In late January of 2012, The Mark Inside convened at singer/guitarist Chris Levoir's cavernous and run-down loft space at 652A College St. in Toronto. Chris and his roommates were facing imminent eviction: the space was probably only semi-legal to begin with, and the landlord was planning major renovations.
A plot had been hatched: assemble every relevant piece of recording equipment in our possession, set up the drums in the warehouse-like middle room, guitar amps in the adjacent bedrooms, and channel more than a decade of recording experience into making our band's third LP, the follow-up to 2011's Nothing To Admit. After many frustrating years spent in label & music industry purgatory, we'd decided to take matters into our own hands and record our music with the same fire and urgency with which it was written and performed.
The recording sessions were almost derailed after the first take, on the very first day. We knew from the beginning that we were running the risk of pissing off the neighbours; sure enough, the moment drummer Reade Ollivier's cymbals stopped ringing, there was an insistent knock on the door. Apparently, the customers at the cafe below couldn't hear themselves speak, and we were told to stop. We laughed and apologized, but were genuinely worried that our plans were dead in the water. Chris, however, very calmly suggested that we break for an hour, and then he would go down and speak to the cafe owners. He must have worked that strange charm of his to perfection, because he came back up with a smile and a nod. We were good to go: we'd simply started too early, interfering with the cafe's lunch rush.
Recording continued almost daily for the next few weeks (working title at the time: Exile On College Street). Reade finished all of his drum tracks, 18 songs in total, after the second day (playing through a very painful thumb injury, to boot), with Chris and bassist/vocalist Geoff Bennett playing ghost tracks along with him to ensure the songs retained a live feeling. Reade's work speaks for itself: he plays with a musicality and controlled fury that brought out the best in our songwriting. From there, Chris and guitarist/vocalist Gus Harris dutifully dialed in their alternately filthy and beautiful guitar sounds and set to work meticulously adding layers of melody and noise. After it was discovered that there were intonation problems with Geoff's bass guitar, he came back a few days later, picked up a borrowed bass, and re-recorded his parts on all 18 tracks in one evening; business first, and the beers were getting warm.
While there was a palpable sense among the four of us that we were creating some of the best work of our illustrious career, the sessions were infused with an unsettled poignancy and a haunted quality. Chris' roommate and friend, Daniel, had passed away quite suddenly in his bedroom a month prior. We were all deeply affected by Daniel's death, particularly Chris. He used music as therapy and catharsis, and immediately wrote the Dark Hearts track "Don't Wake Daniel" in tribute. The sense of anguish and urgency that permeated all of his performances was audibly amplified and refocused. Most of Chris' vocal tracks were recorded, at his insistence, by candlelight in the room where Daniel had died. This could certainly be read as a questionably morbid move, but it was simply a genuine gesture of tribute and cathartic release for his fallen friend. The proof was in the digital pudding: those throat-shredding screams Chris was known for were downright terrifying on some takes.
Chris was the Mark Inside's lyricist and voice, and with Dark Hearts he continued to expand on the themes he'd been working with for over 10 years: fear mixed with bravery, victory after defeat, pain and pleasure, love, sex and music. All with an eye toward simple human behaviour, extracting the profound from the mundane. He used to say that he didn't have it in him to write a happy song, though his energy, particularly while performing, was generally boundless. He certainly found personal joy in all music, regardless of its subject matter.
Musically, Dark Hearts Can Radiate White Light is the sound of the Mark Inside at the peak of their powers. The addition of Reade behind the drums brought a powerfully fierce and nimble backbone to the songs we were writing; Chris' and Gus' guitar work is as beautifully snarling and intertwined as ever, and Geoff's bass sails along underneath it all with measured intensity and secret hooks. While a lot of our music has come from improvising and texturizing over simple two- or three-chord progressions, the past few years have seen a much heavier emphasis on songcraft and arrangement. Dark Hearts tracks like "Whatever Doesn't Kill You Can Still Leave You Crippled" and "Balloons" are almost exclusively focused on melody, structure and hooks, without sacrificing the meaningful lyrical prowess to which Chris had dedicated himself from day one.
Needless to say, there are dark and tragically ironic parallels between the recording of Dark Hearts Can Radiate White Light and the sudden, shocking and untimely death of our best friend and bandmate, Chris Levoir, on June 1st. However, he was immensely proud of this record, warts and all. We're all proud of it, and we hope you enjoy it.
released 04 July 2013
Dark Hearts Can Radiate White Light
All music by The Mark Inside
Lyrics by Chris Levoir
Produced by: The Mark Inside
Engineered by: Adam Fujiki
Mixed by: Alphonse Alixander Lanza III at Parkdalian Sound Space
Mastered by: Milan Julius Schramek at Lacquer Channel
Recorded at 652A College St., Toronto (January - February 2012)
Additional recording by Chris Levoir at Horny Goat Studios & Gus Harris at Golden Egg Studios
Listen, enjoy, remember.
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