MSJ: Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?
Joe Markert: All of us have been performing in one capacity or another for over 25 years each. My background began at nine performing trumpet through my years in school – all styles from jazz to symphonic to competing in marching band competitions across California. My real life as a writing musician began with the discovery of Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration in high school. I was just blown away that all of that sound was being created by a couple of guys with a computer and samplers. This began my deep journey into synthesis, sequencing and sound design. From that point on, music was simply something I could not, not do.
Chris Camper: I was born into a musical family and solidified my infatuation with drums at around age eight. While working as a professional drum set artist in the 1990s, I graduated college with a degree in Jazz Studies and Percussion in 1995. Central State University (Ohio) awarded me top honors and gave me five years of extensive performance experience with an emphasis on marimba, vibraphone, steel drums and hand percussion. I moved out to the San Francisco bay Area from New York City back in 1996, and embraced my position as a busy working drum set artist playing in a variety of projects that spanned many genres of music in various settings. My favorite part about playing is to try and utilize as many of my disciplines as I can without leaving my place behind the drum set. I am trying to visit as many musical worlds as possible, moving from symphonic percussion to an ancient tribal drum circle to a melodic mallet passage, all while trying to honor the wealth of amazing drum set artists that have inspired me to embrace the drum set as my voice. Cure For Gravity is an essential part of this exploration for me, and I am so lucky to have Joe and Dave support me in these sonic adventures.
Dave Walcott: My musical journey began when I was about 10, when someone renting a room in my Mom’s home showed me how to play the bass line for “Day Tripper” on my sister’s long-unused nylon stringed classical guitar. A few months later, I’d convinced my mom to buy me a Peavey T-15 guitar (tricked out with a case that had an amp built-in!). I spent the next five years or so obsessively learning the guitar parts to as many Rush songs as I could. Since then, my journey has led me to music school, teaching music theory and playing bass and some banjo, studying jazz, classical. And all these years later here I am on electric guitar again playing music I’ve written with Joe Markert and Chris in Cure for Gravity!.
Joe Markert: The band, Cure for Gravity, has been performing together now for about six years, and this is our second EP. In a lot of ways, this CD is truly representative of the Cure for Gravity sound and represents a great launching point for the band. This album was written together collaboratively, and the sound we stumbled upon three years ago as a result of our letting our old keyboardist move on to other projects, and my shift back to keys as a primary writing instrument. Along with that shift came the root of the sounds you hear on songs like “Tonight,” “BlackMetal” and “Push.” We’re considering this our coming out party and can’t wait to start getting in front of more audiences outside our home town.
Chris Camper: I’m really proud of the album we are putting out. When Joe says collaboration, that’s for real. We developed these songs by improvising together and then rewriting and fine tuning together until we felt they were ready. Then we played them in front of many fans and friends and countless other musicians. By the time we went into the studio these songs were as close to polished as anything I’ve ever done. I am very proud to say that we took the best band performance from start to finish and used that performance as the track. I am so proud to present true performances without the endless cutting and pasting that usually drains so much energy from the music. For me we were really able to keep that “live to tape vibe” that I love so much. I am very happy to say that when you come to see us play live, you will hear what you hear on the album!
MSJ: If you weren’t involved in music what do you think you’d be doing?
Joe Markert: If not music, something creative, that’s for sure – production of some kind. I love to be creating as part of a team, working toward a larger goal. I’ve done some stints in event and television production, and I’d probably want to do more of that.
Dave Walcott: If I weren’t playing music, I might spend that time building guitar effects pedals, which is a hobby I’ve taken up in the past few years (and amazingly, am yet to burn myself too badly with my soldering iron!).
Chris Camper: If I weren’t playing music, I would be listening and going to shows and writing about it. Does that count?
Maybe Pro Bowling although it would have to be something to do with spending a lot of time around really, really, really good looking people with minimal clothing. And there would have to be good music playing!
MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
Joe Markert: Actually, the name “Cure for Gravity” came from an album title concept we had for a previous project I fronted, years ago, called “Separate Ways.” We had planned to use that name for our last record, but the end product wasn’t quite representative of the vision we had, and I felt it would be a waste to use such a good name on an album that wasn’t living up to our expectations so I saved it.
Years later when I formed this band that was one of the first ideas that came to mind – there really wasn’t much discussion or thought about anything else. We knew this was the name we wanted. We feel it captures what we’re going for – music that is cinematic, moody, atmospheric in nature that helps transport you somewhere else – escaping gravity. I also like the idea of trying to cure the incurable.
MSJ:Who would you see as your musical influences?
Joe Markert: It’s fairly varied across the board, as we all come from very diverse musical backgrounds. For me, I grew up with my Mom playing everything from Barry White to Barry Manilow and everything in between. She definitely gave me an honest musical education. My earliest personal selections were discovered at my Uncle Kevin’s turntable where he introduced me to Toto, Rush, and of all things, Hall and Oates! As I shared, Depeche Mode really got me writing music years later. These days, I listen to everything, but I’ve also found a lot of influence and excitement in other forms of music like tango and flamenco, which have helped me break out of the typical writing formats while still creating something exciting in our style. I think this mélange of influences explains a lot of the reason behind my pretty eclectic tastes and styles in writing.
Dave Walcott: Some big influences on guitar for me include Alex Lifeson, Jimmy Page, The Edge, Johnny Greenwood, Nick Drake, Alexi Murdoch and Kevin Shields. Outside of the rock domain, I’ve also been shaped and inspired by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans.
Chris Camper: I love all music that comes from an honest place, is passionate and shows a devotion to the craft. Even if I don’t necessarily dig the music, I have great respect for the artist who can present these attributes.
MSJ: What’s ahead for you?
Joe Markert: That all remains to be seen based on acceptance of this album, but our hopes are for increased touring. We want to get out on some support slots for regional tours so we can develop a wider audience. We’re also eager to get into the studio and begin tracking some of the material we’ve written since this album, expanding on our sound and challenging ourselves further. The next release will be a full album for sure and, we think, quite ambitious.
MSJ: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Joe Markert: I think it was tough for a long time to respond, but it’s becoming clear we’re sitting well in the post progressive rock category but with a mainstream edge and appeal. I think this is happening due to our instrumentation, arrangements, experimental aspects and lack of fear about going instrumental or exploring longer ambient sections. It just feels natural to us. I like to tell people we’re “cinematic, progressive, alternative rock ”
Dave Walcott: The release of our recent material has taught me that I have little visibility into how our music looks and sounds from the outside. Most of the recent feedback seems to land us squarely in the prog rock camp, and I wouldn’t have thought to describe our music that way. And the artists we seem to remind people of most are ones I wouldn’t think to liken us to. So clearly I have no idea about this one.
MSJ:Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Joe Markert: Most definitely! From a touring perspective we’ve love to get out there with Glass Animals, Polica, My Morning jacket, Porcupine Tree, Muse, The National, God is an Astronaut. These are all groups we think we’d have a lot of fun with. More locally there is a band called, “Astronauts Etc,” that has been making waves, and we’d love to get out on some bills with them.
Personally, I’d love to collaborate with Feist or Imogen Heap – I can’t get enough of their music!
MSJ:Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Joe Markert: Well, it’s both, quite honestly. Of course, there’s the loss of artist revenues which hurts, but given the new economy – free – the upside is it’s much easier for your music to get out there and be heard by as many people as possible. I think there are shifts ahead in the New Music Industry. I think there are ways to make a real living at this that are not dependent on typical structures and can allow artists to thrive even with illegal downloading. Fundamentally, you need to focus on a smaller audience, not larger – quality over quantity. There are those superfans out there who will pay for your music and will open their wallets. You just need to find them, and we now have the tools and means to do that worldwide. No matter what you do, there will always be those who will skirt the law and steal art – even unintentionally. You can’t stop this, so how to get around it? That’s the focus we need to have.
MSJ:In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
Joe Markert: Yeah, I mean – again, I can recall the feeling and excitement of a live concert as a kid – wanting to have that with me long after the event – or recording songs off the radio, even. I’d say it’s a tough one – that desire for this often comes from true excitement about what you’re creating and the sharing aspect can generate even more fans. Often today I say I’d rather have five new fans than five new dollars. But, the more fans we have, the more likely we are to find those SuperFans I talked about who will pay. And this can make up for the losses others present.
MSJ:If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Joe Markert: Ha, interesting question – and a tough one. I mean, we’re not into being in competition really. I like music from all avenues – the only bad music is bad music, period. If I were to take a more humorous approach, I might say Dave Grohl, if only because I get compared to him a lot, physically speaking. I think it’s the hair and the beard honestly. But, man would I love to share a stage with that guy – so, not really my arch nemesis.
MSJ:If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you’d like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Joe Markert: Oh man, I may defer to Dave and Chris on this one – they’re the more knowledgeable musicians in the group when it comes to individual performers. I do have to say, it’s already been done, but Robert Plant and Allison Krauss put together a phenomenal album. I love it when two artists from seemingly different avenues collaborate.
Chris Camper: Wow! Now there is a question that will be rolling around in the old noggin’ for a while! I’ve got to say this relates to why I’m so happy not be single and dating! In all seriousness, every band is a relationship between multi faceted individuals that are all attempting to express themselves simultaneously. I would have to meet my favorite artists first to see if I can even stand being in a room with them much less open up my soul to them and create music. However, It would be really interesting to see someone in the producer seat of the band that could add to our research and development of new music from a different perspective. I would love to get Questlove in the house because I think he’s a genius and has his finger on the pulse of so many genres of music and because he’s the only guy I could accept being critical of my drum parts!
Dave Walcott: I’d love to see what fell out if you put Kevin Shields, Johnny Greenwood, Matt Berninger, John Bonham, and John Entwistle in the same room (hopefully there’d be no brawls).
MSJ:If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Joe Markert: Oh man – OK – well for me I’d definitely want to see:Snow Patrol
God is an Astronaut
Explosions in the Sky
My Morning Jacket
Chris Camper, Dave? Maybe we’d have three stages? (laughter)
I love Joe Markert’s list!
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Esperanza Spaulding and Emily’s D+Evolution
The Police (another reunion tour just for us?
Dave Walcott: Fun question! The ultimate Dave-a-Palooza line-up would be:
Explosions in the Sky
My Bloody Valentine
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Joe Markert: I recently bought a copy of High Violet by The National.at Dave’s suggestion. I’ve really been enjoying that. And I recently grabbed the first albums by My Morning Jacket and Glass Animals – actually, have those on vinyl – so awesome. Oh, Nils Frahm, Spaces – so freaking good – totally inspired some of my recent writing.
Dave Walcott: Dream Signals in Full Circles by Tristeza, Signal Hill’s self-titled EP, and Snow Patrol by Snow Patrol (the latter of which Joe Markert turned me onto when he queued it up on my Apple Music during the two day drive back from Denver to the Bay Area in July after playing the UMS!).
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Joe Markert: I’m currently reading Slade House by David Mitchell ( the author of The Bone Clocks) – awesome read – but, just finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Man, if you grew up in the 80s you have to read this one. Then go watch “Stranger Things.” Actually, Jackie Dallas, the protagonist in our video for “BlackMetal” has a cameo in “Stranger Things” – as an aside.
Dave Walcott: Currently reading Tribe by Sebastian Junger and loving it. Also read and loved The Alchemist recently.
Chris Camper: I inherited a love of science fiction from my father, so any good sci-fi reads, bring it on! I have been thinking of rereading my all time favorite The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson about the colonization of Mars – so good!
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Joe Markert: The last major concert I attended (cause I see a lot of local artists live – like Emily Afton, The Sheshen, Gold Minor) was Van Morrison. Man, can that guy still belt them out! I’m heading out to see Brian Wilson perform Pet Sounds live next week – cannot wait!
Dave Walcott: Explosions in the Sky at the Fox in Oakland earlier this year – my fourth time seeing them, and they were as good (and loud!) as ever.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Dave Walcott: “London Rain” by Heather Nova (don’t tell!).
Joe Markert: Flamenco and tango – I just love those rhythms and what groups like Gotan project did to bring that front and center. I also just adore the classic American song book – the old big band and lounge classics – transports me back in time
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Joe Markert: I’m going to defer to Chris and Dave – they’re our resident ST fans.
Chris Camper: Oh Man! It’s rock n roll so, yeah, we have some stories! But unlike Spinal Tap, we are a fine tuned well oiled machine of professionalism that would never stoop to Spinal Tap levels of dysfunction! (laughter) Our Stone Henge is made in feet, not inches, and our pods always open!
Dave Walcott: Well I’ve never modded any of my amps to go to 11, but I bet the 20 pedals on my board would make good fodder for a Nigel Tufnel scene of some sort.
MSJ:If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Joe Markert: BT (Brian Transeau) – pick his brain on production and sound design, Nils Frahm, and – for a ringer – John Denver. Man, I loved that guys music as a kid. (laughter)
Miles Davis- the future of music and being forward thinking and out of the box
John Bonham- to geek out on drums and drum sounds
Questlove- knower of all things current music scene and drums
Dave Walcott: Nick Drake, Kahlil Gibran, and Roberto Assagioli: possibly a conversation of depth, art, and archetype.
MSJ:What would be on the menu?
Joe Markert: Oh, we’d start with some Burrata, move on to a wonderful seasonal gnocchi, head into a little arugula salad with seared pears and walnuts and then nice juicy ribeye steak and spring potatoes with Manhattans up, with Rye whiskey, as my drink of choice. Desert can be another Manhattan or an awesome ice cream sundae.
Chris Camper: Joe Markert, sign me up! Like now for real! I’m hungry.
MSJ:Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Joe Markert: Oh man – just if you like what you hear, get in touch with us – let us know. We’re looking for new towns to play in and people to connect with. If there’s a band you think we sound like, let us know – research. And share our links around – say “Hi” – we want to connect with our SuperFans.
Order Cure For Gravity here!