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Interview: Macie Stewart on Marrow's next move

Photograph: Charles Nolis Anderson Marrow

Boasting three members who once played with the hip-hop and rock fusion act Kids These Days (where rapper Vic Mensa got his start), the musicians who make up Marrow are a hot commodity. The band—which features guitarist Liam Kazar, keyboardist Macie Stewart, bassist Lane Beckstrom and drummer Matt Carroll—recorded their debut album, The Gold Standard, last year. The record wasn't released until September of 2015, giving Kazar, Stewart and Beckstrom time to hit the road with acts like Tweedy and Chance the Rapper. We spoke with Stewart about making a record without outside assistance and how the vibrant Chicago music scene has helped inspire Marrow's expansive sound.

Coming out of Kids These Days, what inspired you to continue working with Lane Beckstrom and Liam Kazar?
I was always very close with them and we listened to a lot of the same music. When Kids These Days ended, Liam called up Lane and I and said “I still want to play music with you guys, so if you also want to play music with me, we should just keep going.”

You self-produced The Gold Standard in Kazar’s Foxhall studio. Was it intimidating to record an album without a producer?
We had some experience recording before—we made a couple records with Kids These Days. It was definitely a new experience, especially because it was a new space and we had to figure out how the studio worked. Things took longer than normal because we were experimenting with different sounds, different placements of instruments and trying to see how everything worked together.

How did it feel to not be constricted in terms of time or budget?
It’s definitely freeing when you don’t have to look at the clock and count how much you’re spending each minute. When you have an endless amount of time to work on something, that means you can try every single idea—the hard part is learning how to find the good ideas. It was nice to be able to work without any economic constraints, but we had to make sure we weren’t going crazy with each song.

Kazar has spent time on the road with Tweedy, and you’ve toured with Chance the Rapper and play in a duo called Homme. How have these outside projects influenced Marrow?
In Homme, I play guitar—I wouldn’t call myself a master guitar player, but it allows me to arrange things for two people, informs how I write music for Marrow and gives me a better idea of space. In Tweedy, Liam mostly plays keyboards, so I think that helps him understand where keys fit in with arrangements. Mostly, it helps us educate our ears and makes us better listeners.

Now that The Gold Standard is out, how are you approaching your next project?
For this new record we’re working on, it’s a bit more collaborative because we’ve learned how to work with each other. We’ve had time to write material and play on the road. December is the perfect time to sit in the basement and write songs—we’re trying to get on that schedule where you record in the winter, tour in the fall and spring and play some festivals in the summer.

What's it like making music in a city with such a tight-knit music scene?
I like being able to stretch my abilities and I think that Chicago has an amazing musical community right now. There are people like Chance, Sima Cunningham, the dudes in Whitney and Grandkids. The benefit of having a community like that is that everyone is so supportive. People come out to everyone’s shows and want to work with other people. It keeps things fresh to have so many people who are so close and working on such vastly different musical projects.

Marrow celebrates the release of The Gold Standard with Al Scorch at Lincoln Hall on November 27.