Serious groove

The Mark Sexton Band is working on its soul

The Mark Sexton Band plays Rollin’ on the River July 3 from 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. with opener The Stately Gentlemen at Wingfield Park, corner of First Street and Arlington Avenue. Free. For more information, visit, or go to and click “N&R Events.”

On the eve of its first big tour, The Mark Sexton Band is gathered in the sunroom of the band house on University Terrace. The surrounding windows are black with night and three of the four band members (minus drummer Dan Weiss) lounge around the wooden bar. Mark Sexton wears a loose-fitting V-neck, jeans and a gray fedora. He isn’t a hipster; he’s more relaxed and far less self-conscious. In fact, seeing him play at Java Jungle, he looked fairly nondescript among the counterculture and trendy dressers common at the cafe. It was only when he started playing guitar and singing—his face contorted and lost in the music—did it become obvious how serious and talented a musician he is.

Earlier that day at a tour kickoff show at the Nevada Museum of Art, the band looked a bit more rigid than usual, jazzed up with fancy shoes and newish looking clothes. It was obvious after Sexton repeatedly joked with the audience, asking people to put down their wine and pinkie fingers and dance, that he likes a venue where music and dancing are more important than pizza and wine samples.

“It can be a little awkward playing there,” Sexton said. “If they wanted music for the sake of music, they would do it somewhere else.”

The group’s musical roots started at Reno High with bassist Alex Korostinsky and Weiss jamming reggae as a sort of rebellion to the big band swing music that they were required to play for school. In college, Sexton’s singer-songwriter skills and the strong jazz influence from saxophonist Ryan Parrish combined with the reggae to form the sound the band now has—but that, too, is evolving.

“We’re in this different vein of music that we’re traveling through,” said Korostinsky, who looks kind of like snowboarder Shaun White except skinnier, with sinewy fingers meant to tickle the strings of the bass guitar. “We have this new aching to play something completely different.”

Part of the change stems from Weiss and Parrish having moved to Seattle at the end of last year after graduating from college. It’s a development the band says is both a challenge for scheduling and an opportunity to draw new musical influence.

“If your influences are changing, that means a lot,” Sexton said. “I’ve been falling in love with this soul direction of music. This soul-meets-reggae seems to really fit into what we’re doing.”

One thing that sets The Mark Sexton Band apart from many other acts is the dedicated support the band members get from their families. At least one family member, but probably more, can be found at any show.

A second defining element is the band’s huge work ethic. One big rule says it all: No off nights.

“Our job is to play music, do well and spread the word about our music as much as possible,” Sexton said.

This night is no exception. While Sexton’s roommate and a friend play foosball, viciously manipulating the handles and howling while a Matisyahu vinyl growls at slow speed in the background, Sexton sits quietly on the couch and updates the band’s Myspace and Twitter pages, preparing for the tour.

When the band returns from touring on July 3 to play Rollin’ On The River, it will have the momentum of 18 cities and eight states behind it, a venue where dancing is the norm and, hopefully, pinkie fingers that are turned down.