For eleven years, Rochester, Michigan and its music-loving citizens (ranging from earthy, aging hippies to fresh-faced youngsters) have greatly benefitted from the relationship of Carmen Paradise and Peter LeClair. If you don’t believe me, get in a time machine and travel to summer 2008, the season in which these two star-crossed troubadours were wed to one another.
Many speeches were made, but there was one woman whose words were particularly memorable. “Because of you two and your love, we are the next Nashville,” she said, applause swelling up around her. “We are the next Portland.”
Now, while one can argue that the nascency of Rochester’s music scene has nothing on the aforementioned cities, the woman’s speech might testify to something even more profound than what she intended: Peter and Carmen have enough talent, enough influence, to make the musicians of this small town feel like we’re a part of something great.
While The Marvins have only existed a few years, Peter and Carmen have been playing together since the late 90s, when both of them attended the same high school. What transpired from there is an eleven-year history riddled with ups, downs, and everything in between. It’s a story Nicholas Sparks would pay to novelize. Peter replacing Carmen in the Sunshine Bluez Band; Peter rejoining Carmen in Lansing after the latter had moved there and become a solo artist; a time of collaboration followed by the two of them drifting apart; Carmen seeing the world while playing in a space rock band, Calliope; Peter playing in bands, teaching guitar, working at Jimmy Johns; Carmen moving to New York, then San Diego; and finally, Carmen returning to Michigan for what she thought would be a short stay, just enough time to finish a recording with The Good Mornings. Instead, she and Peter moved in together.
“When I came back to Michigan and we saw each other for the first time again, it was pretty much over,” says Carmen. “I don’t know how you can have love at first sight after having seen that person a million times, but that’s what it was like and we never looked back.”
After a few years playing cover songs together as the Marvins, originally a four-piece (featuring Sam Rice, and sometimes Steve Stetson and Kieth May of brother band Bear Lake), Peter and Carmen are finally ready to do it on their own as an indie-acoustic duo.
In July of 2009 The Marvins will grace us with a new album, Lucky Stone. A collection that effortlessly balances the Marvins’ infectious, everyday joy with the kind of melancholy that can only come from actual, lived-in loss. The music sees the band trying on different styles while never getting too comfortable. The rainy “Pen to Paper” features a haunting lyric from Carmen over cymbol washes and gritty reggae funk. Whlie “Mr. Foolish,” Peter’s take on doo wop, sounds like a country & western cover of a tune by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers. “Somewhere Else” crosses Mojave 3 with Moldy Peaches, and it would have fit right in on the Juno soundtrack, had that film been written for adults. And then there’s “Rudy Ruby,” wherein Peter wears his Robbie Robertson influence proudly. While “Rudy Ruby”’s lyrics have their share of somberness, even darkness (“You been dyin’ since I can’t remember”), one quickly gets the sense that the song is about shaking off that darkness rather than succumbing to it. When Peter urges you to “Get on your horse and ride,” you really wish you had one.
At first, these songs make you want to rent a U-haul and move to greener pastures. But while the Marvins would probably be pleased to see their music inspire you to take a cross-country trip (and “road music” is an entirely fitting description of these songs), listen a bit longer; songs like “Somewhere Else” and “Rudy Ruby” might sound like they’re urging you to escape, when, in reality, they’re helping you to consider the possibility that you’ve already arrived at those greener pastures. “I know that you want to find yourself in a place you’ve never been,” Carmen sings on “Somewhere Else.” As familiar as it all seems, this is the place.
-Brad Austin, Music Critic Extraordinaire
Today, The Marvins can be found in a variety of venues, acting as a two piece acoustic duo, or as a four piece rock band. Sam Rice has returned behind the drum kit, and Jason Demmon can be found playing trumpet, keyboards, guitar, bass, and whatever other instruments he can get his hands on. Contact us to find out how to get The Marvins into your favorite music venue!