Tom Marshall Gets "Cohesive" with The McLovins
Tom Marshall and Anthony Krizan flank the McLovins
Jeffrey Howard, Jake Huffman and Jason Ott were teenagers without as much as a band name when they posted a video themselves covering “You Enjoy Myself” on YouTube. Their performance was discovered and disseminated by the folks on Phantasy Tour, who soon dubbed the group The McLovins after Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s character in the film, Superbad. As it turned out the trio had some other early boosters as well, in the forms of Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and his longtime songwriting partner Tom Marshall. Now, just two years after that initial video appeared online, events have taken quite a turn as The McLovins just released “Cohesive,” a song written by Tom Marshall and Anthony Krizan, which the trio recorded at Krizan’s studio, with Marshall participating in the session as well.
I’m told that you communicated with the band, shortly after the word started to spread about the group. What was the nature of that exchange?
Wow…way back, Trey emailed me a YouTube video of their “Farmhouse” cover. It had a girl singing. Trey and I laughed and talked about how great it was — and what an honor that people are putting a lot of effort into covering our songs, and how this one was especially honest — partially due to their young age I’d say. That video unfortunately has since been taken down — I’m going to ask them to throw it back online though. Trey and I loved it. I found a way to email them — I forget how, and just said that Trey and I really liked the video. Then Trey told me that he had asked someone to reach out to the band as well and mention that he thought they were awesome. I think at this point the You Enjoy Myself video was circulating through the Phish fanbase to great reviews.
At some point your relationship with the guys developed to the point where you decided to write a song with/for them. How did this come about?
Ah…good question. I’d say it was the magic of Facebook really. The boys and their manager, Carol — who’s one of the boys mom actually — and I just got closer and closer through discussion, and finally met at a Phish show…possibly Camden this past summer? Carol and I began having conversations about the trials and tribulations of starting a band in the era of instant video gratification and the social network and what challenges existed, etc. We became friends. Shortly after I remember saying to her — they boys need a really great song. I don’t really think that meant “I want to write a song for the McLovins” necessarily at that time…but somehow that was the spark, and the idea gained traction. Anthony and I write well together so I asked him if we could try writing with the McLovins — in his studio. He loved the idea, so they drove down to NJ from Connecticut one day, and the song really wrote itself — it formed very quickly.
Just to clarify were they involved in the songwriting process or was it just yourself and Anthony Krizan?
You know — Ant had a song idea, and I had lyrics, and our natural process took over. I think the guys in the McLovins were watching and learning as I sang words that Anthony had never heard to his chord structure I had never heard. It was a particularly easy song to write, and the first draft, if you will, went fast. As for the McLovins’ contributions — once the initial idea of the song was sketched, everyone in the room had a hand in suggesting nuances and changes to make the final product.
Let’s talk about “Cohesive.” Was it particularly tailored to them in terms of the style and message or did you just set out to write a good song?
If you ask Anthony this question, you’ll get a different answer I think — but as far as I’m concerned, it was just one of many possibilities that I had written previously. So I’m always writing just to write a good song. If the McLovins hadn’t used the words to Cohesive, they may have surfaced elsewhere eventually. That said — I did write the words the night before the song was written. But I wrote a bunch that night.
How about the recording session? Obviously these guys are quite young, what sort of learning curve did you observe?
Well — one thing I think we all know about them is: they can play! Anthony is a skilled producer and studio operator, so he knows how to coach people to get their best performance. I coached Jake a little as far as phrasing of some of the words went, but for the most part, they were pros from the get-go!
Have you seen them perform live and what was your impression?
This is embarrassing — only on YouTube! I have yet to go to a McLovins concert. Sorry guys — I will remedy this asap! I have a long list of ingredients that make up a perfect concert, and I certainly see improv being one of their stronger suits…but I also like well put-together songs with strong structure. This is one of the reasons I initially mentioned to Carol that they need a staple song. I love some of their cover choices, and I just feel they’re going to get better and better. It’s an exciting time for these guys, and I want to go to a show now to have something to compare to in a year or two as they continue to mature and grow as a band, and as individual musicians.