Album art by Sage Cotignola
‘Climbing the Wall’ is a collection of alternative art rock songs with soaring vocals that run the gamut of heartbreak, misogyny, political commentary and loss, and features a layering of organic acoustic and electric guitars, subtle driving bass and percussion.
By Tammy Scileppi

Straight from her unicorn heart comes Astoria-based singer/songwriter Virginia Marcs’ hot and fresh debut album, “Climbing the Wall,” in all of its Darkness and Light.

The rising musician’s Facebook page announces: “The Unicorn is landing to deliver her record to The People!”

Marcs and her band have been rehearsing for their upcoming performance during her record’s official release party, happening at LetLove Inn in Astoria, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. Opening guest, Coyote Cinema, a folk-rock band led by local poet and singer-songwriter Elise Levitt, will be followed by Marcs’ show at 10:30 p.m., when she’ll be singing all seven tracks from “Climbing the Wall.”

The guitar-playing vocalist also promises more surprises, and a debut of her new song, “Dark,” which she describes as “possibly the most uplifting song I’ve ever written, despite its title.”

“I’m so excited about my new record. Astoria Music Collective, which I’m a part of, reached out to the LetLove Inn on my behalf and they agreed to host us for the night. The place really has great sound and an old-glamor/vintage vibe that just feels right for this, cool bartenders and drinks, and a great sound system,” said Marcs, who will be fronting on rhythm guitar, along with band members Ben Absurdo on bass, Keith Malonis on drums, Lesley Barth on keys and background vocals, R. Andrés on lead guitar, and Megan Pikaard, also on background vocals.

When she’s not rehearsing for gigs, teaching music, tending bar, or hosting open mics, the imaginative musician is usually busy writing lyrics. And, according to her own admission, she sometimes daydreams about whimsical stuff, like “unicorn songs,” while drinking “unicorn coffee” and thinking “unicorn thoughts.” Obviously, she seems obsessed with all things related to that mythical creature, and even the artwork on her new album features a lovely unicorn on the cover.

Marcs, who describes herself as “an archaic and yet ebullient 35-year-old,” said she’s “over the moon” about her new record — a collection of six produced tracks and one live track. The songs run the gamut from heartbreak to triumph, address misogyny and the political climate, and other timely topics put into great music.

With the guiding vision of her producer Katie Buchanan, the driven singer embarked on a Kickstarter adventure earlier this year to fund the recording and production of a record she believed in. With 216 backers, including friends, family and fans from all over the world (Australia, Italy, France, UK, etc.), they raised $8,515 in pledges.

“I never would have had the gumption to do this if it weren’t for the influence of Amanda Palmer and her book, ‘The Art of Asking,’ and also the unwavering support of my boyfriend, R. Andrés,” said Marcs, who truly hopes that listeners will dig her songs’ soaring vocals combined with a layering of organic acoustic and electric guitars. “We’ve got some bad ass driving bass, even a harpsichord bit… and BIRDS…there are birds!”

And, if you’re wondering what her music really sounds like, the singer explained that her sound has been compared to the likes of Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Janis Joplin, the Cranberries, and Amy Lee from Evanescence, who, along with Radiohead, Patti Griffin, Fiona Apple, and Sam Phillips, happen to be Marcs’ musical influences.

Indie-pop singer-songwriter Katie Buchanan, who produced and mixed the unicorn musician’s new album, also produces albums for other women, creating spaces for young female artists to learn the language of the studio and to develop the tools needed to navigate the music industry, according to Marcs.

“It was a new and exciting process for me. As we moved along, a cohesive sound began to emerge,” she recalled. “When I first heard the final mixes, I basically just sobbed for 30 minutes. This is real. It happened. It’s still happening.”

Describing her record as “The journey of ‘climbing the wall’…the emotional, mental and physical barriers that I had to climb to get here,” the songstress explained the meanings behind the edgy songs that make her album truly one of a kind.

“The message of the record, I suppose, is to shine a light on the darkness inside of yourself and accept it. Look at yourself and accept all of the pieces…the dirty bits, the dark bits, the ‘crazy’ bits, the sad bits; accept all the bits and love them, so they can’t form a wall in front of you anymore. In the end, the only person stopping you from doing anything is (usually) yourself,” Marcs said.

The Unicorn thing

“First off, I feel I should address it,” Marcs quipped. But on a more serious note, she said, “I never really fit in anywhere. I’m generally the ‘loud one’ or the ‘sparkly one’ or the ‘strange one,’ or on occasion, I’m sure, the ‘melodramatic one.’”

“In discussions about this with friends, the word unicorn started being bandied about. Before I knew it, I was receiving unicorn gifts from friends. Unicorn lights. A unicorn mug, a unicorn shirt that depicts a unicorn with a blade affixed to its horn and reads, ‘I’ll cut you.’ I started to really feel like a unicorn! Magical. Capable of anything.

And, it seemed as if the universe understood.

The ‘magical’ singer started her Kickstarter campaign and ran with it. She received more unicorn gifts, and even penned a book of unicorn haikus that was originally written to entice backers.

The Backstory

“I come from a typically dysfunctional group of humans. I wouldn’t call us a family. My childhood has been mostly blotted out of my memory by darkness. I was a painfully awkward and broken kid and spent most of high school subjecting myself to various substances in an effort to clean the slate,” Marcs recalled. “Needless to say, that’s not a particularly effective method to achieve anything other than, frankly, some brain damage.”

Singing was the only thing that ever kept her grounded.

“When I was a little girl growing up in Saint Petersburg, Fla., I literally thought I would grow up and be Madonna. I wanted the dancing and the singing and even, at seven, the vulgarity and brashness. Over the years, this dream of conical breasts and arenas morphed, and pragmatism reigned,” she said.

“I got my degree in Voice Performance, Opera, essentially, then finally made my escape from Florida to NYC. I never really fit into the opera world though. I made a play on the jazz scene for a bit, leading a six-piece swing band for a few years, but I just didn’t love it the way I’d hoped. It felt more like an obligation to stay in the music scene and keep my band playing; it seemed disingenuous to me.”

After a while and a lot of drinks, a lot of fun, and some incredible opportunities to play music with seriously talented musicians, young Virginia realized that she wasn’t being fulfilled by what she was doing.

On her 30th birthday, Marcs’ sister sent her an awesome guitar. “A blue Rogue…and I fell in love,” she recalled. “And all the dreams of my youth came flooding back to me. I couldn’t put it down. ’Blue Betsy’ changed me and something magical started to happen. I started to write music. I started to feel like myself in a way I never had before. I was becoming my Unicorn self (They’re not mythological after all). Eventually, I started playing open mics, getting shows and upgrading to ‘JJ’ – the Eastman I currently play.

“I played while I made eggs, I played while the TV was on, I played before I went to bed. I played constantly. And before too long I’d written a few songs. At the first open mic I ever played at The Waltz in Astoria, in 2014, I shook like a leaf and clutched the guitar so hard, my left arm went numb and I almost thought I was having a heart attack.”

Meanwhile, the budding musician was soaking in the music of her favorite artists and reading writers like Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Zora Neale Hurston, and Daniel Quinn … and writing, always, always writing. She sang at clubs, parties, and in shows with friends.

Marcs recently performed original music at the Venus Envy Festival 2016 at Irish Whiskey Bar, Venus Envy Festival 2017 at LIC Beer Project, Astoria Music NOW Festival 2017 at Singlecut Beersmiths, The Quays, Sek’end Sun, Astoria Beer & Cheese (Ditmars), and Shillelagh Tavern. In Brooklyn she played Strong Place and Terra Firma. In the City, she played Parkside Lounge, The Blarney Stone, The Bitter End, and Bowery Electric.

About her future plans, she said, “I have a right now plan, a one-year plan, a five-year plan, a 10-year plan and a forever plan. They basically all just equate to making a successful career out of writing my own music and performing. Right now, I’d like to make enough money from record sales and merchandise sales to tour the northeastern region of the USA and then branch out from there.”

The talented, ambitious creative has written a substantial number of songs, performed them, collaborated on some of them, and now says what she really wants to do is to tour. She is currently planning a tour of New England for spring 2018.

“Climbing the Wall” will be available for download and streaming in all major digital stores and on all services starting Saturday, including but not limited to: iTunes, Spotify, bandcamp, Amazon on Demand and Google Play.

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