We had the opportunity to speak with Ryan Argast, lead singer of the Chicago-based outfit, Marina City, about inclusivity, inspiration, and how he gets through rough times.
Interview by Francis Shervinski
PO: What are your thoughts on our scene and it’s inclusivity?
The beauty of our scene is that it was built by people who felt they were outcasts. The people who listen to this type of music aren't typically the coolest kids in high school or feel extremely confident about themselves. This music and this scene is an escape from the non-acceptant world. This is where people come to find themselves. I truly believe that this scene helps people in someway every day. Does it have its problems? Of course it does! It's not perfect but it is definitely in the step of the right direction.
PO: Do you have any personal anecdotes pertaining to scene inclusiveness or lack of inclusiveness?
I remember when Thomas James Gabel of Against Me! Officially announced he would now be called Laura Jane Grace. The scene was shocked and very interested in everything that was going on but there wasn't a lot of backlash. There was a lot of acceptance and people actually just interested in the whole situation. However, with the Caitlyn Jenner situation people were acceptant but only cared about how good she looked. All of a sudden this incredible athlete who did this brave transformation was being compared to every woman with the usual comparisons; "Is she better looking than Kris Jenner? Would any guy bang her? Look at her tits!" That sucks! Laura Jane Grace just became the new front woman for Against Me! I think that is what is cool about the scene. We accepted the transformation and we treated her just like we have always treated her. That is at least how I saw it.
PO: Are there any pressing issues in our scene that you think should be addressed?
There are two pressing issues that I believe should be talked about: Young people need to respect themselves and their bodies. The same reason why the scene is beautiful is the same reason why it can get dangerous. Earlier I said that outcasts built this scene. This is where outcasts feel they belong. However, you never lose that want of attention from someone, especially since outside the scene you feel people don't care about you. You don't have to dress provocative or drink or do drugs just to gain attention. Gain attention with your talents and hobbies. I know people may not care right away, and it sucks, but just keep working at it, and when people do care you will blow them away. Don't go down a dark hole to gain attention. This leads in to the next thing that needs to be addressed: Don't take advantage of people. A lot of musicians right now are taking advantage of fans. Fans believe that if they do whatever a musician says then they will be cool and accepted. Musicians are asking for disgusting things from their fans and making this safe haven into something scary. Don't take away the one good thing in people's lives.
PO: Have any songs you’ve written been a particulary strong example of self-expression for you?
There is a song called "Oh,Chicago" it is the weirdest song we wrote simply because the song isn't about a specific story like all our other songs. This song is about an emotion and how I feel when I am sad and don't know how to express it to anyone. The song is riddled with metaphors.
Can you illuminate the skylines?
And let all the liars come down to your core?
'Cause I'm still debating
Whether if I should be waiting
For something more
Or should I just run back to your heart?
I was born and raised in Chicago. I didn't really like it all that much due to getting in lots of fights and being surrounded by some terrible people. This stanza makes Chicago seem as rock bottom, a hell like place, and all the worse people are there like liars. I'm waiting for me to change to be better but am I really just the same as those people I don't like?
'Cause it's three A.M. on a Monday morning
And I'm still looking for something that will never be found
That will never be found
And the truth just holds cobwebs
And dreams only come true when your dead
And these smiles just hide the frowns
I toss and turn most nights when I'm depressed or sad. It's like, if I stay away and pace back and forth, I'll find something that will change my luck around. But I haven't heard a true thing happen in forever. When you are a sleep your reality is your dreams. So when I am dead does that mean I am forever in my dreams? I smile but only so you don't know I am sad.
'Cause I only write tragedies
That's what I do best
And these words just yell and scream
I must love to be depressed
I tend to not write a lot of happy songs for some reason. Maybe it is because when I am happy I am not sitting in my bedroom alone writing music. I am doing whatever is making me happy. Not saying music doesn't make me happy. It really does. It helps me get out of my funk.
I'm Alright, I'm just okay
Wishing on shooting stars have gotten old anyways
And I just got one more prayer left in me
I won't use it on my death bed
I'll die so you can stop crying
I'm fine, really, I don't need my dying wish I'll just let you go now. I'm a sap.
Oh, its winter
And it's as cold as where my heart would be
If it was there that would be saying the least
'Cause I'm just a poet that makes a promise
And then writes songs on how he couldn't keep it
On how he couldn't keep it
I tend to have some regrets
So don't you worry about me
I'm a musician, I erase my problems with a melody
and I've just tried to live in my dreams
so I don't know a damn thing about reality
This is why I love music
I stand here alone
With a beating heart in my chest
And this clock ticks and tocks to my dying breath
And I hope it finally comes my ending time
So I could finally say that I timed something right
All I wanted was accomplishment
To show you I was different, I was something, I was better than nothing at all
(I'm just okay)
I've never seen an angel but I swear they look like you
So breath taking
God, I love you
(Wishing on shooting stars have gotten old anyways)
Please don't mistaken me with the man with the words
'Cause you're a swan
And I'm a hummingbird
And I've been putting myself down since I was a kid
and it seems that's all I ever did
I needed this song. I needed to get out all the negativity that I had built up in me from being inside my head for too long.
PO: What inspires you to do what you do and connect with people of various backgrounds through your music?
When Marina City first started out this was something for us. We were writing music to help us. As this is getting bigger we are realizing we aren't just helping ourselves but a whole lot of people. Our music has been able to get people out of their darkest times. This music has inspired people to do their dreams. Imagine if we all accomplished our dreams! How awesome would this world be? We probably would have cured cancer, stop world hunger, and be treated equal. We need people to achieve their dreams and if our music inspires people to not give up then we will keep doing it until the day we die.
PO: What pushes you to keep going when things get rough? Has a fan’s story ever really touch you? Or has a fan told you how you’ve made a personal impact?
I've been performing in bands since I was 12 and recently, more than ever, we have been getting people saying we have helped them in some kind of way. Basically what I said in the earlier question. We do this because we are convincing dreamers to never give up.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner are exclusively of the author or interviewee and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization. If you're a musician or an industry insider and would like to participate in our Artist Corner, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.