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Miami native Mike Marsh is no stranger to South Florida's music scene. After all, the Dashboard Confessional drummer grew up here, cutting his teeth on Rush covers while still a student at Sunset Senior High School. And eventually, a trio of Marsh, guitarist Klaus Ketelhohn, and bassist Chris Drueke formed Agency, a SoFla staple that rocked the city from the mid '90s until 2001. You might even have been one of the many fans in wall-to-wall attendance at Transit Lounge during last September's slammed reunion show.
But when Marsh returns to the scene of that spectacle with backing from Ketelhohn and bassist Craig Schlesinger this Saturday, it'll be a whole new experience, because the talented vocalist and drummer is finally launching his solo project, Paper, a tip of the hat to his first forays into songwriting.
"I never wrote musical notes," he says. "I didn't know how to write melodic notation. So I drew lines instead. It's kind of embarrassing, really."
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Paper is a labor of love for which he banged out self-taught chords on an out-of-tune piano and "suffered through blisters, tracking guitars and bass on demos."
"Attacking this record all by my lonesome was super exciting," says Marsh of the process of writing, producing, composing, and arranging solo. "But extremely taxing and time consuming." Though daunting, the process was also the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition. "It's always been a dream of mine to write my own record," he says.
That dream record might surprise fans of Agency or Dashboard Confessional, though. "Paper isn't as aggressive as the other bands I've sung in," he admits. "The record, stylistically, is an amalgamation of several things. I've always been a huge fan of music from the early- to mid-'80s. I was raised on a lot of it, so I wanted to bring a bit of that back.
"I remember writing one song in particular, 'Turn Your Radio Off,' which has been described to me as 'a song that could've been on [Genesis's] Abacab.' The '80s, I feel, is alive and well on it," he says.
"It'll be interesting to see how it goes over at Transit Lounge. It's weird because, when I picture the show, I envision the Agency's show at Transit, which was super chaotic. Who knows?"