School of Rock honchos have second disc as the Marvins
Published: September 5, 2012
The Marvins' self-released Waves of Strange is available at themarvinsmuic.com and through iTunes. See the Marvins perform live at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Art & Apples Festival, in Rochester Park, Rochester; artandapples.com. Their record release show is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct 2, at Callahan's Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills; 248-858-9508; atcallahans.com.
Husband and wife Peter LeClair and Carmen Paradise are drinking coffee at their modest Rochester home. Multi-instrumentalists, their house is neatly packed with seemingly hundreds of instruments. They're a friendly, enviably laidback couple, comfortable in each other's company.
No strangers to the Detroit music scene, the two run School of Rock Rochester. Paradise is the manager and LeClair the music director. Many local musicians work for them. Korin and Augie Visocchi from the Hard Lessons and Eddie Baranek from the Sights, for instance, are faculty members.
The couple met at Rochester High School, where they played in the Sunshine Blues Band. Paradise was searching for a guitar sub for her during spring break. She found LeClair, who would eventually steal her spot.
"They basically replaced me with Peter," Paradise says. "And they were like, 'Well, you can still play reverse cymbal on the keyboard and stuff.'"
Though Paradise was "a little" mad, she and LeClair became good friends and began to play music together.
It all started when LeClair would tease her about her middle name, "Electra," making her a "Carmen Elektra." Oddly enough, Paradise has the same birthday as the celebrity model.
She made a joke back.
"I was like, 'What's your middle name? Marvin?' And he's like, 'Yeah, it is, actually.' I totally thought he was serious. So I have always called him Peter Marvin."
Thus was planted the seed for the Marvins.
Paradise shows a picture of them from high school playing a show and they still look just as laidback and approachable in their jeans and T-shirts. LeClair's curly hair runs to his hips and looks almost identical to Paradise's in the picture.
"I'm not happy about this," LeClair says about the photo.
The Sunshine Blues Band eventually broke up. After graduation, Paradise toured the country playing bass with her band Calliope, which was signed to Chicago-based Thick Records. LeClair, still a junior, stayed in Michigan to finish high school, keeping his hand in music everything from instructing at summer camps to playing weddings and funerals.
Some years later, Paradise was signed to Thick Records a second time with the Good Mornings. She planned to move with the band to Portland, Ore. But Paradise and LeClair were also playing as a two-piece. They had clicked and not just musically.
"Carmen fell in love with me and had to be near me," LeClair says.
"It was weird to have known somebody for so long and then one day just be like 'Oh, my god, I totally love you,'" Paradise says. "It hit us really quick. I was like, 'Well, I guess I can't go now.'"
So much for Portland. The two moved back to their hometown in Rochester and married in 2008.
"One of the things that really made us stay is that my brother passed away six years ago," Paradise says. "It was really sad. Actually, that's where a lot of our last record [Lucky Stone] came from. That whole record, actually. My family lives a block away from us. Peter and I both thought it was important to be here."
That's when the two became involved in School of Rock Rochester.
"The School of Rock came to me because I rented the Rock School documentary," Paradise says. The documentary follows the misfit kids in a Philadelphia program as the school's founder, Paul Green, pushes them to expression and self-discovery. By the end, she was crying, and soon after, she and LeClair had a cause.
For a while, Paradise says, they tried to figure out how to purchase a franchise. "We slowly realized we didn't have enough money to do it. Right when we were ready to give up, we saw that a School of Rock was opening literally a block away from our door."
Paradise wrote to the owner, and the two were hired. They helped open the building from planning to painting the walls.
"Seeing those kids rock out ... it's amazing," Paradise says. "You get these little nerdy kids that come and that are scared and don't have self-confidence. Their parents are like, 'Oh, they're never going to be on stage.' And I'm like, 'Just you wait and see.' Four months later, I get to watch that parent's face when their kid is transformed into this rock star and full of self-confidence on the stage, and the mom's excited and I'm, like, crying. That is definitely the best part, because then you see that self-confidence bleed into other areas of their life. And you hear the stories from the parents that say: 'Oh, my god, this has changed everything.'"
So, is it uncomfortable managing a bunch of fellow local musicians?
"It works because we get how it is to be a musician," Paradise says. "For example, Eddie [Baranek of the Sights] got to tour with Tenacious D this summer. That's the coolest thing. I feel like at another job a boss would have been like, 'Yeah, that's great and everything, but what about us? You're fired!'"
Not at the School of Rock. "Plus, we understand how musicians can be flakey. Whatever. We are too! We understand."
As for the Marvins sometimes they're an acoustic duo with just Paradise (guitar, bass, vocals, upright bass) and LeClair (guitar, banjo, vocals). Other times they are more of a band, with Sam Rice (guitar, drums) and Jason Demmon (keyboards, trumpet and vocals). They do a lot of their songwriting with their friends from the band Bear Lake.
Their new album, Waves of Strange, starts off with slow acoustic country lullabies and pop boy-girl harmonies. Soon the songs that evoke a relaxed and sleepy state (in a good way) begin to pick up more attitude; the lyrics start to get darker. Drums and electric guitar creep up, creating a garage rock vibe that shifts to funky psychedelic grooves, then to pop-rock.
"I think a lot of it has to do with being at the School of Rock and immersing ourselves in so many different styles of music," Paradise says. "When you direct a show, you're learning all this different music to teach the kids."
The Marvins have committed to promoting their new album by traveling across the country via train as a two-piece, hitting Chicago, Wisconsin, Oregon and other stops.
The whole idea of crossing the country by train is "cool," Paradise says. "You wind up talking to different people and hearing different stories. I'm the kind of person that's really inspired by that. I'm really hoping that, with this trip, we'll get some good stories and be able to turn those into songs."
Essentially, Paradise and LeClair work together, make music together and live together. Does that ever get overwhelming?
"You have this rock 'n' roll schedule of a band essentially that we're managing, and our own band on top of that," Paradise says. "Trying to balance everything, it's a juggling act."
LeClair adds, "The thing that we definitely have a hard time with is leaving work at work. A kid broke his foot and can't come to shows anymore, this other kid at the last minute told us he's going to be in Italy for three months. Finding time to sit down and like, watch television and, uh ... eat a cookie and play a game of Scrabble that's the thing that we have a hard time with."
Paradise explains marriage has made things easier.
"If Peter were making music with another girl, I feel like I would be really jealous," Paradise says flirtatiously. "You would be jealous too," she adds as she glances at LeClair. "No, you wouldn't." Paradise says, laughing.
"Nope," LeClair replies.
Despite seeing each other constantly, LeClair insists that alone time "doesn't really exist" in their relationship.
"I think we're lucky in the sense that we have been bandmates and best friends for 15 years," Paradise says. "So it's not hard for me to see Peter all day, every day because it's just what I'm used to. I think it would be harder if we had different jobs ... at least we get to do it together."
Rachelle Damico is a freelance writer and former Metro Times intern. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You Can Keep the Highway — This Rochester Couple Will Take the Train
Rochester High grads Peter LeClair and Carmen Paradise, also known as The Marvins, have plans for a three-week train tour this fall.
Peter LeClair and Carmen Paradise have traveled out west before. But a cross-country car trip has nothing on the train.
That's why the musical couple, Rochester High School grads who married in 2008, has chosen the train as their mode of transportation — and inspiration — for a fall tour.
"We could go on and on about the advantages of touring by train as a musician through our eyes," LeClair and Paradise write in the introduction to their upcoming Train Tracks project. "Train travel is more energy-efficient than cars or planes, it feels safer to us, but most importantly it gives us a moment of 'still' to sit back and enjoy the journey, and isn't that what its all about anyway?"
LeClair and Paradise are best known as managers of School of Rock in Rochester. They're married and have been playing music together for 15 years, known around town by their band name, The Marvins.
Tonight at 8, they'll play at Bean and Leaf in downtown Rochester. There's no cover for the show, where they'll perform music from their latest project, called "Waves of Strange," and talk a little about their next big thing.
Last month, LeClair and Paradise set a goal: to raise $5,000 to travel out west by train and document the journey for a collection of new songs and videos they plan to call "Train Tracks." With 15 days still to go in their campaign on Kickstarter.com, they've already surpassed their fundraising goal.
The money raised will help fund the tour and also help them mix, master and press their "Waves of Strange" album. Anything above and beyond the $5,000 will go toward helping them produce a record, because, Paradise said, they're both "vinyl nerds."
The trip will start Oct. 3; they'll make stops in Chicago, Milwaukee, Denver, California and Portland, Oregon. It will last three weeks, which is plenty of time for them to film footage for a documentary of sorts on the journey.
Paradise said she is overwhelmed by the community that has offered up support of their music and the tour.
"I feel gratitude from my overflowing heart of love. When we put this (fundraising) goal out there, it was so scary. It is overwhelmingly wonderful, and we'll do our best to make our fans proud."
The Marvins play everything from acoustic-driven folk music to unapologetic pop hooks. Their music has been described as road music — tunes that make you "want to rent a U-haul and move to greener pastures."
For more about The Marvins, visit themarvinsmusic.com
To hear more about the Kickstarter project or the Train Tracks endeavor, watch the video embedded in this story (you may need to reload to view the video; if you're on a mobile browser, you'll need to switch to the desktop to see it). "You Can Keep Your Highway, I'm Gonna Take The Train" is an original that is The Marvins first official "Train Track."
Related Topics: The Marvins