Interview: Hey Marseilles — ‘Lines We Trace’
I’m always looking for records that I can listen to in their entirety. While this might seem like an easy task, you’d be surprised. And Hey Marseilles’ first album, To Travels and Trunks, met this very difficult standard. It’s clear the band knows their sound, and it’s consistent from beginning to end. It also puts me in a happy place, a task also difficult to achieve. The Seattle-based band, fronted by Matt Bishop, has seven members, a number that slowly grew from the original two (Bishop and Nick Ward) who met in college. They released their first record in 2008, and then re-released it two years later. And based on the new song off their second record, “Hold Your Head,” I anticipate great things. The record, entitled Lines We Trace, will be released on in February 2013. Read my interview with Matt Bishop below.
Your music has a European influence. Was that always your sound?
It slowly evolved. Our motivation isn’t [about] trying to capture a European sound as much as it is trying to do something eclectic and dynamic. [That sound] slipped into our first record because the music we were inspired by was very much European. But it wasn’t intentional.
Why did you re-release the first record, To Travels and Trunks?
It was about trying to get exposure for that record on a level beyond Seattle. We released it out of the back of our cars and sold it to our friends at shows. We felt that if we had the potential to get as strong of a reception elsewhere as we did in Seattle, it was worth re-releasing it.
Was there any particular moment when you realized that your hard work was paying off?
I wouldn’t say it was one specific moment. We’ve been a slow burn. We’ve been together for about six years and we’re now going on our first truly national tour. We’ve been slowly reaching [our] aspirations.
Are you ever surprised by an audience’s response to one of your songs over another?
I’m surprised when an audience responds at all [laughs]. Sometimes I can see the audience [sing along] to certain words. It’s awesome and humbling.
I read that some of your band members disagreed on your band’s name, and the majority won out. Do you vote on all band disagreements?
There’s always a discussion. But it’s helpful that there’s an odd number of people in our band so it’s kind of like the Supreme Court. We’re pretty egalitarian.
Why the time span between your first record and your upcoming record?
We’ve been writing our upcoming record for a year and a half. There were moments when we thought we were done and then we went back. We want to be intentional about releasing a record we are proud of, and we’ve finally gotten to that point.
I know you have a day job in addition to being in a band. Are you the coolest guy at your job?
I don’t know about that [laughs]. It’s gratifying that people at my job are supportive. But it’s also really frustrating to balance two different mindsets. It’s not easy. But with the release of our next record, I’m stepping away from it. I’m looking forward to solely focusing on music. We’ll see how that goes.
I read a funny story about you that I have to ask you about. Is it true you stole instruments from your school’s marching band?
There was a period where we used a sousaphone that we procured from the University of Washington’s marching band room. We returned it though and nobody knew. Not too many people [use] the sousaphone.
You’ve said that your study of poetry hinders your song-writing ability. I would assume it would be the opposite.
The rhythm and musicality of poetry is entirely dependent on the words and how they are spoken. When you’re writing lyrics for music, you have to depend on the musicality of the melody. I’ll easily write something and then have to step back and decide if it works well in the context of music instead of how it’s written on a page or how it’s spoken.
Does the songwriting process ever create friction with your bandmates if they want to go a different direction?
I’ve been lucky. They kind of let me have full control over the lyrics, so I have a lot of autonomy. But most of the collective work is on the music.
Does your new record have a different sound than your first record?
It’s much more mature. The strength of our musicianship has improved. I think it’s a good reflection of where we are at in our lives.
Watch below to see Hey Marseilles’ video for ‘Hold Your Head.’