34th Street's Alex Jacobs came by our rehearsal one afternoon to see our madness firsthand in preparation for their Streetapalooza event.
Every Sunday, the March Hare practices in the basement of Zack Guy-Frank’s parents’ home in Mt. Airy. Set apart from file-boxes and suburban house detritus, the corner practice studio is filled with what look like expensive gadgets. The big table nearby is littered with parts and audio odds and ends. Guy-Frank, lead vocalist and a Penn sophomore, brings together a group whose backgrounds are as diverse as their tastes in music: two have been students at the University of the Arts, one is a classically-trained violinist, another builds custom bass guitars. Last week, the band’s five members settled in comfortably for another six-hour practice session. The whole scene has something of That ’70s Show to it – for their goofy, self-effacing dynamic as much as their basement hideaway. “Alicia and I were in a band in a past life,” jokes Zack. “In the ’70s,” violinist Alicia Ritter replies.
The band first formed in 2004 after Zack, then a high school junior, posted flyers at University of the Arts. The original lineup – including Jon Hafer (keys/vocals) and drummer Charlie Heim – went on to play, by Jon’s account, “almost all the clubs in town,” including the Troc Balcony. Performing weekly for almost a year, they earned a reputation for an exciting live show and a reliable fan base. They knew “we [wouldn't] set the club on fire,” Zach says by way of explanation. After briefly disbanding in September, they reformed with Alicia Ritter and bassist Ryan Hyde.
The March Hare’s sound can be a bit hard to pin down – Alicia eventually stops to ask: “When you heard us, what bands did it remind you of?” Charlie, for one, readily compares Zack’s vocals to the hardcore act, The Blood Brothers. But the music can veer to the other extreme, in the more gentle harmonies of tracks like “In the Attic.” At other moments, metal basslines come face-to-face with pedal-distorted guitar solos. When writing songs, says Jon, “it’s whatever genre of music fits best for the idea we have. Our sound is constantly evolving.” They hope to record their latest material – about an album’s worth – some time this summer.
Friday’s show will be their first with the new lineup. Charlie warns: their live act can be uncompromising. “Either people would be really into us, or we’d play ‘Mr. Clean.’ People would say, ‘That’s too crazy,’ and they’d leave. There’s too much stuff going on, and they can’t dig it.” Challenging or not, the March Hare are seasoned enough artists to guarantee that every show will be unique. As Zack puts it: “We’re big on making it a performance.”