ABOUT LEAVES, SADNESS, SCIENCE
When R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills (who co-wrote, performs and sings on Leaves, Sadness, Science's LP-only bonus track, "War and Peace") first heard the entirety of Marilyn Carino's second solo album, he raised the question that has made Carino (and scores of music promoters) wince since she began fronting the band Mudville in 2003, "What the hell do you call this music?" They came up with categorically-challenged terms like "torchy", "existential" and "womb-tronic”, which they agreed still wasn't quite it but would do.
Carino’s singing has been called, “powerful to the point of bringing you to tears” (Straight No Chaser) and “smoldering” (The New Yorker); her music, “enchanting - a testament to the healing powers of rhythm” (Nylon); her music about, “troubled longings and bleak, surreal visions” (New York Times); her lyrics, “poetic, filled with imagery” (New York Post). Carino’s songs have been featured on prominent TV shows and films, including the FX hit Regenesis and the upcoming feature, Someone Else.
Informed by the voices of Nina Simone, Thom Yorke, Lykke Li and Lightnin’ Hopkins, favorite singers she deems "stirring, bravely strange", Carino's second solo album after 2011's critically-lauded Little Genius (which All Music Guide's four-star review deemed, “an artful set of brave, assured electronic soul tunes, expressed with a voice that is free of artifice in its expressions of longing, struggle, empathy and desire”), imagines soul-mated collabs where those singers hang in stoned basement recording studios with Prince, Suicide and Boards of Canada.
Written, recorded, mixed and performed solely by Carino (except the aforementioned track with Mills), Leaves, Sadness, Science is a collection of vocally- and word-driven soundscapes; head-space grooves formed from layered, Moog-y synths and stark beats. The songs evoke gripping internal monologues about "hope and body fluids"; songs that are punkily romantic despite their overt skepticism of romance. The album’s title comes from a Frida Kahlo installation Carino saw, which featured monochrome rooms, for each of which a sign noted Kahlo’s feeling about the various colors. Yellow was madness, blue was peace, and green; leaves, sadness, science. The ten tracks on the album echo the graphic, challenging and charged paintings of Kahlo, who’s work, “Moses (Nucleus of Creation)” graces the album's cover.
About Marilyn Carino
To say that your life has been eventful would be an understatement. There are some crazy facts about you floating around. Want to share just one story with us just to illustrate?
Well, my strange adventures are long stories that just sound surreal to paraphrase. I'm a bit of an adventurer – I'm not reckless anymore but I try to be as fearless as I can when I approach music and enter into things. And it seems to run in my family in a bizarre way – my cousin was in the CIA, at least one uncle was in the mob, my grandmother ran away from the family to hang with the queen of Spain, blah blah.. Nobody did anything too destructive or abusive, in our twisted way we were pretty functional. I can happily say I'm one of those people who only had positive drug experiences! I’m most interested in creative adventures – things that test my will and intellect, the challenge of having faith in your actions when you don’t have all the answers. I think the essence of my music is about that.
Where did the affection for music come from? When did it all start? Can you talk a bit about your country and jazz background?
My mother always had music on. All day, every day. A little transistor radio in the kitchen while she cooked, food plus music is a combination sure to indoctrinate an Italian! She loved everything, disco, the Beatles, Sinatra. One of my first memories is hearing Ray Charles singing “Hit the Road Jack” on my mother’s radio. I sang it over and over, I was in a high chair so that’s pretty young. And my dad loved Dixieland jazz, Kid Ory especially – and Eddy Arnold who sang beautifully and also had this unearthly yodel, like angels. Lots of singers, really high-level: Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Streisand. He was an older dad and old fashioned to boot. But the music was always on.
Where did the inspiration for lyrics and music come from at the beginning and what keeps inspiring you today?
I have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for a long time, I chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Herbie Hancock, who also practices this Buddhism, spoke to a group of artists at our culture center in NY and what he said really affected me. About artistic inspiration, he said, “When I want inspiration I need to remember that music is what I do – being a human being is what I am. Everything originates from who we are as human beings.” Inspiration is about being sensitive to what the world is telling you and how much courage you have to interpret your own feelings about it. So I am always trying to cultivate that insight. I am really proud of my lyrics, and to me a finished song is a perfect little question. If I can’t get to that when I’m writing, I have to ask myself what do I need to change or cultivate in myself in order to get to that? I love the process of songwriting, even though it kills me sometimes. Like my good friend Dred Scott says, "there's is nothing more painful than writing a song, but there is nothing more rewarding than finishing one." I totally agree. My ultimate goal always is to just keep getting better.
Let’s talk about Mudville a bit. How did it start, what are some of the favorite experiences as part of the project and when and why did the decision come to go solo? Are we going to hear more from Mudville in the future or is it part of the past now? Are you concerned at all that Mudville fans will not accept your solo work or, on the contrary, do you think they will be your main supporters?
Mudville is not dead! Benny Cha Cha and I are working on Mudville for a new feature film we've been commissioned to write for, and maybe some singles for what will ultimately be an album. The unfortunate thing about Mudville is that while we had glowing, rapturous press and devoted fans, we had no label and no money to tour to support our records properly. It was really frustrating and eventually we just couldn’t sustain it financially. So we took a break and Benny started producing jazz records and I decided to get this record out.
Since I released “Little Genius” I’ve gotten overwhelming, 100% positive feedback from Mudville fans, from everyone, even though I think it is quite different from Mudville. Also, I think my voice has gotten better, stronger, and the next Mudville record will likely be more focused on my voice, so the arrangements will probably be simpler. There was no typical Mudville fan. People called us trip-hop, but the hip-hop nation really embraced us. Rappers like Large Professor, MF Grimm and even Mos Def are fans. I mean, we opened for Black Star! And we made believers out of jazz fans, I guess because Mudville was all about musicianship and lyrics, unlike most trip-hop. This broad appeal was also a two-edged sword, because small-brained promoters and bean counter labels were confounded by our weird genre so they backed away. I can’t say who will be my biggest supporters, but Mudville fans are obviously highly intelligent and have great taste in music so if I can reach them I’m happy.
Is your solo work in any way a try to break away from the ‘trip-hop’ label that was always accompanying Mudville’s music? What is trip-hop to you? UK’s Guardian just recently said that trip-hop is about to experience its re-birth. Do you see this happening?
Genre labels are a necessary evil I suppose. I like the label, “torchy, existential electro-soul”.
Benny and I were joking that we “invented” trip-hop – when we started Mudville we had no awareness of trip-hop at all. What we were both really into were three things: jazz, fiddling with knobs and keyboards and smoking weed. So I’d say our actual genre was “jazzy electronic music for potheads”. When we started getting called trip-hop we didn’t get that AT ALL, we were just baffled, because we didn’t think we sounded like any of those bands. Since we invented the Mudville sound, we decided that means we invented trip-hop, even though it was already out there for like ten years! We definitely had the downtempo vibe, the tripped-out sampling and female vocals. But Mudville paid a lot of attention to lyrics and complexity of sounds, lots of real strings, horns, the improvisation you find in jazz, just stuff you don’t find in trip-hop. Then The New York Times called us "post-trip-hop" and that went down a bit easier. I mean, we played the Blue Note with Mike Mills from REM on piano plus a horn section and three rappers, like, what is that? I won’t complain if that’s how people would like to describe Mudville, or my solo work. I think the umbrella is big enough to include the unique something that both bands add to it.
You’ve been in the music industry long enough to know that the genre that you’ve chosen isn’t the easiest in terms of commercial distribution or media attention. Yet your music is so sincere that I feel that this choice was very deliberate. I’m not sure if there’s actually a question in here, I guess I just wanted to express my admiration)) The question would probably be – can you see yourself ever sacrificing some this sincerity for commercial success?
Louis Armstrong said there are only two kinds of music – good and bad. I feel that way too. I wish there was a label called Just Good Music, maybe they would sign me! I have to just fly my flag. Trying to please people in the industry always seemed stupid to me in the past and now in the age of microniche Internet promotion it seems even more stupid. But it definitely takes more effort to connect with your tribe. I love that you feel sincerity in my music, that is heavenly to hear. I did all the production and play all the instruments on “Little Genius”, and I wouldn't put out something that I didn’t absolutely love and feel was worthy of people’s time. I hope that feeling will resonate with people. Now it's all about getting it out there, so thank you for helping me do that.
Congratulations with the release of Little Genius. I loved it! What’s the response been so far? Are you planning any live shows to support it? And what’s next for Marilyn Carino?
That’s so important to me, thank you! The record hasn’t even been out a month, but so far everyone seems to be embracing it, and with a genuine depth of feeling, really connecting with it. I have a live show on August 30th in New York, debuting my Little Genius band (with Benny Cha Cha of Mudville playing bass) and a record-release party at the end of September, also in NY. So please sign my mailing list at marilyncarino.com to get an invite and I’ll also send you a free track. I’m traveling lighter now, so will do a little east coast tour and then I hope to return to Scandinavia and Europe in the early spring. As for the future, I’m just enjoying this particular adventure, looking forward to the next.
by Tipkin - Trippin' the Rift trippintherift.com
She’s here to provoke. She’s here to make you think. Whatever your story, hers is more exotic. Marilyn Carino is a straight up Bensonhurst, Brooklyn Sicilian-American from the mean streets of The French Connection, with a corner fish shop known as a killing floor for mafia hits. Her cousin was in the CIA, her grandmother split the family to jet-set with Spanish royalty, and her father was a real-life Mad Men-esque ad exec.
Carino’s music career began behind the recording console rather than behind the microphone. Skipping town after she finished school in the 90’s, she flew to Europe on a one-way ticket with $200 in her pocket and ended up staying for a year working in recording studios and going to raves. Before long she realized that she was doing music vicariously through others, and decided to make it herself rather than tweak knobs for marginally talented autotune jockeys.
Her saga began in the form of Mudville, a duo that produced three critically-acclaimed albums. As the singing and songwriting half, Marilyn inflamed and stunned, praised as “Nina Simone coming back from the dead to front Morcheeba." Her song “Wicked” won a 2008 Independent Music Award, and it has continued to be a signature song as she moved on from Mudville to her 2011 solo album, Little Genius and 2015’s Leaves, Sadness, Science. Her music is sexy and thick, her voice an affecting instrument with an elegant grittiness, soaring above violent organs and chunky beats. As a solo artist, Carino does all the recording, mixing, producing and plays all the instruments herself, her personality imbued in the smoky-dark production, expressive singing and themes that dig for hope. "I think happiness is about a person freeing themselves, and that’s the idea I’m interested in. We’ve got to feel free to fall down and be a mess, maybe fuck the wrong people. We can fail 99 times and keep coming back to get it right on the 100th. The solution to the hardening of the world around us is personal human revolution.”
The revolution in Carino’s music is authentic because she has lived the polarity involved in real change. A long-time practice of Nichiren Buddhism is the centering force that keeps her focused, independent and on a never-ending mission to transcend the smaller self. As one who has publicly demonstrated in support of American progressive causes and Irish independence (she was even jailed for her associations), and also spent time with lepers and polio victims in oxcart villages in India right after 9/11, she moves those in her path because she has experienced disparate extremes, and has been moved herself.
Move, indeed. Carino’s undeniable talent and full-throttle attitude have moved her through headline performances at the iconic Blue Note jazz club in NYC, playing and/or recording with Mike Mills of R.E.M., David Byrne and Billy Talbot of Crazy Horse, recording her first album at Neil Young’s studio, and being hand-picked as a lyricist by legendary producers Sly and Robbie (Bob Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Grace Jones, Madonna). Her songs “Hero of the World” and “Blown” have been prominently featured in the award-winning SyFy Channel series “Regenesis,” and other tracks used in the feature films "Slutty Summer," "Vampires in Venice,", "Going Down in LaLa Land" and the 2015 feature "Someone Else".
Marilyn Carino is that rare artist who shocks but also grounds her listeners. Uncompromising, humanistic, and insightful, her music is about your life, just in a way you’ve yet to consider. “I keep trying to be brave, be totally myself. It’s sexy to care about art and humanity and the happiness of other people, and it’s important that my life and music encourage you to find those things in yourself.” She sincerely loves you all, but don’t get it twisted.
Marilyn Carino gained notoriety as the singing and songwriting half of Mudville. Her contributions to Mudville's three critically-acclaimed albums were lauded as "Nina Simone coming back from the dead to front Morcheeba" - her unique, moving voice hailed as "fearless", "enchanting" and "otherworldly". Carino has written, recorded and/or performed with members of R.E.M, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, David Byrne, and legendary producers Sly and Robbie. Her songs have been featured prominently in the SyFy series "Regenesis" and the feature films "Slutty Summer", "Vampires in Venice", "Going Down in LaLa Land" and "Someone Else". Her song "Wicked" won the 2008 Independent Music Award for Best Song.