Muscle & Marrow is a new band on the scene, but their first album emerged in 2014 with a cohesive, strong aesthetic that is already garnering attention.
While their core constituency is in the world of metal, where their hard sound fits most comfortably, their poetic, avant-garde approach to vocals and their post-metal drone orchestration are starting to get noticed outside of the metal enclave.
One of the most surprising things when seeing them live is how much complexity and power can come from a two-piece band. They manage to create a magnetic depth, and it goes beyond just their musical performance. Through the excellently well-executed screams, there’s a prose-like complexity discernible in their lyricism. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes of Muscle & Marrow, and frontperson Kira Alexandra Clark was kind enough to sit down with us and talk about what inspires them, frightens them, and pisses them off.
N&C: Could you tell me about your band’s name, Muscle & Marrow? And also the album title, The Human Cry?
KC: Muscle and Marrow is taken from a poem that I wrote. It signifies strength and fragility, fragility being something that I relate to and strength, or recovery from a break, being something that I’m just now feeling comfortable identifying with. It felt important to reference both facets of myself. An act of creation, although from a place of pain in my case, is the most affirmative, strongest thing I can think to do.
The Human Cry is at its core about death, or more accurately, our consciousness regarding our own death. The idea that our loved ones are going to die, that we’re going to die, that everything is impermanent and that this is the most essential truth in our lives is absolutely unbearable. Out of this anguish comes a human cry, or perhaps art, a spontaneous act of creation.
N&C: This project has drawn a lot of comparisons to Swans, Chelsea Wolfe, and Rose Kemp from various reviewers, but, while I can see the comparison, it definitely maintains a unique sound. Do any of these comparisons ring true to you? Can you tell me about your own musical inspirations?
KC: I respect Swans a lot and Keith loves them. I think what they do is really brave and interesting, their repetitive but dense sound, their sometimes seemingly total disregard for the audience and I am absolutely inspired by them. I also like Chelsea Wolfe a lot, but I’ve always maintained that I’m a lot wilder than she is, at least sonically. I want to come undone.
People don’t quite know what to do with us as we don’t necessarily fit neatly into a genre. I’m not thinking of genre when I write. Who does that? That sounds terrible. I’m influenced by musicians, particularly women, and artists in general who challenge me, frighten me, come unhinged, and have something at stake. I have to believe that you’re risking something. I have to believe in the world that you’ve created even if I don’t like it. That’s what I hope we’re doing as well. People don’t have to like it, but I want them to believe it.
I do feel it is important to say that having a woman in a band doesn’t make it a genre or a gimmick and that there is just as much space for women to make music as there is men. People have (sometimes) implied because there’s a Chelsea Wolfe there can’t be a Muscle and Marrow. That’s bullshit.
N&C: In a previous interview, we touched a little on how you’re trying to actively un-learn the socially ingrained values of quietness and prettiness. Has singing for Muscle & Marrow been difficult at times or conflicted with your upbringing?
KC: Performing in general does not come naturally to me, particularly when I’m being sort of disgusting up there. Of course I just want people to like me. I’m a shy person. I’m an insecure person. I’m also from Oklahoma, and no one ever told me I could do this. No one ever told me I could wail and people would listen to me. I used to write really pretty and sad songs because sadness is an emotion I feel comfortable with, but eventually that became less interesting to me. I wanted to be able to express anger as well. Currently I’m concerned with taking this archetype of an insane, hysterical woman and reclaiming that. Somehow I’ve gotten to the point where even more than wanting people to like me I want to scare them with this feminine madness.
N&C: While your music is definitely not pretty, I would say that it is beautiful. Do you agree? And what are your thoughts on the distinction?
KC: Thank you! I hope so. Pretty to me implies agreeable, pleasant, expected. Beautiful can be anything as long as there is this central quality that moves you. I greatly prefer the latter.
N&C: Artists have the power to change and shape our culture, and you are an artist with society and culture on the mind. What do you hope to model for your audience with your art?
KC: Well, our audience is disproportionately male (a consequence of playing heavier music), so right now I’m concerned with frightening and then winning over one dude at a time. I want to show them that women are in fact scary as fuck and strong and strange. In my most ambitious moments I would hope that our art allows people to venture into weirder territory. I want to destroy archetypes, reclaim them, challenge them. We’re all going to die. There are important things to discuss. There is a lot of art to make and not a lot of time. We need to act with urgency before we’re gone.
N&C: Can you give me any tips on how to cultivate a really excellent scream?
KC: Just think about the patriarchy.