One of Mark's in-progress projects is a 15-song CD of previously unreleased tunes tentatively entitled The Sinking and the Aftermath. The Simulacra is not a real band (hence the name), i.e. he's never played live with the other musicians involved. Still, it's not quite a solo album, as Mark isn't playing all the instruments or dictating the arrangements.
The title of the album comes from Mark's 1992-penned song "Waygo," which was a song describing emergence from a depressive haze. While the depression in that case (and pretty much throughout Mark's pre-marriage work) had to do with women, love is not the theme of this album. This time around Mark deals with that sense of panic that seems to hit lots of musician-types in their late 20's (Mark turns 29 in August, 2000) when they really realize, deep in their gut, that they're not going to "make it" in music by any possible stretch of interpretation. Hopefully, the phenomenon is generalizable to others in that group dealing with meaningless jobs ("I finally made it through law school and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."), dealing with the fact that grad school sucks and they should get the hell out, dealing with the fact that at this point they're not kids any more and they've gradually left the time where they seemed to have infinite life-options before them. What's the solution? Suicide? Playing around with the notion of suicide is a very common theme for romantic, angst-ridden early 20-somethings, and is a constant presence in Mark's '93 book and his music from around that period (witness Happy Songs' "Healthy Song"). This is an easy idea to toy with if (despite overt signs of clinical depression) you don't think there's ever been any REAL chance that you'd do it and if you don't know anyone who has.
By the summer of '99 Mark had already penned some more songs flirting with this topic to various extents. Over Thanksgiving, at his 10 year high school reunion, he heard about the 1996 suicide of one Aimee Widmer, an apparently very depressed girl whom he'd had a crush on (and had been rejected by, of course) at age 13 or so. This lash from the past kicked a bit more sense into Mark and directly influenced a key song on the album. The album is consequently less about Failure (the original title of the album) and more about reacting to anticipated failure, peering over the relevant precipices (precipi?), and coming out all the better for it.
The recording is a collaboration with guitarist Mark Doroba, a very accomplished player and composer whose band in Chicago opened for Ray Charles once or twice. Mark D. moved to Austin a couple years back after some years as a professional illustrator to catch up on his education. He was actually one of Mark L.'s philosophy students in '98. Mark D.'s influence is to make the project more atmospheric, more relaxing, more classical-sounding (his last major band had a viola and an oboe in it), and, well, at times, more 80's sounding (his favorite band is The Church). The Marks have had sessions with a number of different Austin drummers, including David Thibideaux (a Waco Davidian-compound raid survivor who plays in Austin's 5th Estate), Armando Reyes (of Punchy), and a guy named Bruce (Mark met him the day of the session). Mark (L.) is recording bass and rhythm guitar parts and intends to use a few new Madison pals to fill in keys, hand percussion, and some backing vocals.
All of the drum parts and Mark D.'s parts got finished up by the time Mark L. moved to Madison in June, 2000, but a new city, new job, and new baby put the project on pause for a while. If you're morbidly curious, you can monitor Mark's progress by listening to some not-quite-finished tunes here.
Proceed to Madison Lint