Eagle Rock is spitting distance from my house, and yet I really only ever find myself there to chow down at Auntie Em’s on Sunday mornings. Marc Walloch lives up in Eagle Rock, on one of those winding hills with the vaguely commanding view of the downtown skyline. He’s not new to LA anymore; moved here from Chicago about two years ago, so the landscape is pretty different. It seems strange, serendipitous almost, that an artist whose work has had such a profound and long-reaching impact on my life could live just a few short freeway exits away. It’s almost creepy. I almost turn the car around and go back home. Almost.
Marc greets me at the door with a hug and welcomes me into the house. Two more musicians come to the door right behind me, brass instruments in tow, and greet me like we’re all old friends. Musicians are in and out of the house all day, Marc tells me, and the house is well-suited for it. The space is the ideal artists’ studio, complete with control room, a veritable wall of guitars, and plenty of room to experiment with whatever instrument is lying closest to you. While we talk, waves of music wind throughout the house, whether over the speakers or from a random bedroom down the hall.
Marc’s former band Company of Thieves came into my life rather quietly, then all at once. iTunes posted their first single “Oscar Wilde” as the single of the week way back in January 2009. According to my iTunes history, six days later I bought the full album, Ordinary Riches. It was the first time I found a band whose music just made sense to me. Their lyrics were about nothing and everything at the same time, and they were playing more than just the standard four-chord progression with a steady drumbeat. It was something else altogether, something that transcended songwriting conventions and entered a more universally human plane. It was a strong singer, Genevieve Schatz, accompanied by an equally strong singer – Marc’s guitar. I had never really sat up and noticed the guitar player of a contemporary band until Ordinary Riches. Marc’s voice spoke volumes and seemed, in many ways, to say more than the lyrics ever could.
It wasn’t until college that I finally saw them live at the Bowery in New York. The show was unreal. I remember the band walking out onto the stage and feeling overwhelmed that these people even existed. I saw them in Albany a year later for a small acoustic show with just Marc and Genevieve. I stood in the front, stole the setlist after the show, and pulled myself together enough to talk to Genevieve at the merch stand.
And it was more than just loving a band and the work that they do, it’s understanding that music and feeling understood. At fifteen, feeling understood is all any of us is looking for. That music, and those wails and cries of Marc’s guitar fit into the awkward grooves of my brain and felt like homecoming. It stayed that way throughout college. It has stayed that way up to today.
Then Company of Thieves came to an end two years ago. I got the sad email on an awful and interminable weekend and it was like a personal blow. I was a music critic at the time and wrote a brief piece about the band as part of my weekly column; re-reading it now, it all still rings true.
I ask Marc about that moment, that instant that the group realized things had come to an end. “It’s scary,” he admits frankly. “You have a lot of pride in building something from when you were a kid. We were 19 when we met each other, Genevieve and I, and we built a life with each other, playing and the fulfilling all these dreams.”
Genevieve released solo work, but it didn’t strike me with the same intensity that Company of Thieves did. I was worried that the warmth, the homecoming feeling was simply gone. But Marc, too, is working on his own now. He’s releasing Through the Seasons this spring under the name Spill, and I wonder about that shift — how do you even begin to make that transition from working collaboratively to working alone?
“I knew I wanted to move to Los Angeles,” he says. “So at that point, I decided that was my next step. I felt like I needed to hold on to my friends for a year and recuperate and write these songs and start recording and plan out the smarter steps. But as long as you’re in motion— I feel like, especially in times like that where you’re at a fork in the road and you don’t know where to go, just move. Stay in motion. Rather than staying stagnant somewhere where you’re not even happy, throw things out to the universe and opportunities will happen much easier then.”
Marc sent me Through the Seasons when I reached out, but I was worried suddenly. It was really the last hope that something of the music I loved and knew so well still existed. I looked at the tracklist, hesitant to start listening. What if this was the final call? That it really was gone?
Within thirty seconds of the opening track, I was grinning like an idiot, thinking, ah, there it is. I ran through the album twice just on my commute home and about four more times the next day, not really meaning to. It just felt like homecoming.
And there was something reaffirming in hearing certain familiar sounds. It’s new music, to be sure, but glances and flashes of it have that same warmth and invitation that made Company of Thieves such an integral part of my life. So maybe, after all, it wasn’t really the band. Maybe, after all, it was just Marc.
I tell him as much, that there’s something really familiar in his new work. He nods emphatically and says, “That’s what I hope to find, is that anyone who knows [Company of Thieves]… Even though you have a singer delivering messages, it’s cool that you can still get that same feeling from someone who wasn’t delivering you the message. I wasn’t the singer, but you’re still finding something — that oh, this sounds like part of that music, somehow. It’s nice to know that that element still pops out.”
Through the Seasons will be released this spring under the moniker Spill, so stay tuned to Marc’s social media to keep on top of everything.
Photography, text, and audio by Katie Antonsson