No Fi Soul Rebellion
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No Fi Soul Rebellion

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The best kept secret in music

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"Live Wires"

The return of No-Fi Soul Rebellion

It’s been one and a half years since former locals No-Fi Soul Rebellion last swung through Missoula, but recently, while playing in their current home of Bellingham, Wash., the husband-and-wife duo of Mark and Andrea Heimer met a Missoula fan with a curious story to tell. The fan alleged that one night a small group of people broke into Jay’s Upstairs (the legendary Missoula rock venue that’s been closed since October 2003), slipped a No-Fi CD into a player and had a dance party. “And I was like, ‘Is that true? It sounds a little too fantastic,’” Mark says. “But the guy swears it’s true, so that’s flattering.”

And probably apt, too, considering No-Fi Soul Rebellion’s modus operandi. Live performance is key to the band’s music. Mark, as frontman, struts and dances, gets up in the faces of individual audience members and rolls around in a frenzy of screams and sweaty contortions. It seems fair to say that for a fan of such performances, listening to the CD solo in the comfort of your home just doesn’t hack it.

In fact, No-Fi Soul Rebellion’s 2001 inception was born out of Mark’s disillusionment with live shows. In his mind’s eye, the emotion captured in recorded music should be conveyed with equal (if not extra) fervor in on-stage dramatics. But he wasn’t seeing it happen.

“I put higher expectations on performers because their performance is what I think of when I listen to their music,” he says. “Bands that I love, like the Pixies, I might not even go see because I’ve heard they just stand there while playing their songs.”

Such dissatisfaction led Mark to tip the scales the other way and focus more on high-level performance, undeterred by the imaginary boundaries of the stage and the hindrance of instruments. His solution: the Soul System, a contraption comprised of an MP3 player embedded in a hollowed-out bass guitar. The MP3 feeds into the PA system and the pre-recorded songs plays as Mark sings live. Sound like karaoke? Well, sort of, except that the pre-recorded songs are originals written, played and recorded by Mark. Andrea, meanwhile, provides feigned strumming on the bass-looking Soul System (as well as back-up vocals and stage banter). The setup frees Mark to perform his heart out. Which he does.

Now, No-Fi Soul Rebellion is in the midst of a tour, including a Missoula homecoming this weekend, to promote their new Wäntage USA release, Lambs to the Slaughter. The five-song effort comes on enhanced CD with a music video featuring a corndog. “I think some aspects of the album are a little more cohesive [than previous albums] as far as songwriting style goes,” Mark says.

Still, Mark’s real exuberance is reserved for the full-length album he’s been fine-tuning for the last six months. “Every release I’ve had up to this point, I’ve always had apprehension about it,” he says. “You get to the point that if you’re writing all the songs and playing all the instruments, you’ve heard them a bazillion times. I get doubts in my head about whether it’s really quality stuff or not.” But this time, Mark is confident and excited about his new compositions, some of which he’ll debut on the current tour.

Mark may be the band’s writer and frontman, but Andrea gives No-Fi an added charm and humor. More importantly to Mark, their union as life- and band-mates is key. “She’s 100-percent supportive. It’s really built up my self-confidence, having someone who you love and who reciprocates that.” It’s a confidence that Mark claims fuels his high-spirited performances.

Confidence is also important for the duo because their departure from Missoula a year ago led them to bigger ponds: Seattle, Vancouver and Portland. Along with a New Year’s Resolution to tour more often, Mark wants to make more music videos like the one on the new CD—a move that isn’t surprising, since video is yet another medium for theatrics. Such theatrics, Mark says, are inspired by favorite bands like Nation of Ulysses and The Make Up, both fronted by Ian Sevonious. Strangely enough, Mark never got the chance to see either band live, but that didn’t stop him from imagining what the performance would be like.

“I imagined [Sevonious] as a total maniac, going out of control. Not just being crazy, but being wholly devoted to what he is saying—so into it that it makes him scream. I really like that cathartic aspect of performance.”

No-Fi Soul Rebellion plays the Boys & Girls Club Saturday, May 14, at 7:30 PM. Tickets cost $8 at the door
- Missoula Independent


"Old School Rock"

Put on No-Fi Soul Rebellion's new CD and right away you're treated to an ear-poppin' mix of funk-a-delic rhythms, old school hip-hop sensibilities and spine-tingling soul sensations. This genre-defying outfit is an entertaining mix of genius and insanity the likes of which Beck and Prince have successfully mined for musical magic. Hailing from Missoula, Mont., this two-person show is pulled together with sonic swagger by lead man Mark Heimer, who writes the words and music and handles bass, guitar and keyboards, and his wife Andrea, who busts the moves and keeps the entertainment flowing. They are joined on their latest CD by both Max Allyn and Chris Baumann, who each plays drums on different tracks.

Heimer's been giving life to the tunes for a mere two years now but that time has seen the Rebellion mature into one ass-bustin' group, consistently playing shows all over the northwest and giving it all they've got whether or not there's one person in the club or 100. The band started out in 2002 with The Olden Days:Pure Gold and followed that up in 2003 with a 7-inch and the most recent, The Varitable Rainbow of Song.

Varitable kicks off with "Welcome to the Rainbow," a track that gets the beat pumpin' at the first note and gives just a taste of the treat you're in for. It's followed by "Too Mean," which is so funky it would make George Clinton proud. The energy continues through with "Black Heart," "Anatomy of Self Preservation" and "We Used To Look Good," while Mark Heimer belts out the soulful, rock-tinged vocals like a 13-year-old school boy singing along in his room when he thinks no one can hear.

The band's knack for creating groovy, self-propelled gems with a peppy keyboard beat and soul-shaking funkified lyrics will amaze you live, and one listen to their CD will turn you into a booty-shakin' supporter. The Rebellion will not be televised at their Thursday, Feb 19th Samurai Duck show.
- Eugene Weekly


"Seriously Absurd"

"We got married at a gas station on our way to a gig," says No-Fi Soul Rebellion's main man, Mark Heimer. "It was a drive-through coffee-slash-marriage place. We got dressed in our wedding duds in the gas-station bathroom. It was funny--there was some guy taking a pee at the urinal and he was like, 'Congratulations.'"

The gregarious Mark laughs as he recalls the day he and bandmate Andrea Heimer tied the knot. He is, fittingly, entertained by the novelty of their unforgettable day. But, as absurd a memory as it is, Mark says the novelty doesn't take away from the heartfelt sincerity of his vows.

It's this same charming-yet-sincere sentiment that forms his idiosyncratic, pop-soul songs. Sure, the fact that he sings karaoke-style over his original prerecorded tunes is comical, but as Mark defends his performances, it starts to make some serious sense.

"When I think of what I do, I don't think of it as a gimmick as much as a means," Mark says. "How I perform music; I like the vulnerability of being up there, it makes it more sincere."

Driven by a self-proclaimed love for big, delicious hooks, Mark's Motown/Stax-inspired songs are loaded with bombast, distortion and a touch of Prince and Michael Jackson. Songs like "Let's Get Nasty" and "Black Heart" combine Mark's raspy soulful croon with warped, bass-heavy beats, raw, spiraling riffs and thrusting tambourine slaps.

"The best songs from all across time have a good rhythm, a good melody, a hook and cool words, too," says Mark, who has self-released two albums--2002's The Olden Days: Pure Gold and last year's intentionally misspelled The Varitable Rainbow of Song--under the No-Fi name. "I would consider myself trying to make good pop songs, something that everyone can enjoy."

An Alaskan native inspired by Beck's adventurous multi-instrumentalism, Mark began penning his own songs a few years back, something he was unable to do while previously serving as bassist for various bands.

"I never had much of a say because I was quiet; everybody thought my ideas were too out there," Mark explains. "So I started goofing around, writing music, having fun on two tape decks. Once I started doing that, I started taking it more seriously as a means of expressing what's on my mind and realizing what's important, but trying to keep it fun at the same time."

When starting the No-Fi Soul Rebellion, Mark opted against getting a band together. While going solo gave him the freedom of complete songwriting control and the challenge of going it alone, Mark needed to find a way to make his prerecorded live shows exciting. "I was trying to figure out a way to perform with prerecorded music," he says over the phone from his home in Great Falls, Mont. "I wanted to throw people for a loop. I thought it'd be cool if we could make one instrument encompass it all."

So the Soul System was born. An old bass guitar that holds an MP3 player in its guts, the Soul System pumps Mark's prerecorded bump-and-grind tunes out of the carved-out bass and into the PA. Live, Andrea holds the Soul System, becoming its dance partner while Mark breaks out the squiggly riffs, rallying shouts and funky moves. "A lot of people initially laughed at us: 'That's not an instrument, that's just a gimmick,'" says Mark, who records his songs at home on a 16-track. "If people come see the show, they'll see that I take what I do very seriously, that I'm actually making serious music with this stuff. I'm not trying to be funny; I'm trying to be entertaining."

"We want to give something people can look at and watch and be entertained by," Mark continues. "That's the whole reason we don't have a full band--we're really upping the performance ante. It's just the two of us, so we're gonna try extra hard. And if we look ridiculous, well then, hey, people can be entertained by that."

- Willamette Week


"The Buzz Begins"

It’s been more than a year since No-Fi Soul Rebellion (Mark and Andrea Heimer) made the move from Great Falls Montana to Bellingham in search of new musical adventure. More bands move out of town hoping for fame and future than they do move in, so the relocation of No-Fi made music fans take notice. The fact they played unbelievably funky pop with an energetic and mesmerizing live show, made it all the better.

To say the move was a good one for the duo would be a gross understatement. Since the duo moved to Bellingham, they’ve become one of the must-see bands in town, signed to No Milk Records (a very well respected indie label), who will release their latest disk Alaska Chic, and toured with the Presidents of the United States of America.

No-Fi already had a reputation for per­forming amazing live shows, but over the last year their music has gone to a whole new level and grabbed the attention of the music industry outside of Bellingham.

The Hottest Band in Town

With their captivating live show—due in part to Mark’s non-stop energy—No-Fi quickly became one of the hottest bands in town. From the first note, which Andrea plays through the Sound System, their set is 45 minutes of full throttle fun. The band performs on the floor, not the stage, and sings and engages the crowd with every song. At times, Mark utilizes his extra long microphone cord and sings to folks walking outside!

What has changed over the last year for No-Fi is the progression of their sound. Before moving to town, they were fun and hooky, but obviously not ready for the big time. That’s all changed, as No-Fi’s sound has developed into a solid hit making machine. And, according to Mark, it’s all done at his kitchen table.

Though the band has worked hard, toured and built up a following, it wasn’t until recently that the No-Fi machine kicked into high gear. “The bulk of Alaska Chic was recorded at the kitchen table of our apartment and the majority of the sessions I was in my underwear,” said Mark, with a hint of a smile. “Mostly cause I like to work on stuff in the morning right after I get up and have some cereal, not because I feel comfortable with my body.”

Though Mark’s the mastermind behind the music, Andrea’s part of No-Fi can’t be understated. “Andrea is constant inspira­tion. Without her I would have never writ­ten many of my favorite No-Fi songs. Songs like ‘Black Heart,’ ‘Ch*rch,’ ‘Beautiful & Hard,’ ‘You Say Dumb, I Sing Dumb,’ ‘Let’s Pretend’ and the list goes on. She is a tire­less supporter of No-Fi,” Mark said. “She encourages me to continue to do what I do. I am always serious when I say that without her I probably would have quit years ago. She was the first sound system player to really make me feel like No-Fi could work.” He added, “It’s just as much her band as it is mine.”

Touring with the Presidents

No-Fi had been Bellingham’s little secret until they opened up for the Presidents of the United States of America (PUSA) at the Royal back in June. Being as impressed with No-Fi as all the locals, PUSA initially asked them if they would do some European dates over the summer. Because of sched­uling problems, No-Fi had to decline, but PUSA was determined to bring No-Fi to the masses, taking them on a short tour of the West Coast in September.

“The tour was quite nice,” Mark said. “The Presidents were all perfect gentlemen and were very supportive of us. We could now and then catch a glimpse of them off to the side of the stage smiling and tapping their collective feet during our set. Perhaps even a thumbs up or a-ok hand signal.”

Mark continued, “Chris Ballew (of PUSA) asked me why No-Fi wasn’t famous and on the radio all the time and my reply was, ‘I don’t know. Ignorance?’”

Lack of humility aside, No-Fi gained immeasurable experience while playing in front of crowds from 1000 to 14000, some of which had celebrity status.

“At our show on the Sunset Strip, Weird Al parked us in so we couldn’t go to Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. He is a beemer man if anyone was wondering. And he wears girl pants and vintage tee’s when not in character,” Mark said. “I was shocked. But I guess we don’t wear our gear all the time.”

Signing with No Milk Records

When No-Fi returned from their tour, the duo inked a deal with No Milk Records for the release of their latest CD Alaska Chic. The duo sent out a bunch of copies to various labels across the country, hoping to take distribution to a new level, “really go for it,” as Mark stated.

According to Mark, No Milk was one of the labels that got back to them immedi­ately and said they loved the record and just had to have the band. “So we asked all the hard questions about money and contract stuff and we liked what they told us so we signed up,” Mark said. “Their enthusiasm for No-Fi is what really tipped the scales for us. I must admit I was a little queasy after signing, but I now feel confident and up to the challenge—look out w - What's Up! Magazine


Discography

The Olden Days: Pure Gold : 2002 – Compilation of two previous recordings (self released)
The Varitable Rainbow of Song: 2004 (self released)
Ch*rch/Lady Cop Seven-inch Split w/Volumen: 2004 (Wantage USA)
Lambs to the Slaughter: 2005 (Wantage USA)
Alaska Chic: 2006 (No Milk Records)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

No-Fi Soul Rebellion is a man/wife band poised and capable of delivering a full-fledged dance party of epic proportions wherever they strike. Front man and sole songwriter Mark Heimer writes insanely catchy pop songs, snagging influences from rock, punk and soul and Oldies for music that does more than offer hooks galore and ample sing/scream-alongs.

No-Fi Soul Rebellion was conceived by Mark Heimer while living in Alaska in 2001. Frustrated by tension in the band he was in, Heimer decided to write and record music for his own band. He alleviated any and all middlemen by playing and recording every instrument (bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, and vocals) himself. Opting to go sans band for the performance front, Heimer now performs his music with his wife, Andrea Heimer. The Heimers maximize their performance aspects live, turning the lack of other band members to an advantageous situation. Andrea wields a few backing tracks housed in the Soul System and sings backup while Mark lets his thunderous spirit of performance loose on the audience with wild vocal performances, screaming bass solos and a fifty-foot mic cord that allows him to make contact with each audience member. The resulting chaos is fun, barrier breaking and sounds killer.