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Artist To Watch in 2020, August Edition: Bad Mary

It’s good to be bad. Bad to the bone. I got it bad, and that ain’t good. Bad girls. Bad boys. Bad Religion. Bad Company. Bad Mary.

Ok that last one you might not recognize. But I’m sure the members of the Long Island, New York-based band Bad Mary would just as soon have their name be as popular as the rest of those song titles and band names!

This month I’m pleased to speak with 3 of the 4 members of the band: Amanda Mac – Vocals, Mike Staub – Bass, and David Henderson – guitar.

Humble Beginnings

The band formed at Hofstra University in New York in 2009, where David is a Professor in the drama department. Amanda was a student in the department and Mike was a music and business major. David put together a band every semester with students in drama who can play and sing and they played end-of-semester parties and things.

David elaborated: “We always just play a bunch of covers. The year Mike and Amanda were in the band we also had a drummer, Rory Levin, and all three were from Long Island, so when they graduated we all decided to keep the band going. So we started as a cover band, with another guy, Andrew Huber on bass, Mike was on guitar then. We played a bunch of gigs just playing covers. Then Rory went off to a job at Disney on Florida, Andrew went to act in L.A. So Amanda recruited her dad, Bill, in on drums – he’s been in bunch of bands for years, Mike switched to bass and we started writing originals. We became Bad Mary in the summer of 2012.”

What was the band called from 2009-2012? As David explains: “Well, we actually started out as Madame-X. As we got more popular we started seeing some really weird “likes” on Facebook and realized that Madame-X was the name of a really popular film in the Philippines, an 80s metal band, a club in New York and a whole bunch of other things too. Decided that before we released any music we had to come up with a better and unique name. 

“Oh my god, what a process. I don’t remember how long it took, but every time we though of something cool we’d google to see if another band had it (almost everything!) or if the .com was still open (very important!) We had a few rules: 1. It needed to “sound” like a punk band 2. It needed to not take itself too seriously 3. No other band, or anything really, could be using it already 4. You needed to be able to shout it across a parking lot and someone could understand you!

“So many names were tried, even logos made, then one day David thought of it while driving to work and called Mike and Amanda. Mike liked it right away, but it was like 6:45 in the morning and Amanda was pissed she’d been woken up so she hated it. But by the end of the day it had stuck! David drew the logo over the next week or so with input from everyone (she had an evil grin at one point, oh, and a chainsaw!)

“So it doesn’t really mean anything, except we think it’s fun and with attitude.”

Musically Speaking

Let’s talk about this “attitude”. Mike describes the band’s style as “Melodic Punk. Taking the classic feel of NYC based punk and twisting it up in a modern vibe, but never losing sight of having a good strong melody and a good hook. We’ve also been called neo-punk as a sort of revival of classic US and UK punk rock.”

The infusion of UK punk makes sense, since David was raised in the UK. Go figure!

All 4 members of Bad Mary have an extensive musical background. Individually, their musical influences range from Queen to AC/DC to Green Day to John Cameron Mitchell.

Bad Mary has released 3 EPs and 2 full-length albums. The most recent effort, The Return of Space Girl came out in November of 2019. They’re already planning their next release for summer 2021.

From Concept To Movie

I wanted to know more about The Return of Space Girl so I asked them how that came about.

Mike wrote the song Space Girl back in 2008 or 2009, before they had even gotten together as a band. When Bad Mary formed, they didn’t start writing their own music until about 2011 or 2012, and Mike brought the song to the band and they all loved it, so it was on their first album, Better Days, which came out in 2013. They’ve played it at almost every gig and it’s a fan favorite.

After that first album, they released a series of three EPs. David had some songs that had never quite fit on any of the EPs – or he never managed to finish them – but they noticed a kind of space/end-of-the-world theme that had started running through them (“Last Night at the End of the World”; “I, Robot”; “Venetia Phair”). They decided it would be fun to do a concept album – but to keep the story very loose – like have a beginning and an end, but the songs in the middle could kind of drift around and just be thematic, rather than tell a straight forward story. This looser concept was really inspired by the album Time by ELO… which might be a little weird for a punk band, but good music is good music!

Once they decided, “OK, concept album” – they all started writing stuff that would fit the theme. In the end, the story of the album is pretty much all contained in the original song, “Space Girl”, but it’s expanded and fleshed out in the album. A robot is sent to discover what’s out in the universe, but when she returns she’s told not to tell anyone what she’s found because the people who sent her think the world is not ready to hear it – it would freak everyone out too much. So… she blows up the earth in revenge!

Well, for the album, they kind of thought blowing up the Earth was maybe a bit much, and they had this theme of disconnection or disinterest running through a bunch songs on their EPs, like “Marz Attaqx”, so they decided that on the album, Space Girl would destroy the internet so people would have to actually talk to each other for real again. So a lot of the songs on the album ended up being about our addiction to the internet and social media (“Addicted”, “The Itch”, “Wake Up”).

There’s a riff in the original Space Girl song, it’s in the post-chorus, that shows up in some of the album songs to kind of connect it together. And the opening of the album (“The Return of Space Girl”) – is like an extended instrumental version of this riff, kind of to set the stage for the rest of the album.

David went on to add: “We see the album in kind of three phases – Space Girl comes back, is rejected, and sees our addiction problem (“The Return of Space Girl/Goodbye, Try Your Best”, “Addicted”, “The Itch”). Then there’s a shift and there are three “character” songs that are more thematic than really following the story (“Space Girl”, “I, Robot”, “Venetia Phair”).  Then we get back to the story and the next four songs are pretty much the night everyone thinks the world is going to end and Space Girl destroys the internet (“Disaster Party”, “Wake Up”, “Last Night at the End of the World”, “Curtain Call”). And finally a coda – it’s the morning after when everyone realizes they have to talk to each other again face-to-face (“Ordinary Day”).

David animated and produced a short film to accompany “The Return of Space Girl” which you can watch here: 

David told me the story in the movie is a bit different: “There’s new characters that have been added, the song order is different, and poor Venetia Phair gets left out, because she didn’t fit (Venetia Phair was the little girl who named the planet Pluto back in 1930.)

“We’ve played the full album live only twice so far – for our album release parties on Long Island and in New York. They were a lot of fun and we think we may do annual album shows if we can play live gigs again some time!”

Meanwhile, back on Earth as we know it…

Besides continuing to churn out music on a regular basis, the band loves playing out live. Most of the time they’ll travel up and down the east coast: Atlantic City, Philadelphia, even as far as Delaware. They’ve also had the opportunity to participate in the 2015 Vans Warped tour. More recently, in 2019, they toured Japan. In fact, there seems to be a consensus that the Japan tour has been the highlight of their career so far.

Amanda remarked, “singing your original music to a crowd of people in a foreign country who don’t normally speak your language who are singing your lyrics right back to you is something I don’t know if I can compare ANYthing else to.

“It was honestly just such a wild experience walking through Tokyo day after day in sparkly Pink Doc Martens, covered in glitter, and carrying a giant microphone stand. I learned that I really love touring. It’s a lot of work, and sleeping weird hours, and eating on the go, and being sweaty and gross and in fishnets most of the time, and after years of working toward this – living through what “this” is was a surreal dream. Coming home was weird. How do you go back to normal after that? You can’t. That’s why we just have to do it again!”

David adds, “The audiences were amazing, the clubs, the other bands we met – we’re still. In touch with most of them and we’re trying to go back soon! We loved it!

Mike says the coolest venue they got to perform at was “Denatsu in Tokyo, Japan. A legendary punk club it was amazing.”

In addition to the major tours, Bad Mary and its individual members have garnered quite a number of accolades. “The Return of Space Girl” film won Best Music for Animated Short at the Colorado International Sci-Fi Festival, and it also won Outstanding Music at the ZedFest Film Festival.

Amanda was once on the cover of the arts section for the Sunday New York Times: “The Times did a feature on a group New York Roots Music Association  that Mike and I do vocals for on occasion and Bad Mary has played at several of their events. They sent a photographer to one of our practices for an event we were doing at The Bolton Center on Long Island and when the issue came out I saw that I was right on the cover!”

Knowledge Knuggets

David, Amanda and Mike each have their own words of wisdom that I wanted them to share with the readers.

Mike: “Be yourself, be original, and don’t be afraid to upset some people. Keep at it. Never give up.”

Amanda: “Just keep going. Not everyone is going to like you or your music, but that’s ok. Don’t be afraid to lean into your brand of weird.”

David: “Try to have as much fun as you can. It’s the best thing for your health.” For the musicians out there, he also advises “A well written song is far more important than a well played or well produced song.”

Bad Mary. One badass band.

Here’s where you can connect with Bad Mary:

If you’re in or near the Long Island, NY area, you’ll most likely be able to catch them at Mr. Beery’s.

Online, you can catch up with them here:

Keep up with Bad Mary

Website | Facebook | Patreon | Spotify

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