CARK’S COLOSSAL COVID COLLAB CREATES CRACKERJACK CHAOS
When confusion rock duo Cark formed in Oregon in 2004, it’s songwriting process was somewhat non-existent.
“Dustin would say something odd, like, ‘we should have a song called Soggy Nachos,’” says guitarist and singer, Josh Gross, “And I’d say, ‘okay,’ and then we’d play it. Whatever came out first was the song.”
While the material this creative process generated made for an exciting debut record (2006’s Superhellamegaepic), unsurprisingly, it didn’t translate well to remote collaboration after drummer Dustin Wasserman moved abroad.
“We really needed to be in the same room to play off each other properly,” says Gross.
And so they didn’t play much at all for nearly a decade.
But when Covid-19 came along, Cark, like so many others, found itself stuck at home and bored, and with no more excuses not to make an album—even if it meant having to actually write songs.
The result is Carkey Malarkey, a 13-song collection that the band spent the previously inconceivable amount of time of over a year on, and which will be released on January 21, 2022.
The songs include previously-unrecorded Cark tunes like “Shark-Wrangling Band” (a cowboy-themed biography of a rubber shark named Deepthroat which the band had improvised live on the radio in 2006), and a new take on what was originally their swan song “Can You Rock in Singapore?” about the unknowns of moving abroad, updated to instead address Cark's eminent midlife crisis.
Other tunes were penned from a shared list of title and theme ideas in a modified version of their improv process.
“I’d take an idea Dustin had from a Google Doc, record a simple guitar demo as a voice memo on my phone, and then send it to him,” says Gross. “Then he’d cut it up and add some things, then send it back, and I’d do the same, and then we’d repeat that process until it was a finished song.”
That produced pithy, punchy garage-rock numbers like “My Ghost is the Most,” “Tokyo Thunder,” and “Kaiju Mama.”
But since the recording process was entirely virtual—recorded directly to home computers using closet-sized electronic drums to create as little neighbor-angering live sound as possible—Cark was able to move beyond its guitar and drums format to include synthesizers and layered backup vocals for songs like “Radioactive Squirrels,” “Kuchi Sabishii,” and “What People Say,” that weren’t possible with its previous live writing and recording process.
Cark even dared a foray into power-balladry with “Rock it for the Sound Guy,” a sprawling ode to the unsung heroes of open mic nights stuck behind the mixing board.
Thanks to a process of file-sharing and video-chats between Oregon and Tokyo that weren’t technically possible in the era of MySpace pages when recording Superhellamegaepic, Carkey Malarkey was completed without the band ever even being on the same continent, let alone in the same room.
“Calling it an evolution seems like an understatement,” says Gross. “Recording Carkey Malarkey” was a different animal altogether.”
“It took me sixteen years to come to terms with not playing live drums,” says Wasserman. “It felt like I had to fully reprogram my brain to accept digital blasphemy.”
And yet, despite a flipped creative process, the album remains entirely Cark, full of the same playfulness, wild energy, and off-kilter sensibilities that drove the band’s early work. The songs are equally at home with painfully odd lyrical sincerity like “Radioactive Squirrels” lamentation of “why am I so screwed up?”, as they are with the shredding rock guitar of “Tacotronic,” and the blowing of fart-noises in place of an instrumental solo in the song, “Cark for Kids.” It is music that could never thrive within the context of another group, but somehow makes perfect sense blasting forth from Cark.
“What’s most important is that we’re amusing ourselves,” says Gross. “If we’re having enough fun, anyone listening will get brought along for the ride whether they planned to or not.”
And if the band’s new album is anything, it is fun.
The debut single, “Can We Rock?” and its corresponding music video will be released November 5th, 2021. A second single, “Kuchi Sabishii”, will follow on December 17.
Carkey Malarkey will be released by Tingle Finger Records to streaming platforms everywhere on January 21, 2022 and will be available for pre-order on November 5, 2021, along with the release of the first single "Can We Rock?". The band will tour if it ever gets around to it.
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