Marksmen: Acclaimed rockers have stardom in their sights
(All this week, we’re spotlighting tbt*’s 2011 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: Marksmen.)
“I remember when we walked by the curtain, we were all terrified,” said singer Matt Segallos.
“What’s funny was, the first chord in When I Talk to God, my amp wasn’t on,” said guitarist Chris “Boomer” Brickman. “That was hilarious. The big E-major to start the show? Yep. The first song of the first night of our three biggest shows, the first chord, my amp wasn’t on.”
The band laughs. And as they swap stories from their rapid rise through the ranks over beers and smokes at the Hub in Tampa, it’s hard to believe this might be the bay area’s most acclaimed young band.
Music writers, radio personalities, venue owners, concert promoters, local bands, national bands – no matter who you talk to, it’s tough to find someone in the Tampa music scene who doesn’t love Marksmen. Since founding in late 2008, the Southern-tinged alt-rock foursome has racked up rapturous reviews, with critics calling their sound “grandiose” and “powerful and original,” and praising their “unhinged electricity onstage.”
It’s all a little overwhelming for the band, whose members, all in their early 20s, carry themselves with great humility.
“It’s funny,” Segallos said, “we haven’t really gotten told 'No’ yet on anything. It’s surprising to me that the doors have just kept opening and opening and opening, and there hasn’t been one where it’s like, 'Nah, we’ll pass.’ That’s been exciting. But also kind of weird.”
“If there are haters,” Brickman shrugs, “I haven’t talked to one yet.”
Segallos and Brickman met at Sam Ash in Carrollwood, where Brickman worked, and bonded over a shared love of the indie band As Tall As Lions. They got together to jam, and found that their styles meshed. Drummer Reed Murray joined the group, then known as Glasgow, shortly thereafter.
At their second show — an acoustic set at The Brass Mug, and yes, it was as bad as that sounds — bassist Glenn Espinoza said he loved their sound and wanted in. “I was hooked,” he said.
Segallos describes the band’s early songwriting sessions as “trial and error,” with him and Brickman working on an idea, then the full band fleshing it into a song. It wasn’t long before they had enough songs for a demo EP, The Blue and the Gray. It included a driving rock track called The Marksman, which Segallos says was about “a person I’d met and formed a relationship with. … The person was good at what they did, and I fell into that. I was an easy target.”
The Marksman (later renamed Don’t Make A Move) was, the band says, their best song at the time, and a natural fit when they decided to rename the band. With an EP under their belt, the band began booking more and more shows opening for national acts: Fiery Furnaces, Underoath, Paper Tongues, Anberlin.
In February, Marksmen dropped their first full-length album, Sister of Mine. It’s 11 tracks of pulse-pounding, Southern-flavored rock that drives home the “alt” in alt-country. They released it for free online, for two weeks only. It was downloaded 2,025 times — quadruple the number the band was hoping for — and has sold relatively well since then.
“We’ve actually had a few requests for vinyl,” Espinoza laughs.
It’s possible. Who knows? The band is itching to spread its wings outside Tampa Bay — and as more and more local decision-makers and national bands hear their music, it seems more likely that it’ll happen. But Marksmen isn’t feeling pressure to live up to their fans’ hopes and expectations.
“I feel humbled by it,” Murray said. “But I don’t feel pressured by it. We just want to do as well as we can, and hope for the best.”
“It’s really cool to see so many people behind it from everywhere,” Espinoza said, “because at first it was just friends, then other bands, then word of mouth, Internet. It’s mind-blowing to see how many people are so supportive.”
For now, the band is keeping busy with their music, already writing songs for a follow-up to Sister of Mine.
“We don’t have any shortage of songs,” Segallos said. “We don’t have any problem with that.”
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Video: Dirk Shadd, tbt*. Photo: Melissa Lyttle, tbt*