The first time that local experimental psych rock band Marmalade Knives played a gig, it was at a record store in Oakland as a trio.
Guitarist Clinton Wilkins and Justin Spivey—who’d been collaborating on spaced-out instrumental jams—got Spivey’s girlfriend to join them for the show on synths. The trio played a low-key 25-minute set.
“The crowd was very enthusiastic, but it appeared that they were anticipating more,” Wilkins says. “We were like, ‘That’s it.’”
Spivey and Wilkins had already been talking about getting a bassist and drummer to join them. After witnessing how the band after them—who had a full rock set-up—absolutely killed, they knew they had to add more members.
Eventually they found bassist Mark Robinson and drummer Kyle Partridge to join their group. The new set-up added some structure to the chaos they’d been creating as two sonically adventurous guitarists jamming together. They see these two polar opposite impulses as elements to be balanced with one another.
“We’re constantly trying to tweak the formula and bring in more elements of that former experimentation, and touches of minimalism, but at the same time really wanting to be heavy and full-tilt in this vein of ‘free rock,’ which is what I like to call it,” Wilkins says.
One thing they held on to fully from the old days is being a strictly instrumental band. That may change in the future, but for now, they like the creative freedom it provides.
“There’s so much going on instrumentally that in a way it’s hard to find space for it,” Wilkins says of adding vocals. “The way I look at it with a lot of the guitar lines, they’re singing. There are a lot of melodies that are being framed by the guitar.”
Currently, the group is working on an album, and hopes to have it finished and pressed on vinyl by the end of the year.
INFO: 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.