Marcel and Nakos: Skill and speed, made on the go

by Halee Hastad

photo by Breanna Marie

American music. That is what Marcel and Nakos play. American music. 

I hadn’t yet met two musicians so sure of what their sound is, but there they were, right in front of me, declaring their genre as clear as day.

The duo, who met only a year ago, had known each other only by name before sort of coincidentally coming together in April 2015. With no interaction leading up to their partnership, it is somewhat surprising how much they have accomplished since their start.

They have committed themselves to a particular style, which says something in a time when musicians seem more apprehensive than ever to declare themselves as belonging to a genre. They have also put out a self-titled album, released last April. The piece was put together within the first couple of months they had met, they said. It was recorded under Funkshway Records with the help of Mike Cloud, a known Bellingham sound technician and producer who just so happens to live in the house behind Marcel’s.

And with all of this one has to ask how these two make it work.

“We are both definitely into the speed thing,” Nakos remarked of their similar tastes.

Marcel does a great deal of playing the guitar, while Nakos plays the dobro, an American brand of lap steel resonator guitar. The two come together to play signature bluegrass and jazz music that is both traditional and improvisational.

Often, they say, their music is made on the go. They do not have scheduled practices, and when they do much of the music comes to them organically. There are templates to their songs, of course, so they have an understanding of where each is going with the piece. And the same goes for their live performances.

“We have definitely played songs for the first time in front of crowds,” they agreed.

Improvisation is necessary in this style of performance, they explain. Many bluegrass songs, for example, have a long history of being played and interpreted by the musicians following those who created them. Part of playing this kind of music is learning the basics and being able to perform those pieces with an essence of one’s own style and spirit.

Essentially, we are talking about musicians who hold honor for those who came before them and pay tribute by reworking the songs that have shaped their own personal sounds.

“It’s a lot of looking backwards and seeing where things came from,” Nakos said.

Both artists come from long lines of musical understanding. Nakos Marker, 24, born in Bellingham, is the song of a folksinger father. He was introduced to slide technique at around the age of 15 and has been passionate since. Marcel Ardans, 25, became most interested in guitar at 14, and now teaches lessons from his home and online at lessonswithmarcel.com.

As for Bellingham’s acceptance of this American music? Well, “Me quitting my day job and just playing acoustic guitar is a testament to this city’s music scene,” Marcel said.

Together, these two make for an energetic and intellectual duo. They can be seen once every month at the Honeymoon and will be playing shows around town throughout the month of June.

“We are two minds of the same kind,” Nakos said.

And this seems to be working for them. They are finding new ways of presenting traditional music and their efforts are noticed.

Catch their next live performance June 8 at The Shakedown with Local Ghost (ex-Moongrass), and T.V. Mike and the Scarecrowes. For more information about Marcel and Nakos, see their website at www.MarcelandNakos.com, and follow their Facebook page for updates.

Published in the June 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine