For over the past year, Marc Rebillet has been a beacon of light in a darkened pandemic world. Armed only with a beautifully eccentric persona and a small table of electronic music equipment, Marc’s live music streams and socially distanced drive-in shows helped captivate hearts, ears and genitals at a time when most people were in their greatest need of human connection. And now, he’s returning to the main stage.
With sold out live shows booked throughout the United States this fall and an upcoming European tour kicking off in February 2022, Rebillet is pumped to deliver eargasms to a city near you.
Prior to the end of a busy summer, we were able to snag some hang time via phone with the Loop Daddy himself, discussing everything from his music origins to mushroom trips, all an attempt to understand the man behind the MIDI of one of music’s most innovative and improvised forces.
You started playing piano at the age of four. How were you introduced to music at such a young age?
It was pretty much exclusively my parents who forced me to take lessons. They basically set me up with a bunch of different hobbies to see what I might be interested in, trying me out on piano, acting, team sports—soccer, tennis, golf—and I’m sure a number of other things. I really gravitated towards playing the piano, though I didn’t really enjoy the practicing element. It’s something my parents luckily forced me to do, so I stuck with it.
Do you think those early years of not enjoying practicing influenced how you currently like to perform as a largely improvised show?
Oh for sure. It’s something I have to be very honest with myself about because it’s also probably the reason why you’re not likely to see me be as crazy successful as perhaps I have the potential to be. I really don’t like doing a lot of work. Everything you’ve seen me do up to this point is really the result of only doing as much work as I have to to get things done. Beyond that, I would prefer to live my life—get stoned, go outside—any number of things that are part of a quality day-to-day existence, rather than grind, grind, grind, let’s go, let’s go hustle. I have some of that in me, I suppose, but only so much.
One could say that’s just having balance, which it sounds like you prioritize. Having success living a balanced life creates a blueprint other people can follow.
I’m sort of just doing my best to allow myself the opportunity to have a life that I’m used to. The life I was used to before all of [the success] happened.
In terms of your success, was there an experience or a moment along the way that reaffirmed for you music was the path to pursue?
That notion was tested many times for many, many years. It was only really validated once I was able to pay rent from making music. I had been trying to pursue music unsuccessfully for a decade while learning how to do it, so it was valuable time spent but was basically a decade dreaming while half-assedly developing a skill.
In 2017, I lost my job at a call center and it was at that point I decided to see if I could sustain [myself through music], I gave myself two months, and I told myself if I could pay rent within two months, I’d keep going. If I couldn’t, I’d get another job. The company that let me go gave me a severance of two months pay—so I had a window—and if I couldn’t make it happen, then too bad. It was basically my last try.
I ended up making it work and that’s the moment where it was like, “Oh shit. Maybe there’s something here.” [Laughs] Though it took a fucking long time for it to happen.
But you could say everything had to happen the way it did in order for you to get to the current incarnation of yourself.
I talk about this with my friends all the time. Things couldn’t have happened any other way because if they happened any other way, it would have been someone different. It would have been a totally different person. The things in your life, they have to happen the way they happen. You can fantasize about a different reality, but it wouldn’t have happened that way because it didn’t happen that way. We’re living in this current timeline.
Over your two-month window, was there anything different about your approach to music from what you’d done previously?
The thing that I did differently was actually try. Really, it’s almost that simple. I just tried. The 10 years I spent sort of trying in a not-so-serious way, music was on the back burner. The hard reality of this shit is if it’s not your principal and only focus, it will never, ever happen. It’s like statistics. There are a million people who have talent and are trying to make music full-time and 99 percent of those people are not going to make it. So to think that you have a shot in hell at doing some sort of creative job like this but you’re also doing something else, it’s a pipedream. It’s not going to happen. It took a long time for me to learn that lesson.
But what an incredible lesson to learn.
Definitely. I’m very glad I did. It just comes on the heels of years and years of kidding myself and being existentially disappointed in myself for not being able to make something happen. You also have to realize that there’s an element of luck in there, and I got lucky that everything eventually worked out.
How was the element of luck influenced by people sharing your stuff on the internet?
I had sort of been putting my shit out all over the place, but it really took off after I’d been playing shows in Dallas for a year, from the end of 2017 to the end of 2018. Afterward, I moved back to New York to try and step things up, and within about two months of moving back here, something happened on Facebook and people started really aggressively sharing my shit in a way that they’d never done before. I used to get 20,000 to 30,000 views on my videos, but within a week it was 10 million to 15 million. The figure shot up quite dramatically, and with that, came a ton of booking requests that I didn’t really know how to handle.
A small booking agency—the first I’d ever signed with—took me on and tried to help me wrangle things into a tour. To our amazement, the tickets sold out immediately and everything picked right the fuck up from there.
What do you think the “X” factor was that helped propel the growth?
I really have no idea. These were videos that had been up on my page for at least a few months. While I don’t know what caused it, I can tell you it was like a chain reaction. Three or four of these videos just exploded. Thank you, Facebook, for the algorithm or whatever. I don’t know. Everyone fucking hates Zuck[erberg], but I owe him a lot.
Maybe hook him up with some live backstage passes.
[Laughs] I don’t know if he’s much of a live music guy. I think he’s more of a robot.
When your first booking agency came on board, did they try to alter the style of your performances?
The big thing I had to fight for a little bit was the notion of the entire show being improvised. All the venues I’d performed in in Dallas were free—where the bar would pay me out—so at that point, I’d never played hard ticket shows before. As I transitioned to paid venues, it was actually my new agents—the ones I’m still with at UTA, who I love deeply and endlessly and who have upped my game at least a thousand times—who in the beginning said, “Look, we know you’ve been doing the entire show improvised and we know that it’s part of the act, but as you start playing these larger venues, you may want to structure things a little bit. Do songs that you’ve already practiced and performed, and then maybe in between, you can have improvised bits.” I was just like, “Guys, I hear you, it’s an interesting idea, but the show is improvised. I don’t really want to do it if it’s not, because that means I’ll have to practice.” They ended up taking a leap of faith with me and it ended up working out.
While I’m now playing 2,000 to 3,000 cap venues, I’m still, to this day, just walking up there with my little table and making shit up for an hour.
That must be so creatively fulfilling.
When it’s a good night creatively, it really is. It’s incredibly fulfilling.
What’s the difference between a creatively fulfilling night and a…
Not so good night? It’s really just a personal thing. The truth is, what I feel is a bad night could actually have been a really good night. You may hear this from other people who do similar stuff, but you really can’t trust your own evaluation of how your own show went. It’s just not an accurate barometer. I’ve learned from playing hundreds of shows now that if I feel a show didn’t go well, it really does not mean the show didn’t go well. It very well could have been a good show.
A perfect example is a show I performed in Amsterdam at this incredible venue, Paradiso. Afterward, I thought I’d played a lackluster set and wasn’t thrilled, even though my tour manager said it was great and a few people backstage said it was great. I wasn’t convinced. At the time, I was filming all of my shows with a GoPro camera to put out content while on the road, and afterward I watched the footage and was like, “Holy shit, this is a fucking great show.” Front to back it was fantastic, so I uploaded the entire hour. That full, uncut hour is now my most-watched live show, but my initial rating of that night was completely different.
I’m very lucky to be able to play these kinds of shows where I’m allowed to just do what I want, how I want. It’s very different from a traditional live show of any kind. With other live shows, there’s almost always rehearsals for some component of the show, and I’ve never performed a rehearsal in my life. It’s really a fucking gift, man.
Speaking of gifts, what role does the gift of cannabis play in your life?
I’ve been smoking since I was 15 or 16 and have done so pretty steadily for most of the time that I’ve been alive since. At the very least, I’ll smoke weekly, and at the very most, many times daily. I’ve settled in somewhere in between where I’ll probably have weed—in some way—once a day. Whether it’s smoking it or eating it, I love both.
Weed also played a massive, massive role in the way it allowed me to appreciate music at the end of my adolescence and young adulthood. It helped bring new shape and perspective to songs, albums and pieces of art that I hadn’t yet considered in that way. I love cannabis, it’s a wonderful plant and a wonderful drug. I just love the shit out of weed.
Expand a little more on how weed has helped bring you a different perspective when it comes to art.
It’s an alteration in sensory experience. It’s a mild form of tripping, I suppose, but something much more manageable and less all-encompassing and time consuming than tripping. It helps you put your brain in a different place for a little bit and I love creating in that way.
Recently, I’ve experimented with occasionally getting stoned during my live streams when I’m having a hard time coming up with ideas or I’m not really feeling the flow. I’ll go off camera, take a hit, and see what happens. It usually works out nicely, but I generally prefer to create sober or with a drink or two because I need my faculties. Good stuff has come out of both, but I generally tend to perform while not high because I’ll create really quickly and efficiently. When I’m stoned, I tend to want to experiment a little bit more and take my time, which can yield cool results but—as a show—it needs to be a little tighter.
You mentioned tripping. Have you ever dabbled with psychedelics?
I’ve tripped mushrooms many times, though I haven’t in a long time because the last time I tripped was a bit of a disaster. Instead of eating an eighth, I ate seven grams. I convulsed and when I woke up, my friends were all around me and I was just tripping my shit. I went downstairs and encountered this emotional separation, where I could hear everyone upstairs talking while I was throwing up, looking at myself in the mirror thinking I couldn’t go back upstairs. We all managed to get together and order some food and sent our friend to pick it up. He left on a bicycle, and because we were all tripping balls, we thought we’d killed our friend. Suddenly, he comes around the corner with a bag of sandwiches, which got us all excited and totally turned the trip around. It ended up being a great finale I suppose, but the trip itself was so upsetting. When you’re tripping, you really have to give in to the thing, you just have to surrender to it. If you try to analyze your trip or start feeling anxious, it’s really not fun.
All of my other experiences with shrooms have been incredibly positive, certainly life altering and life changing, but not in any sort of crazy, holy way. More in that it’s really cool to experience senses, visions, feelings and emotions in a way that is very, very different, elevated and shifted from our day to day. The experience we have every day is—by and large—a predictable one: We’ll wake up, we’ll be hungry, we’ll go to the bathroom, we’ll go to sleep. We know these feelings, but [with shrooms] something really changes everything about that for about eight hours.
Was there any other experience that you look back on that perhaps was more positive?
I have a really awful recall of details and stories. It’s something about me that sucks. I have a really difficult time recalling and recounting a lot of things and days and events that have happened to me, but I do remember how they made me feel.
A pivotal experience was when I was starting to really smoke weed and get really high for the first time. I had a friend Lauren who lived in the same building as my parents and who would pick me up and take me to school. She was this beautiful dancer, super cool, and had access to weed, which I did not. For months and months we would get stoned in her yellow Jeep Wrangler and listen to music on top of the parking garage of our building. The view looked out onto this large expanse of treeline in the middle of downtown Dallas that looks like an ocean of trees. It’s a really unique view down there and we would just get incredibly stoned and have these thoughtful, high conversations. I guess it informs a lot of the way I try to enjoy life now: Taking big, deep breaths and just appreciating the simple beauty of existence.
Follow @marcrebillet and check out www.marcrebillet.com/or tickets and tour dates.
This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue of High Times Magazine.