Mar | (mär)
verb: 1. To inflict damage
noun: 2. The luckiest band in the world
Kyle Reidy is your typical six-foot-five dude. He’s a big sweetheart and he used to play basketball. But then things stop being so typical.
Everything changed for Kyle, who is from Harrison, on a youth group trip to see DC Talk. Although DC Talk didn’t really win him over musically, the idea of being a rock star on stage did. The next day Kyle quit the high school basketball team and started on his voyage to become “the next big thing.” What follows is a bizarre story of the luckiest band in the world.
When Kyle first told this story to me, I didn’t really believe it. In fact, I had to have Kyle come back to my house and tell it again because it sounded like a tall tale, and considering his height, I’d figured it was. And at the end of it all he tells me: “It sounds like such a B.S. story, but there’s no other way for me to put it.” I believe him. I’ve met the Mar fans—Mar is his band. I’ve been to shows. I have the album and I know why it’s working. But I can’t explain it, so I’m just going to say it’s luck. Here’s the story.
Decidedly done with sports, Kyle started a band that lasted seven years. Music just felt right. Here’s where the luck begins. His sister married a record producer, Joe Forte, from Charlotte, N.C. Feeling the need to get out of Arkansas, Kyle moved to Charlotte to pursue his dream.
In Charlotte, his record producer brother-in-law was busy with projects and Kyle found himself working at a coffee shop and living in a home that he couldn’t afford. On the day he decides to turn in his two-week notice at the coffee shop, while waiting for his boss to come in, a guy walks in with long hair, piercings and wearing an O.C. Supertones T-Shirt. For no particular reason, the man comes up to Kyle.
‘Do you play music?’ he asks. Of course Kyle did, after all that’s why he moved to North Carolina.
‘Are you looking for a manager?’ came the next question from the stranger.
‘I guess?’ Kyle responds.
The stranger continues. ‘I’m going to book you a show a week from tomorrow.’
‘Okay. Why not?’ thought Kyle. Not one to be fooled, Kyle does some checking up on this supposed manager considering he hadn’t heard a lick of Kyle’s music. People give this manager—Eric St. Clair—some great praise and Kyle feels better. It’s show time. It turns out that Kyle did his first acoustic show ever opening up for Michael Knott of Social Distortion. Michael was a big Leonard Cohen fan and Kyle just happened to cover a song by Cohen. After the show, Kyle ends up backstage feeling kinda like a rock star with his manager and his manager’s assistant in tow to meet Michael, who promptly holds out his hand and offers Kyle a record deal.
‘Oh my God,’ Kyle thinks.
Eric, all teary-eyed, looks to Kyle and says, ‘Man, I told you you’d make it.’
‘I guess?’ Kyle says.
“But don’t take it,” Eric says to Kyle’s surprise. “You’re going to get something better.”
And so Kyle decides to stick with his manager’s advice, considering how far Eric had gotten him in just eight days. Kyle turns down the record deal.
From this point, Kyle’s main focus was to put together a band. The band ended up being Mar, a band inspired by Sigur Rós, Múm, and The Album Leaf. Mar started getting noticed in the Charlotte music scene.
Kyle then began dreaming up ideas about how he wants to make an album and record it in Iceland, getting musicians from the bands he admired to be a part of the album.
Eric owned a club in downtown Charlotte, Neighborhood Theater, so Kyle hands the booking agent a list of 25 bands to try and book at the venue. Turns out the only bands that were booked out of the 25 were The Album Leaf and Múm.
Luck kicks in again. Before the Mum show, Kyle musters the courage to ask Samuli Kosminen, drummer for Múm, what it would take for him to play on a record.
‘Well, I don’t really do that, Samuli replies. “I mean, I played on Emiliana Torrini’s last record, but that’s because she’s a friend.’ Never mind that he arranges for the likes of the Kronos Quartet. That’s tough for even a kid as big as Kyle to compete with.
So Kyle asks Samuli if he would stick around for the Mar show, trying not to gush about how much of an influence Samuli’s music has had on his own music. Samuli agrees and Mar puts on their best show ever, playing as if the world would stop spinning if they didn’t play their best. Low and behold, after the show, Samuli had reconsidered Kyle offer.
‘What would you think about recording in Iceland?’ Samuli asks Kyle.
The next week, The Album Leaf shows up to play their show and Kyle asks Jimmy LaValle, the keyboard player ‘Hey, I’m recording an album with Mum in Iceland. Do you want to go?’
‘I love Iceland! LaValle replies. ‘Let’s go.’
Somehow word gets around to Sigur Rós and Kyle finds himself on the phone with Eric and Rós’ producer negotiating the use of the Sigur Ros studio in Iceland to record Mar’s album. Now, the story could end there and you can find yourself saying, ‘Wow, that’s a great story’ and you’d be right. But that’s not the end of this fairytale.
Although the use of the Sigur Ros studio fell through, Sigur Ros enabled Mar to find another studio in Iceland, Syrland Studios in Reykjavik, where they could record. Once there, Eric pulls Kyle aside one morning before one of the recording session and tells Kyle they’re out of money. Kyle figures, ‘Well, I’m Iceland so I’m going to record one more day and figure it out later.’ But he didn’t have to figure it out for long, because by lunch, Eric was back with good news. A Mar fan from Charlotte would help fund the recording. How’s that for luck!
Back in Charlotte, Kyle realizes he hates the album. This is the artist’s curse. How could he hate it? Think about everything that went into it! And so the album was shelved for seven months. Members of the band dropped out Kyle started to loathe Charlotte.
‘I’m going back to Arkansas,’ Kyle decided.
He finds himself in Fayetteville with a copy of the finished album. His girlfriend discovers MySpace and says, ‘Hey, you should put Mar on this site and see what happens.’
‘I guess?’ Kyle thinks.
The response was immediately overwhelming. A fan offered to make artwork for the album for free, and then Kyle puts the album on pre-order. There were enough orders to print the CD in a matter of weeks. An e-mail comes in from a guy in California asking to put Mar CDs in his store. He orders 30. Turns out the record store was Amoeba Records in Hollywood. The CDs sold out in a day. Another 30 were gone in three days. Distributors started calling because Mar sold 60 CDs at Amoeba records in a week. Checks start coming in. Mar was a success!
Time moves on and more and more albums sell. Distributors from all over the world chime in wanting to carry the album and wanting a piece of the Mar pie. Distributors like Junkit Boy and Canned America in the U.S., Greed in Canada, Shell Shock and Dotshop in Europe and Thomason Sound in Japan all jumped in.
But the itch is starting to grow again. New ideas and daydreams grow in Kyle’s head on how the next album is going to come together. This time though, things are gonna be small, intimate, and relaxed. But, the luck is still rolling.
Kyle said that cellist Zoë Keating called him to say she wanted to be on the album. Composer and violinist Anton Patzner who has been playing with Bright Eyes, called to say, ‘Hey, my tour manager booked me a flight to Northwest Arkansas!’
With all of the pieces in place, the second Mar album now being recorded right here in Arkansas, nothing seems to be stopping Kyle from following his dreams of being a basketball star turned rock star.
Daniel Coston, a Charlotte based photographer whose photographs have been featured in publications like Rolling Stone and People, accompanied Mar to Iceland for the recording sessions.
“Their music has always suggested to me a wide palette of emotional landscapes,” Coston said. “No other band I’ve ever worked with has sounded like them. I really hope that the new record that Kyle is working on now takes them to wherever they want to go.”