Antihero Magazine recently chatted with Cloakroom bassist, Robert Markos. The Northwest Indiana trio continue to transcend genres with their upcoming full-length, Time Well, which will be released on Relapse Records on August 18, 2017.
ANTIHERO: Can you tell me a little bit about how the band was formed?
Bobby Markos: Doyle and Brian had met at a screen-printing company they both worked at and started jamming off common interests in music. Doyle and I (Bobby) had met in our high school bands and been friends for a few years, so Doyle came to me about bass duties and I eagerly accepted. We wrote some riffs in my parent’s basement and showed them to Brian the following week. Those songs became our first EP recording.
ANTIHERO: Where does your sound derive from?
Bobby Markos: When we first started jamming we were referencing slower-tempoed bands like Codeine and Earth, 90s acts like Failure and Swervedriver as well as classics like Tom Petty and Townes Van Zandt. Now we’ve introduced many more influences, from Jason Molina to Boards of Canada, our sound is always evolving.
ANTIHERO: Describe the songwriting process.
Bobby Markos: We’ve never written a song the same way twice, but a lot of material stemmed from little jam sessions, or tuning checks we’ll do at the beginning of practices. Just riffs off the top of your head. Doyle tends to do a lot of writing at home and we’ll work material out together.
ANTIHERO: Do you feel it is important to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to writing songs?
Bobby Markos: Most definitely. Artists who get comfortable are doomed to repeat themselves. Like I said earlier we try to keep our sound evolving. I love listening to a band’s sixth album and being able to see a constant progression from day one. I want Cloakroom to sound like everything and write every kind of song. I hope we’ll keep changing as years go by.
ANTIHERO: Can you tell me a little bit about your latest release, Time Well? And where was it recorded? Who produced and mixed it? And the biggest challenges you encountered during the recording process?
Bobby Markos: For the recording of Time Well we built our own studio in our practice space. We constructed a live room and a well-stocked control, equipped with a bunch of great outboard equipment. Our dear friend and traveling sound engineer Zac Montez, who also happened to record our first EP, handled all the engineering and production on this new album. The biggest challenges came in designing and constructing the studio. We felt so home that the actual recording process came quite naturally.
ANTIHERO: Have you experimented with different instrumentation that you had never previously used during the recording of Time Well?
Bobby Markos: I would say we leaned more on keyboard-centric instrumentation than previously. There were a lot more keyboard arrangements this time. We also were able to have our friend Mitch Miloshoff play cello on a song (52hz Whale).
ANTIHERO: In which way do you think you have matured as a band since when you first formed?
Bobby Markos: It’s hard to say we’ve matured, I think we do a lot of things the same way. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. But I think we continue to refine and progress our sound, from in the studio to on stage. It’s super important to us to play well and sound put together.
Bobby Markos: It was great to do our last album (Further Out) with Matt Talbott from Hum. He was someone I never imagined we’d work with, and I was thrilled that it went so well. He’s super down to earth and extremely talented, so it was a blast making that record with him. I also feel fortunate that we’ve shared the stage with bands that I really like, from Pelican and Russian Circles to Nothing and Jaye Jayle.
ANTIHERO: When you are not writing/recording and performing, what hobby/activity do you enjoy?
Bobby Markos: We mostly work and stay active in our home area. We live in the National Dunes State Park area, so there’s a lot of outdoor activities to enjoy.
ANTIHERO: Who are your musical influences?
Bobby Markos: As I said early, we’ve referenced bands from Failure, Swervedriver and Hum, to Autolux and Depeche Mode, to Pelican and Sleep. We’re influenced by music that moves us, and every day we’re always looking for the next great song, so what influences our band is a constantly revolving doorway.
ANTIHERO: What subjects inspire your lyrical songwriting?
Bobby Markos: Doyle writes on anything from human mortality to spirituality. He has a knack for taking huge concepts that philosophers have been tackling for years and wrapping them up into a simple ride on a lawn mower.
Bobby Markos: It’s silly to think a band could make a living off selling records in this day in age, especially in the line of music we’re in. I’m happy that people have access to our music, and I hope they’ll come see us play and buy our record if they really like it. But Spotify and Pandora has made it easier than ever to share music with people, so I support it.
ANTIHERO: Who designs your album cover artwork?
Bobby Markos: Our first EP and the inside gatefold of Time Well were designed by Reuben Sawyer at Rainbath Visual. The cover or Further Out was photographed by Alison Scarpulla. The cover of Time Well was photographed by Carolyn Contri. Time Well and Further Out layouts were done by Casey Donley.
ANTIHERO: 5 albums you cannot live without?
Bobby Markos: This is tough to answer for the band, but Failure “Fantastic Planet” and any Longmont Potion Castle come to mind as repeat listens in the van. Personally, I think of Boards of Canada’s “the Campfire Headphase” and life altering and something I listen to every day.
ANTIHERO: Greatest singer/frontman (not genre specific)?
Bobby Markos: Hard to say, so many greats over the years.
ANTIHERO: Plans for the remainder of 2017 into 2018?
Bobby Markos: Our album comes out on August 18th so we’ll keep working on that. Plan to do a lot of live sessions and videos to accompany it. We’re doing an East Coast tour in September/October, and hopefully a West Coast run in November. Next year we’ll do more of the same, eventually getting out to see all of our listeners. We’re really set on playing the new material for anyone who wants to hear it.