LOS ANGELES, March 4, 2013 — Mark Civitarese is the lead singer of a few different punk bands, most notably, The Unseen from Massachusetts. Mark took some time out of his day to discuss The Unseen and his new band, Tenebrae.
Kevin Wells: What bands inspired you to start your own bands?
Mark Civitarese: I would say probably bands like Black Flag or Minor Threat, Circle Jerks. I was into music before I was into punk rock. Originally, as a kid I was into heavy metal. I wanted to find something that was not what everybody I grew up with was listening to and something that was kind of different. I found bands like Metallica and Exodus and Slayer, but being a kid, 15 or 16 years old, I never thought I could play that stuff because it was complicated.
Then I met some kids that were into punk rock and I discovered bands like Slapshot and Agnostic Front, Minor Threat. Some of those bands had great songs, but weren’t good musically. I still listen to these bands 20 years later. So, when I say they’re not good, I just mean, they were kids playing instruments and complicated wise there is a huge difference between a Slayer song and a Minor Threat song. Once I heard that stuff and saw the fashion aspect of it and the lyrical content, it was just something I could really relate to. And a lot of times seeing the pictures, even though by the time I was seeing the pictures of Minor Threat, they were adults, but looking back and seeing these pictures, I’m like wow, look at these kids playing this kind of music. It was just something I could identify with.
KW: What is going on with The Unseen?
MC: It’s actually funny we’re doing this interview right now because we haven’t really done much at all since, I want to say, ’08. I think Internal Salvation came out in ’07. By the time that record came out, we had literally been touring like non-stop for about 8 or 9 years. We had been touring for about 10 or 11 years, but as we got a little bit older into our early 20s, we just said screw it, we don’t want to work. Let’s just be a band. So by the time Internal Salvation was coming out, must of us were just really spent on doing the band. We loved the band. We spent so much time on it, but just being around each other so long, it just kind of took its toll on us. We never broke up or anything, we just kind of were like, all right, we owe some people some money. We’ll just pay it off on the next tour. It’s how we always did it, but then there just wasn’t a next tour.
A couple guys wanted to get real jobs, they hadn’t had one in like 10 years. Some people had no place to live, literally, because we were always on tour. So we kind of just put everything on the back burner. We’d get together every once in a while and practice and play a local show in Boston, but that was pretty much it. We’ve played about 4 shows in the past 4 years, but in the last the last year or so, we started kind of talking a little more about it, but never really following through on it. It would always be like me talking to our guitar player, Jonny, or me running into our bass player, Tripp, somewhere. And then Tripp got married this summer and since he got married, I’ve been talking to him a lot more. Me and him started the band together when we were kids. So we’ve been talking about stuff and we actually met up about a week ago. We just went out and had some drinks and are talking about doing some stuff.
KW: Will you be touring with The Unseen?
MC: We are going to be playing, not extensively touring like we used to. None of us just want to deal with that right now, you know, we don’t make enough money doing it to hold everything you have to hold onto as an adult, like bills. We are gonna be doing some stuff this year, for sure. I can’t say what yet, but soon we’ll be making an announcement about some shows.
KW: Will The Unseen be releasing any new material?
MC: We’ve been talking about trying to get together and write and we’re gonna try and see what happens. If the stuff’s good, we’ll release it, if we don’t think it’s that good, we won’t. Another thing we might do is not really aim to record a full length because this day in age, it just seems like nobody buys CDs. 12”s, LPs are back in, but at the same time there is not much money to be made off an LP from a label’s standpoint.
We’re not stressing on it. Making records and making them as good as we could, you know, the artwork is something we stressed over for so long. Of course, we wanted to put out something that was good and looked good and that we were happy with, but it was also like, man, this has got to be good or no one’s gonna like it, no one’s gonna come to our shows, we’re not gonna make any money.
Now, we’re so far removed from that, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Now, I’m excited to go get together with everybody and write something. It’s like, hey, if we come up four good songs, let’s put out a 7”. If we end up writing 12 good songs, we’ll see if somebody wants to put it out. I think technically, we’re still on Hellcat Records. We signed for an X amount of records and we’ve only done two out of that number. So they may or may not want to put out our next record. So, we’re just gonna kinda take it slow and do it for fun like we did as kids. We first started doing this when we were like 16 or 17 years old and now I’m 37.
KW: How did Tenebrae come about?
MC: Once The Unseen stopped playing in, I’d say about ’07, I was like I gotta play music. Our bass player, Tripp, played in a band called The Side Effects just for fun. One of the guys from the Dropkick Murphys plays guitar. They just kind of play locally around town and stuff. I still wanted to make music and I still wanted to tour. Everybody was sick of it. I was like, you know what? I don’t care if I make money or not, I just want to tour. I didn’t really have a place to live back then because I was touring so often that I was just homeless, basically. So I just wanted to keep going.
I played in a band called Ashers for a little while. We did a tour of Europe, put out a full length and did a couple U.S. tours. Then that just kind of started to fall apart because people were moving. Again, I wanted to keep playing music. I’ve always been into hardcore and metal as much as punk rock. It’s kind of the same form of music, but I’ve always wanted to do something a little bit heavier. The Unseen had aspects of that, especially on our last two or three records, where some of the songs were a little more hardcore sounding. I wanted to do something more in that vein, something that was a little different than The Unseen. The Unseen was such a huge part of my life for so long. That’s basically what everyone knows me by. So I just wanted to try something that was a little bit different.
One of my friends that lives around Boston, a skinhead punk rock kid, was getting ready to leave a band that he was playing in. He wanted to do something that was a little different too. We just got together and started talking about ideas and a direction. We wrote some songs together. We found a bass player who’s also from Boston. He toured with the Street Dogs, playing various instruments for them. He was looking to do something that was more his band, that he was a member of. So the three of us kinda got everything going and that’s that.
We released a 7”, which is also in CD format and that’s been out for a year now. We haven’t toured. We’ve played Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. We just recorded three new songs that will be coming out as a split 7” sometime this summer, I think. That’s my priority as far as doing something moving forward. At the same time, I’m totally open to doing something with The Unseen as well. It’s just waiting to see what’s going to happen with The Unseen.
THIS IS PART ONE OF A TWO PART INTERVIEW. PART TWO WILL APPEAR IN TOMORROW’S COLUMN.
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