Growing Up in the Underground: an Interview with Mars Horner
Updated: Jan 20, 2022
Mars Horner is a singer/guitarist/bassist (depending on the project) who grew up in Los Angeles and is both consistently and rapidly growing in the LA music scene. Within the past few years alone, Mars has played in a few projects including Carboretum, Two Hour Shower, Idiot Burn, and Cole Gallagher. Notably, I actually grew up with Mars, we went to school together from kindergarten all the way up to high school so we’re well acquainted. I remember seeing his band, Usual Haunts, play at house shows and small venues a few times and they were so great: the energy that they brought to the shows was consistently paramount.
To begin the interview I asked Mars what bands he was currently in, thinking it would be a quick, straightforward A to B, question to answer. But it wasn’t because Mars has his fingers in so many things, he complicated it by stating, “It's kind of hard to say because I think of it more as just like different projects… [some of which] are on hold because [...] people would be away at college so certain projects would be put on hold.”
Mars continued, stating that he’s mainly focused on his project with Cole Gallagher: an Americana & Blues artist from Pasadena. Mars currently considers Cole Gallagher as his ‘main band’ because of the band's growing commitments, “I've been playing with him for a few months now and I kind of consider him the main band I'm in now just because we're consistently gigging. Like every week or so; there's just always something going on with him… For me at least, for it to be like a band, it has to be consistently happening.”
Interestingly, Mars readily acknowledges that some of his musical feats are because he's living and has lived in Los Angeles, or has been in the right place at the right time. Nepotism by location is a concept that I think about regularly (especially having also grown up in LA) and Mars loosely illustrates how it can be a stepping stone to success. Mars initially met Cole through his mutual friend James who he met at a Usual Haunts show, playing in high school. “James was playing bass for Cole and his live band because, I guess, [James] had mutual friends with him or like he grew up somewhere around the Pasadena area and he basically was like, ‘you know, I'm gonna need someone to sub for me while I'm out at Berkeley.’ So James asked me if I would do that.” Eventually, James began playing rhythm guitar for Cole Gallagher as Mars transitioned to the resident bassist.
Playing with Cole has led to subsequent, massive opportunities including playing at Borderland, a music festival in New York. “It was weird too because like, we ended up playing [Borderland] within a span of like a couple months; I went from like not knowing Cole to being in his first music video [...] then we got to fucking fly to New York to play the Borderland festival.”
Mars continued detailing what playing Borderland was like as a young musician, “it’s just like such a weird world because we'd gone from just like, you know, pulling up to some random bar or wherever we were playing in LA and like plugging our amps and in meeting the opening band like, ‘oh hey man, you guys were awesome’; you know, that etiquette. And then like it went from that to like riding a fucking golf cart [...] I looked up pictures of the stage and I'm like, ‘oh yeah, that's pretty cool’ and then, when we actually rolled up and we're going to load our shit; in my heart for like a second just kind of saying I was like, ‘oh shit’... but ultimately it was fun and we played like an hour and like we were the kind of band to open up the whole day on that stage which is just pretty wild.”
“[During a show] you're letting any stress or anything you have built inside of you is like you have a chance to escape from it or, like, let it out when you [play] so I kind of like any show but Borderlands was cool because it's just like… I never had like an exact idea of what I wanted to end up doing musically, but like, it kind of was a little wake-up call. But it made me feel like okay, like doing something big like a major festival is… it's a possibility and it is like it's something that is attainable if you work hard enough… [performing at Borderlands] it just kind of let me know like it is possible.”
Looking forward, Mars is excited to continue working with Cole and devoting more focus to Idiot Burn, a project with Jack Maison. “My friend Jack Maison who was living in Utah the last couple years just moved back to LA for good. And so, me, him, and our friend are finally now all [in LA]. So we're probably going to start doing a lot more stuff with Idiot Burn. We have one album out on Spotify and we're just kind of hopefully going to try to make some cool shit now that we're all here in person.” Mars will be playing at Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles with Cole Gallagher on January 28th.