Singer, songwriter, fictionist and former Stanford attendee Mark Ray Lewis grew up the son of a country preacher in Hannibal, Mo. Lewis' family, which included his gospel-adoring mother, Betty Jo Lewis, who released her own 8-track in the '70s, cultivated in him a profound respect and love for music as well as an irrepressible spiritual consciousness.
“You can take the boy out of the church but you can't take the church out of the boy,” Lewis explains. “When I started writing songs, I didn't think I'd be at all interested in Christian themes, but they come out in various ways. Our new album doesn't mention Christ but there's the metaphor of sacrificing the son, and there's a lot of father-son symbolism going on throughout.”
The self-titled release is Trilobite's first. Lewis' guitar and lead vocals are joined by cello, trombone, tuba, violin, banjo and pedal steel in what amounts to a subdued yet powerfully melancholic flirtation with folk-alt.country destiny. All of the pieces fit together into an intimate sound that is both experimental and exact. If a bit surprising, the instrumental combination blends with surprising precision, and Lewis' narrative lyrical style sheds light on his passion for the printed word.
For Lewis, who is an award-winning fiction writer, the parallels between his love for writing and his ardor for music are natural. “Music is really key to good writing,” Lewis asserts. “The novel is a pretty late incarnation of what started out as music, and for me, my creative writing really influences my song writing and vice versa.”
After 9/11, however, Lewis put down his pen and began focusing on music full time. “I felt jarred after what happened,” Lewis explains. “I just felt it was really distasteful for me to write fiction at that time. That's when I really started writing songs. I'd always kind of written songs as an outlet and there was some interplay between the two but it wasn't until then that I started putting way more energy into making songs.”
Trilobite has received interest from a reputable indie label based out of Nashville, and Lewis seems to be ready to put together another album. “I know we haven't even released this [current] record yet, but I really want to get started on a new one,” Lewis says. “You have to take inspiration when it comes.”
As for any foreseeable changes, Lewis isn't especially interested in adding a drummer but he feels his band's name might benefit from some tinkering. “People don't really know how to say it and its been misspelled before,” Lewis admits. “But once you think of a name you're kind of stuck with it for a while. Do you have any suggestions for a new one?”