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Mary and Marina shared a few moments with us as they were preparing to tour with Sarah McLachlan during the summer of 1995.


How did you decide on the band's name?

Marina: We spent the better part of a summer working out our sound, and we decided if we didn't pick a time by which to play live club dates it might never happen. We picked the month of October, and as October neared, we thought, 'Oh my God, we had better come up with a name.' All kinds of names were thrown about, all of which were more pretentious than the next. Finally, we all looked at Emil and said, '‘Well what do you think?'
As he is a very organized guy, he had kept all the information about the band, all the lyrics, all the lead sheets, all the gig information in a folder, and on the folder it simply said, 'October Project.' When we thought about it more, there was even a poetic significance to October in the Northeast being a very beautiful, transformational month with the turning of the seasons. The irony, of course, is that we didn't play out until November (laughs). But we kept the name.

The band really has a unique sound. How would you describe it to someone who had never heard October Project?

Mary: Well, it's very textured. We certainly rely quite heavily on complex harmonies.

Marina: There aren't a lot of contemporary groups out there with our sound right now, so you have to search far and wide for parallels. I think we have the same kind of musical adventurism that the early Jefferson Airplane had. They would do a ballad like "Lather" and then do a rocker like "Somebody to Love." We have a whole array of musical styles and textures, and Mary's voice is as big and round and compelling as Grace Slick's was in the early days, so I think that comparison holds up pretty well.

Mary: And their choruses had a lot of harmonies. I think that's a very satisfying sound.

Would you say that the Airplane sound might have been an influence on you?

Mary: No, actually it was only after we were playing out for a while that some reviewers came down and began to make that comparison.

Marina: With six people, all with very different musical influences, the sound that we wound up with is pretty unique. It's very definitely the product of those six different lives and different musical tastes.

Do any places stand out in your travels than seem especially extraordinary?

Marina: Well, we’ played on a ferry boat on Lake Champlain, that was interesting... Oh, I guess Philadelphia, we played an amazing concert on a pier over the river outside of Philadelphia. It was a festival and we were the headliners. There were ten thousand people there and it was the biggest audience that we've played to, specifically there to see us. It was a beautiful summer evening and we went on at about 7:30.

Mary: It was in an outdoor amphitheatre on the river, just beautiful.

What was it like singing out into the open air?

Mary: Oh, I love it. It inspires you, especially on a night like that when the sun is going down...

Marina: ...a little bit of a breeze, you know...

Mary: Yeah, and my clothes are all blowing back... it's wonderful!

Marina: And also as a keyboardist, a keyboardist rarely gets to play outside. I grew up in practice rooms while all the other instruments, like the guitar, could go and sit underneath a tree and practice. So to be able to play outside on a keyboard is particularly gratifying, fulfilling a lifelong fantasy of mine.

To go back to your beginnings, were you approached by Epic records from the club dates you had done, or did you shop your demos around?

Mary: Well, we had shopped the demo around and basically we were getting a lot of attention from our live act primarily down at Cafe Sin-E in New York. The A&R people would come down and bring their boss down and so forth. Epic had heard our demo and basically didn't court us for very long. They came down and made up their minds rather quickly.

That must have been really exciting.

Mary: (laughing) Oh, it was nail-biting!

Marina: Oh, yeah.

Mary: It was, it was very exciting.

Marina: You know, we had made a commitment from the beginning also to be a live band. Rather than working out a really perfect studio tape, we thought what really matters is that we can recreate our sound live, so that has always been our focus and I think it's perhaps a greater satisfaction to be live on a stage before an audience and experience that sort of give and take.

Mary: I think it surprises people that we're able to recreate what we've done on the album in a live setting.

Marina: Yeah, we've had a few people say, “Oh well, lovely album, but we think they're a studio band. Let's see if they can do it onstage”, and we're like, “Hey, wait a minute...” There is something about that live feeling... there's more of a rougher edge and a wilder energy... it’'s very hard to capture on tape. And I think the tape that we have is very polished.

The videos you've done to promote the songs... were you involved in the creative process on those?

Mary: Hmm... no comment. (laughs softly) Not really, no. You know, they're done very quickly. They kind of yanked us off the road to do the second one, and it's mostly I would say the directors vision. They come in with a script of some sort and a synopsis of what they want to get down and what they hope to accomplish and then I guess half of it is premeditated and half of it they just sort of wing it in the process of making the video.

Marina: Although for the "Bury My Lovely" video which we all love, the director really responded to the lyrical content. If you had to reduce the thematic essence of the lyric, it's how we are haunted by memories from our past and how they occasionally bubble to the surface. He had some very specific memories from his childhood that were sparked when he heard the song, so he felt a very personal connection to the lyric. I know that Julie and he actually had a couple of conversations before the video was shot to establish a story line that was very related to the lyric and that's gratifying when you have a director that is so interested in serving the song. We're very proud of the "Bury My Lovely" video.

Did you play professionally in other bands before October Project came together?

Mary: Well, I've been singing for years. Marina and I both sang all through college. I've been through all different kinds of set-ups: alone and then with another person and with a band. Then when I was in Europe, I sang with some different expatriate Americans there. But this is the one that I really felt committed to.

Marina: Dave and Emil had been playing together in a band for a couple of years before October Project, although it was more a cover band. Urbano, our percussionist, is a latin percussionist, and has played with many different African and Cuban ensembles. And I'’ve played keyboards for most of my life and sung back-up in various configurations, as well as worked with Emil on a couple of studio projects. But yeah, this is the biggest situation for all of us

Is there anything that you might be doing if you hadn’t gotten so deeply involved in music?

Marina: I would say music has always been and always will be, for both of us.

Mary: Yeah.

What has made your work with the band seem the most worthwhile?

Marina: Oh, live performance.

Mary: I love to perform, more than anything. It's a whole-body experience. It's the thing that certainly keeps me going and I'm sure it keeps the rest of the band going on the road when it can be very tough and we don't get much sleep and so forth. The one thing is that hour on the stage and it absolutely recharges me, completely, and that's the most gratifying thing.

Would you say there is a common vision that the members of the band share?

Marina: I would say there is a common commitment and that's part of the reason for our having come this far. We all shared a commitment to this music in getting it across to as many people as possible. I can only hope that the people have a chance to hear it because that's all we really can hope for. Once people hear it they either respond or they don't and for the most part we've had a great response. Our biggest frustration is when we're simply not heard, when there's no vehicle for us to be heard. I just hope that people really get a chance to hear us for themselves.

Any last words for your fans?

Mary: Come see us! And write us letters, we respond.

Marina: Yeah, our mailing list is a real one. We really do get back to people.


Send correspondence to: OProject@aol.com