The Dark Marbles open the door to garage rock
Six years after their last album, local garage rockers The Dark Marbles are rolling back on the music scene with a cover album featuring songs from the sub-genre’s heyday in the 1960s and ’70s.
Frontman Paul Roalsvig, performing under the stage name Yod Crewsy, has played in live shows since 1984, and the band’s new album, “Back to the Garage,” is a compilation of some of his personal favorite tracks from garage rock legends including The Remains, The Electric Prunes and The Standells.
Roalsvig has been a fan of the sub-genre for years, first discovering the fuzzy guitars, driving rhythms and bittersweet lyrics in his 20s while playing in the Buffalo-based SplatCats.
Though Roalsvig didn’t grow up in the 1960s, when garage rock merged onto the airwaves of local radio stations, he found himself drawn to the fun, simplistic style he describes as “the American flip side to the British Invasion.”
An attorney by day, Roalsvig records in his basement and performs throughout the North Country and in Buffalo, keeping his right brain active and giving him a fun hobby to share with others.
“I get a big rush out of people dancing to our music,”
While performing in the North Country, Roalsvig sings and plays rhythm guitar alongside Eric Peter on lead guitar as well as drummer Tony Stuppiello and his wife Deborah Stuppiello, who plays bass. In Buffalo, Peter stays on lead, Russell Steinberg plays bass, Dave Meinzer plays drums, and his wife Carthy Carfagna sings and plays keyboard.
All the members have full-time jobs, working in construction, banking and music while playing lively rock shows on evenings and weekends.
“Back to the Garage” is full of classic garage rock tracks as well as underground favorites. Several songs on the album are from acts hailing from Roalsvig’s hometown of Buffalo and would have been heard on local radio stations at the heart of the city’s garage rock scene.
“What we know as garage rock now really goes back to the mid-’60s, when all these bands started rehearsing in American garages.” Roalsvig said. “Every metropolitan area had its own music scene with its own radio station playing its own local bands.”
“Are You With Me, Baby?” is a song from Buffalo’s The Clock Exchange that never made it off cassette because the lead singer/guitarist went blind.
“I wanted to do that song justice,” Roalsvig said.
When The Dark Marbles play in Buffalo now it is for an annual Lou Reed and Velvet Underground tribute concert. Roalsvig said the legendary band has been a strong influence on The Dark Marbles sound. When setting out to cover 20 songs for the album, Roalsvig wanted to put the band’s own spin on the tracks, distinguishing them from the originals. Several tracks feature horns and a mandolin, two instruments that were not common at the time of the original recordings.
The Monkees’ “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” is nearly unrecognizable as the band’s iconic happy-go-lucky sound has been replaced by a dark, macabre death march, framing the lyrics in a different light. That is not to say The Dark Marbles have a strictly macabre tone, the album spans the full gamut of what garage rock sounded like. The songs Roalsvig picked are some of his on-stage favorites for their dance-inciting qualities.
With 20 covers and one original surf rock instrumental, the album has recognizable songs like “Mercy Mercy” by the Rolling Stones as well as obscure AM radio hits such as The Buoys’ “Timothy,” an odd, disturbing and grimly humorous story of cannibalism.
Forgoing a garage, Roalsvig lays down rhythm guitar and vocal tracks for the album in his basement studio with equipment and instruments he has accumulated over 33 years of live shows. He records early in the morning, waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. to get studio time before the kids and pets living above the studio wake up for the day.
“It helps a lot to have a recording studio in your own basement,” Roalsvig said. “You are able to accomplish a lot very quickly.”
He did all the initial editing, adding drum tracks and other instruments through recordings other members made in Buffalo studios, but the final mixing and mastering took place in a 12-hour session at Good Charamel Records, the recording studio owned by the Buffalo-native Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac.
The SplatCats were label mates with the Goo Goo Dolls in the ’80s, and Takac sat in on the production of “Back to the Garage,” recognizing the garage rock tracks he heard on Buffalo airwaves years ago.
While he played with the SplatCats, Roalsvig opened for the Ramones, and with the band he played with in the ’90s, the JackLords, he opened for Roy Orbison.
Roalsvig said he has two upcoming albums in the hopper: one a cover album of British Invasion favorites and the other a folkier, campfire collection.
“Back to the Garage” can be found online on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby or Spotify as well as in physical form at Ampersound and by personal request on Facebook.