Franchesko Marx Band brings unique act

PHOTOS PROVIDED Shown here are members of the Franchesko Marx Band.

It’s fair to say the Fran­­ch­esko Marx Band is one of the most unique musical acts in the local area.

For starters, the band’s sound blurs the lines between folk, punk, indie, ska and classic rock music, to create something with a very fun and bouncy feel to it. Though the music alone would be enough to differentiate them from most acts on the local music scene, that isn’t the only thing that makes this band stand out.

Unlike most groups, the members that comprise the Franchesko Marx Band never go out on stage as themselves. They choose, instead, to play music under their assumed alter egos, each with their own backstory, and they stay in character throughout every performance.

The theatrical schtick is interesting and brings a really fun vibe to each of the band’s live shows, and you can tell that everyone there is having a good time. What’s more, under these new identities, the group becomes “the world’s only time-traveling band” — or so goes their fictional backstory.

“It is funny to make up a name or alter ego, and a lot of the band is revolved around that,” said the band’s co-founder, Nick Klem, who sings lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar. “The whole premise is that we become a band of time-traveling bandits.”

Back in 2013, the Franchesko Marx Band started out as a duo and not the four-man group it is today. The band originated when Klem, who was a theater student at King’s College at the time, got ahold of his longtime friend and drummer Brett Schneider.

“I just remember Nick calling me when I was at PSU Hazelton and being like, ‘Hey, when you get home this summer we need to make some music together,'” said Schneider. “After that was when we came up for the name of the group.”

The band, which was not performing any live shows at the time, remained a two-man act for the better part of the next three years. It wasn’t until the duo played their first live show at a river lot in 2016, that they had a chance encounter with Clay Minier, who joined them shortly thereafter as a guitarist.

“For the first few years, this was just a private band that wasn’t for anybody else — it was our own little project,” Klem said. “The first time we played in front of any people, Clay happened to be there. I had never met him before then, but it turned out that both of our fathers grew up in Dushore and we talked about that. He just really liked our stuff and eventually joined the band.”

Once Minier was onboard to play electric guitar, the group then realized its need for a bass player. Luckily, both co-founders had a mutual friend in Levi Stover, who joined them at the beginning of 2017.

“Clay and Levi have been playing music their whole lives, and they are both in numerous projects with bands around town,” Klem said, who noted that he and Schneider are also lifelong musicians. “That was when we really started taking it seriously and started playing gigs downtown.”

The alter egos that comprise the Franchesko Marx Band each bring their own fantastical backstory into the mix.

First, there is Franchesko Marx himself, who is played by Klem. Believed to be a member of the The Coyote Poets — a group of otherworldly beings who travel through time and space sharing their wisdom through the magic of song — this character had a chance encounter with Captain Marlin D. Judabaker, played by Schneider, which led to the creation of the Franchesco Marx Band.

The Judabaker character is said to have spent countless years in isolation on a deserted island, after he and his crew of men somehow tore through the fabric of time and space while on a fishing expedition in the North Atlantic. It was on the island where he mastered the art of drumming and teamed up with Marx in hopes of someday returning to his former time.

Then there’s the snail farmer Bloss Murphy, played by Stover, whose birth was said to have been predestined in some of the oldest scripture on the planet. Murphy has dedicated his life to further mastery of the bass guitar to help decorate the space-time continuum with music.

Last, but not least, is Minier’s character Randy Puddles, who is in a constant state of out-of-body experiences and confusion after an intense psychoactive experience.

Like I said, there truly is no band in the area quite like this one.

“(The characters) help us loosen up,” Klem said. “I think, for me, it all goes back to the theater thing — Brett and I have done theater together since like eighth grade. It just adds a whole different aspect to our live shows. Our costumes change all the time.”

Schneider said that, though the band does hit the stage in costumes, they don’t mention their character’s backstories much throughout the show. But being in character alone has a positive affect on their energy.

“It was only since we decided to bring the theater thing back into it that the band has been what it has become,” said Schneider. “It is much more fresh and fun and energetic.”

Whenever possible, the band prefers to play its own original music, which it has been perfecting over the last several years. It brings a lot of improvisation to its act as well.

“The jam element has become very experimental and cool,” Klem said. “A lot of our act is improvisation on top of our originals, and then we mix in some covers as well.

“Many of the songs are ones we have had for years, but everyone has put their own touch on them to make them what they are now,” he added.

A few months ago, the band released a self-titled five-track EP, which is roughly 30 minutes long. The album, recorded in South Williamsport, is available on Apple Music, Spotify and iTunes.

“The EP mostly has songs that were written by Brett and I,” Klem said.

The group has already has enough new material to hit the recording studio again this fall, once their live performance schedule starts to slow down a bit.

“The album is already written, so it is just a matter of getting it recorded,” Schneider said.

With the new album will come a somewhat different vibe from the band’s music, according to Klem.

“A lot of the new songs have a different sound, but we all really like it,” said Klem. “It is a mixture of this folky-theatrical thing with really tight, heavy music.”

Ultimately, the band would like to get its upcoming record released prior to next summer, so that it can start playing more gigs on the local festival scene.

“That is ideally where we are headed,” Klem said. “We are probably going to go at it even harder next year, since we are just really starting to make a name for ourselves.”

For the rest of this summer, the Franchesko Marx Band is slated to play at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Milton’s Freedom Field Music Festival; and on Sept. 29 at the Bastress Mountain Winery, 5451 Rt. 654.

No matter what the future holds beyond those shows, don’t expect the Franchesko Marx Band to stray far from its unorthodox and light-hearted style.

“We have always been in this to have fun and we don’t want to take anything too seriously,” Klem said. “Life is fun and this is fun, and people can really feel that energy when we play — it becomes a fun environment.”

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