It was pouring rain as I walked through Brighton trying to find the warehouse that holds the small room that Kal Marks uses for rehearsal. I called lead singer Carl Shane, who came outside to meet me, calling at me from across the street. We entered the practice room. Christmas lights were strung everywhere, surrounding various sound and music equipment. The room smelled of cigarettes and sweat. Shane introduced me to the rest of the band, which consists of bass player Michael Geacone and drummer Nick Egersheim. They were all dressed fairly similarly—flannels or old t-shirts, jeans, and boots. While it’s hard to pin a genre on the band’s sound, somehow their rehearsal space and dress perfectly embody it—kind of grunge, but still put together.

Kal Marks started as the solo acoustic project of Shane, who enjoyed writing songs on his father’s old guitar (one that his father never played, in fact). Shane started recording and playing shows on his own, but eventually decided he wanted to have a more heavily electric sound, and started a band. Now the three-piece rock band has a distinct sludgy sound—they’re latest LP Life is Murder features heavily distorted guitars, loud drums and a very noisy sound. “It’s really just a gradual thing. Because like the first album was very clean but still electric. But it was just a natural progression, [from] acoustic [to] using some electric stuff. And then pretty much using an all electric setup, and then just getting louder…you know just progressing,” Shane said.

Two out of three members of the band studied music in college. While they all have different influences, they all cite jazz and modern experimental composers like Philip Glass as huge inspirations to their sound. All three members first started music because they wanted to play the saxophone: “I wanted to play saxophone because I saw Bill Clinton play saxophone and I thought at that time that Bill Clinton was the coolest guy in the world,” Shane said. None of the members of the band grew up with particularly musical families, but still started playing at a young age, going through multiple instruments until eventually finding what they wanted to play. Geacone says that the first time he really knew he wanted to play bass was not long ago, when he saw a jazz musician playing upright bass: “That was about like 8 years ago now, and I was just…mesmerized by it. And he was playing with a bunch of people who had played with Miles Davis at one point or another. And actually I got to go see them work in the studio, and they had never seen the music they were supposed to play that day ever before, and they just like put the sheet music in front of them, and just played like they had been playing for years together…It was just that level of musicianship and it floored me,” Geacone said. This jazz influence has carried a good portion of the band’s sound over the few years that they have been together.

However, the band says that they are most inspired by the other groups that they play and tour with: “Sometimes I think that a lot of the most influential bands are the ones we play with and the ones that we actually physically get to see” Shane said. Egersheim agreed, saying, “I mean like those are the bands that at least the last couple years, since I’ve been playing in this band and playing in my other band [Big Mess]…they’re just my favorite music to listen to these days. It’s like a community, kind of incestuous with each other.” They name local bands such as Fat History Month, Pile, and Big Mess as key inspirations.

Being in Boston and playing other surrounding college towns has also been a key part of their success: “I didn’t go to college, but I definitely think that college is a very important place for young adults to meet other people and learn. Not just academically but learn about what they like and what kind of people they want to associate themselves with,” Shane said. Touring can be grueling, and reception isn’t always great, but it’s always rewarding. For these reasons, the band has said that they would love to do a tour with a comedian as a change of pace. “That would be a really fun thing to like go on tour with a standup comedian…when you go on tour, you’re in such close proximity to each other for so long. That can be kind of grating. Especially if you go for like long periods of time, it can be a lot to handle. So definitely if you had someone who was professionally funny, that would be like a godsend,” Egersheim said.

The three young men are the picture of youthful hope, passion, and diligence. They are constantly playing shows throughout Boston and have been on multiple tours, all while balancing other jobs. “I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this is what we hope to do with the rest of our lives. I mean, we all have jobs, but I studied music, Mike studied music, but it’s not like we’re session musicians or anything like that. I work in food, Mike works in food, Carl works in the Newbury Comics warehouse. But those are all day jobs that fund this. Hopefully we can keep doing it. It’s a time in our lives where we can go wherever, move wherever. You don’t have kids, you can really do whatever you want. But I know at least I’ve made the conscious decision to not do that because of [Kal Marks],” Egersheim said.

Even with all of the success the band has had over the past few years, they are constantly working to improve: “I hope, and I think a lot of people would say the same thing, that they try to not ever believe that they’ve just written their best song ever. Even if I’m lying to myself I try to do that. There’s definitely been some songs that I don’t remember how I wrote them, and I’m just like, how did I come up with that? I don’t know. But I just try to keep on…try to be humble and just try to keep on doing what you think you can do,” Shane said.

Kal Marks is a group of guys who love to play music, and I left Brighton that night feeling humbled by their evident love of their craft. This month they will go on a tour of the East Coast and parts of the Midwest, extending their reach farther than its ever been.

Kal Marks art by Louis Roe.

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