Up-and-coming Rockers Focus on What Really Matters in Music

Daily Arts Writer
Michigan Daily
University of Michigan

It was around the time Smashing Pumpkins frontman and overstuffed asshole Billy Corgan declared he “literally created the biggest band in the world” in his August 2005 interview with Spin that music fans officially tired of self-important rock stars. Come on Billy. You’re not John Lennon, and you’re not Robert Plant.

The Pumpkins were doubtlessly pioneers in the ’90s, but rock fans the world over are exhausted with the over-inflated egos of their favorite stars. Corgan is only one among many.

Onto the altar of snooty rock gods steps Mardo. Named after the two brothers who make up the group, the band already has an air of pomposity about it. But as soon as older brother Aron Mardo opened his mouth, it became clear that they’re more genuine than most.

“If you’re going to have the balls to call the band your last name, you’d better be involved with every aspect of it,” he said of their handle.

And they do exactly that.

“It’s a life to us. It’s not a job. We named the band our last name because we do all the artwork, and we’re involved every step of the way.”

Cheeky pop-culture essayist and senior Spin columnist Chuck Klosterman has quipped that there are only two types of musicians that do interviews, “people who aspire to be recognized, and people who have lost that recognition and want some of it back.” But Mardo is not ashamed in the least to discuss the journey to recognition that has defined their lives. More than anything, they’re simply grateful – a feeling absent from much of the pompous cock rock on the Top 40.

A rock band born in a city comprised predominantly of farmers, Mardo had enough talent and drive to blast out of their agricultural-based hometown of Fresno, Calif. and onto the stage with the likes of King’s X and R.E.M.

“One of the good things that I can say about the town is that Nirvana – Well, they don’t even know Kurt Cobain is dead up there,” Aron said.

“There wasn’t a lot of outside influence, as far as the ‘flavor of the month.’ So we were always just kind of allowed to do what we wanted to do without having to look to the right and the left to see what anyone else was doing.”

It was this lack of pressure that allowed Mardo to develop their sound, which can best be described as long-haired throwback rock, though Aron insists that they “hate labels.”

The band’s self-titled debut album nearly blows open at the seams with swaggering, head-banging, unapologetic rock A? la Stones without the wrinkles or AC/DC without Brian Johnson’s falsetto screech. Though they remain under the radar for the moment, Mardo has a music video out for the album’s first track “Anyone But Me.”

But most prominent is Mardo’s humble and driven attitude. “This is our life, and we have no other jobs, no other desires, no other anything,” Aron said.

Aron also feels that his music is influenced by the fact that he was given a second chance at life.

“I was born with a brain tumor,” he said. “I spent the first year of my life at the UCLA medical center. I wasn’t supposed to live past six weeks. So as long as I can remember, this is what I’ve felt was my duty. I’ve been given two gifts … a second chance at life, and a musical talent. So I don’t really question it.”

Mardo isn’t asking for any more than their share these days; a humble attitude they cling to in a world of pompous rockers.

“We’re just honored to be able to continue to live this dream everyday,” Aron said of he and his brother Robert. “I hope we never wake up from it.”