Kal Marks’ music has always been weighty—grim, introspective, and feebly clever, their signature brand of punk is the best kind of thick, scraped-from-the-bottom-of-the-barrel stuff—but the Boston trio take a powerful new stance on their forthcoming Just A Lonely Fart EP. The band’s 2013 full-length, Life Is Murder, tackled existential issues with both humor and grace. Now, fueled by current events and deeply personal matters, Just A Lonely Fart truly digs to the core.
Lead singer Carl Shane spoke with Impose about the many dark themes that litter Just A Lonely Fart, a three-track collection that’s absurdly titled but melancholy in tone. “It Was A Very Hard Year” is the last of these songs; a gnarled, sweeping epic clocking in at over six minutes. While “Zimmerman” takes on political subject matter, “It Was A Very Hard Year” is centered around the minutiae of the everyday, and how difficult that can be to swallow.
From its fitful rhythms to Shane’s tense, pleading yawps, “It Was A Very Hard Year” gets deep into the heart of human existence. In this way, Kal Marks aren’t so much going political, as much as they are informed by their own lives, the world around them, and how those things intersect.
Stream “It Was A Very Hard Year” below, and read on for our conversation with Shane.
Just a Lonely Fart confronts existential themes but also tackles some contemporary political issues. Was it your intention to take more of a “political” stance on these tracks?
There is no political stance at all in this band. We play what we feel, and I write lyrics about how I’m feeling at the moment, whether it’s a visceral thing or a something that’s been dwelling in my head for a while. There’s a lot of heart in this band, even though we are all a bunch of goofballs. There was no conscious decision to make any political statement, we we’re just talking about the trial and other events during practice and it just seeped into the lyrics. Nick, Mike and I hardly talk about political issues. It’s not our forte, and no one wants us to be viewed as political band. There’s nothing wrong with being political, in fact I encourage people to do so, and educate themselves. But being a political band is a dangerous game. You’ve got to have a lot of wit, and really search for the truth to inform the song. As the lyricist, I can tell you that I’m not that smart, so i can’t really back up my words that much. I just say them because I feel like saying it, and the next song we write could just be toilet humor.
“Zimmerman” takes its title from George Zimmerman, and was written shortly after the trial. This was clearly a moment where people started identifying some of the major injustices in society. What are you trying to say on the matter that hasn’t been said before?
I don’t know if I was trying to say anything new about the matter, except that it seemed incredibly unfair, and these sorts of injustices will have no end. These things happen all the time, and I can’t quite tell you why. You give somebody some power who is not qualified to have it and things are gonna get fucked.
The title of “It Was a Very Hard Year” can be taken as personal or political. Is it one or the other, or both?
Personal. The song is about a car accident I was in. It was a moment in my life where I really thought I was gonna die and the times following it I felt kind of lost. But the song is also about using your own horrific experience to relate to other folks. We all have bad days.
“It Was a Very Hard Year” is a heavy track, like we’ve come to expect from Kal Marks, but there are some interesting new sounds happening (such as the organ sounds). Did this integration happen as a result of any experimentation?
The organ was just Mike and I dicking around. We both play organ on that track, and we don’t have much skill on the instrument. I had some ideas floating in my head, and I had a little to drink and no food, so I was feeling ambitious. I also overdubbed a lot of drones to the beginning and end. We all like multiple kinds of music, and I think we’d like to incorporate more sounds and styles into the band as we progress. I think we’ve been talking about the next record having more decorative sonic touches, as long as it’s not too distracting from the core of our sound.
I think people are conditioned to feel ashamed of their depression. That’s awful. We can learn a lot in these moments.
There are a lot of downer tracks on Life Is Murder, and the record is pretty dark overall. Still, there’s kind of a “light at the end of the tunnel” thing happening, and even some hidden humor. Just a Lonely Fart is an undeniably playful title, but it seems to dig even deeper into that dark hole (lines like “some days I just want to die”). Where’s the optimism? Are we all really just alone out there?
We are alone. We should encourage ourselves to be individuals, and then we can truly find empathy for other human beings.
I wrote the lyric in question in the song “Don’t Pussy Foot with A Pussy Footer.” It’s about how much I hate my job and how much I don’t fit in. I work at a warehouse and we carry a line of shoes that seem to be targeted for naive young girls that don’t have good role models. One of shoe styles is called “Don’t Pussy Foot Bootie.” The shoes have some toxic chemicals in them, and carry a warning on the box. Pretty stupid, right? Well, I receive these things and stock them all the time. This is what I do to pay my rent and the job lets me take time off for music.
It’s really frustrating. I think people are conditioned to feel ashamed of their depression. That’s awful. We can learn a lot in these moments. I’m lucky cause when these things happen, I can yell my brains out like an idiot about it in our songs.
The new songs we’ve been writing since have been more about finding empathy for the rest of humankind, instead of dwelling on my own personal bullshit.