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Shuffle: Youngstown Multi-Instrumentalist Anthony LaMarca Returns Home

a photo of musician Anthony LaMarca
Anthony LaMarca was recording and touring with Grammy-award winning rock band The War On Drugs when he felt the urge to get back into the studio with his wife, Megan, and his brother to record as The Building.

After touring the world with indie-rock darlings St. Vincent and The War on Drugs, local artist Anthony LaMarca returned home to record and release his own deeply personal new album.

His Youngstown-based band, The Building, released “PETRA” in October 2019. The album shares its name with LaMarca’s German Shepard and also serves as an acronym that stands for Peace’s Eternal Truth Renews All.

An unexpected illness
In the middle of recording “Reconciliation,” his previous record with The Building, LaMarca was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.

“I went through a bunch of treatment and got things under control,” said LaMarca. “Then in the middle of recording this record, the disease sort of became active again.”

LaMarca was recording and touring with Grammy-award winning rock band The War On Drugs for their fourth album, “A Deeper Understanding.” During this time, he felt the urge to get back into the studio with his wife, Megan, and brother, Angelo, to lay down new tracks as The Building.

“The album very much inspired by Petra, the dog, you know the things that dogs teach you in general about presence and love,” LaMarca said.

A hometown record
LaMarca resides in Youngstown and recorded “PETRA” at Peppermint Productions. The recording studio was founded nearly 50 years ago. The same owner, engineer and equipment used to record by “America’s Polka King” Frank Yankovic and the “Judge Judy” theme song assisted LaMarca and his bandmates at the vintage studio.

“For me, that’s a big part of it—just being able to be part of this long lineage of music that was recorded in Youngstown,” LaMarca said.

While LaMarca is from Northeast Ohio, he spent time in New York City where new musical doors were opened.

"I want to make music that resonates with people from where I'm from"

A past life running a record label
The musician first ventured from Youngstown to New York City to attend college at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in 2009. During his time in the city, he founded Primary Records with friend and fellow Youngstown native Oren Kessler.

“That was like failing over and over again… magnificently,” LaMarca said. “It was fun. It was a great fun thing to do. It’s no longer a thing.”

While running the record label in Brooklyn, LaMarca recorded, produced and created the artwork for many of the albums recorded there.

“It was a great crash course in putting out a lot of records,” LaMarca said. “You’re just learning faster because you’re doing more.”

A rock star lifestyle
Living in New York granted LaMarca the opportunity not only to work with a new set of musicians outside of the Youngstown scene but also make connections and begin performing with internationally revered, award-winning players.

A photo of Anthony LaMarca
Anthony LaMarca mixed his latest album at the center where he received cancer treatment.

“When I was living in New York, my first like proper touring gig was with Dean Wareham and Britta Philips,” LaMarca said.

Performing as Dean & Britta, the duo is known for their work in Luna, which Wareham formed after founding Galaxie 500.  While playing drums at a gig with Dean & Britta in Chicago, the manager of Annie Clark—known professionally as St. Vincent—was in the audience.

“[He] was like, ‘Hey, Annie needs a drummer…like, this guy’s good,’” LaMarca said.

LaMarca graduated from The New School and embarked upon a tour with St. Vincent the next day.

“I played another show with Dean & Britta where they opened for The War on Drugs,” LaMarca said.

Years later, The War on Drugs bass player Dave Hartley approached LaMarca and mentioned he needed a bass player to tour with his band Nightlands.

“Toward the end of Nightlands tour, the Drugs were getting ready to put out ‘Lost in the Dream,’” LaMarca said. “And Dave was like, ‘Oh, you should come down to Philly and hang out and come play with us. We’re looking to add another guy.’”

LaMarca went on to join The War on Drugs, contributing to the band’s album, “A Deeper Understanding,” which won Best Rock Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards in 2018.

An intimate new record
While running a record label taught him the ins and outs of album recording and production, and touring with globally celebrated artists gave him a new perspective, LaMarca’s Youngstown roots and personal experiences remain the core of his own music.

The Building’s third album contains intimate songs like “Purifier,” the accompanying video—which was shot by his wife Megan—shows the songwriter in a treatment facility looking glum as an IV sticks out of his arm. The album’s overarching themes center around LaMarca’s experiences through the remission and relapse of his cancer. In fact, LaMarca edited and mixed his recordings at the center where he received treatment.

While the album’s accompanying visuals and solemn tone may be directly influenced by his illness, LaMarca’s deep connection to his hometown undoubtedly serves as the heart and soul of the album’s sound.

'I want to make music that you can make pasta to.'

“I think just because where I’m from, I want to make music that resonates with people from where I’m from,” LaMarca said.

He returned to his hometown to kick off his fall 2019 tour at the Westside Bowl in Youngstown. With The Building, LaMarca has the opportunity to do what he loves—noodle around on guitar with his family, close friends and beloved dog by his side.

“There’s a video with my grandma making Easter bread—I want to make a record that my grandma and her friends are gonna like,” LaMarca said. “I want to make music that you can make pasta to.”

Brittany Nader is the producer of "Shuffle" on Ideastream Public Media. She joins "All Things Considered" host Amanda Rabinowitz on Thursdays to chat about Northeast Ohio’s vibrant music scene.
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