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Winchester’s Own Galen Clark Will Debut New Ensemble “Nancy” October 24th

by Eric Althoff

Drummer Galen Clark knew he had to come home. The native of Winchester, Virginia, had
spent some time chasing his musical dreams in New York, but the lure to return to his old
haunts in the Old Dominion proved too daunting to ignore.

And a new love helped seal the homecoming.

“My girlfriend Denver [Marie Walker] is pursuing a doctorate in classical guitar, and we met
through the Shenandoah/Winchester area,” Clark said.

But not only was Walker an ideal life partner, Clark also saw in her a muse. Walker too wrote music, and she and Clark decided to put together an ensemble they called “Nancy” alongside bassist Jacob Bly, keyboardist Jamie Blum-Marciano and guitarist Terence Blum-Marciano. The Blum-Marcianos serve as the new ensemble’s primary singers/songwriters, with Clark and the rest contributing vocals as well.

“Originally it was a bit of a joke,” Clark said of the name Nancy for the five-piece band, adding that it was actually “borrowed” from a neighbor who lived near the Blum-Marcianos, in whose basement the ensemble practiced and recorded.

But it also hid a darker meaning.

“Usually ‘Nancy boy’ is kind of a bit of a derogatory term, so we’re responding a little bit with some of the content we’ve written,” Clark said.

Nancy will unleash its debut album at a special showcase at the Bright Box Theater in Winchester Oct. 24, where they will share the bill with Matti & Debbie of Boston. It will also be the first time the group has performed together publicly.

Each of Nancy’s members brought something to its musical sound, be it folk or indie influence. Their song “Talking in Circles” has a folksy vibe about it, with Clark’s steady drumming undergirding an insistent guitar riff from Walker.

Clark, who worked as a recording engineer at D.C.’s vaunted Pearl Street Warehouse before Nancy came to fruition, not only drums for his new band but has recorded his own music in the past as well. He’s self-taught on the drums and also plays guitar, bass and a bit of keyboards and says his influences include Nick Drake, Led Zeppelin, Delta Sleep and Ben Howard.

“I think everyone at some point or another [was] classically trained or has deeply studied music,” Clark said of his band, adding that married band members Jamie Blum-Marciano and Terence Blum-Marciano are both public school music teachers by day. “I would say [Nancy’s sound is] indie rock, maybe a bit of post-’90s emo and post-rock mixed in there,” he said of the band’s sonic landscape.

However, the industry has changed so much that DIY bands like Nancy need to focus not only on playing live but on building their brand off-stage.

“The music industry is not on a linear curve. … There’s so many things behind the curtain that are changing very rapidly,” Clark said, adding that while bands can look at merch sales as a steady stream of income, the pressure is on to get their music into higher-profile settings with subscription services—what Clark calls “placement.”

“If you’re a DIY musician, you have to become savvy [on] how to adapt in music and either get the exposure that’s going to help you grow or maybe a small placement in a film that’s going to help you have some money coming in [beyond] playing all the time,” he said.

This self-promotion push to be seen above the fray has its downsides. Clark says that the greater D.C. scene is chock full of terrific talent, which makes for what he called a “cutthroat” atmosphere.

“If someone is relying on that [money] for their next meal and rent, they’re probably not going to reach out and support a brand-new band no one has ever heard of,” he said. “And that’s not the competitive aspect, that’s the survival aspect.”

Furthermore, the smaller and smaller pieces of the payment pie in D.C. have pushed many musicians like Clark to live far outside the District, where rents are cheaper and the scene isn’t quite so crowded. At the same time, home recording became ever more commonplace and more affordable—and thus more accessible. Clark sees this development at the turn of the millennium as a downswing from D.C.’s musical heights in the ‘80s, but he believes the “scene” is once again on the upswing.

“It’s happening and it’s cool to see, but it’s happening in closed circuits,” said Clark. “Groups of six bands work with each other to trade [ideas]. And a lot of these circuits need to be connected [because] a lot of people aren’t talking to each other in terms of a unified movement or how a lot of other really great cities cultivate a creative culture for music to thrive.”

Clark still makes a living as an audio engineer, which enables him to pursue his passion projects more freely too.

“I think that a lot of artists sell themselves short when they mimic someone else’s path to success,” he said. “Everyone does it their own way.”

His way entails creating new music with Nancy, whose sound Clark says is unlike anything coming out of Northern Virginia, whose scene is dovetailing with the area’s ever-expanding brewing and viticulture sectors.

“I really hope that people who are expecting to hear another cover band come in through the doors and [are] like ‘wow!’” he said of the Oct. 24 show. “And I want to hopefully inspire [others] that they can create as well.”

Nancy *Album Release Party* w/ Mattie & Debbie
Thu, 8:00 – 10:30 PM
Bright Box Theater, 15 N Loudoun St
Winchester, VA

Eric Althoff

A native of New Jersey, Eric Althoff has published articles in “The Washington Post,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Napa Valley Register,” “Black Belt,” DCist, and Luxe Getaways. He produced the Emmy-winning documentary, “The Town That Disappeared Overnight,” and has covered the Oscars live at the Dolby Theater. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with his wife, Victoria.

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