It's not a typical start, but when a couple of teenagers got together a couple of years ago and did a cover of "This Bud's for You," an exceptional band was born. That original duo of Nathan Bond (vocals, guitar) and Jonathan Nee (banjo, keys, mandolin) has since blossomed into a talented five-member lineup, adding Abraham Couch (upright and fretless bass), Jesse Adams (guitar, vocals, mandolin) and Dylon York (drums). And ever since, Band Marino's star has been on the rise in Orlando. They've become one of the independent scene's biggest buzz acts. Their tonic combination of filigreed folk-pop, an evocative sense of expression and a vernal spirit has earned the band two critical things: credibility and a formidable following. Until this week, what they didn't have was a recording.
Even with Band Marino's intense local momentum — they sold out the Social last year — a proper release didn't materialize until two and a half years after the roster solidified. When asked about the delay, band leader Bond resolutely utters, "By my standards, we weren't ready to record."
The protracted marination served the debut album well. With an ornate tent-show sound, emotional vigor and a rich storytelling quality not unlike the Decemberists, The Sea & the Beast is a remarkably accomplished introduction for such a young troupe.
The melodic poignancy that's earned Band Marino the adoration of their fans is liberally ladled throughout the 11-song collection. Though the group is known for its pop facility, Bond admits that the first pop song he ever wrote was for this band. "I had to learn how to write a catchy song," he reveals. That's not to say Bond was new to songwriting. "I was home-schooled so pretty much what I did was math, play guitar for an hour, English, play guitar for an hour," he says of his early kinship with music. Regarding the tenor of his teenage recordings, he says, "Those songs were horrible songs but they were all, like, nine minutes of who-knows-what-I-was-doing."
Arriving with great pomp and circumstance (the band plays two CD release parties in one day), this long-awaited album had the band members crawling through thorns of conflict and frustration to see light. Despite the considered, diplomatic tone taken by everyone involved, it's evident that the project was barbed with discord, impasses and Rubicons. Due to fissures caused by disagreement, Chris Anderson is the only one from the original team at Parafora Music who's still involved in the management of the band, and the recording process itself was fraught with friction.
The endeavor of birthing The Sea & the Beast began as a shared labor of love. Upon hearing the band play, the recording and production duo of Travis Adams and Dave Pierce (both of local act Inkwell) was so compelled by the material that they offered to produce the record for free. Of the pro bono service, Bond affirms, "They were doing us a huge favor by doing it." The experience, however, would prove contentious.
According to Bond, it was he and Adams who had the biggest problems in the studio. "It was hard, man," says the singer. "We were at each other's necks sometimes." A self-described perfectionist, Bond distills the situation: "Travis is an opinionated guy with a lot of ideas and I'm a very opinionated guy with a lot of ideas." Adams, however, attributes the in-studio strife to a lack of trust between the parties. Both seem proud of the result, though. Adams says the sessions hit their stride toward the end, and Bond now salutes the contributions of Adams and Pierce.
"I have to give them credit where credit is due," Bond says. "They really guided us a lot."
While both sides insist that their friendship remains intact, future collaborations are all but out of the question. "It was an educational experience," says Adams, "but I don't think either of us wants to repeat it." Bond echoes, "I can't say I want to go through the exact same experience again, but I don't think I ever will because I'm a different person than when I was in there."
What's not in dispute, however, is the band's passion and ambition, particularly Bond's. Discard that image of a young artist sparking with shambolic spontaneity. Though young (21) and an artist, he displays acuity when he speaks on matters of business — the band's future, label, management and so forth. Artistically, he's always looking to further his craft. Even on the eve of the CD release parties — billed as "Underwater Dance Extravaganzas" — he's already feeling the constraints of his current palette of expression and looking toward a more formal style of musicianship. But for now, everyone's focus is on the debut album. Band Marino achieved an important and hard-fought milestone with The Sea & the Beast, but their chase has just begun. And the scene watches.
(5 p.m. with Look Mexico, the Heathens, Yip Yip, Inkwell; 10 p.m. with the Wynn Brothers Band, Summerbirds in the Cellar, Yip Yip, Gasoline Heart; pre-ordered ticket-plus-CD package also available from Park Ave CDs and Back Booth.)[email protected]