Nora Marks’ release Friday of the single and video for “Epiphany I’ve Had Before” marked a turning point for the Chicago foursome.
Long a standard-bearer of the lo-fi DIY sound, Nora Marks shifted gears and went high-production for the new single and the upcoming album, due out in October.
Michael Garrity, who wrote the catchy new song with band members Robbie Bersano, Matt Galante and Garrity’s brother Matthew, said that he’s always pulling inspiration from real life.
“Most songs I write revolve around trying to be sort of observant of my own life and ambitions I have or things that I want to achieve versus values I have. And how to mold those things together,” Garrity said. “And then on top of all that, your actual behavior and the things that you do, and how do you get all three of these things to line up? What kind of work or effort do you have to do?”
“Epiphany” harnesses that moment of realization or inspiration, the thought that comes to you and makes everything click into place. But true to Nora Marks’ punk-inspired heritage, the song juxtaposes it in Garrity’s hands with a more sobering twist atop a driving beat.
“You get that spark of inspiration where you see things very clearly,” he said. “I get that sort of feeling and then I try to ride it for as long as I can, but life inevitably throws things at you and you kind of get diverted. So it’s about that feeling of always trying to reach for it, like you’re in a bit of a maze or a rat race or a spinning wheel, trying to reach for those epiphanies, and you find them. But then there’s a little bit of disappointment from those moments and, as you get older, realizing ‘Oh, I’ve actually been here before. Am I even going anywhere new or kind of just replaying the same thing?'”
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Garrity said they wanted the video to be a reflection of who Nora Marks is as a band — an eclectic group of guys finding common ground hanging out and doing things they enjoy.
“We wanted to make it authentic to who we are,” Garrity said. “We feel like even though we play very punk-inspired music, we’ve always been kind of uncomfortable with a lot of the rigid aesthetic points that people seem to associate with punk. … We just don’t fit that.”
That difference of viewpoints and influences is what keeps them feeling fresh. Garrity emphasized they aim to be a little eclectic in their music, while keeping certain reference points in mind to build a cohesiveness into their projects.
But he also said things changed when they started working with Kat and Tony Baker of Broken Robots and their Hot Mess Records production studio. The duo joined Nora Marks for the creation of the upcoming album and helped nudge them in different directions.
“They’re awesome, and honestly I give them at least half the credit for making it sound so good. Tony is such an expert when it comes to engineering and Kat has her really interesting creative spin that she adds to everything, and they cultivated such a nice sort of vibe and environment for us to come in and really took a lot of the pressure off us,” he said. “We were still just going to try and do DIY recordings that weren’t really working out for us. … They pushed us to get out of our comfort zones and do something a little bigger in scope.”
The new full-length Nora Marks album “Opt Out” will drop on Oct. 1, through Chicago’s Take A Hike Records label, with a release show the next day at Golden Dagger featuring Broken Robots and The God Awful Small Affairs, a lineup mirroring the band’s last live gig before the pandemic shut everything down.
“It’s actually the exact same show that we played on Leap Day last year, which was our last show,” Garrity said. “So we kind of just wanted to kick things back off again.”