Premiere: Marian McLaughlin’s Joyful ‘Kapunkah,’ A Tribute To Thailand

By Megan Pauly

Marian McLaughlin's forthcoming record is called "Spirit House."
Marian McLaughlin's forthcoming record is called "Spirit House."

After working on the Fojol Bros. food trucks in D.C. a couple of years ago — rotating between Indian, Ethiopian and Thai cuisine — Baltimore-based musician Marian McLaughlin, 28, decided she wanted to experience Thai culture firsthand.

marian-mclaughlin-spirit-houseSo McLaughlin embarked on a two-week trip to Thailand, where she started writing the music for her soon-to-be-released album, Spirit House. One album cut, “Kapunkah” (listen below), is McLaughlin’s phonetic rendering of how to say “thank you” as a woman in Thailand, and it encapsulates several personal experiences there.

“A lot of my songs are created through a stream of consciousness,” says McLaughlin. “I would be walking around and I would be singing and eating mangoes or finding spiders under our bed or walking through tall grass and turning it, eventually, into one full song.”

McLaughlin describes “Kapunkah” as joyful and rhythmically explosive, with grooves and danceable riffs on the guitar and additional bass, drums and percussion courtesy of Ethan Foote — who wrote arrangements for the album — and other ensemble members.

Even the name Spirit House was inspired by Thailand: McLaughlin says that she saw tons of tiny dollhouse-like shrines during her travels there.

“When people are building a home or piece of property [in Thailand] they also build a spirit house,” McLaughlin says. “I believe they build it in order to give the spirit a place to live. That idea resonated with me, because the songs felt like little spirits that were living within me. I thought that, ‘Oh, if I make an album, I’ll have a little spirit house for these songs to reside in.’”

Marian McLaughlin plays album release shows Sept. 4 at Creative Alliance in Baltimore and Sept. 23 at Capital Fringe in D.C.