Planning & Inspiration
Interview With Claudio Marquez, Founder of Mod Society
If music be the food of love, play on. – William Shakespeare
Much rides on the shoulders of a wedding band. After all the formalities of the marriage ceremony are said and done, the wedding band is responsible for playing the soundtrack that accompanies the newlywed’s once-in-a-lifetime celebration. This is where Claudio Marquez and Mod Society come in. Through music, Mod Society stimulates the emotions, mood, and energy that create memories people remember long after the last song is played.
Shortly after moving to New York City in 2009 to pursue his career, Claudio watched as fellow musicians picked up gigs (and made money!) playing at weddings. Interested yet unsure how to break into this type of work, he decided to form his own band. In its early days, Mod Society was just a trio that played while guests sipped cocktails waiting for the reception to begin. At present, Mod Society is an ever-evolving music collective known for keeping wedding dance floors jam packed well into the night.
It’s the height of fall wedding season in NYC. Claudio managed to take a break from his busy schedule to take part in our Industry Influencer series. From his studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he talked about the talented network of professional musicians making up Mod Society, the collective’s singular wedding music sound, and how he stays artistically inspired.
We always like to start from the beginning. What are your first memories of music?
My earliest memories are from my childhood when my dad would blast opera tapes in the living room and sing along. I really didn’t start to like opera until twenty years later!
Can you tell us about your background and training?
Since I was in third grade, I have always been practicing and playing music. I started out with the piano. Then in middle school, I started playing drums and became really serious. I went to college at UNC-Chapel Hill where I majored in music and computer science. Eventually, I transferred to Berklee College of Music to study jazz full-time. That experience changed everything.
You moved to New York City in 2009 to further your music career. How were your first experiences trying to break into the city’s music scene? Do any memories from that time stand out?
Back then, I was all about writing and playing my own music. It was really hard to break into the music scene here, because you are surrounded by hundreds of very talented musicians doing the same thing. I remember getting parking tickets that were more than twice the pay I made from a gig!
How did the idea to start Mod Society come about? What did you want to achieve during those first years?
I would continually hear other musicians talk about their wedding gigs, but I never understood how they actually got them. I’m very introverted and was not great at networking back then. Instead of waiting by the phone, I decided to start my own group, which would allow me to figure out the practicalities gig by gig. For the first three years, we played as a trio exclusively during the wedding cocktail hour.
Mod Society is a core group of professional musicians that also works with a larger network of musicians. It must be incredible to work with such diverse talent on both a creative and personal level. How do you see Mod Society’s active makeup influencing the collective’s unique and versatile sound?
Everyone brings their personality and unique talent to every gig. I love working with new musicians who will make the same tired song sound incredibly fresh for us! We also have a way of rehearsing where our core members collaborate to create new and interesting arrangements for songs every week. Everyone is responsible for our dynamic sound as a collective.
Having a live band play at your wedding adds another level of energy to the celebration. That being said, every wedding celebration is different. How do you and your fellow musicians prepare to ensure each night is a success?
We have a weekly rehearsal where we go over all requests for the upcoming weekend – this routine is pretty straight forward. We also work on being able to improvise our way in and out of songs based on how we feel the crowd in that moment. Playing at weddings is such a live experience – you have to be on your toes to constantly react to changes in energy.
Mod Society played at Melanie and Nick’s wedding at Suffolk Theater. Melanie was one of our BB Featured Brides and raved about you. Her exact words, “The moment the last song ended, all of the guests still on the dance floor immediately fell to the ground… me and Nick included! We were all laughing and couldn’t stand up for a few minutes. I took it as a sign that everyone had a great time.” How does it feel knowing that Mod Society is helping to create memories people will hold onto for the rest of their lives?
This is amazing! I love working with couples that really appreciate what we do. Melanie and Nick booked Mod Society over a year in advance and came to our shows throughout the year. They were such big fans and we recently saw them at another wedding! These are the kind of clients that we tend to attract – they stay in touch after their wedding and we love it!
What is the strangest wedding song request Mod Society has ever received?
We recently learned the Philadelphia Eagles’ fight song “Fly Eagles Fly”. The bride had made a secret request to surprise the groom and everyone went crazy over it! The song was strangely fun and exciting to play.
If you could have Mod Society play at any wedding throughout all of history, which wedding would it be?
My sister booked a summer camp in North Carolina for her wedding weekend. I DJ’d, but regret not bringing the whole band to the wedding. The levels of fun were epic.
Do you have any favorite musicians or bands?
Anything by Wilhelm Richard Wagner, the German composer, totally blows my mind. He’s for the real music geek, but once you get a handle on his work, it changes everything. I also really love listening to Bon Iver on the drive back from weddings. We usually wrap up after midnight – I’m exhausted and it’s perfect.
How do you stay artistically inspired?
I have so many outlets – all things musical, film, photography, fitness, my cycling Youtube channel, my dogs… With all of this going on, I am fortunate to have several lifetimes worth of artistic inspiration to keep me going.
Describe your perfect day off?
I’m a competitive cyclist and triathlete and take three to four weekends out of the year to travel out of town for different races. This year, I competed in a four-day stage race in Vermont that took place over Labor Day weekend. It was a great getaway to have during the peak of our wedding season. The experience really helped me re-charge and get ready for all the fall madness.
A big thank you to Claudio for participating in our Industry Influencer Interview Series. To learn more about Mod Society, visit modsociety.com and follow along on YouTube and @modsocietymusic