Members: John Wozniak, Dylan Keefe, Shlomi Lavie
Named for the formative location in lead singer John Wozniak's childhood, the Marcy Open grade school in Minneapolis, Marcy Playground emerged in the late 1990s with a clean and subdued alt-rock sound.
Woz's first effort, Zog BogBean - From the Marcy Playground was essentially a solo work, recorded in bedroom studios at the turn of the decade. The alternative rock revolution was unfolding, and he was attending college at its epicenter in Olympia, sharing warehouse space with bands such as Nirvana and Blue Moon and Company (lead singer Jason Frost shared a college dorm with Woz).
After college, Woz moved east to New York, where Marcy Playground began to coalesce around the songs that would become the self-titled album. Bassist Dylan Keefe and drummer Dan Rieser filled out the band's sound, and complemented Woz's songwriting. The self-titled album was released in 1997, and Marcy Playground emerged into the mainstream with the success of the single "Sex and Candy." Marcy Playground is quiet and minimalist in tone, but filled with emotion and childhood imagery. Woz's songs run in many different styles: some are modern folk music; many have undertones reminiscent of children's songs; the blurred sound of psychedelia makes appearances; and then there are the songs where Woz clearly defines himself as a rock man.
Marcy Playground's next outing was 1999's Shapeshifter, in many ways a more complex album than Marcy Playground. The songs are longer and harder-edged than those on the self-titled album, and have a more layered sound. Whereas most of Marcy Playground has the feel of a quiet, unplugged live show, Shapeshifter is clearly amp-driven rock.
A minor controversy came to light on Marcy Playground's BBS when it was revealed that the cover art for Shapeshifter had originally been conceptualized by the Butthole Surfers for another album, and then pitched to Marcy Playground by Capitol Records as original work from their art department. No hard feelings ensued between the bands, but neither work for Capitol anymore. Marcy Playground is now signed with Reality Entertainment.
After Shapeshifter, drummer Dan Rieser left the band to pursue other interests. The position was eventually filled on his recommendation by Gonz, a friend who had also played in bands that opened for Marcy Playground.
Marcy Playground's third album, MP3, was released in 2004. MP3 fit the pattern of evolution from Shapeshifter, with a more electric sound and less of an acoustic feel. Some of the songs on MP3 also featured more overt messages about Woz's feelings on the music industry and politics. This made MP3 arguably more topical than previous Marcy Playground albums, the songs of which seemed to have a more generally timeless quality.