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Columbia band Mary & The Giant shines in spotlight

Saturday, December 10, 2011 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:01 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 10, 2011

COLUMBIA — The members of Mary & The Giant call their music "colonial pop," a term they coined, but aren't quite sure what that means anymore.

"I was thinking about the revolutionary war and what kind of music they would listen to," vocalist Zac Fiddes said. "Colonial pop can be anything. It's our own style of pop music. It's very Americana — it's a mixture of folk, blues, pop, rock, country. That's kind of what the term means."

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The band's manager Matthew Kohler said: "If George Washington was throwing a mad party and he was going to play some music to rock out to, it would be this."

In less three years, the members of Mary & The Giant, all five of whom dropped out of MU, went from rehearsing in their residence hall rooms to opening for the nationally-known band Guster.

Armed with a local following, close relationships with venue owners, two released albums and a third coming out in March, the band members said they're ready to become known in the Midwest.

The group first formed in January 2009, when high school friends John Marino and Jason Koch met Fiddes while living in residence halls at MU.

They played as a three-piece with Fiddes on vocals, Koch on acoustic guitar and Marino on electric bass, until Koch introduced them to a co-worker from Cracker Barrel. Michael Schembre, a violinist with a classical background, joined the band that August.

"He showed up and really added another dimension to our sound," Fiddes said.

They released their first EP soon after and started playing open mic nights for small crowds at Columbia venues such as the Tin Can Tavern & Grille.

"Over a 6-week period it got to the point where it was packed houses on Monday nights, and the venue owners were receptive to that," Koch said. "They're growing as we are, too, and it's really awesome to have that relationship where we're helping them and they're helping us."

Shortly after releasing their second album in 2010, which was the first to include percussion, the band members decided they needed someone to play percussion at live shows. They found Justin Mayfield, a freelance photographer who photographed one of their shows at Mojo’s.

With Mayfield on the cajón, the band now plays regularly at newer Columbia venues such as Sideshow and The Bridge.

"Columbia's a great place to have that happen," Schembre said. "If you're in New York, you're not going to make friends with a new club owner. Midwestern folk … they're just nice people."

Good relationships with venue owners in town have helped the band get its name out. The members' turning point came playing for their largest audience yet — opening for Guster at Jesse Auditorium in October.

"The Guster show was their coming out party," Kohler said. "When Mary & The Giant came on, all eyes were fixed on them. Everyone was totally engaged."

Upcoming shows for the band can be found on their website or on their Facebook page.


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