LUNCH DUCHESS and THE VON TRAMPS
Minneapolis rock legend, Mark Mallman has created a masterwork that turns the classic concept album on its head. The End Is Not The End was released March 25, 2016 on Polkadot Mayhem. In this age of cynicism, with too many people believing rock is dead, comes a sincere telling of an emotional trial we all must face at some point. Mark Mallman has created a 21st century Scary Monsters, except this time, the good guy wins.
In the summer of 2014, with great uncertainty, Mallman was putting his final touches on a collection of nihilist dance tracks called Nightmares. The album was the true account of recurring terror dreams that had haunted him since losing his mother a year earlier. “The city was closing in on me. I was immersed in tension, and the tension was growing. There was a gang war happening on our block that summer – sirens every night. Sometimes gunfire woke me out of a bad dream, taking me from a bad dream into a bad reality. I would work on the record till my ears wouldn’t stop ringing and pass out from the noise in my head.”
The songs were tracked in his third floor artist’s loft, nestled between three strip clubs in the core of Minneapolis’ small, unofficial red light district. The ironically named “Harmony Lofts” building was infamous for being the site of the first murder by the Minnesota serial killer who murdered Versace, Andrew Cunanan. “My whole life felt like a horror show. Even at home, the haunted elevator would take tenants to the basement on it’s own accord.” says Mallman. Soon would come a notice from his landlord that the lofts were to be re-modeled and his rent was to double. He was being forced out.
At 3am on the morning of September 6, Mallman woke up with an unstoppable anxiety attack that would land him in the hospital. He’d had a complete nervous meltdown. Even the clouds passing over the sun would grip him with fear. “The nightmares I was writing about had crossed over into my waking life. 90% of everything was too scary, especially the minor key. But I was determined to fight.” He’d put all of his time and money into this record, and couldn’t afford to just scrap it and start over. Instead, he constructed playlists of major key music, and buried himself in Elvis Presley musicals. “I needed to get happy again. I hit the gym, sometimes twice a day. I tried everything from Western medicine to Himalayan salt lamps.”
Instead of throwing Nightmares in the garbage, he stripped the entire record apart and began reconstructing. In the spring of 2015, he’d left the gritty city behind him for a quiet bungalow, blocks from Lake Nokomis. The record would be renamed, The End is Not The End. Mallman says, “I’d used music for therapy before, but I never realized that it could work the opposite way too. This is medicinal material. I now know with certainty that music has the power to help heal depression.”
Over the course of his 20-year career, Mallman’s signature style has earned him a place among the Midwest’s greatest indie-rockers. With a stage show that seems yanked out of some punk vaudeville time machine, Mallman has a reputation for wild rock antics that stretches through roadhouses across America. He was the first person to ever webcast a nonstop concert on wheels that traveled from coast to coast, all in the back of a van. He’s been a pioneer of brainwave controlled music, as well as the first person to remotely front a rock band via BeamPro robot. He’s scored for countless film and television pieces, and he’s been suspended upside down from the ceiling over the piano. If Iggy Pop and Philip Glass ever met in a night club, Mark Mallman would be the bartender.
Here we find an artist exposing himself all the way to rawest nerve, the likes of which haven’t been heard since Neutral Milk Hotel’s In an Aeroplane Over The Sea or The Eels’ Electro-Shock Blues. It is a deliberate meditation on overcoming the roots of despair. But even so, this is a timeless, kick ass rock record. As Mallman sings it: “I didn’t know where I was going / till I stopped believing and I started knowing / The story of life is what was manifested where once was a void.”
Launched in 2016 with the EP, My Mom Says I Have A Rich Inner Life, Minneapolis grunge-pop band Lunch Duchess has continued to make cathartic jams for the sardonic and the heartbroken. Their latest single, “Ride or Die,” questions the wisdom of unconditional romantic love and ends up giving the listener permission to free themselves from dire entanglements. Over the years, front person/drummer Katharine Seggerman has used songwriting as a therapeutic exercise: sitting with difficult situations until the truth materializes in a melody, and then protecting that truth with the help of a loud rock band.
Besides Seggerman on drums and vocals, the lineup consists of Sam Frederick (Burn Fetish, New Primals) on guitar, Nicky Steves (City Counselor, B.O.Y.F.) on synthesizers, and Matthew Sandstedt (Hayden Fox, Aneuretical) on bass. In 2018, Lunch Duchess played home gigs and toured to the east coast and to the American West, refining material for their debut full-length slated to come out in summer 2019.