So you’re sitting around with some folks discussing musical tastes. One says he’s into the Who and glammy rock. The other likes psychedelia.  A third mentions his fascination with death metal, but he also appreciates Britney Spears.  That third person doesn’t exist, does he?

He does if he happens to be Mark Brooks.

A veteran of two punk bands, Mark moved from his native Denver to Los Angeles in the mid-’90s and quickly enmeshed himself within the art and music community there.  Moving beyond his bands, he ventured into animation, directing, and acting.  He directed videos for Slayer, the Melvins, Eminem—even a feature film starring William Shatner.  Then he connected with Brendon Small, co-creator of the Cartoon Network animated feature “Metalocalypse,” and began directing episodes.  Mark soon found himself surrounded by fellow metal fans, who didn’t necessarily get where he was coming from musically.  “I’m sitting there like buying the new Britney Spears single or the new Pink single,” says Mark, 43, “…and then I’m making videos for Slayer.”

Mark’s travels in the punk world have led him to a number of contacts within indie rock scenes. He even played Seattle in the late ’80s and befriended the guys in Nirvana.  Despite his love of the aggressiveness of punk and metal, though, Mark often found his musical tastes at odds with his compatriots. “I’ve been in such like hipster circles,” says Mark, “where [pop is] sort of looked down upon. And I think it’s just as valid as anything else.”

Enter 25 year-old Emily Kavanaugh, whom Mark met through a mutual friend last year.  Despite the age difference, they bonded instantly.  Both enjoyed a variety of music, especially catchy pop songs. After a while, they began creating music together in the evenings.  This collaboration would lead them to form Night Club, an electronic pop band with dark undertones.

In addition to the age difference, the two do not appear to match up on some other levels: Mark, a long-time music scene veteran, and Emily—who, other than some tinkering with her guitar—had never seriously played before. All of those differences quickly became irrelevant. “I’d written with a lot of people,” says Mark, “and it was the first time I’d written with somebody where it was effortless [and she] could understand and finish my sentences.”

Emily does hail from a musical family. Her father Kevin played keyboard for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, a New Jersey band that gigged alongside Bruce Springsteen in the ’70s.  Despite the bloodline, however, Emily had not considered making music until her father passed away in June of 2011. “And I’d never really written anything before that,” she says. “And then he died [and] I started writing my own songs, like that summer….It was almost like [he] passed the baton onto me.”

At the time the pair met, they both wanted to create a pop band in homage to their heroes.  But their respective life experiences would lead their music toward a darker arena than Britney Spears.  While Emily dealt with her father’s death, Mark faced his own personal demons.  Night Club would reflect the pair’s mutual state of mind, offering minor key ballads delving into the underworld of love and sex.

“Control,” the opening track of the band’s eponymous debut EP, offers a case in point.  As Mark plays synth accompanied by a throbbing beat, Emily exclaims: “Baby, do you wanna taste me? Do you wanna waste me? It’s your show. All I wanna be is the one in control.”

“[The lyrics were] based on a dominatrix that I knew,” says Mark, “who told me about how all her clients were about control—these really powerful people that basically wanted to be controlled.”

In the next track, “Another One,” Emily sings: “Now you’re makin’ me feel like this is real, even though you weren’t there when I called last night. I don’t know why I believe you, baby. Guess that’s why you like ’em young and dumb. And now I’m just another one.”

The lyrics came from a relationship Emily had with an older writer. “He dates really young girls,” she says. “And kinda just moves on to the next one and the next one. And you kind of think you have something with him and you absolutely don’t. And he just goes onto the next twenty-something.”

Night Club has been playing shows around Los Angeles promoting their EP. At the same time, the duo is working on a full-length record, one that continues to push the envelope of their newfound musical relationship.  “We just wanna come up with the catchiest possible melody,” says Emily, “the catchiest possible song. Like we’re into writing songs. We don’t wanna just write a bunch of noise.”

You can find out more about Night Club and order their music at: http://www.facebook.com/nightclubband and http://www.soundcloud.com/nightclubband.

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STEPHEN TOW, a professor of history at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, specializes in American popular music and culture. He is the author of The Strangest Tribe: How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge.

One response to “Night Club Tackles Dark Pop”

  1. Joshua Fields says:

    Love Mark and Emily. Very underrated duo.

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