MILL CREEK — The Snohomish County-bred house band for Black Lives Matter protests in Seattle is under consideration for a Pulitzer Prize.
The Marshall Law Band was inspired by the street demonstrations that followed the murder of George Floyd to record “12th & Pine,” an album about their experiences. “12th & Pine” is named after the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP, area at the downtown Seattle intersection.
After finding out they’re under review for a Pulitzer, Marshall Law Band decided to release weekly videos promoting the album. Next up, the band is schedule to release the music video for “BLM” on Friday.
Since forming in 2017, the Marshall Law Band has gone from an unknown funk-hop sextet to the house band of the Seattle Black Lives Matter movement. The band’s music features hard-hitting hip-hop lyrics about civil rights and social justice, laid over funk instrumentation.
Rapper Marshall Hugh is backed by Marty Thordarson on saxophone, Evan Robertson on bass, Matt McAlman on drums, Josh Richins on guitar and Zack Olson on keys. Richins and Olson also sing backup.
So far, the band has released the music videos for “Reel News” and “Poor Man, Rich Soul,” as well as a “Jam in the Van” session.
The band wrote “BLM,” featuring vocals by Jmoe Da Bird, on the spot at the CHOP protests. When Jmoe noticed the Marshall Law Band was out of songs, he started to sing a song inspired by a Black Lives Matter sign he saw in the crowd. The band followed his lead.
“It all comes from a real place,” said Hugh, who coaches basketball at Jackson High School, from which he graduated in 2010. “A few of us know people personally who have died as a result of a police shooting.”
The video for “BLM” features footage of the band performing at the CHOP last year. Jmoe Da Bird provides the song a jazzy hook with versions of “Don’t you know? Have you heard? Can’t you understand?” that Black Lives Matter, between vocal improvisations.
The music video for “Reel News,” released on Jan. 22, is a reaction to national coverage of the Seattle protests by Fox News and CNN. Hugh called the news networks’ reporting “clickbait” that sensationalized the Marshall Law Band’s performances at the CHOP. He said Fox even falsely identified him as “Chaz Marshall of Antifa.”
The “Reel News” video is a homage to the 2004 Will Ferrell comedy “Anchorman,” which poked fun at TV news. Hughs plays Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy character.
The song title is a pun. “It’s more of a fishing reference, rather than reels of film, actually,” said Thordarson, 28, an Arlington High grad. “The media is hooking you with their clickbait.”
Another music video, this one for “Poor Man, Rich Soul,” was released on Jan. 29. It’s a reflection on a musician’s impact in society. Hughs said each artist has a career choice to make: They can be all about the money, or they can focus on the message.
The video was inspired by the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise starring Johnny Depp. It was filmed on an Emerald City Pirates’ ship on Lake Union. Hughs plays a Captain Jack Sparrow-type character.
The “Jam in the Van” session, released on Feb. 6, features several songs from the “12th & Pine” album.
The band was originally slated to record with “Jam in the Van” in Austin, but then COVID-19 hit. So instead, the band members played it safe, and filmed a performance outside the solar-powered mobile recording studio in Los Angeles.
The sextet may have gained fame because of their jam sessions on the streets of Seattle, but all of the members are from Snohomish County.
Frontman Hugh, 28, of Mill Creek, attended Carnegie Mellon University for two years before realizing he’d rather pursue music. He moved from Pittsburgh to Seattle to launch a solo career.
The future members of Hugh’s band collaborated on his album “Mill Creek” in 2016. Hugh liked their instrumental backing so much that he ditched his solo career for the funk-hop band.
The protests in Seattle were the perfect stage for Hugh’s social justice-focused music. He had his band stationed a block from the East Precinct where police and demonstrators engaged in an extended standoff. He said the idea was to empower weary protesters and provide a soundtrack for the movement.
There were more than 170 straight days of protest at the CHOP, but the Marshall Law Band played five-hour sets for six consecutive evenings before the Capitol Hill Organized Protest at 12th Avenue and E. Pine Street had earned its acronym.
After those six performances at the protests, the band recorded their 12-track debut album at Soundhouse Recording with Jack Endino, who worked on seminal grunge albums by Mudhoney, Soundgarden and Nirvana. They finished their album in 10 days.
The band’s manager decided to pursue a Pulitzer Prize after seeing parallels between Marshall Law Band’s “12th & Pine” album and Kendrick Lamar’s work “Damn,” which won a Pulitzer in 2018.
“We wanted to bring an uplifting vibe to a very real and pressing issue,” Hugh said of the album. “In this decade, black lives need help from everyone to feel supported, respected and understood, so we can make changes as a society and begin healing. We’re hurt, and you don’t get over that quickly, but with love it can happen eventually.”
The band was notified on Jan. 11 that they’re being considered for the award. The winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music will be announced April 19.
Watch the music video for Marshall Law Band’s “BLM” on YouTube on Feb. 12.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; email@example.com; @sarabruestle.