No longer lunchbox
By Rev. Adam McKinney on March 14, 2010
Tristan Marcum and I met the way friendships are usually formed: He started dating my ex-girlfriend. Shouts were exchanged over unwise telephone calls, and I slowly sunk into a bottomless pit of self-loathing and despair. In the months after he and my ex parted ways, I suddenly found myself warming up to him. Today, I consider him a very good friend – despite my best efforts in the beginning. That's how it goes. Marcum is such a singularly unusual, delightful character that it's kind of hard to stay mad at him.
But who is this guy? Well, if you've been following the local music scene for the past 10 years, it's hard not to know who he is. Marcum started in 2000 with the brief Fire Child and quickly moved on to form Vells. It's through this band that Marcum brushed national fame, a taste cut short by the band's collapse.
Near the end of Vells, Marcum recalls that Jeremiah Green (drummer for Vells and, more famously, Modest Mouse) and he started to come a little unhinged. They were both on Effexor, an antidepressant Marcum says was driving him and Green to manic episodes of absurd madness. Week by week they'd trade off who would be crazier, Marcum says. "Is it you or me?" Marcum remembers asking. "Oh, you're going to take it this week? Cool."
Vells began to dissolve, resulting in the band's last show featuring only keyboardist Mary Thines and Marcum performing in the middle of Cheney Stadium. A sparse crowd of Cheney employees looked on.
Marcum bounced back fairly easily, though, forming Psychic Emperor, Skeleton Rebellion and Dream City Records – each permutations of Marcum's sweetly sung, fanciful music – and the last a record label, formerly known as Destiny City Records. The label's motto is simple. Dream City will put out anyone's music – as long as it's not terrible.
Last year, Marcum abruptly disappeared. Those who know him were left with rumors as to his whereabouts. He was in a mental hospital, we were told.
"Basically, I was completely lunchbox last summer," says Marcum. "I really don't know what happened. I truly had, like, a psychotic break or a mental imbalance or just a mental breakdown. I don't really know what caused it, but it was really scary to be involved in my own head at that time."
Marcum somehow ended up at Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, where he was checked in for rehabilitation.
In the weeks leading up to Marcum's "psychotic break," I had noticed a slight unraveling in how he was perceiving reality. Marcum became preoccupied with Jesus and Satan and would occasionally ask me about my affiliation with them. The extent of what was happening, however, was unbeknownst to me.
"I basically thought you were somehow, literally, the son of the devil and all of our friends were like your weird little secret demon helpers," Marcum told me recently. "But you guys were my friends and loved me, so it was all good. You just wanted me to take communion."
The communion he's referring to is an ill-advised attending of the Mass that was offered at Out in the Park. My friends and I were hoping it would be free wine, but it turned out to be grape juice; that's all the thinking we put into it. But for Marcum, seeing the son of the devil taking communion was profound.
Marcum recalls the feeling, saying, "In my head, I was like ‘You guys are cool, so there's no such thing as real Hell. So, if we can make an alliance of it, people won't have to go to Hell or worry about it. And we did it.'"
Let's be clear. If you were to see Marcum today you would not see a crazy man. In the time since he left the hospital, he's improved by leaps and bounds. He no longer believes me to be the son of the devil. He moved to Seattle, where he's formed a band with the former New Faces called Kilcid Band. As they're preparing the band's debut release, Marcum is fog-free and excited to begin this new chapter in his life.
With any luck, this new band will finally bring Marcum the recognition he deserves.