“Probably one of the greatest Strats I’ve ever played… and I can see through it”: Watch Marcus King play a cardboard Stratocaster as he previews new track from Rick Rubin-produced album

Marcus King plays the Cardboard Sessions
(Image credit: Cardboard Sessions / Marc Wierenga)

Marcus King has joined the likes of Billy F Gibbons and J Mascis by picking up Signal Snowboards’ infamous cardboard Fender Stratocaster and filming a session for the brand’s YouTube channel.

By now the cat is out of the bag. That cardboard Strat, the one you can see through when you look it dead on, is no gimmick – it’s a serious electric guitar, with some Fender Master Builder knowledge behind it, and it sounds incredible. 

But the Cardboard Sessions are still full of surprises – artists show up and they’re not entirely sure what they are going to play on the day. The only certainty is that the Strat will be made of cardboard, and so too the drum kit, the organ housing…

The Marcus King Band’s segment was filmed at Henson Studios on 25 September 2023, and they were on the hook for four tracks, the first of which, F*ck My Life Up Again, is so fresh that it is getting reworked in the room in front of the cameras as the band try to find a tempo.

The track is taken from King’s forthcoming album, Mood Swings, which was produced by Rick Rubin and lands in record stores on 5 April. You might have heard the song before, as the recorded version, with the full band, for the Shangri-La Sessions, which saw King perform it solo on acoustic guitar, or live onstage. But you haven’t heard it quite like this.

This might be the first time we’ve seen King play a Strat, too (we typically associate him with his signature 1962 Gibson ES-345). But it might not be the last. Like Gibbons before him, he was taken by it. 

“Probably one of the greatest Strats I’ve ever played really,” said King. “It’s set up really well, it looks cool, plays really great and its recyclable which I love…and I can see through it.” 

The cardboard Stratocaster was designed in 2015 in a collaboration between Ernest Packaging, Signal Snowboards, and the Fender Custom Shop. When Signal co-founder Dave Lee presented Fender Master Builder Paul Waller with some old packaging, it came with a challenge – make it into a playable guitar.

This was not the alder or swamp ash they typically stock in the vault at Corona, but Waller got to work, cutting a '50s style Strat body, and finding a way to engineer a cardboard guitar that could take 250lbs of torque from electric guitar strings in standard tuning. 

The Marcus King Band Cardboard Sessions were engineered by Chad Shlosser, and in a first, there will be three more tracks from King coming soon to the Signal YouTube channel, with Coming Home slated for 27 March, Save Me on 3 April, and Delilah on 19 April.

By then you’ll have had the opportunity to hear what King and band got up to in the studio with Rubin in the control room. Rubin is one of his generation’s über-producers but even he hadn’t heard anything quite like King in full flow.

“I love the way listening to this album makes me feel,” said Rubin. “I can’t think of another project quite like this one. Marcus’ playing and singing are from another planet.”

Mood Swings is available to pre-order now via Snakefarm (UK), American/Republic Records (US). You can check out this and the other Cardboard Sessions at Signal Snowboards YouTube Channel.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.