Leaving without saying goodbye is called a "French Exit." Suffice it to say, there has been an interesting cast of characters weaving in and out of the lives of The End of the World's Stefan Marolachakis and Benjamin Smith -- but somehow through 14 bass players and one fistfight, the two of them have been able to stick together, whether it be as best friends or as band mates. It's a rarity in a city where true friends are hard to come by.
Singing drummer Stefan first met guitarist Benjamin in Spanish class nine years ago. The two friends have been writing and recording music together ever since, now better known as the Brooklyn-based band, The End of the World.
The duo performed, recorded and self-produced every song on their second full-length, French Exit, as a two-piece in both Montana and Brooklyn. The 11 songs on French Exit (on Flameshovel/Pretty Activity, distributed via Touch & Go) address the growing pains of boys becoming men and transitioning into adulthood, or at least attempting to do so.
"Most of the record is very much about our lives, our friendship and our friends in general," said Benjamin. "It's definitely a growing up, life choices type of record."
Stefan's old school crooner voice underscores an earnestness in his narrative lyrics as he sings about people who have appeared and disappeared from his life. Onstage, he is a captivating storyteller, reflecting on the ins and outs of his life, his loves and his friendships. Meanwhile, Benjamin chimes in with shimmery, yearning guitar strums. The sound is minimalist and stripped down, calling attention to each song's emotion and tone.
"When everything else is removed and it's just the two of us, there's a really good line of communication there," Stefan said about writing the record. "It made it easier to make a record that felt honest and clear. 'Say what you mean' was one of our mottoes."
Their friendship has developed beyond the musical partnership over the years. They're constantly scheming their next New York escapade. They publish an online literary magazine called Take the Handle, inspired by participatory journalism in the spirit of George Plimpton and Hunter S. Thompson. Just like the stories in the band's music, the magazine chronicles the lives of their extended creative circle, including the likes of novelist Nathaniel Rich and bands such as Cursive, Oxford Collapse, The Subjects and Money Mark. They also run Pretty Activity Records, a label that acts as the musical arm of this same community.
French Exit features guest contributions from many of their friends, and the cover art was designed by renowned photographer and Grammy-winner Michael Schmelling. For their charming live show, they bring along friends Sam Axelrod (ex-Narrator) on bass and Mike Incze on pedal steel and guitar.
The End of the World just released a split 7" with Pretty Activity label mates The Subjects entitled Subs & Dubs 7". It includes The End of the World's "Someone Else's Dollar" from French Exit on one side and The Subjects' "Goldenshire Boogie" on the other side. At last year's CMJ Music Festival MTV News ran a segment on the long-standing friendship and good-natured rivalry between the two bands, who have been playing shows together for years.
The End of the World first released a 4-song self-titled EP on Pretty Activity in May 2005. The EP spawned the single, "This Little Theater," which was featured in Jonathan Demme's remake of The Manchurian Candidate. The Village Voice declared it "the best song to come out of Brooklyn" that year. The band followed up with their debut full-length, You're Making It Come Alive, on Flameshovel/Pretty Activity in October 2006. The album was produced with Bill Skibbe and Jessica Ruffins at Key Club Recording Studios.
Over the years, the End of the World has toured and performed shows with bands like Cursive, MGMT, French Kicks, Maritime, +/-, Bishop Allen, Ambulance LTD, David Vandervelde and Working For a Nuclear Free City. - www.flamshovel.com