We continue to our local spotlights a bit early featuring the month of September with Polar Scout. The local act is actually an incarnation of one of our previous favorite local groups The Slant. Polar Scout features former lead singer Mark Zedonek as the sole member of the project. He has recently released his first EP entitled Tall-Sea-Wall which you can find on itunes and bandcamp. Mark answered our normal spotlight questions. His new EP is embedded throughout the interview. If you like you can find it on his bandcamp page for only $5.
How did this project begin?
After I stopped playing in a band setting, I still had a desire to continue making music and had some material written that I’d never had the chance to record or perform previously. I knew that I wanted to give the solo idea a try, but the idea of an acoustic guitar with vocals or better known as the singer/songwriter style of performance didn’t quite do it for me. I had ideas for drums, synth and bass, and basically wanted a full-band sound without the band. That’s when I began experimenting with looping, and I found a way to make it work. I’ve only recently released my debut EP titled: Tall-Sea-Wall on itunes, which I’ve recorded myself, and I think it’s finally starting become my own sound.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
My music definitely has a folk base, but that base may not always be apparent, because I’ve recently begun experimenting with different synths and loops, giving my music a shade of an electronic feel. There is also, a slight indie-rock styling to certain pieces and some neo-psychedelia sounds mixed in as well.
Are you originally from the Pittsburgh area?
No, not originally, I am from Coudersport, PA, but have been living in Pittsburgh for several years at this point.
Do you create music full-time or is this more of a part-time venture?
For now this is certainly a part-time gig, however, I do spend a lot of time doing it, and would like it to become a full-time gig eventually.
Do you have a day job?
I do in fact have a day job, which eats up much of my time, but music is my real passion. Music, at this point, simply doesn’t pay the bills.
How do you create your music? What is the song writing process?
I’ve always written the instrumental sections before the lyrics. I hear that this approach is non-traditional, but it’s the way I’ve always done it. Looping seems to lend itself to this type of writing; I start with a basic chord progression or melodic loop and work from there, stacking sounds that appeal to me to help keep the song from becoming repetitious. I then add a vocal melody to the music for the various sections that I’ve written and then, finally, after I’ve rehearsed the song, I will add the lyrics, trying to syllabically fit them into the melody. When I perform the piece, I bring these parts in and out, adding percussion where it fits. In a way it’s a kind of process of elimination; many times I’ll try ten different parts only to end up keep one of them.
What are your goals for the band? What would you like to accomplish? Are you trying to get signed to a label?
I used to say that I just enjoyed playing for playing’s sake, and while this is certainly true, I would love to get signed to a label and have the opportunity to make a living doing what I love. I have limited time to devote to this accomplishment, but, I can say truthfully that I spend whatever time I do have trying to get my name out there, and I hope that this goal can continue to grow.
What advice would you give to local acts trying to make it?
Firstly, I feel ‘making it’ in the music world, by most standards, means being able to play music for a living, and many times that means getting signed. I haven’t, myself, accomplished these things yet, but I have done some things, and given time, will do more. I have written my own songs, recorded my own EP, had it mastered and released it on itunes, advertised for the shows I’ve been able to get, and stayed in close contact with each and every fan I've gained. This is thanks enormously to the blessed internet, one of the best tools for any musician to utilize. I can say that the things listed above are good first steps for any band or musician to take, and with modern technology, these things can certainly be achieved with just a little effort and planning. I also think it’s important to believe in what you’re doing, and act like you are proud of what you’re creating, even if a show goes badly, you’re playing for three people or someone says they don’t like your album. I don’t know from experience, but I’d be willing to say, the people that havemade it, did so in part, by learning from or shrugging off the negativity.
Have you toured nationally? Or do you usually play more regionally?
I’m only just beginning to get out and play, but I hope to perform nationally, as soon as it becomes feasible to do so. So far, I’ve been playing locally, but I am starting to play out in Ohio and Northern PA, in an effort to extend my range.
Being in the Pgh area, do you find it more difficult to try and succeed?
Well, there’s always the “grass is greener…” type of mentality, however, I think it’s all in what you do with it, and my attitude needs to be positive if I want to continue this project. I think there are areas, such as New York City where it may seem easier to build a fan-base, but conversely, there would also be a lot more competition as well.
What are some of the obstacles you face trying to create some 'success' in Pgh?
I feel that there aren’t a wide variety of places to perform, and it’s easy to ‘burn out’ an audience if you play in this area too often. It’s hard to play several shows a month in one location and keep people’s interest high enough that they will want to come out again and again. Touring and only playing a few shows in Pittsburgh, I feel, would allow the shows to be more successful, but at this point, I haven’t yet reached the stage where that’s a viable option.
What are the positive benefits of being in this area?
Overall, I believe there aren’t many solo-looping projects or one-man-bands in general, but especially in Pittsburgh, which, I feel, gives me an advantage. I also, feel that, this being a smaller city, I have a better chance of building a solid fan-base here, before branching out with a tour down the road.
Is there a venue you have enjoyed playing more than others in the area?
I feel almost any place is great if it’s packed, and of the shows I’ve played so far, I’ve enjoyed the majority of the venues I’ve tried. I have to admit though; I particularly enjoyed playing Club Café, they always have great sound. I do, however, have a show coming up August 14 at Diesel, which I’ve heard good things about, and am looking forward to experiencing.