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February 18th, 2004 Jenny Tatone | Music Stories
 

SERIOUSLY ABSURD

Mark Heimer and his No-Fi Soul Rebellion are here to entertain you. Try not to laugh.

     
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"A lot of people initially laughed at us: 'That's not an instrument, that's just a gimmick.'" --Mark Heimer
"We got married at a gas station on our way to a gig," says No-Fi Soul Rebellion's main man, Mark Heimer. "It was a drive-through coffee-slash-marriage place. We got dressed in our wedding duds in the gas-station bathroom. It was funny--there was some guy taking a pee at the urinal and he was like, 'Congratulations.'"

The gregarious Mark laughs as he recalls the day he and bandmate Andrea Heimer tied the knot. He is, fittingly, entertained by the novelty of their unforgettable day. But, as absurd a memory as it is, Mark says the novelty doesn't take away from the heartfelt sincerity of his vows.

It's this same charming-yet-sincere sentiment that forms his idiosyncratic, pop-soul songs. Sure, the fact that he sings karaoke-style over his original prerecorded tunes is comical, but as Mark defends his performances, it starts to make some serious sense.

"When I think of what I do, I don't think of it as a gimmick as much as a means," Mark says. "How I perform music; I like the vulnerability of being up there, it makes it more sincere."

Driven by a self-proclaimed love for big, delicious hooks, Mark's Motown/Stax-inspired songs are loaded with bombast, distortion and a touch of Prince and Michael Jackson. Songs like "Let's Get Nasty" and "Black Heart" combine Mark's raspy soulful croon with warped, bass-heavy beats, raw, spiraling riffs and thrusting tambourine slaps.

"The best songs from all across time have a good rhythm, a good melody, a hook and cool words, too," says Mark, who has self-released two albums--2002's The Olden Days: Pure Gold and last year's intentionally misspelled The Varitable Rainbow of Song--under the No-Fi name. "I would consider myself trying to make good pop songs, something that everyone can enjoy."

An Alaskan native inspired by Beck's adventurous multi-instrumentalism, Mark began penning his own songs a few years back, something he was unable to do while previously serving as bassist for various bands.

"I never had much of a say because I was quiet; everybody thought my ideas were too out there," Mark explains. "So I started goofing around, writing music, having fun on two tape decks. Once I started doing that, I started taking it more seriously as a means of expressing what's on my mind and realizing what's important, but trying to keep it fun at the same time."

When starting the No-Fi Soul Rebellion, Mark opted against getting a band together. While going solo gave him the freedom of complete songwriting control and the challenge of going it alone, Mark needed to find a way to make his prerecorded live shows exciting. "I was trying to figure out a way to perform with prerecorded music," he says over the phone from his home in Great Falls, Mont. "I wanted to throw people for a loop. I thought it'd be cool if we could make one instrument encompass it all."

So the Soul System was born. An old bass guitar that holds an MP3 player in its guts, the Soul System pumps Mark's prerecorded bump-and-grind tunes out of the carved-out bass and into the PA. Live, Andrea holds the Soul System, becoming its dance partner while Mark breaks out the squiggly riffs, rallying shouts and funky moves. "A lot of people initially laughed at us: 'That's not an instrument, that's just a gimmick,'" says Mark, who records his songs at home on a 16-track. "If people come see the show, they'll see that I take what I do very seriously, that I'm actually making serious music with this stuff. I'm not trying to be funny; I'm trying to be entertaining."

"We want to give something people can look at and watch and be entertained by," Mark continues. "That's the whole reason we don't have a full band--we're really upping the performance ante. It's just the two of us, so we're gonna try extra hard. And if we look ridiculous, well then, hey, people can be entertained by that."


No-Fi Soul Rebellion plays with the Monolith on Wednesday, Feb. 18, at Twilight Cafe, 1420 SE Powell Blvd., 236-7668. 9 pm. 21+.
 
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