INTERVIEW: Marianas Trench

"You've got to just back off and let the mad genius work, you know?"

INTERVIEW: Marianas Trench

By Eloise Bulmer

Dec 12, 2019 20:54

Almost twenty years into their career, writing, recording and touring is second nature to Canadian rockers Marianas Trench, and just down the road from the famous King's Cross Station, the band are getting ready to headline Scala in London as part of their UK tour.

“We’re having an awesome time. We just went to the Harry Potter store at King’s Cross – I’m such a huge fan and no other city on Earth has that store” gushes bassist Mike Ayley. “It’s been great to see more of the country on this tour. Bath – I had no idea what to expect and it’s gorgeous and right on the river. We went with no expectations and man, that was a nice surprise of a visit for us.” Marianas Trench don’t make it across the pond as often as their fans would like, and so they are definitely out in force for this tour. “Obviously we’re playing smaller shows here but because we haven’t been here as much, the people who do know us are very engaged. I’ve noticed several times that people don’t really watch the show through their phones here like they do in North America” begins Josh, before Mike adds “I’ve found that when we’ve been tagged in photos and videos on this tour is just when we’re in the audience. Which makes sense – people pull out their phones because you’re right there.”

The band has been on the road to showcase their latest album ‘Phantoms’, an ambitious project that explores the idea of being haunted by a past love. The record has been well received by their fans and the public alike – and this is just the latest in their long list of musical achievements. “Incredibly grateful. incredibly grateful,” states vocalist Josh Ramsay on how they’re feeling at this point in their careers. “The percentage of musicians that even get to do this professionally is so small. I think it’s less than 2% and that’s including music teachers and people who play weddings and things like that.” Fewer and fewer people are managing to transition to full-time musicians, with many of our favourite bands still having to work jobs between tours or rely on various freelance work whilst on the road. The rise of streaming and social media further complicates this for bands, who have to focus on so many other things alongside their music. “It’s a different business for sure,” Mike acknowledges before adding, “when we put out our very first album it was all about that physical CD. On our second and third it really went to iTunes and then for some of the singles and definitely with our last album it’s more and more skewed towards streaming.” What’s plain to see is the deftness in which Marianas Trench have managed to adapt to the increasingly changing music industry. “I think there’s been an interesting change in the last few years certainly. Radio is significantly less important than it used to be. Having a hit song on the radio definitely used to be your main focus whereas now you have people who are huge online that have never been played on radio. It’s just a different job now” muses Josh, before Mike confirms “we’re extremely lucky to have such loyal supporters in that aspect.”

This further highlights their popularity then, with ‘Phantoms’ reaching number 4 in the Canadian Album charts even amongst the industry crisis when it comes to pure sales. Known for their concept albums – with previous albums having taken place in the worlds of theatrics and toys – their latest expands on the feeling of “being haunted by the ghost of a former love”, ensuring a worthy payout for committing to the entire album rather than picking out a few singles for a playlist. This is reflected in the track-listing and lyrics themselves, as well as through various composition choices. “[Committing to a concept] definitely gives you more permission to experiment in the studio” allows Mike before continuing, “on the last album we did big rock guitars but on this one we’ve focused more on keyboard sounds, choirs and symphonies. Starting ‘Echoes of You’ with a harpsichord, there’s no other spot in any other album where we could have gotten away with that” he laughs. This speaks to the fun they put into their writing process, taking their time and space to try out novel instruments and song concepts, most noticeably on album closer ‘The Killing Kind’, a magnificent puzzle of a track which ramps up again and again throughout it’s almost 7-minute run-time. “That came from the most inspired place” Josh remembers, “the last two weeks of the recording process were pretty stressful and it was right at Christmas, so doing ‘The Killing Kind’ was funny as I was so stressed and overwhelmed but at the same time – and I hate that this is a thing – but we do our best stuff when we’re under pressure. Looking back to when we were working on the album, that song was probably my favourite to write because I was at my most inspired and I was digging deep and trying to do something crazy to finish off the album. We finished it the day before the deadline” he laughs. A huge track which flaunts so much of what Marianas Trench do well is something they’ve included in almost all of their albums. “I’ve always looked at it as the album tracks are our opportunity to be as freeing and creative as possible but you need singles to put food on the table so… let’s make sure we have both!” Explains Josh, who is the songwriter behind the music – and when it comes to the songwriting process, the concept becomes all encompassing. On seeing Josh work his magic, Mike adds “he very much approaches music like a method actor so he really dives right into it and sometimes you’ve got to give him space. You’ve got to just back off and let the mad genius work, you know?”

Tonight, the band prove that what they create in the studio translates to the stage with all of it’s quirks and experimentation. Pulling from their back-catalogue alongside newer tracks, the crowd sing-along to everything as if their lungs might burst. From their succinct pop cuts to their monumental album-tracks, everything Marianas Trench put out is feverishly appreciated by the people in this room tonight – a fitting way to celebrate a band who are still at the top of their games this far into their career.