Loss and Love: Muscle and Marrow’s journey

We continue our week of daily articles about the experimental artists performing at our events this week.

Today we focus on Muscle and Marrow, who bring their new album tour to New River Studios on Saturday, alongside Father Murphy.

We asked vocalist Kira Clark about her techniques, equipment and background behind her current sound, and here’s what she had to say:

“I’m sort of a weird musician I suppose, because I’m not super interested in technique or equipment. I’m much more focused on concepts, themes, the meeting point of politics and art, and the sort of magical and abstract process that is creativity. My background is nothing interesting really. I’m from Oklahoma and never knew anyone could actually be an artist. The dialogue around my future was very practical. I spent a lot of my teenage years and early 20s falling in love with the wrong people and being lost. I only picked up the guitar about five years ago and decided I wanted to write songs. When I realized I could be an artist it was like life just burst open. There was a huge loosening inside me and I couldn’t believe I had gone my entire life not realizing that this was my identity. I’m lucky that I have Keith who is more interested in technique and equipment like analogue synths and field recordings, things like that. We work well together because often our approach to music is completely opposing which means we both really get to settle into our distinctive rolls. It means I get to write a song about femininity and then I get to say “ok can you try to make this good now?” Then he disappears into a room and makes some sounds, then I go back in and record more things, then sometimes we fight and sometimes we don’t. Currently we’re having a lot of discussions about making trying to make our music more immediate with an emphasis on melody, but still contain the depth and weirdness that we want. To be determined.”

Formed in 2013 by Kira Clark (voice, guitar) and Keith McGraw (drums, sounds), Muscle and Marrow quickly discovered their distinctive sound. Taking inspiration from visual and feminist art, as well as contemporary poetry and literature, Muscle and Marrow is an entity that is as thoughtful as it is fervent and as experimental as it is immediate. They also take inspiration from potentially surprising musicians such as Grimes, Bjork, Lykke Li and Haxan Cloak. Their debut album The Human Cry was released in June 2014 by Belief Mower Records. Its songs were arresting, hysterical, and distinctly feminine. Pitchfork called it “gorgeous” with Clark’s voice alternating between plaintive wails and guttural moans that soared over waves of pulsing drums and guitars.

After the release of The Human Cry, Muscle and Marrow toured across the United States with bands like The Body and experimental electronic act Author & Punisher before heading east to record a new album. In October, 2015, the duo posted up at Machines with Magnets (The Body, Lightning Bolt, Battles, Marissa Nadler, Deer Tick) in Providence, RI with producers Seth Manchester and Keith Souza, to record what was to become their sophomore album, Love, to be released by Flenser Records. The band took their time in the studio and laid down seven tracks that delve deeper into electronic territory and incorporate the familiar droning guitars, rumbling synth and tribal drums throughout. Clark’s vocals are ghostly and chilling—almost unnerving at times—weaving intricate layers over a sprawling web of guitar and McGraw’s rumbling textures and drums. Clark commented, “With The Human Cry, the songs were much more straightforward guitar and drum songs. I would hand Keith entire songs already written, but with this record we toiled away at the computer adding electronic elements and a lot of vocal layering, almost like my voice (being many voices) is desperately trying to reach some sort of surface, to break through, but ultimately cannot.”

Lyrically, Love is powerful and more realised, with elements of joy, strength and anger present. During the album’s writing process, Clark lost a family member and much of the lyrical content focuses on loss, but also on love in general. How to love better, more and at all, and what happens when someone else loves you—the trap of that love but also the freedom it affords. Additionally, Love touches on feminism and female archetypes, a topic that Kira Clark is very interested in. She commented, “It’s cathartic and alluring for me to delve into feminine madness because, of course, that character is inside me somewhere all of the time and to give her permission to surface in my art is powerful.” These new songs are just as beautiful and complex as those on the band’s debut, but on Love, Muscle and Marrow push their craft further, bringing them to the frontier of avant-garde dark music.


Full details about Father Murphy, Muscle and Marrow and Tolerance Manoeuvre at New River Studios

£10 advance tickets

£13 on the door

Design by Lou Steaton