Mark & James do a pretty good job of “grabbing” their audience’s attention. Full of charisma and charm, Mark & James have been gigging around Central Florida for the past two semesters with a band they’ve put together to back them.
Which would explain why they will be hitting the road as official host for this summers hottest ticket Bandemonium Tour 2008.
We caught up with Mark & James, via phone, to chat about the album [Hello, I Love You & Goodbye], Bandemonium and music in general.
Hi guys how are you?!
Mark & James: We’re good! How are you?
First off, you guys actually met at a shelter at UCF during a hurricane when you decided to create Mark & James. How did you come to form your band and get together with WEG?
James: Well, I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t an easy process as far as getting the band together. We, uh… I think we tried two other times before we finally had the group of guys that we’re working with now. Um, and really, I guess what happened is… they’re like our roommates, best friends, so for any band I guess I would say… when we finally got people we were around and we were friends with; it just all clicked.
You’re still in school. You’re really busy so, how do you find a balance between both music and education?
James: I think we lost Mark.
Uh oh! Is he gone?
James: Oh no, he’s back.
Mark: I was like ‘Man, they just don’t like me! They kicked me right off.’ [Laughs]
[Laughs] Oh noo!
Mark: It’s all good though.
James: Yeah, Mark… when we were talking about the first one, I figured you had something to say.
Mark: Well, I really only heard part of the question and then I got kicked. So, I figured ‘well, James will take that one.’
I was just asking James about how you guys came together and formed with WEG.
James: Do you want to cover the WEG part, dude?
Mark: Yeah, I’ll cover the WEG part! Um, Johnny Wright’s Vice President of Operations, Jessica Andrews… she was a guest speaker at my Entertainment Marketing class; because you know, James and I go to UCF. Jess came in and just spoke, she was our guest speaker for one day and so I gave her a CD. James actually came to the class with me, so we both kind of just stalked her to her car and tried to pick her brain a little bit and give her this CD, and hope for a call back. So, then about a week later, after we played hard to get from them, they ended up calling us. We called back or whatever and Jess was like “I’d been emailing you guys and tried this and that… emailing you from your website and you never check those emails anymore.” And so, basically from there it just went to us coming out to WEG and practicing, and then signing on as artists.
Wow! So, how are you guys balancing writing and recording your album while you’re still in school?
Mark: Well, I mean… it’s tough. You know, it’s not an easy thing to do, but it is do-able. You kind of have to have your priorities set with… you know, you’ll have a big concert one weekend and then you’ll have a class the next morning. Sometimes your schoolwork slips a little bit.
James: What were your grades this semester buddy? [Laughs]
Mark: What was I taking? Or re-taking?
James: What were your grades? Yeah, re-taking. [Laughs]
Mark: Oh, I don’t know man! They come out Monday, I guess. But, I think Finance is going to be my demise.
James: But, luckily I just graduated so I’m very happy to be looking on the other side of that. But, it is… it’s definitely – like Mark said, you’re just trying to prioritize… like you really can’t do 100% of everything so, I would say music has taken a priority and schoolwork has fallen behind because of that.
Mark: Yeah, I mean as far as the album went too with James and I, like not every time we went to the studio we’d be able to go together. Because sometimes it would just be like – I get out of class and I have a few hours to run out to the studio and throw down some vocals or whatever and you know the same thing for James. It was just basically whenever.
James: I actually studied for a final while we were finishing up recording.
So, you’d just bring your books in and cram in-between recording?
James: Yeah, yeah! Seriously, that’s exactly what I was doing.
You guys have said you’re basically the opposite of each other, how do you think your differences help you to make great music together?
Mark: I would say just for writing purposes, not even the performance aspect of it, but just through writing, you know we are a lot different the way we do different things with relationships and all that stuff. I think it kind of helps out because when we we’re co-writing together, it gives you the insight of somebody else that’s vastly different from you. So, you can kinda hit the targets for your audience and kind of get everybody in that with your songs.
James: And as far as when you’re talking about writing down melodies and stuff, it’s crazy ‘cause I sing so low and raspy and Mark sings so high and poignant. I’ve been writing before and been like ‘aw, man I really wanna sing this note. But, there’s no way in hell I can sing this note.’ And, then I’m like ‘well, luckily I have a tenor,’ my other side so, when it comes down to that kind of stuff. Like, a song I just wrote recently… I wrote a bridge for Mark to sing.
So, it comes along nicely…
Mark: Oh yeah, it comes along great!
Since you guys do write and play your own music – which I really respect that — is there a special process you go through when writing and coming up with the melodies? Like you were saying, do you sit down together… or do you like to work apart?
James: It really all depends on the song because like, depending on who’s going through what. You know, we’re acoustic guitar playing musicians… we write love songs. [Laughs] I mean 99% of the time. If something happens to one of us, then we’ll definitely be more compelled to write it on an individual level. If that’s the case, we usually come together when the song is almost done and then we’ll collaborate on the end. But, then there’s other times; like we wrote this one song doing the ‘leap frog’… like he wrote line one, I wrote line two, he wrote line three. The song came out a little bi-polar, but uh… we’ve really approached it in every way possible. We’ve collaborated, split 50/50 down the middle, and then there are other songs where, like you said… one of us is more compelled to write.
Mark: Yeah, I would say the majority of our songs are the one person is more compelled to write and the other person kind of just throws in and switches some things… maybe writes the bridge or something like that. So, if like I’m writing something and I need the James of Mark & James to approve and then he’ll put himself into the song, so.
Well, you know speaking of your love songs… your first album is titled, Hello, I Love You & Goodbye, and it’s being released this June! Can you tell us more about the sound and feel of the record?
James: We went straight acoustic on this, which for us, like we’ve been a band now for about a year. But, as far as Mark and I, we’ve been playing music together since our freshman year of college. So, I think it honestly feels like a throwback for us as far as doing like a straight out acoustic sound. The CD, more or less was intended to be more of a journey than anything, and the songs are really straight through organized. The first song on the CD is like, ‘nice to meet you’ and the last one is you know, a year after we’ve been broken up. Then there’s everything in-between, so it’s like a steady timeline.
So, is that the story behind the title of the album?
Mark: Yeah, I mean the whole CD basically takes you through the journey of a relationship. You know, the “hello’s”, the “I love you’s” and the “goodbye’s”, and just everything is in-between there.
You know, now that I know that’s the back-story – I just love the title even more! I was reading it and was like, that’s so cool and the fact that it truly goes with the theme of your album is just great.
Mark: I hope people don’t get like sad if they listen to it. [Laughs] ‘Cause, it starts out like happy and then the middle is like “I love you” and then the end is just like…
James: You break my heart. [Laughs]
Mark: We have to break up!
James: I hope people don’t get too down about it.
We can’t stop listening to “Letting Go”, can you tell us more about the track? Was it sparked from a personal experience?
Mark: It was definitely a personal experience. I dated this girl for about four and a half years and we broke up. It’s been… this might even be the day a year ago, I’m not even sure! We’ve been broken up about a year and you know, through that year it’s been kind of like… some lead-ons, this and that. Then you know, saying she likes somebody else, saying she doesn’t like somebody else. It’s just been a roller-coaster of emotions.
James: It’s been a broken record all of this time. [Laughs]
Mark: Yeah! Somebody needs to move the needle on my record player, so I can move onto another track. But, basically it’s been really personal. It’s been about the break-up, it’s been about trying to deal with moving on and all that it entitles. I guess I almost kind of wrote the song too as maybe like a therapy for myself to just say like if I can sing it and I can listen to it then maybe one day I’ll be listening to this track and I actually am going to be moved on and I’ll have let go of her. You know, so it’s kind of hope.
James: So, Mark you’re telling me it’s a lie right now?
Mark: No, no. Today it’s true. But when I wrote it, it was like I knew what had to be done. Like maybe if I write a song about it and I listen to it, it’ll really put me over the edge.
If that was therapy for you, maybe your album will be able to help others going through the same kind of relationship.
James: I think Love Therapy will be the title of the next album, or Love Potion Number 9. [Laughs]
Mark: That’s baby making music. We don’t really play that music yet, but you never know.
You’re getting ready to kick off the Bandemonium Tour this week in Vegas! As the official host for the tour, what will your duties be? Will you also be performing?
Mark: Yeah! We’re going to play one of our songs; it’s called “As You Are”. But, the majority of the time, I think we’re just kind of introducing bands and telling them a little bit about the band and what Bandemonium is. You know, how it’s supposed to be a kind of on-going tour with different bands each time.
James: We’re there to kind of draw attention away from any dead space. I’m just going to give Mark a hard time on stage because it’s fun giving him a hard time not on stage and then when like, you’re on stage and there’s tons of people watching… we really do get at each other pretty good. I’m looking forward to it, sorry man. [Laughs]
Mark: I think we’re just kind of there to make it flow and maybe even give some comic relief. We’re going to be on Bandemonium II as well, as an act so we’ll give the fans a come back for the reoccurring fans of Bandemonium that come.
Yeah! You’ll be doing that later on this summer right? Bandemonium II…
James: Yes, we will.
What kind of show can fans expect on that second half?
James: The second half is going to be all pop-rock bands. So, on both of these fans can expect some damn good music. The second one, you know you can expect Mark & James and their comic relief plus a little more music.
It’s a full show! Comedy and music!
James: Oh yeah.
In the late 90’s when “boy bands” made their comeback, there was a pretty intense battle over which group was ‘better’ among the fans. As the host, what’s your perspective – how do you think this tour will change the views for fans of the new generation of male vocal groups?
James: Well, I’ll be real. I’ve had this plan the entire time to get the boy bands in like a back yard and fight each other to see who comes out on top. We can make like a, Boy Bands Gone Wild video. But, in all actuality that’s a terrible idea… I would never do that. Mark, you have an answer on that?
Mark: I mean, I think there’s going to definitely be competition. It’s awesome because these guys have so much in common… I mean, they are boy bands and everything they do but in all actuality people are going to be picking. There is going to be a better band, or better bands. You know, there’s going to be the ‘NSYNC’s and the O-Towner’s or whatever and I think that this tour is kind of going to raise the bar and give you an insight on who’s got it.
You’ll be reporting from the tour via a web diary series on your website, MarkandJames.com . What can fans expect from your online video logs? More comedy?
James: A mature rating for sure… NC-17. You know, all sorts of things… some of it’s going to be like “Tour Bus Confessions” and some of it will just really be what’s it like on the road for a band, especially us. The fans that we have, have been really great to us and we’ve recorded ourselves a little here and there and they want more, so we’re going to give them more. We’re going to give them the road.
Mark: I honestly think we don’t even know what to expect from our webcam. Because we have some webisodes on our MySpace and everything, and they’re just kinda a little bit of everything. You know, some of the time it’s confessions, sometimes it’s like really repelling and having an adventure at night. It just varies. It should be awesome, it should be something fresh and new every time and unlike the one that was before it.
You guys are kind of like living the dream of college bands! You know, going out on the road and touring. What’s advice your for the bands in college who are on the hunt for success?
James: Whenever people ask me that I always tell them the same three things. The first one is just like… practice your butt off. Seriously, no matter how good you are it doesn’t matter, you can always get better. The second one would be… play out as much as you can. The one week that you don’t play out in front of people, they’re going to forget about you. The third thing is always just, you gotta be really lucky. Once again, no matter how good you are or how much you play out, unless you’re lucky and you meet the right people and you run into Wright Entertainment Group or whoever else, you’re not going to get anywhere.
You know what you guys, I am so looking forward to seeing you on the Bandemonium Tour. It was a pleasure talking to you today!
James: Thank you.
Mark: It was great talking to you too.
I wish you continued success, I really do.
Mark: Thank you very much.
“HELLO, I LOVE YOU & GOODBYE”
IN STORES JUNE 10TH!