Friday, March 25, 2011

Interview with Matt Bishop of Hey Marseilles

I really like Hey Marseilles' lyrically dense, sonically rich folk pop. I was super excited to see them at Sixth and I Synagogue last year, since they don't often tour too far from their Seattle base. Lead singer Matt Bishop was kind enough to answer a few questions for the shake

The Shimmy Shake: How did you all start? And the name, just an affinity for French Mediterrean sea towns?

Matt Bishop: We started as a lot of bands do: college pals realizing we had a shared affinity for the same instruments and bands that played them. We would mess around with song ideas in Nick and Philip’s basement studio, keep finding others folks to play on those recordings, and eventually we booked a gig with everyone. The name is primarily a product of our appreciation for Euro-ness and rhyme.

SS: The SHow would you describe your sound? I've heard it described as orchestral folk to indie pop chamber rock.

MB: Those are fair descriptions. We like pop tunes, acoustic instruments, strong melodies, and compelling arrangements. We like songs to move and turn corners quickly. We like taking as many layers from our recordings as we can and playing that out live. Just orchestral folk pop works too.

SS: One of my favorite things about the album are the lyrics. They're all such descriptive stories, I feel like I'm reading letters between you and friends. Where do you get the ideas? Any backstory to certain songs? What are some of your favorite songs from the To Trunks and Travels?

MB: In writing lyrics, I like to create a visual scene for the listener, a portrait more so than a story. On the record there are references to the ocean and mountains and plains and highways and all sorts of things I experience when I travel around the Western U.S. Which is probably why the record ended up having a consistent travel theme. “Cannonballs” was written driving through the endless flatlands of Montana; “Cigarettes” I wrote on a bright afternoon at Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park; “Calabasas” manifested itself after a California road trip. Certainly there are stories in those songs, but by and large they follow pretty common formulas related to relationships and philosophical meanderings.

SS: There was a really slow burn with this album, from it's release in 2008 to it catching fire in 2009 and 2010. How'd that happen? Is it hard to promote an album for that long?

MB: I think it took a bit of time for it to garner a larger audience just because we spent a while trying to figure out how to get it to people. For most of us, Hey Marseilles has been our first real venture into navigating the music business and what it means to be a band. There are a lot of things to do outside of making a record that translate to people actually hearing it, and we took some time figuring that out.

In terms of promoting the record for that long, the biggest challenge was just having to play the same songs for so long. Inspiration and creativity were hard to come by in those circumstances. But in working on our new record for the last few months, I think we’ve found our groove again.

SS: Another band that we really enjoy (Telekinesis) is from Seattle, but a lot of bands from the upper northwest are writing this great music, with incredible melodies and lyrics. Like I don't think you could have this sound come from Brooklyn. What is it about the area that breeds such good music?

MB: Lots of clouds + needing to stay inside + drugs necessary to deal with gray (primarily coffee) = good music.

Also, once sun comes out = inspiration to make more good music.

SS: I have this image of touring being a nightmare with so many people. How does it work?

MB Having seven dudes means we always needs a trailer hitched to the van and if we stay in a hotel we’ll need a couple of rooms. That’s about it. And sometimes figuring out how to fit on stage, but that always works itself out. Like any band, you have to learn how to acclimate to each others’ strengths and weaknesses or you won’t be a band for very long.

SS: I saw you posted that the band is working on new songs. What do they sound like? When are you looking to release your next album?

MB We have high aspirations that the record will come out at the end of 2011. My general assessment so far is that the songs won’t stray too much from To Travels & Trunks musically, but they’ll reflect a growth and maturity we’ve developed as musicians in the three years since finishing that record.

SS: What are you listening to now (besides what I imagine are your recording tracks)? What are some of you favorite bands that readers should check out?

MB: Agesandages. Campfire OK. Loch Lomond just released a fantastic new record. Our friends The Head &a\ the Heart are releasing their debut nationally; if you haven’t heard of them yet, you will soon

Buy Hey Marseilles' To Travels and Trunks from Amazon's mp3 Store

Download the track Rio from Hey Marseille's website for the price of your email address


Anonymous said...

Awesome interview. Definitely will be checking out the band!--suzannelise

Virtual Sound said...

Great interview, they must be really relieved to be playing the new stuff. The Out To Lunch show was great, the new stuff sounds wonderful. I blogged about it with some videos here: