It’s rare for a band to have a dramatic artistic impact and dedicated fan base over two decades. However, the eight-member group 12 Cents for Marvin has done just that, all within the college town of Fort Collins, Colorado. Better known as “12 Cents” by their fans, the band consists of talented, finely-tuned members that each supply a distinctive spark to their musical machine.
Front man Tom Werge describes his gifted cohorts not just simply as a band, but more akin to a “close-knit family.” Individually, each of the “cylinders” in “12 Cents” brings their dynamic passions and personality into the group’s compositions and performances. The result is a high-grade blend of ska-infused pop, rock, and reggae. Their listeners are captivated and gravitate to their upbeat fun-filled groove.
Outside of Colorado, one may view 12 Cents for Marvin as “just another ska band,” until they press “PLAY.” Then you can hear their two decades of dedication that elevates them, just as the city of Fort Collins, one mile higher than many other bands. “12 Cents” formed in 1996 while the founding musicians were attending Colorado State University
“We met a colorful street panhandler, his name was Marvin, and he always attempted to collect 12 cents from every passerby,” explains Werge. One day after passing Marvin, and giving him twelve cents, they realized it was the perfect name. Marvin captured the personal and idiosyncratic nature of each of their muses.
One of the unexpected things you’ll find regarding 12 Cents for Marvin is that they each have successful professional careers outside of the music industry. By day, front man Tom Werge runs his own law firm, yet at night, Tom’s talents are his on-stage vocals and performance on the valve trombone with the band’s horn section, Co-founder Hilary Freeman is not only an exceptional bassist but also a mathematics instructor at CSU.
Guitarist Nik Levinsky pursued a career in web design, and when Soren Daugaard isn’t at his drums he’s improving processes at New Belgium Brewing. Gifted trumpeter Greta Cornett is a director of live music and co-creator of the Fort Collins Music Experiment festival. John Giordenengo plays on the slide trombone and is the founder of a nonprofit that focuses on wildlands restoration. Phuong Nguyen is a middle school band director, as well as the band’s tenor saxophone player. Keyboardist Sean Jaster maintains a presence at CSU as the assistant director of Upward Bound. Tom explains, “With 12 Cents for Marvin, our sum is greater than our parts.” This synergistic effect builds a distinct edginess to the 12 cents sound.
12 Cents for Marvin pulls influences from acts such as The Specials, Fishbone, Reel Big Fish, Magic!, No Doubt, and Sublime. Individually, each member is a creative catalyst, sparking their sound and style. Werge offers his ska groove, while Hilary brings her classic rock appeal. Nik delivers a glint of hip-hop and Soren brings his roots reggae influence. Greta contributes a splash of indie rock, John and Phuong add the funk with their horns, and last, but not least, Sean mixes in the spice of soul. The collision of these genres increases 12 Cents’ drive to push forward creatively.
Since their formation in 1996, 12 Cents for Marvin has released five full-length albums. They include; Yellow Raincoat (1998), King of the Ring (2000), Change (2005), and The B-Load (2007.) 2016 marks their latest release, “It’s Not Over,” which stays true to their trademark energetic flair and blistering horn section. 12 Cents can be found on such compilations as “Still Standing” (2003, Megalith Records) and “Fort Collins Rocks, Vol. 3” (2005, Hapi-Skratch Records.) 12 Cents for Marvin has performed with A-List acts such as The Skatalites, The English Beat, The Sugar Hill Gang, The Specials, The Fray, Fishbone, and a multitude of others. The band has earned first place in Colorado’s Scene Magazine’s “Battle of the Bands,” and were named “Best Band” in the region several years in the row.
12 Cents for Marvin strives to produce music that everyone, at almost any age, can appreciate. A product of a college town, the band now aspires to represent Colorado and spread their ska style to the world. This band is one well-oiled machine, they are an eight-cylinder ska engine, perfectly timed, working together. To feel the energy, the price of admission is only 12 Cents to Marvin.
Tom Werge, Vocals
Nik Levinsky, Guitar
Sean Jaster, Keys
John Giordanengo, Trombone
Hilary Freeman, Bass
Soren Daugaard, Drums
Phuong Nguyen, Sax
Greta Cornett, Trumpet