Sit Down Series: Mark Melicia of The Parlor Mob

Mark Melicia is the frontman for The Parlor Mob, a rock band from Asbury Park, New Jersey. The band has been together for over a decade and is stronger than ever, especially with the big announcement! They will be releasing their new album, Cry Wolf, on February 17th! (You can preorder now at parlormob.com) Prior to the exciting news, I met up with Mark in Brooklyn last month before they took the stage at Brooklyn Night Bazaar, one of the coolest spots I have ever been to. We had a great discussion and the topics include going independent as a band, life in The Parlor Mob, growing as a musician, marijuana and much more!

Alex Obert: You’re currently in Brooklyn for tonight’s performance. However, you had performed in Manhattan at the Gramercy Theatre back in September. What were your thoughts on that show?

Mark Melicia: I thought was really relaxed. We hadn’t been playing for a while and we had those couple dates in a row. New York was the first show in that stretch, it just seemed really relaxed. It felt really, really, really good.

Alex Obert: Have you played shows in New York City before that?

Mark Melicia: Yeah. A big part of our career has been playing in New York because a lot of our friends are here and it’s just an extension of where we live. I’m sure you know from living in Connecticut that New York is kind of the hub.

Alex Obert: With a new album on the way entitled Cry Wolf, how does it differ from previous releases? Now that it’s after the hiatus, what approach are you taking?

Mark Melicia: It’s really relaxed. Just about fun and about friendship, which it always was before, but before, we had to deal with a lot of record label politics and having someone else’s opinion. Cry Wolf is the first thing that we’ve done that’s just been the five of us and our opinions without any sort of outside influence. It’s just been great.

Alex Obert: What was the feeling like going back in the studio the first day to record the new album?

Mark Melicia: It was wonderful. It was just like being in a comfortable place. We recorded at this place called Retro Media in Red Bank, New Jersey. We did our first recordings ever as a band there, so it was like a homecoming. Awesome, so great.

Alex Obert: How was the comeback discussed and proposed between the band members?

Mark Melicia: It wasn’t much of a comeback really, it was just like getting together and getting back to what we do best. Just play music together. I think we all needed to take a break from the band for an undecided amount of time so we could develop ourselves as individuals. We have been a band for our whole adult lives. It seemed right for us to come back and it seemed more natural than anything else.

Alex Obert: What were you doing in and out of music during the time?

Mark Melicia: I’ve been working on solo music forever. It’s taken a long time, but I still am. And all the guys have been developing their own solo things and their own solo interests. That’s what we’ve all been doing. Now it’s great because we have the best of both worlds, we have the band and we have our own individuality. I feel like that was lacking for us prior.

Alex Obert: Were you jamming with other friends at their shows during that time?

Mark Melicia: Yeah, those are the friends that I would jam with. There is the band that is playing first called Gods and that’s Paul, the guitar player, Sam, the drummer, Nick, our old bass player, and Scott, who is a great friend of all of ours and who’s helped me produce my solo shit. It’s really communal, we’re all friends and we all jam. And even the guys who aren’t in The Parlor Mob that end up jamming with us, they might as well be. We’re a small, tightknit group of dudes.

Alex Obert: When you go out for the night, maybe go to the bar, what do you sing at karaoke?

Mark Melicia: The only time I ever sang karaoke was on the road, it was only one time. It was Down Low by R. Kelly.

Alex Obert: What has been the advantage with going independent in music? Did labels make it less fun and burn you out?

Mark Melicia: They definitely make it less fun because they were often thinking about marketability and crap like that. They weren’t trying to make us write things that we wouldn’t write, but they would just make us continue to write until they felt they had a song that they envisioned as marketable. So now it’s just about the music and it just cuts out the middleman. We have an audience and now we’re just able to make music and play for the audience without a middleman to complicate things.

Alex Obert: There has been discussion that record labels have changed where you need to have the hit single on your first album and sell a ton of copies, rather than developing naturally over two to three albums and building up a fanbase. What are your thoughts on that?

Mark Melicia: I think that any artist has to be given the opportunity to develop. As individuals and human beings, we have to develop. Anybody who tries to compartmentalize your development and focus in on one thing, it’s not gonna be part of your development for the long haul. I think that why so many bands that get signed to record deals and end up getting dropped is because they’re only looking to find that little moment of success. I think there are circumstances where the opposite is the case, where is that development. And those are the anomaly. But a lot of times, they’re just looking to find that one little moment, trying to catch lightning in a bottle and keep sifting through the pile until they find it. It’s fine, I get it’s a business, but for us as artists, it creates friction. I think we would use a record label again if it was beneficial to us but I think we would be wearier of the circumstances. They’re looking to make money, it’s a business, I’m not faulting them. But we would definitely be a lot more skeptical. It would have to be the perfect situation. But you live and you learn, like anything else.

Alex Obert: For the band’s 2008 release, why did you go with the album title ‘And You Were a Crow’?

Mark Melicia: In the song, When I Was An Orphan, “When I was an orphan and you were a crow” was the full line. So we used the second half of that line. It was one of the songs that we felt best represented what we were doing at the time. It’s just a nice little glimpse.

Alex Obert: What was the influence for the album cover? The imagery reminds me of a swingers party.

Mark Melicia: I don’t really know where it came from. We had the title and we had an artist friend of ours that we gave the title to and that’s what he came up with. It’s some kind of antiquey looking type thing, Mardi Gras type thing. He came to us with it and we thought it was cool. None of us are visual artists in that way, so it just seemed right.

Alex Obert: I hear some Robert Plant and some Andrew Stockdale in your voice, but outside of rock, who are your influences?

Mark Melicia: One of my biggest vocal influences is Bob Marley. He’s one of my favorite people of all time. Bob Dylan is a big influence.

Alex Obert: Which major bands has The Parlor Mob opened for?

Mark Melicia: We opened for Alice in Chains and Cheap Trick. We’ve done some festivals with some cool bands. But we’ve always been a headliner band, we’ve always done our own thing. We did a tour with Theory of a Deadman, but it wasn’t the best fit in a way because of our music styles. They’re a little more radio rock and we’re more just like who we are. We’ve made some great friendships with those guys. The guitar player, Dave, is an enduring friend of ours. We love him. All those guys are super, super. Not to say that their music was a perfect fit for us, but we respect what they do. Can’t knock the hustle.

Alex Obert: What is your relationship like with the opening bands tonight, Gods and The Gay Blades?

Mark Melicia: The Gay Blades have been a band as long as we have and we’re from the same area. So we’ve been playing shows with them forever. And they’re just good dudes. And they know the deal, they’ve been through the same ringer that we have. And Gods is some of the members, it’s other Parlor Mob guys. Paul, our guitar player, it’s his band where he writes and sings. And Sam’s playing drums. It’s a great band, it’s them getting to do their thing. Paul is getting to realize himself as a singer-songwriter. It’s great.

Alex Obert: In the past couple of years, which newer bands are you listening to?

Mark Melicia: I love this chick called Laura Marling, she’s a singer-songwriter. She’s wonderful. I’ve been watching her career since her first record and she’s about to come out with a new one, which I’m stoked on. I love Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys. I love Arctic Monkeys and anything that he does. I think he’s a great songwriter. I just got into Ryan Adams. I like his new self-titled album. I just saw Television play. Old band, but great band. It’s all over the place, I’m always looking for great stuff.

Alex Obert: What do you consider to be your favorite venues to play, perhaps some that you consider to be home as well?

Mark Melicia: The Stone Pony in Asbury Park is one. I love The Saint, a smaller venue in the same town. T.T. The Bear’s in Boston, love that place. Bottom Of The Hill in San Franciso. And I think tonight’s venue, Brooklyn Night Bazaar, is gonna be great. I think it’s cool. The soundcheck sounded great, it looks like a good room for music and sound guy seems really, really cool.

Alex Obert: How was it set up for you to play here?

Mark Melicia: We got an offer for the night with what it would entail and all that sort of thing. We were like, “Yeah, that sounds awesome.” We always play in Manhattan, but we always thought about how cool it would be to play in Brooklyn. This seemed like the perfect place to do it.

Alex Obert: When I researched The Parlor Mob in 2008 after seeing you for the first time in Hartford, this one review stuck out to me for years and still does. The Aquarian Weekly said: “Basically now is the time to go see them and say later on, “Yeah, you know, I saw them back before they took over the world.” Because the way things are headed.” What are your thoughts on that?

Mark Melicia: I’m still waiting to do it! (laughs) We were just talking about it because we’re about to be on the tenth year of the first record that we made. We were talking about releasing it. It was this thing that was only really released around home. We used to play these small basement shows, typical of New Jersey at the time. They were just garage, punk rock, basement type shows. And even the venues we played were an extension of that. Then it progressed after that to where we were touring and putting out records and all that sort of thing. So in that respect, it was accurate. That was a period of time with the youthful energy and it was all just different.

Alex Obert: How do you feel you’ve matured as a musician in that ten years?

Mark Melicia: Just becoming closer to your true self and what you really, really wanna do. I feel like as you age, if you’re doing it the right way, you should be stripping away layers of insecurity and just trying to get closer and closer to what your true potential is and who you really are.

Alex Obert: Is there more or less of a desire for fame?

Mark Melicia: I don’t know if there is too much of a desire for fame in the first place. I think there is a desire to be able to make a living and to be able to get consistent gigs and album sales. I think we’ve made the idea in our brains that we are gonna do this forever, no matter what. We’ll continue to build on that with whatever way it goes. This is who we are and what we’re always gonna do.

Alex Obert: When you opened for bands like Alice in Chains and Cheap Trick, did you notice people from those shows taking an interest and picking up the album?

Mark Melicia: We have a lot of people from the tour that we did with Theory of a Deadman and some of those bands that didn’t make much sense, everywhere we go, we’re constantly meeting people that go, “Oh, I saw you guys with Theory of a Deadman!” or “I saw you guys with Cheap Trick!” So we have retained fans who have stumbled into us one way or another.

Alex Obert: Getting back to the topic of ten years of the band, who is Frank? This, of course, in refrence to the band’s original name “What About Frank?”

Mark Melicia: Frank was good friend of ours. He was a drunk kind of dude that just disappeared all the time. That name actually even precedes me. When Paul and Sam started jamming together, that was just the first thing they came up with. It stuck with us for a while and we still have great reverence for it, we still love that name. I’m glad we changed it though. (laughs)

Alex Obert: Have you seen Frank at all lately?

Mark Melicia: Yeah, we’re all still friends with him. He lives out West and we all still see him whenever you we’re out there.

Alex Obert: Was he bummed when you changed the name?

Mark Melicia: He teases us about it, but I don’t think he really cares too much.

Alex Obert: That band name reminded me of the movie, “What About Bob?”

Mark Melicia: Yeah, we got that before. Great movie.

Alex Obert: So why the name change?

Mark Melicia: The name change was before things started to take off in a serious way where we were gonna have to do interviews all the time and talk about it. We wanted something that was little more representative of our music.

Alex Obert: How does one get initiated into The Parlor Mob?

Mark Melicia: It would definitely involve some drinking, I would imagine. We used to be hellraisers when it came to drinking and partying and things like that. I think we’re starting to calm down, I hope, but we still have our moments.

Alex Obert: On that topic, what are your views on marijuana?

Mark Melicia: I love it. I use it when I’m relaxing on the weekends. I’m not an everyday smoker, but I like to take off the edge.

Alex Obert: How were you introduced to it?

Mark Melicia: Just through peer pressure in eighth or ninth grade.

Alex Obert: Does it help make better music?

Mark Melicia: Nah, not really. I don’t even use it for that purpose. I just use it for recreation, a little bit here and there. To me, it’s no different than having a glass of wine. It mellows you out.

Alex Obert: What’s your approach to stage presence?

Mark Melicia: Just to be relaxed. I want to be in the moment.

Alex Obert: Do you find yourself improvising onstage?

Mark Melicia: All the time. I like to just freeform. People that I love the most, when you see them live or hear a live recording, it’s always different than the studio recording. They just reinvent things and try and make things different. You make it new for yourself and do what you feel.

Alex Obert: What was your first show?

Mark Melicia: I think it was NOFX, that was the first one where I paid for the ticket and went myself. My dad took me to shows when I was a kid, but I don’t know if that really counts. Maybe The Neville Brothers or something like that.

Alex Obert: I do recall one of the members of The Parlor Mob making funny faces onstage when I saw you live. That always stuck out with me from your show.

Mark Melicia: That was Nick, he’s now in Gods. We’re all still friends and we all still hang.

Alex Obert: Was Nick leaving the case of him wanting to explore a different path?

Mark Melicia: To be in a band professionally, you have to be at its beck and call. Whatever The Parlor Mob calls for as an entity, you have to be subservient to that. That’s really, really tough and it takes a lot of sacrifice and it has to be what you really, really want to do. At that time, it made sense for him to no longer do that. We all wanted to develop our individuality and do something for yourself and do something different. We have the opportunity to do that in our own personal lives, but when you’re in a band, you have to sacrifice some of those individual liberties. That doesn’t last forever.

Alex Obert: Throughout the past couple of years, did you have song ideas in your head that would eventually be used for Cry Wolf?

Mark Melicia: I think all of us as songwriters, artists and musicians are always constantly working on music all the time. Some of that stuff makes it out and some of it you forget and move on from. It’s a little bit of everything.

Alex Obert: Did you have any particular album influences for Cry Wolf?

Mark Melicia: Not so much this one. Other records have been like that, but not so much with this record. I think with this record, we were mostly just inspired by being back together in a recording scenario and we were just being ourselves. But in the past, we’ve had those, whether it be MC5 or Television. It was records that we were listening to at the time.

Alex Obert: What are your interests and hobbies outside of music?

Mark Melicia: I like to work with wood, woodworking stuff. I also like motorcycles, I have a motorcycle. And I like to surf. Shit like that.

SPEED ROUND

Alex Obert: Favorite one hit wonder?

Mark Melicia: Into Your Arms by The Lemonheads.

Alex Obert: Favorite album cover?

Mark Melicia: Burnin’ by Bob Marley and The Wailers.

Alex Obert: What’s your order at the bar?

Mark Melicia: Budweiser and a shot of Jameson. Simple.

Alex Obert: Favorite band name?

Mark Melicia: I like Television at the moment.

Alex Obert: What’s your New Year’s resolution?

Mark Melicia: To complete songs and finish ideas. Both my solo work and with the band.

Alex Obert: Which song do you consider to be perfect?

Mark Melicia: I love Love Minus Zero/No Limit by Bob Dylan. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful song. Simple Twist of Fate is a perfect song.

Alex Obert: Least favorite Parlor Mob song?

Mark Melicia: Practice In Patience off of Dogs. Not that I don’t like that song, it’s very much me-written, but I just don’t think it was appropriate for the band. It’s probably more like my own solo shit.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, what’s the latest word on the release for Cry Wolf?

Mark Melicia: It should be sometime soon. (laughs) We’re keeping it pretty open, it’s gonna be soon. Come to our Facebook page. We’re first gonna release it digitally and then we’re gonna release on vinyl. Everything’s gonna be from us, so when you buy anything from us, it’s directly from us. When you send us a message, it’s directly to us. There’s none of the typical buffer, red tape kind of things with other bands. I don’t even know how much that exists with other bands.

Alex Obert: Do you have any additional plugs for readers?

Mark Melicia: Check out Gods and Black Jesuses. Go to DavidJamesRosen.com, he’s composing out in LA. He has a lot of that thing on his personal website. ScottLiss.com, he’s a good friend of ours. He’s helping me with my solo stuff, he’s a great songwriter.

Alex Obert: In closing, what would you like to say to those who have supported you for the past ten years?

Mark Melicia: Thanks. And stick around, we’re always gonna keep doing it. If you guys keep listening, we’ll keep making music. It’s a reciprocal relationship.

Alex Obert: I’d love to thank you for your time.

Mark Melicia: Thanks, brother.

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