Dead String Brothers
by Kristen Winiarski
Detroit's Dead String Brothers
photo by Doug Commbe
Often compared to The Rolling Stones, the group, The Deadstring Brothers, is a mix of Detroit and London with a slight country-rock twang. Although neither of these cities reminds one of country music, the group succeeds in being a blend of country and rock, which is what its founder considers them to be. These two different, yet similar cities, collide together in the members: E. Travis Harrett on drums, Masha Marjieh on baking vocals and percussion, Jeff Cullum on bass and vocals, Pat Kenneally on piano and organ, Spencer Cullum on pedal steel, lap steel, and guitar, and Kurt Marschke on vocals and guitar. I had the opportunity to talk to the last of this list: Kurt Marschke.
A desire to create and put himself out there is what took Marschke to the next level with his music. He says, “I was playing guitar for other people and working and touring and other stuff. Just figured maybe I could just give it a shot. I felt like I wasn’t playing music that was really coming from me. They weren’t my songs. I started writing tunes and seeing if I could put something together.” Gathering a few of his friends, Marschke formed what he called a pick-up band. He says, “It was just kind of me and whoever else I could find to do shows. Whether it was one person or 5, just playing my songs, just doing pick up and then the band just came together.” The name of the band was inspired from a song entitled “Six Dead Strings” that he wrote which is not showcased on any of the three albums that the band has put out.
The first album simply called “Deadstring Brothers” came out in 2003. They then signed with Bloodshot Records in 2005 which released the band’s second album, “Starving Winter Report.” This album was released in England in 2005 and in the United States the next year. The Cullums joined up for the third record, “Silver Mountain.” Marschke describes how they met, “We (the band) were touring in England the first two years that we started: 04 and 05. We were doing a gig in London and we met Spence and his brother (Jeff). (They) are big fans of the same music and we asked him to try out when we were over there.” The auditions evidently went well and the band is set with the welcomed addition of the new members.
Marschke both started the band and writes the lyrics, although he admits, “Spencer on the last record and I co-wrote a couple of those tunes together, but up until that point it was just me doing all the lyrics.” And where do the ideas for the lyrics come from? “Just life stuff,” he says. Whether it is the frustrations or the desires associated with love or the rhythm of life, the lyrics tackle all. Everyone has felt what they sing about. You can feel the angst in Marchke’s and Marjieh’s voices as they complement each other throughout each song. Their front and backup vocals separate and entwine around each other, sometimes combining into the same conclusion.
When asked who influences him in his music, Marschke said, “(The Rolling) Stones and (Bob) Dylan.” In addition to those two, he likes to listen to “John Crine, Leonard Cohen, Nick Caves, Classic country, everything, we could just do a list of a hundred things I’m sure.” I told him that wouldn’t be necessary.
Drawing from both his life and the inspiration from other artists, Marschke is working on the next album. He said, “Summer schedule’s pretty limited, taking the summer off. We’re recording another record in the fall before we go back to Europe. It’ll probably be out next spring, finished by October.”
Any other hopes for the future? “Just make records and touring, that’s the game. Buy a house, settle down, and have kids,” Marschke says.
In the meantime, check out The Deadstring Brothers at this year’s 26th annual, Atwood Summerfest, taking place on Saturday, July 26th. They take the Maximum Ink/Ale Asylum Rock Stage at 8 pm.(5225) Page Views Dead String Brothers Online:
Dead String Brothers
CD: Silver Mountain Record Label: Bloodshot Records
• Purchase Silver Mountain on Amazon
• Download Silver Mountain on Amazon