One Kent student, four Clevelanders make up Who Killed Marilyn?

Andrew Hampp

Kent/Cleveland-based band Who Killed Marilyn?’s next two shows promise to be black tie affairs…

Credit: Andrew Hampp

Who Killed Marilyn? is a local band less concerned with the death of a Hollywood icon than it is with trying to make a name for itself in the Cleveland music scene before taking on the country.

Lead singer Christopher Marinin, a sophomore English major at Kent State, said the band — which takes its name from The Misfits’ song of the same title — has really taken off despite its short history.

For starters, the progressive alternative band — whose sound Marinin describes as a mix of Thrice-like aggression, the “metal technicality” of Megadeth and the poppiness of cKy — is pretty darn young. Marinin is only 19, and the group’s oldest member tips the scales at the ripe old age of 20.

“I’m 19, but people think I’m 25 years old,” Marinin said with a laugh. “It’s really weird.”

The band’s original lineup played live from April to September 2004 until two members split, not willing to stick it out until they hit it big, said Marinin.

Luckily, Marinin and original drummer John Badzinski, a video production designer at Cuyahoga Community College, recruited three new members to form the current Who Killed Marilyn?

Guitarist Rick Bowser, bassist Eric Dolence, a chemical engineering major at Cleveland State, and keyboardist Blayne James (“some character we found,” said Marinin, “he doesn’t do anything, really, he works at Wal-Mart, that’s about it”) round out the band’s present lineup.

“Sept. 24 was billed as the return of Who Killed Marilyn?” said Marinin of the most pivotal date for his band thus far. “I was about ready to quit after studio (problems), and we came back and it was a huge show. It ended up being our second sold-out show on the main stage of Peabody’s.”

A successful September show behind them, the band recorded their first full-length CD early October to November, trying to feed fans’ demands, yet still keep them hungry.

“We’re saving a few new songs just for a national release,” said Marinin. “We play a lot of songs live people go nuts for, but we’re waiting for the right opportunity to release some of them. We don’t wanna release anything that doesn’t sound the way we want it to.”

With two crucial shows for big record labels on the immediate horizon, Who Killed Marilyn? could be releasing some of those fan faves on record sooner rather than later.

This Friday’s show at Peabody’s Down Under will be attended by A&R reps from Atlantic Records, while March 23 brings a showcase performance for the folks at influential indie Victory Records. If neither show yields a record deal, Marinin said, the band will likely try signing with British boutique Toddler Records.

Scoring a record deal would certainly slow things down in the education department for Marinin. But he’s willing to put his college degree on hold for a shot at connecting with music fans on a national level.

“I’m just not a student,” said Marinin. “I’ve been so engaged with music, I’ve been having a really tough time with classes that aren’t really related (to my major).

“Every English teacher I’ve had in this school is dead honest about everything. There’s no fooling around with those people. I like to be prolific, and I like to write. As for my degree, I’m going on hiatus after this semester, so obviously, I won’t be able to go to school. I’m going to finish my degree, however. If I find time with an online program or something, I have no problem doing that.”

After spring semester ends, Who Killed Marilyn? will embark on a tour of the Northwest states, including gigs in Buffalo, Boston and Hartford, Conn. It will mark the longest length of time the band has spent outside the Cleveland music scene, which Marinin defends as being not all that bad.

“I’m a big supporter of the Cleveland scene,” Marinin said. “It’s just tough to get noticed. It takes a lot of hard work. Even though we’re a respected band, I don’t know how many e-mails I had to send to the Grog Shop just to call and get a show.

“But what’s even harder for us is we’re not metal and bands that don’t fit Cleveland’s metal genre don’t tend to break through.”

Yet for a band who takes its “do-it-yourself” mentality all the way to its flyers (distributed heavily across Kent’s campus) to its CD production to the merch table at all its shows, Who Killed Marilyn? seems likely to persevere with or without mainstream recognition.

Contact pop arts editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected].