hairs and bassist Tim Peeters is on upright, the band has a distinct country-rock flavor. But when Leiser switches to electric guitar and Peeters to electric bass, Marvin's Garden becomes a rock powerhouse. And then there's Marvin's Garden Classic, consisting of the same members performing on rare occasion as a jazz standards outfit. Clearly, these guys are blessed with an abundance of talent that produces a cornucopia of musical expression.

Marvin's Garden was a band that wanted to exist for some time. Acoustic guitarist and vocalist Justin Sprague was already in Groove Market with drummer Tim Giles, and there was some friction over the possibility of starting a new group with Leiser and Peeters. "I met Tim Peeters at an open jam for his birthday and we really wanted to get together to do more," Sprague recalls. "It just so happened that Groove Market had a gig at Mr. Roberts that our guitarist couldn't make due to his grandfather's death. We did the first part of the night without a guitarist and then the four of us got up and jammed. Within the first sixteen bars the club went from sitting and drinking to filling the dance floor, dancing and partying."

"It was magic, what happened that night," Leiser confirms. "There was no doubt after that. We imagined what would have happened had we rehearsed."

Now, a little more than a year into their existence, Marvin's Garden, is poised to release their debut CD, Why Should I Change?, and the story behind its making is worth telling.

Tim Giles was working a third-shift warehouse job and had a co-worker who owned an apartment building in Los Angeles. This co-worker and his brother were golfing buddies with Robbie Krieger, the Doors' guitarist. Krieger mentioned that his son had a band and needed a drummer. Within two months, Giles packed up and moved to Los Angeles, renting an apartment from his co-worker and scoring the drumming gig with Waylon Krieger's band. "We were asked to tour with the Doors and Robbie came over and we played for him," Giles recounts. "The whole thing ended when Waylon suffered some substance abuse problems. Shot the thing to hell."

Another resident in Giles' L.A. apartment building was Piotr Bal, a Polish musician and producer who was collaborating with Door's keyboardist Ray Manzarek on an album entitled Atonal Head. Bal has composed original scores for numerous award-winning films, and as a trumpeter, has worked on numerous CD projects for V2 Records and DreamWorks Records, among others. Bal and Giles palled up and Bal showed him around town. "our relationship ended right before I came home to Madison," says Giles. "We were going to go to Santa Monica and hang out for the day. Bal was the king of practical jokes. We were having breakfast that morning and I farted. He got so offended that he asked me to leave right there and we didn't speak for three years!" just to clarify, it wasn't silent or deadly, just, according to Giles, "a dry little one." As it turned out, Bal was under tremendous stress from the Manzarek project and it was just one of those straws that broke the camel's back.

Giles got up enough nerve to approach Bal with a demo of Marvin's Garden material and he liked it and the two started talking again. This led to Bal producing, mixing, and mastering Why Should I Change? (the two never discuss the breakfast incident). Bal came to Madison for two weeks and worked with the band as they completed writing and arranging the material at DNA studios. The album was tracked on ProTools at DNA and Bal did the production work long-distance from L.A. Bal is also working to promote the album and shopping the band. His management of the band is also not out of the question. This could lead to touring opportunities at a minimum, and possibly a record deal. Needless to say, the members of Marvin's Garden are stoked and are thanking their lucky stars.

The album is set for release on PBM Records, the indie record label with which Bal is affiliated in Los Angeles and the same label that released the Bal/Manzarek collaboration. Release date is sometime in February and a CD-release party is being planned as we go to press.

The ace-in-the-hole for the members of Marvin's Garden is that they all love doing this band. "We leave practice feeling like we've just - Rick's Café January 2007


By Rick Tvedt

A little bit jazz, a little bit country jig, a little bit of funk and a whole lot of rock n roll, Marvin's Garden offer up an impressive display of songs that stretch across musical boundaries while keeping their decidedly Midwestern disposition front and center. While the music is mostly sunshine-y, it's definitely not sugar-coated, as there are plenty of "goddamns" and f-bombs colorizing these tales along with references to brats, beer, shitty gin, LSD, bong hits, and jays.

Most of the time they deftly blend acoustic with electric guitar, but it's Kenny Leiser's violin that really sets them apart. Their music recalls the Waterboys in that regard, with a bit of Irish flavor, especially on "Sandy O'Shea," a folk song, that morphs into a full-blown jig, and "Dock Ellis," a hilarious song about the flamboyant Pirates pitcher who threw a no-hitter in 1970 after ingesting LSD because he thought it was his day off.

Things get really funky by the third track, "Julie B.," which is augmented by a blazing-hot guitar lick. "Monsters" is similar, with an inventive middle section that features a keen bass solo from Tim Peeters. "Free Lee" is harder hitting and funky in a "Funk #49" sense.

"Windowsill" gets jazzy and downright gypsy and here Justin Sprague demonstrates the reach his voice possesses. "Great Big Wonderful (Mess)" features a sitar solo. "Chasing" is a nice slice of seventies pop-rock, accentuating the breezy acoustic side of the band while also illustrating that they can pull out the super-thick distortion when they see fit. "Shitty Gin," which could have been written by Tom Waits, is a song about the bottle that immediately sounds like a standard. The band plays its country-bumpkin card near the end of the album with "Redneck Stoners," a romping, humorous take on white-trash rockers: "He's listening to Nugent/ She's working on the truck/ Dang, heck, redneck/ Stoners in love." "Heavy" may be the standout track, the perfect combination of all the elements that make Marvin's Garden so captivating.

This is an excellent collection and a strong debut from one of Wisconsin's more promising bands. The songs really come to life in performance and if you're inclined to check out what you've been missing in Madison's exceptionally talented music scene, Marvin's Garden is a great place to start. - Rick's Café January 2007

"Marvin's Garden to play at Jumpers"

By TERRI PEDERSON/Staff Reporter

A band with two local members will be playing at Jumpers on Saturday night.

Marvin's Garden was formed in October of 2005 and has two Beaver Dam High School graduates as members of the group. Ken Leiser, who plays guitar, violin and does vocals was a 2000 graduate. Justin Sprague, the band's vocalist and acoustic guitar player is a 1998 graduate. The band's other members are Tim Giles on drums and Tim Peeters, who plays upright bass and electric bass.

The band plays funk, folk, rock and rhythm.

Leiser said after graduation Sprague moved to Colorado and he went to La Crosse.

"When we returned to the area, we both realized Madison is where the music was at," Leiser said. "I teach music. Everything I do revolves around music."

Leiser said one thing the band is really excited about is their first CD, which is coming out in February.

"We plan on playing a show in Beaver Dam around that time," Leiser said.

A producer from Los Angeles, who produced Ray Manzarek's last CD, knows Giles and helped the band to produce the CD.

"It's a good album," Leiser said "It was great help to get us going."

The band recorded the CD last summer.

"We're very excited about it," Leiser said.

The show at Jumpers will be free and begin around 9 p.m.

"Everyone should come on down," Leiser said. "It's a free rock and roll show and there will be a lot of people from our classes there."

Jumpers is located at W9305 Highway D in the town of Beaver Dam.
- From the "Daily Citizen" local newspaper, Beaver Dam, WI

"Today's highlighted Madison-based musical act is Marvin's Garden"

Kristian Knutsen on Wednesday 12/06/2006 01:12:43,

Today's highlighted Madison-based musical act is Marvin's Garden.

While the string-heavy jam stylings of Marvin's Garden can be described as "Midwest Rock," there's actually more to it than that. "Combining elements of funk, folk, rock, and rhythm and crossbreeding them with the wit and wisdom of four corn-fed country boys," as the band describes itself, "has been a successful formula for these guys in the short period that they have been playing together." They're actually just over a year old, having initially jammed together and subsequently forming in the autumn of 2005.

Who makes up this quartet of country boys? On the vocals and acoustic guitar is Justin Sprague, accompanied by Tim Peeters on the upright and electric bass. Two of the gardeners have nicknames, meanwhile. There's Ken Leiser (or "The Factor") on the violin, guitars and vocals, and Tim "Turkish" Giles on the drums. It's through their ability both to work with their instruments and together that the band can pull off its fusion of folk, jazz, blues, funk, chamber and rockabilly.

After playing together for just over half a year, Marvin's Garden got to work in June on their debut album. Tentatively scheduled for release sometime between late January and early March of 2007, it will be titled Why Should I Change?. The album will be released by PBM Records, an indie label based in Los Angeles whose small roster of artists (that includes a Ray Manzarek collaboration) runs from electronic to jazz to rock. "In just one short year," as promoted by the label, "Marvin's Garden has yielded a bountiful harvest, and anticipates covering more acreage with next season's crop."

Three of the band's songs are available for listening on its MySpace page. They are: "julie b tease," "heavy," and "Free Lee." While the first is the version that will be appearing on their upcoming album, the latter two songs are live versions, each performed in early 2006 in the UW Memorial Union Great Hall and at the King Club. There's more info about Marvin's Garden provided by their label, including photos and a recorded version of their track "Monsters." Then there's, which features a list of the group's upcoming gigs.

The upcoming weekend should be a busy one for the band. On Thursday, Dec. 7, they'll be performing late at the High Noon Saloon in an after-party for the Gov't Mule show set for the Barrymore. Marvin's Garden will be returning to the stage on Friday night, too, when they play at the King Club to kick of a night of funk and jam at the venue. They'll be returning to the King Club less than two weeks later on Wednesday, Dec. 20, where they'll be playing a food drive benefit for Savory Sunday, which provides meals for the homeless in downtown Madison every Wednesday and Sunday. - The Isthmus: Madison Music Project -- Marvin's Garden


Still working on that hot first release.



Formed in October of Aught Five, Marvin's Garden has been redefining Mid-West Rock for a hybrid generation of ears. Combining elements of funk, folk, rock, and rhythm and crossbreeding them with the whit and wisdom of four corn-fed country boys has been a successful formula for these guys in the short period that they have been playing together. Madison, Wisconsin has been the ideal soil for Marvin's Garden to farm in, and they have just released their debut album, Why Should I Change? In a short time, Marvin's Garden has yielded a bountiful harvest, and anticipates covering more acreage with next seasons crop.