Maridee & Marlon launch an EP tonight

Local singer Maridee Nox and German-born producer Marlon Kroll give some context to their electro-soul alchemy.

Maridee & Marlon Photo

Maridee & Marlon. Photo by Renji Condore

Local singer Maridee and German production export Marlon Kroll launch an EP called Nox, a genre-bending celebration of electronic textures and soulful vocals, with a free 5 à 8 tonight in the Old Port.

I was familiar with Maridee’s incredible range so when her counterpart Marlon approached me about the launch, my ears were wide open. The pair agreed to an interview to give Cult MTL readers a glimpse at their backgrounds and their collaborative approach, and frankly some of their answers blew us the fuck away.

Darcy MacDonald: Can each of you please provide some background about of your musical upbringing?

Maridee: Way back as kids, we’d make home-made radio shows with the sisters. Instead of putting on songs, we’d sing them. Then came piano and cello. Singing was never really the main dish until late 2011, after my first visit at a recording studio.

Marlon: I grew up with a musician father, who found success in the ’90s playing with German industrial band KMFDM. So, from my very first memories, music played a big role. He’d get me to try and play my baby guitar or actively participate in my piano lessons, but it wasn’t until my elementary school band class that I got the bug. There, I was tasked with playing the bass, and it all started there; I progressed from bass to guitar, to learning any solo or riff I could. Although I played with a few bands growing up, my continual difficulty finding the “right” collaborators led me to begin producing, in an effort to shape the sound I wanted seeing that I couldn’t find the group with which to do it.

So through the years I picked up a few more instruments, but never to become a soloist, just proficient enough so I that I can craft the whole sound.

DM: How did you meet and how did you begin to collaborate?

Maridee: We worked at the same restaurant. Before opening, I’d put on whatever music I was into and one day it was Gil Scott Heron, and Marlon brought up D’Angelo, Mos Def and Saul Williams all in the same 30 seconds. I was like “Okay, hi.” Then we found out we both actually made music. We didn’t need much more convincing to collaborate, even without the slightest idea of what the outcome would be.

DM: There is a ton of emotion happening on these songs — the quality here isn’t by accident. What do you most appreciate about each other, and what most keeps you on your toes about one another, creatively?

Maridee: Artistically, Marlon is boundary-less and it’s inspiring. He comes up with lines and colours that I never expect. He’s a very, very surprising guy, and it’s a consistent thing, which is rare. His skippy grooves and use of samples is very challenging for writing songs, in a good way. And the collaborative production makes our work become something more than just the sum of our two visions.

Marlon: For me, the challenge is basically to make something worthy of her melodies, voice and lyrics. We share a mutual admiration for some incredible artists, and I know that she’s at that level vocally, so I’m really just trying to not let that talent down, ya know? Making music with her is a pleasure and a surprise; I might bring over a little idea, and her spin will not only be brilliant but also completely unexpected, sparking new ideas, from arrangements, to harmony, beat changes, instrumentation, whatever.

DM: Maridee, I love “the Fugees, Aretha Franklin, James Elmore, the Sam Roberts Band and Dubmatique” as stated influences — a line I skip over in 99.9 per cent of artist bios. But seriously, that is a wide scope of influence. What specifically about each of those artists influences you as a singer/writer/performer?

Maridee: Thank you! I was really lucky to be exposed to all sorts of stuff growing up. All the artists I name were enablers for me to discover a new genre: the Fugees and Lauryn Hill is, well it’s just holy hip hop/soul. I cannot clean my house without blasting some Aretha Franklin. James Elmore’s The Sky Is Crying, and just good blues in general, is all about the essence, the energy and the truth of music. I crave good melodies and Sam Roberts manages to keep them coming! I wouldn’t say they influenced my current music, but Dubmatique was rap that I could understand and appreciate that artform to this day.

All genres have something to bring to each other, which is the idea behind this collab.

DM: Similarly, Marlon, I was taken with the line “he is here to convince you of something, subliminally or upfront” in your bio. How would you define the difference between these approaches, and how, as a producer, do you weave that together, if that is a stated objective?

Marlon: I think that that quality might be more explicit in my solo music, being that it is often repetitive and more “dance” orientated. It tries to convince you in the sense that it’s repetitive and unrelenting, driving the same melody through your skull over and over, and that melody being a juxtaposition of often light-hearted or somber melodies with aggressive beats and this strange darkness that I can’t quite put my finger on. I guess this thought might be inspired by artists like Shepard Farey and his “Obey” images.

But, as you said earlier, that element is found on this release as well–some sort of strange anxiety I put into my music–and the contrast between Mari’s wonderful melodies is perhaps where the really interesting things begin. To cap it off, I’d say the difference between the two is whether or not you know somebody is trying to convince you, and whether or not you’re ok with it, haha.

DM: What are you each most proud of with this project?

Marlon: I was amazed that we got to feature so many friends on this recording. We’ve got local singer Pierre Kwenders on a track, jazz musicians Jean-Michel Frederic, Danny Dwayne, Drey Sax, Tom Elisoff, and as the biggest surprise to me, Preston Crump on bass. This guy shaped my love for music really; he’s all over the Outkast albums from Atliens through to Stankonia, featured on Dr.Dre’s 2001, TLC, Curtis Mayfield; it’s nothing short of an honour.

As for the future, together we’re working on another, longer release for the fall; personally, I have a few EPs coming out this summer, a collection of off-kilter dance music, as well as tracks with some Chicago rappers and hopefully more local work as well, collaborations with Dr.MaD and all that.

Maridee: I’m just really happy with the pink cover.

DM: Please describe the live set and what people can expect Thursday.

Marlon: The live set is basically a reimagining — we take our songs which are birthed on a computer and transform the grooves and harmonies and melodies with this fantastic band. ■


Maridee and Marlon perform at 7 p.m. with a DJ set by Dr. MaD (Alaiz) at loft le 4e (129 de la Commune E.), 5 to 8 p.m., free