Posted March 31, 2013 by Jeff in Tunes

Marnie Stern: She knows this story won’t make you a fan

Marnie Stern photo by Michael Benabib
Marnie Stern photo by Michael Benabib

New York noise rocker Marnie Stern has such a hard time finding someone to date, she launched a “Win a Date with Marnie” campaign in conjunction with the release of her new album, The Chronicles of Marnie. She received a whopping 295 entries and has gone dates with two of the three finalists. Oh yeah, and her album, a stripped down affair that shows off her mean guitar chops, is really fantastic, too. We recently called Marnie at her New York home to discuss the dates — and the new album.

How did your dates go?
The dates were good. The third date was going to happen but the guy was kind of comically videotaping for YouTube and pulled out his back. That one has been postponed.

Are you single and looking for love?
Yes and I never go on dates and I’ve never really been a dater. No one has ever asked me out after show. Ever. I was trying to do online dating for a spell but people were asking me why I was on there and it was weird. I don’t leave the house much. I’m either at home or on tour so I don’t meet people.

Did the dates go well?
Yeah, they did. It’s fun for me to leave the house and go out in the real world and go to fun places and then call my mom and tell her about it.

Talk about your background. Did you grow up in NYC?
Yeah. I grew up here. None of my friends in school were into music. Everyone was going to parties at clubs and stuff when we were young. Nobody played instruments or saw shows. It didn’t happen until much later, when I was in my early twenties. Then I just started playing all the time. There was no reason why. I just thought I would love to be able to do it. I just started doing it.

How’d you become such a good guitar player?
I practiced eight hours a day for a long time. I never learned anyone else’s stuff. I was trying to do my own thing. I had a best friend who is a painter and together we pushed each other forward and gave each other the encouragement to keep going. That’s just sort of how it happened.

What shaped your music?
I listened to a lot of noise bands for a long period of time. In the early 2000s, there were a series of math-y bands that were all instrumental with no singing. For a long period of time, I got into that. I was writing instrumental stuff.  I guess structurally, it just shifted over and over on all these records. I try to make these records a little bit different. There was also a period in 2007, when me and a bunch of the bands I played with and listened to were coming up at the same time. A lot of those bands are no longer together, which is a bummer.

Are you in the tradition of Sonic Youth?
Not really, though they were an influence coming up. I guess that whole art scene is still alive. I’m friends with Talk Normal and I think they’ve opened up for Thurston Moore’s new band. I have some of those sensibilities. My stuff has gotten more polished as time has gone on. One of the bummers now for me is that I wish there were a bunch of bands that were all in it together. I miss that.

Your second title had such a long title but this new album has a much simpler title. What gives?
I haven’t even seen those [Chronicles of Narnia] movies, but I just write so many different songs. Everyday you have to come up with a title. Off the cuff, I just used that as a title. I sent it to one of my friends and they said I should name the whole album that.

Press does not equal listens. It does not equal fans.

Talk about the reception the album has gotten and what that’s been like.
I haven’t read any of the reviews. Press does not equal listens. It does not equal fans. I’ve been so fortunate to have a lot of people in my corner writing about me. For some reason, it doesn’t translate over. People don’t go and listen to it. I have no idea why. In the past when I read reviews, they either make me so excited or make me feel so low. I decided not to read anything this time around. I’m excited for the tour and just trying to focus on the good stuff.

What did you try to do differently?
A lot of it was a function of my financial woes. My Pro Tools wasn’t compatible with my new computer so I downloaded a hacked version and it messed up my computer. Anytime I added more than four tracks, it would crash. I had to rush and only put the bare bones parts on it. Normally, I would sit for hours and just layer and layer. When we got to the studio the engineer wanted to keep it stripped. I went with that because it was different and it made me very uncomfortable and I figured that was good. That is how this one took its direction. I was used to using lots of plug-ins on Pro Tools and he didn’t have any of those. The guitar has a different kind of distortion on it than it normally does.

Is it hard to reproduce in a live setting?
We’ve been doing it. It’s surprisingly easy to do because it’s stripped. It’s the older stuff that has a million trillion layers that’s harder to do.

Will you continue to work this way?
I don’t know. You always react to what you’ve done. If I’ve made a very emotive record, for a month I’ll make the opposite. I get that out of my system quickly and then slowly shift in a new direction. It just takes time to figure out what that direction will be.

Do you work in other mediums?
No. Just music. I’m really bad at drawing and everything else I’m really bad at everything. I was really bad at that when I started but the great thing about music is — and I bet every musician would say the same thing — is that you always want to get to better and you always want to write a better song and that’s a great thing to keep pushing you forward.

Upcoming 2013 Tour Dates

April 9

April 11

April 12

April 14

April 15

April 16

April 17

April 18

April 19

April 20

April 21

April 23

April 24

April 25

April 26

April 28

April 29

April 30

May 1

May 3

May 5

May 6

May 8

May 9

May 10

Oberlin, OH- Oberlin College

Brooklyn, NY- Music Hall of Williamsburg

Hanover, NH- Dartmouth College

Boston, MA- Great Scott

Montreal, QC- Casa Del Popolo

Toronto, ON- Parts and Labour

Chicago, IL- Empty Bottle

Detroit, MI- Magic Stick

Milwaukee, WI- Lawrence College

Omaha, NE- Barley Street Tavern

Denver, CO- Moes

Boise, ID- Neurolux

Seattle, WA- Barboza

Vancouver, BC- The Media Room

Portland, OR- Mississippi Studios

San Francisco, CA- Rickshaw Stop

San Diego, CA- Soda Bar

Los Angeles, CA- The Satellite

Phoenix, AZ- The Cresecent Ballroom

Austin, TX- Holy Mountain

Atlanta, GA- 529

Nashville, TN- Stone Fox

Dayton, OH- Canal Street Tavern

Washington DC- Black Cat

Philadelphia, PA- Johnny Brendas


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].