Mardeen plays waiting game

It's been two years since Mardeen recorded Read Less Minds, released this week.

School Daze Mardeen bloomed late but the kissin' cousins are catching up. photo Jamie Smith

When Mardeen emerged in 2005, releasing the critically acclaimed EP Friends Don't Love, it wowed listeners with their tightly arranged pop songs that seamlessly bounce from hooky guitar crunch to catchy jingle jangle, accented by their characteristically anthemic vocals. Deepening the sound on their new debut LP, Read Less Minds, Mardeen's layered vocals paint engagingly human portraits over punchy, pretty melodies, endearing fans to carry the songs in their heads for days.

Much of the band's success stems from a bond the three frontmen have had since early childhood, creating a familiarity that shines through in their music and their confident stage presence. Jon Pearo, Travis Ellis and Mike Ellis are first cousins, growing up together in Wycocomagh, Cape Breton. Though, in most cases, working with close family members can spell disaster, Mardeen's guitar player Travis Ellis contends that working with family "makes it a little bit easier because we know ourselves really well and know when to lay off." But while the three cousins know each other's boundaries musically and otherwise, finding the fourth band member---a drummer---has proven difficult, to say the least. The search has resulted in a string of different beat makers that evokes images of Spinal Tap's drummer problems. Jokes Ellis, "We've had some pretty crazy reasons for leaving the band but no exploding drummers or anything like that."

So when Mardeen entered the studio to cut their debut full-length release, Read Less Minds, they did so without a drummer. Instead, Pearo, who also plays guitar and shares vocal duties, performed all the drum tracks. The album was mastered by August 2006 but did not get released. Even though it was named in the Toronto alt-weekly Eye as a favourite of 2007, it wasn't released last year either.

"Before we recorded the album, we knew we wanted to make sure someone was going to distribute it for us," Ellis says. "We were all in school, too, so it was really hard for us to push an album." This is not to say that the band has slacked off for the past two years. While attending university, the boys have been writing material and playing shows around the country.

Finally landing a deal with Outside Music, Mardeen is able to release Read Less Minds in a way that means Ellis and his bandmates won't have to worry about getting the CD out there themselves. "It's really weird just having it all done for you; something we're not really used to." Now somewhat free from the business aspect of their musical careers, Ellis and the rest of the band plan to turn their attention to the creative side of their music. "We'll definitely just focus on the songs the next few months."

In addition to finding a distro deal, Mardeen has also landed a steady drummer. "We have Jason Burns (Down With The Butterfly) for us on drums now and he's been integrated into the band. He's a huge part of the new songs. Its great that Jason's really into it and has found his own styles on songs for sure. It's definitely changed the way we look at songs and write."

While Read Less Minds took two years to release, the timing couldn't be better. Not only has Mardeen finally found a distributor and a solid drummer, the members are finishing school this fall. So, while the band has been spinning their wheels the past few years, things are turning around quickly. "We just did some demos with Charles Austin a couple of weeks ago turned out pretty good," says Ellis humbly. "We'd like to record a new album by Christmas."

Fans of Mardeen have been asked to show a lot of patience. But now the waiting is paying off. When the band plays their CD release with Smothered in Hugs and Bloodsport this Friday at The Seahorse Tavern, they are not only celebrating the release of their debut LP, they are ringing in a new era. Free now to focus on the creativity that has won crowds over across the country, Mardeen is setting their sights on stardom.

Mardeen w/Smothered in Hugs, Bloodsport, Friday, July 4 at The Seahorse Tavern, 1665 Argyle, 10pm, $8, 423-7200.

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