If you live in Toronto and like the local music scene, then you should definitely know about Dean Marino. Dean is the driving force (guitar and vocals) behind EX~PO, which is rounded out by Todd Harrison on bass and synth, Wendy Leung on voice and keyboards and Bobby Lee on drums. If you are counting, that’s two Asians in a band of four. That’s 50% yo. Dean also plays guitar for Tin Star Orphans, and co-operates Chemical Sound Recording Studio with business partner/co-engineer Jay Sad here in Toronto. He also made friends with Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings a couple of weeks ago when they were in town.
I sat down with Dean this week to get caught up as he prepares for his NXNE show on Thursday night at the Boat.
What has been going on with you and EX~PO for the past little while?
2009 was the year of collaboration for me and a rebirth for EX~PO. On a personal level, I got to work and play with some really great artists. Most notable was th NOVELS project which included Luke LaLonde (Born Ruffians), Graham Wright (Tokyo Police Club), Will Currie (Country French) and Jay Sad. I also found myself playing and singing a lot on Graham Wrights upcoming solo album which we made together with Jay and Will in small chunks over the course of a year. Graham’s record is currently being mixed. On a more personal level, I established a stable line-up for EX~PO
Your last album, Central Meaner Street, came out in 2008. What is on the horizon for EX~PO in terms of new material?
Central Meaner Street was a pretty much a solo studio effort where I played all or most of the instruments. When it came time to promote the album, I had to find people who could learn/play my songs, which can be complex and layered. Since the band can’t copy my exact performances the live show became its own thing – based on collaborative interpretation. As it turned out, I really liked the live versions of the old songs, so when it came time develop new songs I presented them in a very basic way, letting my band fill in the gaps. As a result, I feel the new songs have tighter, fresher and more interesting arrangements, to my ear. So far, we’ve completed about 7 out of 10 songs in the studio. I’m hoping to finish the album before the summer’s end, maybe release it in the fall. In the meantime, we are giving away a 3 song sampler of the new material at our NXNE show. I’ve named the sampler, Everything’s Subject to Change. I’m only making a handful of these CDs.
I have a friend named Mark Jigasorus who once told me that he would kick a puppy for the opportunity to meet Sharon Jones. What were the circumstances around you getting to record Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings when they were in town a couple of weeks ago?
One of the benefits of owning your own studio (in addition to getting lots of spare recording time for your own project(s)) is that you get to meet some really great musicians and interesting people. Most recently, I had the experience of working with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Gabriel (aka Bosco Mann) gave us a call while they were on their way to from Indianapolis to Toronto. Gabriel wanted to do some recording “in a pinch.” He called a bunch of Toronto studios from the tour bus and we happened to answer the phone (it was 11 pm). He said he liked our website and started asking questions. We were like “are you for real?” because we are fans. He found that funny. The more questions we answered about the studio (i.e. do you have a tape machine, what console do you have, what microphones, how big is the live room, etc.) the more excited he got working there. They arrived 2pm the next day (one day before the their show) and we recorded for two days straight, working right up until soundcheck time. We did everything old-school and pure analogue (i.e. no computers). Gabriel, Jay Sad and myself had a good time experimenting with microphone placement and other recording techniques. Gabriel is a phenomenal producer and mixer. The band was amazing and awesome to work with. Sharon nailed the song in 2 takes. The whole time I was thinking “I can’t believe I’m working this tape machine and Sharon Jones is on the other end.” I kept missing my punches, doing silly mistakes that I normally wouldn’t do because I was so nervous!
Gabriel was really awesome about it though saying, “just anticipate it, man,” and other encouraging advice. It’s not my place to talk about what we were recording (until they decide to release it) but we had a great time working with them and they really are great people.
Thursday, June 17th @ The BOAT @ 10
playing with: Krupke (9), Autumn Owls (11), Modernboys Moderngirls (1)
Also be sure to check out the 25% Asian content of EX~PO, Wendy Leung who has her own show at Rancho Relaxo, Saturday, June 19th at 8PM