By Keith Sharp
When the main source of your creative inspiration is battling the dual trauma of a personal relationship break-up and a serious illness to his mother, there’s not much a band can do but to stall its activities and provide moral support for their colleague.
It’s a situation, Mariana’s Trench faced as lead vocalist, lead songwriter, Josh Ramsey underwent a period of personal trauma which put the creativity of the band on hold.
“There were some dark times, but it was a relief for all of us to get through that and come out of it rejuvenated and motivated to create something special,” noted guitarist Matt Webb, in reference to the band’s latest recording Astoria. “The most important thing is to take care of your family and that takes priority over any band commitments. Josh went through some stuff and we were just there as friends, prepared to help out where we could. We gave him some space where necessary – there is no point trying to be creative when someone’s life is in a shambles.”
“But when Josh saw the light at the end of the tunnel and was motivated to start work again, Mike (Ayley), Ian (Casselman) and myself got back together with Josh, turned his apartment into a recording studio and tried to create a really nice family group where recording was fun again – this helped us to create some of the best stuff we have ever written,” explained Webb.
Mariana’s Trench’s first studio release since their 2011 `Ever After’ recording, `’Astoria’ features a whopping 17 tracks although five of them serve as brief segues from one track to another. Produced by Ramsey, the record’s theme is a shout out to his fascination with the movie, The Goonies which was based in Astoria, Oregon.
Foregoing a current trend of bands recording five and six-song EP’s to cater to an audience which now focus on downloading and streaming specific tracks, Astoria follows the band’s on-going trend of recording complete, almost conceptual, albums.
“We’ve always designed our records to be listened to from front to back,” Webb observed. “I, more than anyone know that down-loading and streaming are in vogue. I have Spotify and Apple and we are happy to have fans that just download specific tracks but we encourage our fans to listen to the entire record. It may be cliché to say this but we’d like to think we take people on a musical journey, certainly there’s a roller coaster of emotions that people will experience through listening to it.”
Webb agrees there is a definite 80’s feel to the music, a theme that will be enhanced when the band’s tours in the States, and later Canada. “That’s going to be our stage theme,” he cracks. “Leather pants and mesh shirts.”
Musically, Webb feels the content of Astoria puts a current spin on 80’s music. A genre of music he personally loves. “We worked hard to get that sound and put a lot of work into the song writing. We would never just record a couple of singles and then shit out the rest of an album; we just don’t work that way.
“ Shut Up And Kiss” has a definite Jackson 5 vibe, the band’s debut single; “One Love” has a strong pop sensibility which like other tracks, “Yesterday” and “Who Do You Love” reflect some of the personal trauma Ramsey had endured emotionally.
The album’s final track; “End Of An Era” cause a bit of a twitter buzz with fans questioning if that song suggested the band were wrapping things up. “That couldn’t be further from the truth, “responded Webb. “We just wanted to record something special, something that summed up our career so far, we wrote a track that mentions a lot of past record titles and song lyrics and we got as many people as we could who had been influential in our career to sing on the record – including Josh’s mum. But it doesn’t signify the end of the band – more like the end of a chapter.”
It’s a chapter that was initially launched in 2011, when the Vancouver based quarter emerged to record a debut, eight-track EP. With a strong following on MuchMusic, Mariana’s Trench signed with Chad Kroeger’s 604 Records and released an 2006 debut album, `Fix It’. Since that point, the band have taken their time with follow-up releases, only releasing two more studio records; the 2011 `Masterpiece Theatre’ and the current `Astoria’ yet Webb reports there is a method to their madness.
“We are not a group that just pumps out records,” informs Webb. “We take our time with our recordings, we tour them as much as possible, until we run out of options and then we take time off to rejuvenate before we do it again”.
It’s a tactic that’s kept them active while at the same time allowing them to keep a low profile between recordings. They, along with the likes of Billy Talent, Simple Plan, Finger Eleven and Down With Webster have maintained a presence even when domestic music wasn’t necessarily in vogue. But now with the likes of The Arkells, Glorious Sons, The Sheepdogs, Monster Truck and July Talk staging a new wave music renaissance, and with the likes of Tea Party, Our Lady Peace and Big Wreck forging their own comeback, Mariana’s Trench are out to re-establish their own presence on the current scene.
“I wouldn’t say we’re making a comeback, we’ve always kept a low profile but there’s never been a point where we’ve thought of breaking up,” Webb explained. “Fortunately, our fans have remained loyal and we have retained our U.S fan base. We will be launching a 42-date `Hey You Guys’ tour of the U.S in November and we are about to announce a significant Canadian tour early in the New Year.”
With Ramsey creatively rejuvenated, (and it didn’t hurt financially that he co-wrote Carly Rae Jepson’s global single smash, “Call Me Maybe”), Webb is confident that band is prepared to move to a new era in the band’s evolution. “Personally, I started out as your typical rock star guitar player, cranking the volume to 11, but now I’ve evolved into this pop band guy, playing a kind of music people seem to appreciate,” Webb observed. “The beautiful thing thing is that everything we’ve done since 2001, we’ve never shown signs of slowing down. Our shows get bigger, the crowds get louder and crazier, our merchandise gets better, as long as this keeps happening, I don’t see us ever stopping.”