I still remember the first time I heard Marah.
It was the winter of 2000. I was sitting on my couch listening to CDs and writing reviews. I put their second album Kids In Philly in my Discman, pushed play, and within minutes I was hooked. Their sound was big and boisterous and joyful and jubilant, combining some of the finest qualities of early Bruce Springsteen, The Faces and Van Morrison. But ultimately, their songs didn’t really sound like anybody else — the lyrics were richly detailed street poetry, the songwriting and the arrangements broke all the rules, and the production was full of life and energy and momentum and vitality. More than 20 years later, Kids In Philly is still one of my favourite albums. And Marah are still one of my favourite bands. I’ve reviewed all their albums. I’ve seen them play as many times as I could. I’ve collected and traded bootleg recordings of their shows.
The one thing I never got to do was interview the Pennsylvania band’s founders, chief architects and sole permanent members, singer-guitarist brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko. And since Marah basically stopped being a full-time entity shortly after Serge backed away from music in 2008 to raise a family and focus on writing, I never expected to chat with them. But recently the stars aligned: Marah announced their first show in two years, a Christmas gig in their former hometown of Philadelphia on Dec. 11. And thanks to the Internet, I was able to track down both Bielankos via Zoom to talk about their upcoming show, the band’s rich legacy and even a possible future for Marah. Fittingly, Dave called from the jukebox-lit darkness of the recording studio, while Serge was hanging out at home on a Saturday morning recovering from a root canal. But both of them were kind enough to indulge my fanboy questions. Rather than edit the two interviews or string them back to back, I decided to run them separately. Enjoy. Then listen to Kids In Philly and watch the band in action below, hear more from Marah at their Bandcamp page, and find them at their website, Facebook and Spotify.