Marcus Rubio blows up (and turns into smog)

A look back at the albums of SA's L.A.-bound music alchemist

At the end of this month, SA will lose one of its most engaging musical figures, as Marcus Rubio jets for the West Coast in pursuit of an MFA in Composition from CalArts. Though still only a couple years over legal drinking age, Rubio’s footprint on the SA music scene can be followed back nearly a decade, ranging from projects spanning pop, classical, and experimental styles, collaborations with countless acts including Buttercup, Cartographers, and The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, and regular performances fronting his Gospel Choir of Pillows. The Current spoke with Marcus on the eve of his departure and, in an effort to help chart the course of his musical evolution, had him self-rate each of his records (rated on a 5-point Rubios Scale).

2005 — My Head Blew Up [And Turned Into Sky] (3 Rubios)
This was basically my attempt to make a record that sounded like Wilco or the Flaming Lips. I started making these terrible home recordings. I’d write something out and me and a few friends would play along into this computer microphone, like this shitty Microsoft stock mic. Thankfully, Joe Reyes (of Buttercup) somehow liked it enough to put me in a real studio.

2006 — Rhapsody in Plaid (3.5 Rubios)
This was the record I made when I started getting into orchestral arrangements. There’s also some Americana influence, which I really can’t explain or even understand how it got there. I also sound a lot like John Darnielle (from the Mountain Goats), which is weird. But for a 16-year old, it’s not too terrible. Well, two songs on it are terrible, but I’m not saying which.

2007 — Life of Pillows (4 Rubios)
I’m still really happy with this whole record. It was my first attempt at something more grand and conceptual, and also the first time I started to incorporate experimental and classical elements into the songs. It’s also darker, more jagged. Listening to all the stuff before Pillows, it doesn’t really feel like I’m hearing myself. This one does.

2009 — Oceanic Tremors (3.5 Rubios)
Oh God, Oceanic Tremors. That was the unintentional twee-pop record I never meant to make. The arrangements are good, but it’s still a bit uneven. It really is a song cycle with this very Schumann-esque structure, with certain passages and progressions returning throughout. It was also a nightmare to make. There are literally like 50-overdubs on certain tracks, which is why it took two years to make. My dream is to play the entire album live someday, but that likely won’t be for awhile.

2012 — None of the Birds: Songs 2009-2011 (4 Rubios)
Despite all the tracks on this being recorded at different places by different people under different circumstances, this one is surprisingly consistent collection. I like that they are all recorded in the moment, each song is captured in its correct space. In terms of pure pop, this is what I’m going for. Very Jim O’Rourke or Jon Brion.

2012 (Forthcoming) — Hello Dallas (no Rubio Rating)
This has been a very intensely involved record, and it should be rad in a lot of ways. I like that the songs have been coming out as long-form pieces, and that there’s a natural synthesis between the experimental electronic stuff I’ve been working on and straight pop music. Plus [the title track] is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever written.


On sticking with the SA music scene: There are times I regretted not getting out of SA, for not going to school in New York or L.A. But I’m glad I stuck around. I feel like I’ve been able to do a little of everything here, and I was lucky to meet a lot of like-minded people that pushed my composing and playing forward.

The SA collab he wishes he could have done: Ernest Gonzales. I’ve never had the chance to meet him, but I feel like we’ve got a lot of common ground sonically speaking.

On being confused with Florida senator Marco Rubio: I feel like Michael Bolton in Office Space. I mean, he’s the one who sucks.

On dreaming Lil Wayne: I once had a dream where I was producing a track for Lil Wayne, and I was using this weird 12-tone piccolo line in the beat. And I’m playing back the track for him, and he’s just yelling “MORE PICCOLO! MORE PICCOLO!” I’m really hoping this comes true one day.

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