Singer-songwriter Mark Berube and his buddies in the Right Bastards merge folk, rock, a wry outlook and storytelling sense into three-minute slices of life.
By JOSHUA TANZER
The Right Bastards' Mark Berube didn't come to New York to be a
singer-songwriter. Actually, the plan was to come to New York University's
vaunted drama school, become a playwright and maybe do a little
acting. But like some of the characters in his songs, where he wound up
was not where he thought he was headed.
"My plays tended to be relatively short, a half-hour or so," he remembers.
|THE RIGHT BASTARDS|
Related links: Official site
| MERCHANDISE FOR SALE |
|Available from CDBaby.com:|
| AUDIO |
|Bomb-Sniffing Dog || RA|| MP3|
|Florentino's Lament || RA|| MP3|
|Ten Years Down the Road || RA|| MP3|
| © 1999 Mark Berube. Used by permission.|
|The Right Bastards:
|Uncle Charlie's Clothes || RA|| MP3|
| © 2000 Mark Berube. Used by permission.|| |
"Gradually, they got smaller and smaller as I found my attention span
getting shorter and shorter. Eventually I discovered that I could tell a
story in three minutes without ever having to call on another person to
read my lines."
Now Berube writes pithy little stories with a sense of humor or maybe just an
odd perspective in folk-song form for his solo shows or rock-song
form for the Bastards. Some of them are collected on a live CD called
"Shut Up So I Can Play."
"I honestly don't sit down to write funny songs," he says. "Often I'll
find that a song is funny only after I've played it for people and they
tell me it's funny."
Case in point: there's the one about the bomb-sniffing dog called
"Bomb-Sniffing Dog". (Hear it on RealAudio or MP3.) The story is about
Berube's real-life experience on a catering job for a Tina Brown party
where British Prime Minister Tony Blair was expected to attend, so the
whole place was being scoured by the Secret Service.
The dogs didn't find any bombs but took considerable interest in the
There are also slightly more fictitious songs about discovering your
newfound maturity at a class reunion ("Ten Years Down the Road,"
MP3) and consummating
a long-denied love ("Florentino's Lament,"
MP3) the latter
inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera."
The Right Bastards which has an almost entirely separate repertoire
from Berube's solo stuff is a joint project started two years ago
by Berube and NYU schoolmate Scott Wolfson.
"We went to class together and then harmonized in the hallways and all the
usual stuff, you know?" Berube says.
The partnership was originally an acoustic duo, which accounts for the
attention to songwriting and the wry lyrics on songs like "Uncle Charlie's
It's about going through the mundane residue of a deceased relative's life,
the stuff you wouldn't really mean to pass on to anyone when you go, and
wondering whether he's obligated to wear the guy's clothes out of respect.
Uncle Charlie died and he left me a bunch of clothes.
Couple of shirts and some pants, but nothing matches.
A gray T-shirt with navy-blue sleeves that says "Shit happens."
Would it be okay if I never wore that one?
One man's good will is another man's curse.
I could give them all to charity but maybe that's worse.
I'm just wearing the damn things in Uncle Charlie's honor,
Because now that he's a goner it's all he's got left
to make his mark in the world.
So how are Berube and his Right Bastard comrades going to break through in
the competitive New York music scene?
"Man, if I only knew that," he says. "I guess it pays to be aggressive
play in the subway, in the park, put up posters, hand out fliers.
"If you ever come upon a really decent answer to that question, please
share it with me. I'd love to know."
Meanwhile, besides the subway and the parks, New Yorkers have the chance
to hear the band at the Baggot Inn on Thursday (Oct. 4) and to catch Berube in
occasional solo gigs as well.
|SEPTEMBER 30, 2001|
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