Earlier this month, Marcos Mena of standards. was gracious enough to guest on our second ever live-streamed interview.
While it’s no secret that Marcos can shred with the absolute best of them, we did discover just how creative the guy can really be, and it’s not just the way he plays guitar.
From viral videos to creating a signature recipe for the perfect fruit salad with zero hesitation, we had a blast getting to know one of the most prolific minds in math rock, and hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you’re so inclined, feel free to scroll ahead to the bottom for a link to the original upload and even more fruit-tastic madness.
FB: Welcome everybody, thank you Marcos so much for being with us. Everyone, if you don’t know, now you know, Standards is with us today, and we’re happy to have you. Oh, bright light there!
Marcos: Yeah, I’m gonna do studio lights so I look professional.
FB: Well, you look great.
FB: I’m gonna stick to the red hot sun. So I have some questions here already planned out, but everyone watching, feel free to chime in, I’m gonna start with a little bit of a curveball here. Did you eat breakfast this morning?
Marcos: I did, I did eat breakfast. Even though I wasn’t feeling like it, I had Taco Bell yesterday, and it like, destroyed me but I still ate breakfast like a champ. I’ve been eating fiber/protein bars every morning. Sometimes I can’t do breakfast, sometimes I’m busy.
FB: That’s a good call. Probably helps with the Bell (laughs).
Marcos: (laughs) Shut up dude, I miss touring so much I had to go.
FB: It does sort of remind you of tour. What’s that other one that let’s you get free stuff or discounts for touring…
Marcos: That’s Taco Bell!
FB: Really? I think Chipotle does it too.
Marcos: Maybe, but Taco Bell has the Feed the Beat program. Technically, they’ll give you $500 in gift cards. Standards has never been a Feed the Beat band… yet, so if you want to help us at… get at Taco Bell right now. (laughs) For tour in five years, whenever that’s safe to do again.
FB: (laughs) Duly noted. I’m sure we’ll have time to develop that relationship. *Frantically scrambles for a contact at Taco Bell* So, in different food relationships, when did you become so passionate about fruit?
Marcos: I always liked fruit. I was obsessed with bananas as a kid. I wasn’t super, super into it, but I thought it would be a cool idea for a band so I was really happy that we would be able to do that.
The music has no lyrics so I was like, we have to do something with imagery, so I was like… fruit! And if people didn’t like it, we probably wouldn’t have kept doing it, but people loved it so much we just kept it going.
FB: That was like wildfire. I remember seeing the little strawberry guy and thinking that was interesting, and the a few weeks later it was everywhere, so it’s beautiful to see where it is now. Do you have the same passion for fruit flavoring in things like soda or candy?
Marcos: It doesn’t taste like fruit to me, I don’t know… I will say I like banana Laughy Taffee, but that’s its own thing.
FB: That’s it’s own flavor, like an extra salty snack.
Marcos: (laughs) Mmmm… Laughy Taffee.
FB: In a slightly less agricultural direction… man, this happened with the guy from Covet too, we immediately started talking about food and milk and stuff.
Marcos: Of course David would do that.
FB: (laughs) But for me it was essential, I know a lot more about oat milk and that good stuff now. But when did you start playing? Was there anything you were listening to that influenced how you play now?
Marcos: Yeah, I started when I was eleven, that was just a good time to get started. I was going to middle school and wanted to play something a little more cool, because I played violin and piano and I was super into that, but I eventually got a subscription to Guitar World magazine and I was obsessed with it. I was always trying to learn new stuff.
Everyone would talk about Jimi Hendrix, and I didn’t even know a single Jimi Hendrix song, so I put on “Voodoo Chile,” the one with the wah, and it was just something else. He was really just doing a completely different thing, it didn’t even sound like a guitar.
It made me think about how you can really do whatever you want with it. I think that’s always been my favorite thing to do with guitar, whatever I want.
FB: That’s a great answer. When you started talking about Hendrix, I realized those same feelings popped up for me recently when we did some gigs with Hikes, watching Ne play and sing at the same time. I couldn’t believe the way they were playing and singing at the same time, and it reminded of Jimi. I wanna always aspire to that level of expression.
Marcos: Definitely. I think everybody likes it for different reasons, but that’s the reason I do.
FB: When you started releasing viral content early into standards.’ career when you were coming into ‘fruition,’ some of them were pretty wild. There’s the CHON play through, and recently what you did with the “Cantina” song is incredible with the big toe there as well… are there any ideas you’ve had that were ultimately too weird or crazy for the camera?
Marcos: Yeah… I can think of a lot of examples (laughs) I’ll start from least crazy to most crazy that never worked out. So the least crazy, I wanted to play guitar upside down, but it really hurts. I severely underestimated how much it hurts to play upside down because all the blood rushes to your head instantly. I couldn’t even pretend to like it.
The other idea I had was a drummer and I would be in a plastic container, and the container would fill up with ball pit balls until we physically couldn’t play any longer. The only issue is that we’d have to commission or build a container we’d just use once, and I don’t know where we’d get something like that, like a laboratory or something.
Then we’d have to buy ball pit balls, and we had to buy a lot of them. And the amount it takes to fill a standard ball pit could be a couple hundred dollars. It didn’t really make sense.
But also, I wanted to make a video of me driving and playing guitar at the same time. I definitely could pull it off, but I decided to not go through with it, because I didn’t want anybody to try it and ultimately kill themselves (laughs) because it’s very dangerous. I was going to play the Seinfeld theme with one hand and drive with the other, so I thought that would be funny but I just wouldn’t feel good posting content endangering people’s lives. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it, I promise you! (laughs)
FB: Proud of you for making the right choice there! (laughs) Maybe five years from now we’re having a different conversation with like a commercial or something.
Marcos: Yeah I don’t think any auto company would back that up. They’d need to put a really serious disclaimer in there, like, “don’t try this ever.”
FB: Right on. That was fascinating, and I did not expect that. So next up, you often see this perpetual loop within bands getting to the next level, be it in success in their craft or just notoriety, but you’re a really good example I think of just relying on yourself and your own ideas. How do you balance all the viral content you produce with all the riffs in your head?
Marcos: I think it’s kind of both. I’ll be working on one thing and think to myself that adding something else would be interesting, it’s the same flow of creativity just a different form of expression.
Like if I write a riff, I’ll want to put it in a video, and it can be really absurdist, but it’s a legit thing I still put a lot of heart into.
FB: Yeah, you’re great at gluing absurdist notions onto really great songs. I was just listening to “May,” and what a bop, it pretty much made my day. So you took lessons with Nick Reinhart, how did that rub off on you?
Marcos: It was pretty huge, I didn’t know anything he was talking about. He taught me a lot of his own riffs, but they weren’t really just guitar lessons, they more like an honest, artistic perspective.
It was an interesting lesson because I’d be like “what’s a seventh chord?” and he would be like “I don’t know,” (laughs) so he is very much an artist. He also showed me a ton of pedals, told me different stories, and it was a pretty good lesson in how to go about our band.
FB: That’s rad. Was that before you started writing an exercise book?
Marcos: Yeah, way before, I was eighteen. I think I wrote that book when I was twenty.
FB: It sounds like he also showed you some pedals, were there any you were particularly into?
Marcos: No, not for me anyway, he was really obsessed with the DL-4 but I wasn’t into it. I’ve never been an effect guy, I’m more in the “I like to just play guitar” kind of camp. But I don’t look down on anybody that does it, I think it’s sick, it just never really appealed to me.
I did try to get into pedals for a brief bit, but I got disillusioned with it. It came back to the playing with me, even now my board is pretty small. It’s just stuff I need, not like, “let’s do an effect.”
FB: You definitely have a way of filling up every space with your playing. Did you stick with one or two guitars when recording with the latest record?
Marcos: Yeah, I pretty much recorded the whole thing with this White Whale guitar I have behind me. But I’ve always experimented with different guitars, right now I’m working with the next one, a Music Man St. Vincent, and that’s super interesting.
I’m more partial to that than effects pedals. It’s more interesting to me what the pickup selector does than a pedal.
FB: That makes sense though, it’s closer to you as a player. Especially with someone who used two-handed tapping stuff, incorporating that into a pickup switch. That makes sense to me. You do split your rig live though, into a bass and guitar side, and that’s definitely a cool approach to low-end.
Marcos: That’s a big part of it too. Some people are kind of skeptical about it, but I was sound checking the guitar and our trou manager was with us. He also was sort of whatever about it, but when he heard it without it, he was like “wow, that (pedal) adds a lot.”
FB: I bet the bass definitely helps with certain frequencies when you tap too, sort of gives you that ‘boom.’
Marcos: Yeah, yeah. And I got in some hot water for shitting on bass players recently, which was totally a joke by the way. I think bass is the most important instrument in a band.
But in standards, bass lines without a bass player was the impetus of the project. The whole point of it was to not have a bass player. There are different ways to get around it, but that was my goal. So that pedal is technically very important to our band.
FB: Last year you pioneered a technique at Arctangent Music Festival known as “The Wall of Life.” What was the inspiration for that?
Marcos: There were a lot of metal bands on the bill! I thought it was so funny that we were playing with them as this tap-y, pop-y band. So we were scheduled to play main stage, and there are a lot of stages there that hold five or six hundred people, which is already kind of a big deal – but the main stage was meant to hold a thousand plus.
Also with no other bands playing at the time, the pressure was on. I thought, “how funny would it be if we did a wall of death, and we were the only band that did it?”
You see those videos on Youtube of those wall of death things all the time, and it’d be funny if instead it was a video of a wall of life, with people just hugging. It was kind of a way to size up the metal bands a little bit and I thought it was pretty funny.
FB: That’s a great angle. It sort of represents this overtly positive attitude that a lot of math rockers have.
Marcos: I think it’s really cool. I haven’t played it that long, but it’s nice to see there are so many educational channels out there, because it is a more technically driven genre.
>I also really like the crossover with music in other genres, we can play with lots of types of bands and it works perfectly fine. So it’s nice to in that community for sure.
FB: Speaking of that community, you’ve worked with some amazing drummers in a duo situation, from Brody, to Kynwyn, to Forrest… do you have a way of knowing that you’re clicking with a drummer?
Marcos: Yeah, I think there is a certain pushing and pulling. I always look for pocket, and how we hold things together. I know I have certain quirks when I play, so it’s cool when a drummer can be really solid behind me but also interact with me, which is hard because you have to be confident in the material.
FB: Are there any hidden gems in the LA music scene that we should know about?
Marcos: Oh, a curveball question! I have to think about it, there are so many people in LA. I definitely have to shout out my friend Robbie Brown, he has a band or solo project he’s been reworking for a bit. I always liked his acoustic stuff and I always really enjoyed going to see him play.
And I don’t think he’s so much a hidden gem anymore, but my friend Shalfi plays a lot of guitar with two-handed tapping stuff as well. He has a new EP that I actually mixed that I was really happy about.
FB: Are there any artists you’re interested in collaborating with?
Marcos: I have a bunch of dream collaborations that will probably never happen but there are also some people it would be cool to try some stuff with in the future. I definitely want to do a Kero Kero Bonito crossover, I think that would be so fun.
I’d want to do a collaboration with The 1975 too, but I know that’s never gonna happen. Those are my two dream ones, but I’m pretty much happy to collaborate with anybody if they’re down for whatever vibe we’re going for.
FB: Speaking of, you called out to the Facebook community recently that you were interested in starting a hardcore project, how did that come about?
Marcos: I love hardcore music, I’m a huge fan of so many hardcore bands. It’s been a long time since I paid attention to the scene, but I got into it again because my girlfriend plays in a screamo band, and there are all these new bands I’ve found out about.
A lot of hardcore bands I used to listen to, no shade to that community or anything, but they can be a little derivative with chunky riffs, screaming about community, and overall very meta. But this fresh stuff is really new and fun for me, so I’m working on that right now. I hope to have something out next year.
FB: Are you going to use the Hammerhead guitar for that one?
Marcos: Yeah, I think that would be pretty funny.
FB: So with all of us being pretty cooped up, what are some of the ways current events have been affecting you musically? Have you thought about creating music differently?
Marcos: Yeah, it already has. I feel kind of bummed about it, but not in a regretful way. Things were going a very different way before all this happened, a lot of tours lined up, and musically, things were going to stay very consistent… but being at home a lot, I bought an Axe FX. I got way more experimental.
When I was compiling what’s gonna be the next release, and just listening to the demos, it’s very different. I’m obviously happy about it, but it’s just another thing. It’s the next step for me as an artist and as a guitar player. Had this all not happened, I probably wouldn’t have gotten there for a long time.
It’s always good to change up your sound, I think that’s okay. I want to make music a lot of people can enjoy, so that’s ultimately what I’m going to be doing.
FB: Good on you. I think that’s sort of on everyone’s mind. These emotions or things we did every day are different now, or we can’t do them as much. So for me, when I pick up guitar or drums, I’m just more emotional, more connected. Is there a song that stands as the most emotional emotional statement for you?
Marcos: Yeah, there is going to be a new track on the record called “Mango.” It’s a standalone song without drums on it, and I definitely needed to play into my emotions to carry it. It’s kind of a ballad, and I really hope people like it because it’s a new thing for standards.
FB: Where did the name standards come from?
Marcos: I literally don’t even remember. (laughs) We just needed a name, quick and easy.
FB: Funny how that happens. Where do you see math rock in five years?/
Marcos: Hopefully a lot more trends of going down the electronic avenue. But I can also see a lot of people being influenced by records that are coming out now in five years, like Hikes, Floral, lots of other bands with records this year. Every five years or so you see that next wave of bands.
FB: Would you do us the honor of helping us set the standard for the ultimate fruit salad?
Marcos: Ah, you want me to give you the ingredients? Okay, my personal favorite fruit salad is kiwi, mango, you got to have some banana so it gets nice mushy which I really like…
Marcos: Oh, and put some blueberry in there for a nice little crunch. Sometimes I’ll put strawberry in there, something a little more basic. That’d be my favorite fruit salad. Sometimes if I hate myself I’ll put pineapple in there, it’s so good. I can’t resist. But it hurts my tongue so badly.
FB: I’ll keep that in mind man, when in your vicinity, I’ll leave out the pineapples.
Marcos: No they’re good, it just hurts my mouth.
FB: I’ll just leave them on the side.
Check out rest of the IG-TV video here, in which we take questions from the audience on the hidden genius of T-Pain, appreciating Brussels sprouts, digital mixing and more. You can hear the latest from standards. on their Bandcamp page, and their newest album Fruit Island is set to arrive August 28th.