Its harder to find a more enjoyable fellow than mister Mark Kramer. A few days ago he allowed me to briefly pick his brain about the release of Tender Mercy’s upcoming record, the closing of ear X-tacy and a few of his current favorites bands from Louisville.
Never Nervous: You’ve been behind Tender Mercy for a while now. How and when did this project begin?
Mark Kramer: It has been on and off for awhile. More off than on. Tender Mercy started in 2008 with my good buddy Andrew Mercer. We played a handful of shows and recorded a song for Dunkenstein Records Doctors of Dunk Vol.2 comp. Then, due to work and a new relationship Andrew unfortunately had to step away. A couple years of inactivity later I was talking to Mike Seymour, another fine individual, and although he had never played keyboard/piano in any serious way before, he offered to help out. We played another handful of shows together and recorded The Road To Good Intention Is Paved With Hell. But again, Mike has much bigger responsibilities to tend to and graciously bowed out. I’ve been playing solo ever since which I’ve come to find more satisfying than I thought I would.
NN: Your debut record “The Road To Good Intention Is Paved With Hell” is set to be released this weekend. Where was the music recorded and how long did it take?
MK: We recorded it with Trip Barriger and Duncan Cherry at the controls, split between two places. We started recording thanks to the incredibly generous Jamie Prott at Skull Alley in its last week of existence. I think that took two days. We then finished up after Trip had completed building his studio: Treehouse Audio. That took another 2 days.
NN: What bands/artists inspire you to write songs for Tender Mercy? Anyone in particular?
MK: Wow! Tons and tons and tons of them. Three biggies I can think of off the top of my head that really kicked things off for me early in life, just going by influential albums: the first Codeine album, Frigid Stars. I bought it at a time when I would buy anything Sub Pop, Dischord, or Revelation Records would put out. I had never even heard of the band, much less actually heard the album. But, it totally knocked me sideways and still does. Dreamy by the Beat Happening is another. By today’s standards, it’s totally unproduced, unsung, and unplayed, but it’s still fantastic. And Hot Bodi Gram by a band called Soulside – minimal and simple with a ton of heart.
NN: Is Tender Mercy always going to be your baby? Do you plan to ever expand the project with more members or even a full band?
MK: I would love to expand Tender Mercy with at least another keyboard/piano player. I would also like for each recording to have one instrument to go with the guitar/vocals even if its not incorporated into the live setting. Percussion, a saxophone, or mandolin? Something unexpected.
NN: You were an employee at ear X-tacy for an extended period of time. Do you have a unique perspective on the record store’s fate? Did you see it coming?
MK: I don’t know if I ever saw it coming. I was blinded by hope. Then I was one of three people laid off about 8 months before the closing. I wasn’t very forthcoming about it at the time because I was hearing A LOT of unwarranted and ridiculous negativity about the store and felt it would be used as another sign by all the haters as evidence that things weren’t going well there. It is still a void in my life. I was really hoping/expecting the store to last much longer. A lot of great people certainly were working their asses off to try and make it happen.
NN: Are there any bands in Louisville right now that tickle your fancy? Anyone that stands out to you?
MK: Rockwise, I think State Champion, Old Baby, Natives, and the Deloreans are totally making it real for sure. Ben Traughber is the best singer/songwriter you’ve never heard. Dane Waters solo and her band Softcheque are also pretty incredible. In terms of flat out awesome noise, Gangly Youth knows no equal. Anwar Sadat are so good I weep at the thought of them. Joan Shelley sings like a bird. Rachel Grimes has never played a bad note in her life. And King’s Daughters and Sons might very well be the second coming. Or maybe the first.
NN: Care to tell me about three or four records you’ve been especially into lately?
MK: Lately, I’ve been listening to an album called Sunrise by Masibumi Kikuchi on the ECM label. The new Grimes album Visions. School of Seven Bells-Ghostory. And I am eagerly awaiting the new album this week by a duo called Mirroring. Their album is called Foreign Body. It’s a collaboration between two of my all time favorites, Grouper and Tiny Vipers. Can.not.wait!
Celebrate the release of “The Road To Good Intention Is Paved With Hell” this Friday (3/23) at Zanzabar. For more information on the show, visit the event’s facebook page HERE.