Meet Marnie Stern, the reluctant virtuoso
Remember the term "hyperprog"? Whatever it meant in times past, it describes guitarist Marnie Stern's music perfectly. On her new album, This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That, Stern and drummer Zach Hill create songs that sound like math rock as played by highly caffeinated cheerleaders. We spoke with Stern recently about how she's really not all that good (which, of course, is nonsense).
Westword: When you started to learn to play guitar...you're completely self-taught, but did you even use any books or anything like that?
Marnie Stern: No. And here's the thing — because of that, I have my own style of playing, and I think I'm a pretty good guitar player. But I'm certainly not anywhere near the level that people say that I am, and that's not me being modest; that's just true. I would say that what I'm proud of in what I do is the songwriting, putting different interesting parts together, not so much being some virtuosic player, which I don't think that I really am. And it's hard for me, it's embarrassing for me, because I get flak from other people who say, "Hey, what the fuck?" But in my mind, I'm never like, "Yeah, I'm this crazy shredder, dude!"
You've said that you feel like you've never really done anything great, which I think a lot of people would disagree with. But do you at least think you're getting better? Are you happier with this record than with your first one?
Yeah. Yeah — uh, no. I think that there's a freedom in the first record that I like a lot more. There's a spontaneity to that one that, you know, especially when you don't think that anyone's ever going to hear it, it's...like even I, who haven't listened to it in a year, go back and listen to it and I'm like, "What the fuck is that? That's fucking crazy! Holy shit!" But with this one, I like listening to it all the time, which I can't really say as much of the first one. I think this one's really fun, and the whole purpose for this record was to try and make it as fun as possible, like songs that I would wanna listen to in the shower, I would wanna listen to walking around in my headphones. That was my goal.
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