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Missoula, Montana, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | SELF

Missoula, Montana, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Folk Art Rock




"Off the rails"

In the indiscriminate land of indie rock, it's often difficult to find bands that don't sound like watered-down, homogenous imitations of The Shins, Beach House and Wilco. Chord progressions get recycled and weary, and those edgy and intellectual lyrics quickly seem a little less edgy and intellectual. Soon enough, it all just blends together.

Mendelssohn doesn't have that problem. The Chicago-born group came to Missoula in 2011 with intentions to record their first full-length album, and now they're producing vinyl and digital copies of their debut LP, Years. Listeners will hear a sampling of the record at an Indiegogo campaign launch at Free Cycles this week, and the actual album will be pressed and ready for distribution by early May.

The songs on Years exhibit a refreshing instrumental diversity, integrating horns and woodwinds with mandolin, keyboard and a typical three-piece. Imagine a folky cousin of Real Estate. Tracks like "Watching All the Pastures" are subdued but not lazy, blending landscapes of Americana with more playful, surf-rock style guitar melodies. "U.S. Highway 20," with its drifting trumpet solo and minimal vocals, takes a more hushed, contemplative route.

Occasionally, the band's instrumental complexity gets out of hand and sways toward the unwieldy and schizophrenic side of things, but that's probably intentional. They aren't afraid to embrace a little imperfection. Mendelssohn's members cut their teeth on jazz and world music, so going off the rails every once in a while is part of the process. - Missoula Independent, Feb 2015

"Mendelssohn - Years"

Like indie and alternative, college rock was not an intensely useful sonic signifier; it was a place where the jagged edges of Mission Of Burma could rub up against the polished pop confections of Ken Stringfellow or the Paisley Underground movement in the UK. These fertile stratas of sonic influence - bringing in elements of folk, twee, post-punk, hip-hop and non-western musics would yield offshoots like R.E.M. They may have ended up as straight up radio fare, but were avid Wire and Television lovers, in their early days. They blended the arty concepts of post-punk to their down home Georgia soul.

Similarly Missoula, Montana’s Mendelssohn blends airy art rock with a roots Americana sensibility - like the tributaries of indie rock finally falling together and surging towards the sea. Mendelssohn starts with a skeleton of acoustic instruments and vocal harmonies, courtesy of husband-and-wife duo Jon Filkins and Sara Marker, which are then fleshed out with brass, percussion and woodwinds, without ever becoming precious orchestral pop in the process.

Instead, these are like bluegrass sculptures, materializing in thin air in front of your eyes and ears. Funnily enough, I was thinking of the mighty orchestral grandeur of Portland's Typhoon with their infectious sing-alongs and horn stabs, while listening to their release Years only to find out this record was mixed by Portland's mightiest sound engineer Larry Crane at his Jackpot! Studios. In a way, Years is like a combination of Missoula and Portland, a mishmash of the two that becomes something brand new and completely its own.

While much of Years is driving, fast-paced folk rock - "Little Sioux," "Holiest Acts," "Shake The Hair Off Your Head" - Mendelssohn also slows things down, getting pretty and letting the songs breathe, like on the breathtaking "Camp Song" where crystal-like feedback streaks across the fingerpicked arpeggios like the Geminids, while Filkins' and Marker’s voices blend and fuse like two shadows beneath a streetlight.

Honestly, I hate the artificial automation of genre-specific trends, which seem to exist more for marketers and critics than bands. I mean, I'm a critic, so I use genres as a shorthand and a launching off point, but the idea of "I only listen to shoegaze," is gut-shakingly laughable and getting less relevant by the second. I'd like to think the days of a "punk only" or a "bluegrass night" are eclipsing, with ALL of the tributaries coming back home.

This will make things more challenging, as well as more interesting and exciting, for those of us who write about music, as well as those who make it. Because we now need to decide for ourselves if we like something or not on a case-by-case basis. After spending some time with Years I ended up really liking it. The similarities to some of Portland's interesting music was a bonus for me, and cool to hear it coming out of Montana, no less. I also really like Filkins’ and Marker’s voices together, as well as the way they were recorded and mixed, as there is an airy spaciousness, without becoming too wispy or nebulous - still clean and clear, but ambient, in the real-world sense.

Ambient Americana might be a good tag for this, but we need less genres, not more. For those that like shoegaze and porch jams, driving across cornfields and hanging out under freeway overpasses, Years is a winner. - J Simpson of The Equal Ground

"Mendelssohn makes it worth the wait with the release of debut CD, 'Years'"

Mendelssohn is an alternative pop/rock band based in Missoula, Montana. The core of the band, lead vocalist and guitarist Jon Filkins and backup vocalist, keyboardist and trumpeteer Sarah Marker, met during their college days at Elmhurst College outside Chicago, Illinois. In fact, all but one of the band members attended Elmhurst, and that core has now officially tied the knot when Filkins and Marker were married in 2014. The other members of the band are Dan Venturella on bass, Dan Weiss on drums, percussion and woodwinds, Jake Whitecar on guitars, keys and folk instruments and Peter Puczkowskyj on guitars.

As unique as its band name, the music of Mendelssohn is not your standard indie mix. Although intense on guitar sound, the unique blend of voices from Filkins and Marker, the remarkable songwriting of Filkins and the band's essence combine to form material that is artistically a true breath of air. This band will not be confused with their peers, as their original compositions feature elements not found in other indie bands, such as true musical dynamics, voices that blend as one and trumpet accents. Mendelssohn provides a soundtrack for life, especially that time when you want to chill out and relax.

According to the band's Facebook page, "the band forges an unlikely but exhilarating mix of folk-rock and ‘70s-era power pop with the layered arrangements and sophisticated songwriting reminiscent of acts like Wilco, Band of Horses, and Grizzly Bear." While this may sound like hyperbole with most bands, every word is true when talking about Mendelssohn. Their live sessions are always invigorating and fresh, and with the release of Years, their debut CD, audiophiles can now enjoy that music in the comfort of their home or vehicle. The new CD will be released digitally on June 16 and on vinyl by late summer. The band's Indiegogo supporters got a sneak peak at the CD this week when the band sent out advance copies.

The CD features 13 tracks with a run time of 56 minutes of pure musical bliss. Favorite tracks are "Thursday," "Golden Fury," "Shake the Hair off Your Head" and "Watching all the Pastures." This CD has the musical elements to keep the attention of every true audiophile - give it a listen and you'll see what we mean.

For more information on Mendelssohn, click on the links above, follow them on Twitter or Instagram, or subscribe to their YouTube channel. - Bob Leggett

"EC students form Mendelssohn, release first album"

November 3, 2009

Elmhurst’s own folk-pop darlings, Mendelssohn have recently finished their first full length album, Living and Dwelling. The band has been plugging away at the album since early march, in a way said to have been “DIY, but cooler.” And with recording done by master hit makers Chris Powley and Travis Duffield, the statement really can’t be refuted.

Mendelssohn has always been praised for their use of unusual instrumentation, and Living and Dwelling certainly doesn’t disappoint. The new album contains tracks featuring mandolin, banjo and trumpet in addition to their standard line up.

However, it’s important to note that a lot has changed since last year. Possibly my favorite addition on the new album is Jon Filkins doubling up with Sarah Marker on the vocals. This makes for some pretty excellent male/female harmonies and vocal layering. Mendelssohn has also welcomed Pete Puczkowskyj into their loving arms as the band’s new electric guitar player. The added guitar gives the band a heavier sound than what was heard during Mendelssohn’s primarily acoustic days. And when you add all of that that with Living and Dwelling’s prominent piano lines, you’ve got some Progresso Thick and Chunky musical soup!

“Hurricane sugar” sounds like it could be a part of a Broken Social Scene record, while “Snow” is a two and a half minute burst of catchy, banjo-infused pop. However, the album calms down for songs like “Little Sioux” and “Trains, Pt II,” which have a simpler approach. Living ends with “Magnolia,” a seven-minute epic ending with some serious guitar shredding and organ sass.

Although the album is being released as a single project, it is oddly split into two halves-- Living and Dwelling. As in, you can buy one or the other. Assuming that’s your plan of action, I have some hints on which one might suit you best. Although it’s not accurate to say that Living and Dwelling contrast with each other a ton, there are subtle variations between the two that could sway a listener one way or the other. Basically, the songs on Living tend to have fuller instrumentation and a more rock influenced sound than the tracks on Dwelling, which seem to be geared more for an acoustic crowd.

The album(s) will be released this November, alongside multiple release shows. - Elmhurst College Leader

"Artist to Watch: Elmhurst's Mendelssohn touring the Midwest this Spring"

By Brian Lamberty

February 22, 2009

Do you feel a road trip in the making this spring break? Hit the road with Mendelssohn, a folk rock quartet comprised of four Elmhurst College sophomores. On their tour through the Mid-West, Mendelssohn will be going through Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin – “through the heartland,” as band members Jake Whitecar and Jon Filkins put it.

Sarah Marker (piano, vocals), Jon Filkins (piano, guitar, vocals), Pete Puczkowskyj (lead guitar), and Jake Whitecar (drums, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, and keyboards) have come a long way. Their original group was a trio of two drummers and a vocalist.

“We taught ourselves to play guitar and other things through high school,” said Whitecar.

They named their group after German composer Felix Mendelssohn, but band member Jon Filkins explained the name came from a children’s story about a boy who has to sell his cow, Mendelssohn. The band also toyed with the name “Felix and the Mendelssohns,” but “it was too British Invasion,” and so the name was shortened to simply “Mendelssohn.”

“We each draw from a wide range of influences,” said Whitecar, “there’s a lot of a folk influence, but a lot of rock in it too.”

“Straight Rock is another influence for Mendelssohn,” said Puczkowskyj, the newly acquired lead guitarist.

Puczkowskyj has been labeled “The Cake Icer” for his role of coming in and adding guitar riffs and top quality guitar work to the group and putting the icing on the cake.

The tour of the Mid-West isn’t all that Mendelssohn has on their plate. They played a show at the Oasis Café in Chicago on Jan. 31, and have several shows in and around Elmhurst with tentative dates.

Filkins, Maker, Puczkowsky and Whitecar are in the beginning stages of recording a second EP. Depending on how many songs they record, since they’re always writing new material, the EP could turn into a full length record.

“We have notebooks and notebooks full of lyrics, chord progressions, and…scribbles,” said Whitecar.

“Yeah,” confirmed Marker, “sometimes, we don’t even know what they mean anymore.”

“We love writing. We’re constantly writing. So, we could record six songs, or 13,” said Whitecar.

“We could just record everything, and put whatever we like on the record if we wanted to,” said Filkins.

Mendelssohn would also love to get their EP and future records out on vinyl.
“Oh of course, we’d LOVE that,” said Filkins and Whitecar together. But ultimately, that decision lies with the expense of doing so.

Marker is the only member of the group with a car, so gigging, or getting to the gig is a rather big deal, as the entire band and their equipment travel in one car.

“We’ve become very efficient packers,” said Filkins.

“And we ask favors of friends,” added Marker referring to friends with Expeditions and Grand Cherokees.

“We’re happy to be out there playing music whenever (and wherever) we can,” commented the band.

Mendelssohn CDs can be bought for $3 to $5. Contact Mendelssohn on their myspace, via email at - The Elmhurst College Leader


Years - 13 tracks

Living EP - 5 Tracks
Dwelling EP - 4 Tracks
Mendelssohn EP - 8 Tracks



Hailing from Missoula, MT after getting their start in Chicago, IL, Mendelssohn brings a fiercely original sound to the stage. Fronted by husband and wife duo Jon Filkins (vocals, bass) and Sarah Marker (vocals, keys, trumpet), the band forges an unlikely but exhilarating mix of folk-rock and ‘70s-era power pop with the layered arrangements and sophisticated songwriting reminiscent of acts like Wilco, Band of Horses, and Grizzly Bear. The band is augmented by Dan Weiss (drums, percussion, woodwinds,) Jake Whitecar (guitars, keys, folk instruments) and Peter Puczkowskyj (guitars). 

Band Members