Complex, unpredictable, noisy and bit on the zany side, Mary Todd’s music is perfect for the lover of unconventional, grinding mayhem and the ADD-stricken individual. This New York trio takes a page from the early-mid 2000s wave of spastic, experimental grindcore and molds it into their own modern blend of ear-splitting chaos. This sound is shown off in all its jerky glory on their new full-length recording, Bone Stock; a 17-minute barrage of off-kilter rhythms and wondrous discordance. Fans of Daughters, Me and Him Call It Us and intense vertigo, take heed.
Svbterranean recently caught up with #chabois in Mary Todd to discuss the new record, mathcore and sexy foods.
Could you please introduce yourselves and your roles in Mary Todd?
Mary Todd consists of Chris Day (bass guitar and vocals), Ashley Levine (guitar and vocals), and Fernando Morales (Drums). Josh Harris recently left NYC for the West Coast, but his drumming is featured on the new album, Bone Stock. He’s a fucking beast!
How did Mary Todd come to be?
Chris and Ashley started Mary Todd in 2010 as a two-piece, weed-fueled, drum-machine driven grind project in Greenpoint Brooklyn, where chabois shared an apartment at the time. Chris and Ashley had played in a terrible metalcore band back in high school, and, after refining our musical tastes a bit in the interim, decided we wanted to play heavy music again, but with a much more chaotic bent. With this new approach, we wrote a handful of songs, while Chris painstakingly programed the drums in Logic. This was before we were familiar with the local metal scene, or aware of drummers we could ask to play that madness. We gigged locally as a two piece (with backing drums) a few times with some friends of ours from Virginia before meeting Josh (in late 2012) through a mutual friend, and have since been a three piece–doing away with the tedium of working with a computer. Josh moved to Los Angeles last October, but we were fortunate enough to know Fernando from the NYC scene. We are amazed at how quickly he learned the MT catalogue, and are stoked to write new jams with him in the rhythm section!
How has writing and performing with Mary Todd pushed you as a musician/songwriter?
Before Mary Todd, none of us had really played grindcore, or any of the faster metal sub-genres, in a band context, so writing songs with increasing speed and technicality forced us to work up our chops and pay a lot more attention to the nuances of songwriting. We wanted to compose songs that could be differentiated from each other (i.e. not all sound the same), and tried to integrate odd time signatures, and create fluid transitions, in attempt to make each song a cohesive whole, rather than just a mishmash of gnarly riffs. We’ve learned that it’s not too difficult to create cool parts as isolated pieces of music, but very challenging to make the individual pieces flow through the span of a song.
What drew you to the more spastic and “mathy” sides of extreme music?
We all came of age in the early-to-mid 2000s, which provided a spastic, mathy soundscape of bands, from The Locust, to The Dillinger Escape Plan, to Daughters, Ed Gein, etc., so we kind of wanted to play something weird like our collective musical heroes. And anyway, it’s super fun to throw off the typical 4/4 feel, to give some spice and jerkiness to the songs. Overall, however, we love the mathier side of things, because it allows us to break the rules, and just have a good time. With the chaos of the music, we don’t have to worry about sounding like one thing or another. We just see what kind of new craziness we can create, and take our time. The experience of creating is just as satisfying as the final product.
What do you think this style of extreme music offers the listener that others do not?
The mathiness keeps both the performer and listener on their toes–as soon as the listener gets comfortable, we change things up to keep the music interesting. We also play and listen to chaotic, mathy stuff for catharsis, which we imagine is a common reason for others—there are actually university studies suggesting that listening to extreme music makes you calmer, and releases tension and stress. Music is therapy for us, and hopefully for our listeners.
In terms of Mary Todd’s particular sound, what do you feel the band does differently than others playing similar music?
Damn, we don’t know—you tell us, haha! It’s all been done before, but perhaps the humor we employ in our songs and videos sets us apart a bit. Most extreme music is so serious, and we really are just all about having a good time! Yet, even with its wacky moments, there are times when the music has a laid back flow–something you can actually vibe and groove to, without it feeling forced or predictable (we hope!).
Do you feel that the New York music scene has influenced you in any way?
We’ve shared the stage with amazing musicians in NYC, and have definitely been influenced the energy and camaraderie of the local music scene. It’s how we linked up with Fernando (a native New Yorker) after all! The NYC metal scene, in particular, feels a bit like family, providing a place where all the weirdos can have a beer and headbang together. We were really amazed by how welcoming local venues were, when we first started playing out at a three-piece. That being said, local shows tend to get buried by the amount of touring bands coming through to play the bigger clubs (not to mention the fact that venues like Webster Hall put on two shows a night in all three of their venue spaces). In general, however, we’ve been super encouraged by the local scene.
What can you tell us about the new record, Bone Stock?
Bone Stock is our newest release, and first full length effort, and is available now on bandcamp. It was recorded and mixed last summer at Backroom Studios (Dover, NJ) by Scot Moriarty, and we are very pleased with the way it captures our energy, aggression, and weirdness. It’s the best production so far, with best writing from chabois as well.
What was the most challenging part of the writing/recording process for this new record?
Chris would say tracking bass after eating spicy Thai food (5 out 5 on the spice scale). But really, we experienced few complications during the recording process. We write pretty methodically, trying to tighten all the bolts of each song systematically, so writing is simultaneously a huge challenge, and an engrossing experience. Since we took our time composing the songs on Bone Stock, tracking came fairly easily. We also had a constant flow of the ganj to help us stay focused ;D
What are some of the lyrical themes touched upon in this album?
Much of the new record touches on themes from the show Seinfeld. The show highlights society’s inherent self-destructive behavior, so darker lyrics about, say alienation, or nihilism apply to the show, and to everyday life. We like the dichotomy of humor and misery, and try to show how both can coexist. Whether we quote a line from the show in a song, or reference a Seinfeld theme, the lyrics are meant to be taken seriously, but with a dash of humor. We think this is an effective and fun way to get a message across. We did re-record three tracks from our last EP, Shoot To Kill, which focus on police brutality and militarization. ACAB!
There’s always a sense of humor with the band, especially with some of the song titles and your overall “persona”. How do you feel everything balances out?
We try not to take ourselves too seriously. Playing math/grind is not exactly lucrative, so we are doing it purely for the good times, and the experience of writing. We think that perspective allows us to approach the music with humor and lightheartedness, which balances the aggression and chaos of it all. The humor probably makes the music a bit more palatable, especially to those not too familiar with extreme music.
How did the “Lines” video come together?
Young Heart Productions (composed of the two NYC musicians Bill Dvorak and Micah Weisburg) did our previous video for T.H.C./Consensual Cannibalism (from our first EP) and, beyond having such a great time, we were massively impressed with their shooting, editing, and overall production. We asked for their help again this time around, and Bill and Micah pitched the idea of a cooking show. Fernando had just moved into a new apartment, so the lack of furniture, and decent kitchen space provided us an ideal, and cheap venue to shoot. We enlisted the help of yet another local musician, our good buddy, Skulk the Hulking (A.K.A. Stefan Von Quiche), and shot the video in two days. We employed a series of vignettes that worked out really well in the final edit. We think the effort behind the music video conveys the camaraderie and collaborative potential of the NYC music scene–we could not have produced something of this quality without Bill, Micah, and Skulk, period.
Are your cooking skills as masterful as the video implies?
YES. The cutting board is made of Teak for crying out loud!
Stefan Von Quiche names your dish in the video one of his “Five Fuckable Dishes”. If you had to copulate with one food dish, what would it be?
Chris: I mean, anytime I eat mac and cheese my loins get stirred, #idfuckthisdish
Ashley: Boiling hot ramen—gotta stay spicy!
Fernando: Nachos. I’d fucking marry them if I could.
Josh: Now that I’m Hollywood Harris and can get decent Mexican food, I’d say a nice serving of guac.
What is next for Mary Todd in the near future?
We really want to hit the road, and do a couple short runs along the East Coast. Touring is definitely the next step for us. Otherwise, we just want to play this record out as much as possible, and grind with our good friends! As Fernando would say, 🔝 🔜 ™
Follow Mary Todd on Facebook.