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Still Waters: Dan Marriner plumbs the depths for his personal and political songs

Sometimes you hear superstar musicians talking about how they pursue what they do for the art alone, and you end up wondering how many millions they've earned in order to be able to say that in comfort. Laguna Beach's Dan Marriner takes a refreshingly different musical road away from his regular work as a designer: He not only does what he does for the art, but he also happily gives away the results, as he's done with around 2,000 copies of his debut album, Below the Seas. It's simply a core part of the way he expresses himself.

"There's an importance to artwork, something that makes you feel human again, something that has a soul to it," Marriner says. "Working in design, there's definitely a crossover where aspects of it become so creative that I can link them in with the music."

Though musically inclined thanks to a family love of music and performing ("My mom was a really good singer, [although] she never really sang in public, but she loved singing in the car!") and his own lessons on saxophone while still a kid, Marriner found his particular calling some years ago after hearing some home recordings of a cousin: "It made me realize the impact that music could have, and with someone that I knew so closely and related to, it made me think, 'Wow, I really want to create this,'" Marriner says.

Working and playing diligently since then, both at home and in various live settings, including a memorable booking entertaining a San Francisco audience waiting for a performance by the Roots, he created Below the Seas during a year-long series of self-recorded sessions, performing on a wide variety of instruments, but mostly favoring acoustic guitar and dreamy, keening vocals. His work suggests the Incredible String Band and pre-T. Rex Marc Bolan, as well as Devendra Banhart. Yet he has his own unique, gently compelling edge, one that has evolved independently to entrancing effect.

Marriner ascribes the origins of his collection of "obscure love songs mixed in with tragic, heavy anti-war songs" partially to years' worth of intense perceptions and dreams, but also to earlier practice and discipline, particularly his passion for writing down thoughts and ideas as the mood seizes him.

"Writing took me over that edge in seeing the progress, the impact of arranging words that meant something special and reminded you of something deeper than what you could say at the time. . . . Words get me [back to the dreams], but they don't hold 100 percent of the feeling, so when I put the words with music, with different tones, different emotions, then it seems like it takes me further into those dreams and closer to that same sort of space," he says. "Putting the words and the music together is a way of reenacting what already goes on in my head."

Marriner's plans include a combined handcrafted book/CD release, a further extension of his interest in an all-encompassing art, while he regularly performs every other Wednesday night at Laguna's Ocean Avenue Brewery with friends and fellow musicians Reina Boone and Alec Bridges. Above all, he hopes to continue following his own distinctive path, saying, "The more I ignore interaction with typical music life, the more creative I become, and the better the music gets."


DAN MARRINER PERFORMS WITH REINA BOONE AND ALEC BRIDGES AT OCEAN AVENUE BREWERY, 237 OCEAN AVE., LAGUNA BEACH, (949) 497-3381. WED., AUG. 15. CALL FOR TIME; AND WITH BOONE AND MICK KELLEHER AT THE CAMPFIRE IN THE CAMP MALL, 2937 BRISTOL ST., COSTA MESA, (714) 444-4267. SAT., AUG. 18, 8 P.M. FOR MORE INFO, GO TO WWW.MYSPACE.COM/UNOFFICIALCHARACTER .

 
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