Q&A: Asylum Street Spankers' Christina Marrs Talks Memories, Musicians in a Struggling Economy, and Fans Conceiving Children After Their Shows

Asylum Street Spankers have been playing folksy, backwoods style music distinctly branded by their own sense of twisted humor for seventeen years.

Yes, nearly two decades on the indie folk circuit. Not shabby at all.

After a good, long run, the Austin-based band has decided to call it quits. So tonight's show at Rhythm Room will be the last time folks in Phoenix can hear them live.

Founding member and front woman Christina Marrs talks with New Times about letting go, and a storied run for herself and the band.

NT: What's it like to do a farewell tour -- knowing that this is something that you absolutely love doing and it's coming to an end?

CM: It's been okay. I'm not as freaked out about it as I thought it would be. I'm kind of looking forward to whatever's next. The shows have been great -- people have been awesome -- just a lot of outpouring of gratitude and well wishes. People [have been] really gracious about what they've gotten out of the band all these years. It's been really touching, and fun.

NT: Has it been difficult? Have people been emotional? (On both sides. The fans as well as the band.)

CM: I don't think it's been too emotional. I think that most people would prefer that we would continue to keep touring indefinitely, but, mostly I think people are just glad to have that one last chance to see us. As far as the band -- it is a little weird. It strikes me every night. Like, "Wow -- this is the last time I'll be back here with the Spankers -- at this place, in this city, at the venue." But I haven't really been sad about it.

NT: That's good! I think that's actually kind of nice, and probably refreshing for the audience too.

CM: Yeah, well it wouldn't be much fun if everybody was bummed out.

NT: Have people been coming up to you and sharing memories and stories?

CM: Not any more than usual -- we always get that. We have lots of couples that met at our shows, or had their first date at our shows, or conceived their children the night of our shows -- not at our shows. (Laughs.) We've always been privy to those kinds of stories, and people have fond memories. We're hearing a lot of, "We're really gonna miss you guys and you meant so much to us." It's really sweet to hear that.

NT: What's it like to be the sole woman in this band full of men? What is that dynamic like for you?

CM: It's something that I've grown so accustomed to that I don't really think about it that much any more. Every once in a while I'll catch myself in a restroom, getting caught up in a conversation with a girl about shoes or something. It'll frighten me how little day-to-day-interaction I have with other women. (Laughs.)

NT: How has it been to be a mother on tour? I know you just had a child not too long ago.

CM: I actually have three children -- my oldest child was almost four years old. So for as long as I've been a musician, I've also been a mother. It is what it is. It's a job, and it takes me away from the home a lot. But on the other hand, when I am home, which is a lot more than I'm gone, I'm mom. I think it balances out. I spend at least as much time with my kids as anybody working a nine to five job.

NT: I know that you had said that it was just the time for the band to call it quits -- you've been doing this for a long time, you've undergone a lot of personnel changes, etc. But why now, exactly?

CM: Basically it comes down to finances, and the economy has just been really, really rough on us. It's more expensive to be on the road now than it was a couple years ago. We haven't noticed a huge difference in the number of people that come out to shows, but the overall expenses and the overhead have gotten to be so much.

Another thing that's really impacted our business and that of countless bands everywhere is this industry-wide trend away from people buying CDs; listening to more digital downloads and just outright stealing music. For a touring band at our level, those CD sales really fill in the gaps -- it's really the bread and butter. And when you notice a huge dip on the CD sales, it really has an impact on your overall business model. And like I said, that's industry-wide. It's not something that's just affecting us. It's across the board, and a lot of bands are struggling right now.

NT: I know you all play a lot, and play with other projects. What's next for you?

CM: I will keep on playing music. I'm just going to try to concentrate on projects that keep me closer to home and don't require as much travel -- that's where you really start to rack up the expenses. The Spankers' schedule coupled with me having a family has kind of kept me from doing any other projects for a number of years. I'm looking forward to dipping my hand in a few different pots, and having a few different projects that I'm working on. I'm not qualified to do anything but play music.

See Christina Marrs and the Asylum Street Spankers do what they're most qualified to do tonight, Thursday, January 20 at the Rhythm Room.

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