Band bio: Crazy Mary

June 2010 /

Anyone who experienced New York’s gritty, exciting, and gloriously vibrant music scene in the 1970s, ’80s, or ’90s will tell you the same thing: Their city is gone. Wiped out by a Stalin-esque, Disney-driven coup and replaced with a staid world of theme restaurants and karaoke bars. It’s as if when the soul was sucked out of Manhattan by real estate developers the music went along with it. Or so it would seem, however, until you’ve heard the music of New York band Crazy Mary.

Formed by veteran Lower East Side guitarist and songwriter Charles Kibel and drummer Nick Raisz, Crazy Mary has been conjuring its refreshingly oddball avant-garage rock since 1998. A bubbling cauldron of chiming and scraping guitars, creepy organ, spacey, experimental sounds, Dada-ish pranksterism, and absurdly danceable rhythms, the band distills it all into a surreal cocktail of post-punk/psychedelic weirdness. And now, with the recent additions of legendary underground violinist Walter Steding and expatriate Australian vocalist Em Z, things have gotten even weirder. In a good way, of course.

Over its six studio and two dub/remix albums, the group has racked up rabid praise from such disparate sources as the Village Voice and NBC newsman Brian Williams—who namechecked the band in his online blog—showing that while the intrepid spirit would seem to have vanished from the New York scene, it’s alive and well in Crazy Mary. And for evidence one need look no farther than the outfit’s newest release, Water on the Moon. Oozing with alternately rocking and trippy gems like the outsider anthem “Eyes Above the Clouds,” the strangely loping “Gravity,” and the angular, organ-drenched “Way Too Freaky,” the disc furthers Crazy Mary’s longstanding reputation as one of Gotham’s most adventurous acts.

“Being a working band here nowadays is a lot different than when we started,” says Kibel. “Most of our fans and the clubs we play at are in Brooklyn, rather than downtown [Manhattan]. But we’ve been able to build up a good core following, and our shows are always fun. And New York’s still the best market in the world.”