A Chat with Twin Ports Drummer Marvin Pomeroy
by Paul Whyte
This week I decided to talk with a musician who has been around in the area for decades, but might not be very well known. Marvin Pomeroy can be found on local stages around town playing drums for a variety of bands. He is perhaps best known these days for his work with the surf/rock band The Fractals. I met up with him at the new diner, KD’s Family Restaurant on Tower Avenue in Superior to ask him a little bit about himself and music in the Twin Ports.
Reader: Have you lived here your whole life?
MP: I was born here, yeah. I spent some time on the road, lived in Florida, and a couple of years in Chicago.
Reader: At what age did you start getting into music?
MP: As a teenager, about 15. It’s a long story but they didn’t teach bass guitar at that time. My friends played guitars and they needed a bass player. I went down to the music store and there weren’t any bass teachers so I said “I’ll take drums.”
Reader: What was your first set?
MP: I still own it. It’s a beautiful Ludwig Super Classic. My dad helped me buy it and now it’s vintage and super cool. I’ve been poor most of my life so it wasn’t in the cards to get a new set, so I played this one for decades. After awhile it was thought of as kind of old and outdated, but now it’s vintage and classic.
Reader: Tell me what bands you currently play with. We’ll keep it to the current ones.
MP: The Fractals, The Jane Gang, and the Mark Anderson Trio. Basically those are it.
Reader: So you started in a high school band, give me some highlights from then until now.
MP: A major highlight when I was in high school is that I had a band called The Bone. We did all original music, which was great. That was in Superior. It didn’t have a lot of financial success, but artistically it was a highlight for me. From there I got into more commercial music, which was really dance music. The golden era for Duluth and Superior when the bars were just hopping I was playing six nights a week, just going from one club to the next. Especially places like Mr. Pete’s Corral and the Brass Phoenix that were a block apart in downtown Duluth.
Reader: How long have you been playing in The Fractals?
MP: It’s been around ten years. That band was formed as a Thursday night Thirsty Pagan entity. Right away I was thinking outside of the box, “let’s bring this out into the weekend.” So, we ended up playing out here and there; car shows, and summer events are great.
Reader: What is the change between what you called “the golden era” to music in the Twin Ports now?
MP: Mostly it’s the size of the venues. Back then there would sometimes be department stores that went out of business because of places like Wal-Mart. They were able to make gigantic bars that held hundreds of people. They sold so much liquor that they couldn’t keep it cold. I think with discos and karaoke nights things got spread out a little more. Places like Mr. D’s and The Gopher can still hold bigger shows, but a lot of acts are playing smaller venues like cafes now.
Reader: Are you teaching drums now?
MP: I do a little bit out of my home. I used to have alliances with music stores, but I’m doing that currently.
Reader: Tell me about Northwoods Music in Superior. I know you were kind of affiliated with them.
MP: It was a nice business close to my home. I could walk to work there. It was more family oriented over a corporate environment. It was one of things that could evolve and be oriented in different directions. It closed down because there’s a real changing of the times. A lot of brick and mortar places can’t make it now because people just reach for their smart phone. If they pay five more dollars they can have something shipped to their door in a day or two. It’s a different way of commerce that’s had some impact in a major way.
Reader: What would you like to see happen in the Twin Ports with music that’s not already happening?
MP: It would be great to see more opportunity for musicians and more opportunity of patrons to go see music. I’d really like to see music become more adventurous. For people to think about it more as art than craft. I think it’d be great for musicians to up the ante. Musicians talk about dumbing down their music to appeal to the general masses, it’s a horrible idea. That they can make extra money if they play this music. I’d like to see more integrity. “Let’s play better music. Let’s play what we want to play.” Give the public a little more credit.