Music News

On Your Markers

So witty, so inquisitive, so downright loquacious is Elisa Ambrogio that a telephone interview with her threatens to unravel at any given moment, to turn obliviously tangential — not unlike the music she's made, until recently. A question about authors who influenced the Magik Markers singer/guitarist's graphically provocative lyricism on BOSS (they include Joan Didion, John Yeats, and Sylvia Plath, if you're interested) mutates into a dissection of The Road, Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

Digressions aside, talk concerning the Lee Ranaldo-produced BOSS (Ecstatic Peace!), wherein Ambrogio and multi-instrumentalist Pete Nolan veer away from the smeared, No Wave noise improv they'd been dispensing since forming in western Massachusetts near the beginning of the millennium, dominates the discussion. Though rawness carries over from earlier releases, the pair embrace conventional, bluesy song frameworks as never before, with Ambrogio's vocals right up-front for the first time.

"Almost a fault of the record for me is that it's so glossy," she says. "It was our first time in a studio, and [BOSS] doesn't have the same sense of air or atmosphere" as previous efforts, like 2005's I Trust My Guitar, Etc. or 2006's A Panegyric to the Things I Do Not Understand. Nonetheless, she feels like "there's more places for us to go using structured songs."

Nolan and Ambrogio's desire to move forward artistically led to the April 2006 departure of founding bassist Leah Quimby. "Leah left because she was not really stoked anymore; she always felt the Magik Markers were a live band, and she hated recording — hated it," Ambrogio says with a laugh. "She didn't want to practice! She's the awesomest person in the world, and was never meant to be in a band — she's like a delicate rose. She's still my best friend."

Ambrogio's voice hits a passionate pitch when she discusses the scene that spawned the Markers, an eclectic community of writers and musicians that included Byron Coley and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. "It was punk without fear of stepping out of line — the idea of something that isn't lacking in sincerity, of representing what's happening at any given moment."

She seems equally stunned that the bicoastal band (Ambrogio lives in San Francisco, while Nolan resides in Brooklyn) is able to make a living touring and recording.

"We're next to poverty level, but we manage okay," she says, adding dramatically, "It's not like, 'Fetch me another margarita, pool boy!'"

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Ray Cummings