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Houston Press: Tell us what music influenced you.
Robert Mardo: My parents had so many great albums around the house it was like a treasure chest. Sam and Dave, Jim Croce, Arlo Guthrie, all the classic Motown.
HP: That sounds like a great musical environment to grow up in.
Mardo: It was and it wasn't. You try going to high school when everyone is listening to Guns N' Roses and you're trying to explain to people that the people on some vinyl record are really, really cool. It didn't go over too well. Then eventually, some of the girls start to think you're a little cooler because you're into this other stuff, and so it works out in the end. And actually, our main influences weren't musical, most of them are visual artists.
HP: Who does Mardo sound like?
Mardo: I think the band sounds like Mardo. That's it.
HP: But you understand why people ask that, right, that they want something to compare it to so they can get a general idea of what they can expect when they listen to you?
Mardo: I think sometimes we get stuck into that, into comparisons. It doesn't allow you to really see where an individual artist is coming from, someone new who sounds just like themselves. We get stuck trying to compare them to someone familiar, and we really have to look past that.
HP: Most people in the business today come in thinking, "We want to be like XYZ band."
Mardo: I think that would be tempting for people who think they want to do it for just a quick year or two. But anyone who wants to do this long term can't think like that. Me and my brother have been doing this ever since we were little kids. I've been on the road literally the last 12 years of my life, so I can't say that we find the "flavor of the week" thing appealing. I never looked at myself as some indie darling, wanting to be the band of the week. We want to reach a lot of people out there, hoping that they see the things in music that we see.
When people come to our live show, I think that's where we really connect with them, that's where we get our audience, because our live show is so intense and there's so much energy there. We do have to try to transfer our live show to a CD eventually, but we know we can't ever really do that. Nothing substitutes for a live performance. HP: What's a song you wish you had written?
Mardo: Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."
HP: What's the best thing about the road?
Mardo: Everything. The road is our home basically. This is the best job in the world, and being on the road is a big part of that. We count our blessings every day. We never take anything for granted.
HP: Explain what it's like to be on stage to someone who has never experienced that.
Mardo: Much like the act of sex, you have to experience it for yourself or you'd never understand.
HP: What's your main complaint about the music industry today?
Mardo: I don't have one. We don't further the grudge and gripes of the industry. I am only here to try to create better music, better opportunities for myself and other musicians. I'm not here to point fingers and put blame on anyone.
We're in the process now to develop a way to get music to people for next-to-free. I can't tell you how many times I've spent $15.95 for an album and then gone home and felt like I was cheated.
We don't want it to be such a singles-oriented market. We want people to discover albums by artists, to get a better idea of who that artist is, not just one single. People pay 95 cents for a single; we want them to pay 95 cents for an album. We call it "Discovering Artists" pricing, and we're talking to the major online music people now to see about getting our music into the hands of as many people as possible.
Mardo appears Saturday, September 30, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease. Call 713-654-7846 for more info.