Lisa Marr is no stranger to the road. From 1992 to 1997, as the bass player and vocalist for the beloved Vancouver "cuddlecore" band, cub (which really should be acknowledged for one of the best lines in Canadian pop: "Satan sucks, but you're the best!"), Marr toured extensively, carrying her own gear around and hoping that at the end of every night the band sold enough t-shirts to make it to the next town.
Several bands later, including The Beards, Buck and The Lisa Marr Experiment, Marr is planted in Los Angeles, but still travelling modestly—this time with The Here & Now, a duo with partner Paolo Davanzo, touring and performing live music to accompany their artful Super 8 films, which they will do this Friday at the CBC Radio Room.
Five years ago Marr was wandering through her Echo Park neighbourhood—the core of the movie industry before Hollywood, where early Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Keystone Cops films were shot—when she stumbled across what she thought was the opening day of a new store. Turns out it was the not-for-profit Echo Park Film Center, and her first meeting with Davanzo.
"Strangely in LA for several years there wasn't anything like that here," says Marr, calling from the centre. "I had bought a Super 8 camera in a thrift store in Joshua Tree and was really excited about making music and movies in conjunction with them. I was excited about the film centre. I started attending screenings and then I was making films and started showing my films here, and getting really involved. The person who started the film centre that welcomed me in that first day, that was Paolo. Over time, we started working together, eventually we fell in love and started playing music together. The Here & Now springs from that."
Appropriately named, The Here & Now is a completely portable artistic unit.
Davanzo plays percussion on whatever he can drum up in each location—sometimes it's a suitcase or a cardboard box. Marr brings her ukelele, the smallest instrument she can haul around that sounds like a guitar. So far, the duo has performed and screened films for audiences large and small in North America, Mexico and Europe, including a month in Ukraine last summer.
"You don't want to be too precious about your materials or equipment," Marr says. "You really want to put on a show, whether you're in a beautiful old cinema in the city, or a tiny rural village in the mountains of Ukraine. It's about sharing these moments of time, not about what kind of stuff you bring. It's about the dialogue, it's about beautiful images and singing songs. It's allowing people a little space in their life to just dream: To look at these images on a screen and not have to sort out a story line or deal with a political message. It's just about a few little sweet moments in life where we can get together and have a nice dream together."
Because of the time-consuming nature of their work at the film centre, much of the pair's art is created on the fly. Marr says, "A lot of it is experimental, there's a lot of travelogues. We're always collecting images as we go." The nostalgic, almost ethereal quality of Super 8 fits their aesthetic, and its length—each cartridge is only three minutes and 20 seconds—forces artistic focus and decision-making. "It can be a long time depending on what you're shooting or how long you're shooting," says Marr. "I know people that have shot an entire world trip on one cartridge. That's beautiful.You slow down and think about what you're doing."
As part of the weekend's Super 8 Showcase, curated by Halifax animator Heather Harkins, who was the 2006 artist-in-residence at Echo Park Film Center, Marr and Davano are also bringing films from EPFC students, which will be screened on Saturday afternoon. A mix of pieces about identity, family and community, the films reflect the "reality of growing up in LA" and the mixed neighbourhood's historical mix of "immigrants, innovators and artists."
This month, the centre presented a night of films by the late Helen Hill, attended by her husband Paul Gailiunas. "It was a bittersweet night," says Marr, "but again, it was a celebration of people really making art and film that reaches out to embrace people."
The Here & Now, Friday, October 19 at CBC Radio Room, 1599 South Park, 7pm, $6. Journey to Echo Park, Saturday, October 20 at CBC Radio Room, 4pm, $6.