Mariel: “We couldn’t afford to do anything.”
Escondido native RC Krueger got heavy into music circa eighth grade. A No Knife record from his friend’s step-brother sealed the deal. It opened up a new world of music that he could enjoy as both a listener and an active participant. He went on to play in bands while he was in high school, and found some new ones to join a bit further north while attending Los Angeles Film School. During that time, he lived in a warehouse in northeast Los Angeles that was filled with musicians. No surprise, one common thread in this communal living environment was that everyone was broke.
“We just couldn’t afford to do anything,” Krueger explained. “So, we learned how to screen print so we could have shirts. At the time it was CDs, so we would burn CDRs and then screen print them and then screen print packaging. People were into that, because it was this cool, tangible thing that looked pretty homemade. That was kind of the charm with it. More and more, I saw that people dug that.”
As the screen printing gained momentum, Krueger decided it would be cool to give their little collective a name. He came up with Villains Records, and set out to release compilations (at first CDRs, eventually cassette tapes) that featured bands connected with their small scene. The Villaintine’s Day compilations started on Valentine’s Day of 2011, and continue to be an annual tradition.
“For a while, I got really into these little tape labels all over the world,” Krueger said. “They were essentially the same thing as Villains. In whatever city, just all their friends’ bands that nobody cared about, but they were all on this label that put out these tapes.”
Krueger’s own band, Mariel, has been a constant presence on the comps. Though he had been in bands prior, Mariel would be the first project that would revolve around his songs. It started out as more of a revolving door of musicians from other bands that would play with Krueger as their schedules allowed. “It’s been around for years, but some of those years there were maybe two shows. Some of them have been really heavy with shows,” he said.
Of the current five-piece, triple-guitar-plus-bass-and-drums iteration of the band, Krueger says “The guys that I have now will totally pick up on the vibe. We all have a good idea collectively of where we want [a song] to go. They’ll hear a song and kind of know what I’m going for. That’s the reason I like this set-up more than any other set-up that I’ve ever had.”
Mariel tends to play second fiddle to Krueger’s primary passion — filmmaking. Making a feature-length film has been a long-burning dream for him, and he’s not giving up. He has been honing his craft via short films and music videos over the past couple of years in preparation. One of the latter that he is very proud of is a one-shot clip for “Body Type” by the local soul-funk outfit Moans.
“Everybody loves one-shot videos, but there’s the idea that it has to be choreographed, too. Not only are you worrying about whether the shot is in focus and looks good — beyond that, there’s the choreography to it. There’s a dance that has to be done.”