We’d like to thank Marc Cantone, singer and guitarist of indie band The City and Horses, for taking his time to talk about the band’s upcoming album, the stigma surrounding mental illness, how venues can be more inclusive, and how songwriting has made a positive impact on his life. Take a read of the interview below.
Could you please state your name and role in The City and Horses?
I’m Marc and I play guitar and sing in the band.
Could you go into the songwriting process for the record ‘Ruins’, – any specific themes the album touches upon, what inspired you during it, and which songs are your favorites?
“Ruins” is basically a breakup album like so many albums before and after it. But at the core of the breakup is my struggle with OCD, which, for the last eight years has taken over much of my life. So the songs are about what happened between this person and me, the OCD and me and all three of us! When all those things get tangled up together, it’s not the greatest recipe for a successful relationship! But it does make for some decent songs.
However, there’s one song that isn’t about either of these things and it’ll be the first single. It’s our disco dance track called “Shades,” which is a simple lament about not being able to meet new people because everyone’s wearing sunglasses and listening to their headphones.
But there are plenty of songs to satisfy your post-breakup blues like “Seltzer,” “Space,” “Love to Give,” and “Old Days.” And, of course, there are the strictly OCD songs like the title track, “Ruins,” which likens OCD to a drug addiction that turns us into anxiety junkies destroying ourselves in the endless pursuit for our next fix.
What does The City and Horses have planned for 2017?
We have our new album “Ruins” coming out! And lots of music vids and shows to support it.
For people unfamiliar with The City and Horses, how would you describe your sound?
I would say it’s like Belle & Sebastian played by Pavement with Stephin Merritt writing the words, Elvis Costello producing and Sky Ferreira as their muse. Poorman’s versions of each, obviously.
Are there any specific musicians/bands you’d like to tour and/or collaborate with?
We did get to collaborate with one of my all time favorite bands on “Ruins.” Ricky Virgana from Indonesia’s White Shoes and the Couples Company wrote and arranged the strings, which was a huge thrill.
I’m really getting into synthy dance style songs and would love to work with Shura and Neon Bunny from Korea.
We don’t really tour because I have a full time job as a producer for a children’s TV network and I can’t be away from the kiddies too long.
How do you think musicians can use their platform to spread awareness about discrimination and harmful behaviors?
Writing songs about these issues and then speaking openly about them is a good start. Then taking to social media to let their fans know how they feel. We (and most friends and bands I know) have been posting a lot about the hatred Trump represents and won’t stop until he’s out.
But we have to figure out ways to reach the people who don’t think like us and possibly change their minds or at least start a conversation (so far my first and only protest song hasn’t done much in way of that!) That’s the hard part because any people who like Trump probably aren’t listening to small indie pop bands who sing about breaking up with coworkers and being an OCD junkie.
What are your thoughts about representation and diversity in the music scene, both as it stands now, and how you hope it could one day be?
I see lots of bands with lots of different genders and races but I don’t see lots of that in music production and live sound. For some reason it’s mostly a dude’s world, and I’d love to see that change.
What role do you believe the following should have in promoting a safer and more inclusive music scene?
Musicians: encourage fans to smile and dance at shows. Smiling and dancing people don’t tend to cause trouble.
Fans: this doesn’t have to do with safety but it’d help with a more inclusive scene and that’s for fans of one band to stick around for another band or two. You’ll hear new music and meet new people.
Venues: book bands that compliment each other, not necessarily by sound but by sensibility.
If there’s one myth about being a musician, and one other myth about mental illness, that you wish you could dispel, what would they be?
Musicians are all about drugs and partying. I love that Jonathan Richman, in the era of oversexed, alcoholic rock bands like the Stones and Led Zeppelin, was singing about being “straight” (i.e. doesn’t use drugs) and only wanting “a girl that I care about or nothing at all.”
The idea that mental illness is a choice. It’s easy to say to someone suffering from a mental illness, “just stop.” We all want to just stop. And we can stop. But it just takes time and a lot of hard work.
How has being a songwriter helped you with your personal struggles?
For me, writing and singing about an issue is somehow easier than talking about it. And I don’t really know why. Maybe there’s a bit of separation between the singer and the writer so it’s not as personal and gives you a little bit of buffer.
Do you have any self-care tips for people who are dealing with stress or anxiety on a daily basis?
Get professional help! There are lots of places that see people for free or on a sliding scale. And if you’re not feeling the first person you find, look for someone else. It’s like dating. You have to click with someone for it to work. And sometimes spend a lot of money.
Maybe there should be a Tinder for therapy. Exchange some messages first. Get to know each other before shelling out for dinner and drinks. Maybe I should Shark Tank this idea.
Are there any places, scenes and/or venues that you’ve noticed to be a safe space? If so, what are they doing that should be emulated by others?
Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg is a good example of a safe space. The room is cozy, the clientele is friendly, and the atmosphere is relaxed. No aggression at all.
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