the señors of marseille

the señors of marseille

won't say much today because our guests have a lot to say... i'm gonna say only a few things:
1. they're from nyc;
2. they're music is fresh, original and catchy (very very catchy);
3. they're sense of melody is unbelievably good, rich and powerful without being obvious;
4. we're always talking about perfect pop songs here and they surely have a great recipe to create one;
5. 'tubular', their debut album, is one of the greatest things you'll be hearing this year (and i meant it!).

so here's the interview with the lovely answers from graham and matt. After the q&a, you'll find more instructions to find their music.

01. tell us about your origins? How did you get together and where does the name come from?
graham: matt and i went to high school together in southern california. we weren't really too close in those days, but got much closer after we ended up going to the same university (university of california, santa barbara). there, during our senior year we started our first band together. it was called 'the ease' and was pretty much a college party band that played catchy originals and covers (weezer, rolling stones, fun stuff) while people got really drunk and danced around. it was super fun..
a year or so later, i had moved to brooklyn and matt was still living in california. matt sent me a cd called 'transcontinental works of immense consequence' - it was basically a few songs he had written (for the most part a bunch of really cool musical ideas) and then a few reworked songs that we had written during our 'ease' days. matt is a pretty amazing songwriter and i was quite blown away by the stuff he sent. so, essentially, after listening over and over, i convinced him to move to new york, sleep behind my couch, and try to start a legit band with me.
during one of our early songwriting/idea sessions we were laughing about how silly 'of montreal's' new album was (hissing fauna, are you the destroyer?) and how they had changed a bunch of their songs names before they put out that album. we thought it would be funny to follow in their footsteps, poke fun at them a bit, and mock the pretentious nature of indie rock, so we decided to make a band name that was grammatically incorrect and was made of three different languages. hence, the señors of marseille.

02. this question might be quite personal but... if we could take a walk inside your minds, what we would find there?
graham: i don't think you'd find much out of the ordinary... depending on my mental state, you'll either find a hodgepodge mess of thousands of different ideas (concerning politics, religion, music, sex, art, and food) tangled up in an attention deficit disorder confused mush or a relatively boring and calculated series of thoughts about life and errands i need to run. i can be quite a lonely and boring dude sometimes...

matt: probably something along the lines of a messy but productive newsroom...beneath which flow rivers of lava traversed by Spanish flotillas with dandelion sails, tall elven lady captains barking orders at their crew, steering narrow miss after narrow miss as they navigate towards an island perpetually out of reach...haha, or something weird like that...

03. let's talk about 'tubular'. have to say that, even knowing your previous work and with some idea of what to expect, i was totally taken by surprise. not because i heard something different from what you've done before but because you pushed the limits of the melodic crafting (that i think will make you huge someday). the lyrics are also very playful and dynamic: there's tongue twisters (like in the amazing 'drop 'til you shop', one of the highlights of the album), quotations from bush, spoken interventions... could you talk about the creation and making of the album?
graham: the album was a pretty crazy experience to make. we started writing it years ago. in this way, in the beginning, many of the songs were half-thought-through ideas. the opening guitar part to 'traditional american synth pop dance song,' for instance, was actually originally written as a joke when i was a sophomore in college (like 7 years ago). when we first started putting it together all we knew was that we wanted it to sound warm and fat and beautiful and that we wanted to make it catchy but with some kind of substance (ie - political commentary, social commentary, a little artsy... all that junk). anyway, early on, i don't think we knew how we were going to achieve that goal...
once we walked in to marcata studios (with sound genius, kevin mcmahon) to track some songs and mix stuff, our goal began to feel a bit more reasonable. the songs started to fit together and things began to click. around this time, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack which fucked me up a good bit emotionally. it also, i think, from a music/art perspective helped make the songs more relevant and powerful to me. my dad was, and still is, my biggest and most profound musical influence (he played and toured with all the greats - chuck berry, phil ochs, pete seeger, the moody blues) and he always told me to embrace the sadness and intensity of events in order to help them inform your art. as shitty as it is to think about, in this way, his death played a massive role in the way i thought about the creation of tubular.

matt: in some ways, tubular was the culmination of many previously written songs that needed a final coming out party. in other ways, it was a lesson in musicianship-- a crash course in how to actually make a full length. in total, though, i think as we were writing it, it became the embodiment of my experience moving to new york and trying to find my place in the city. when i listen to it, it has an eccentric feel, an unplanned diversity to it, but i think there's an underlying stubborn optimism that really stands out, especially against the backdrop of what was taking place when the album was being made. it's perhaps why the melody leaps through to the fore of the sound and carries through. as for the lyrics, though, graham also just loves tongue twisters...

04. your album is available for free (at least for '88 tubular days' as you say on your bandcamp page). What's your opinion on music distribution nowadays?
graham: music distribution nowadays is awesome and terrible. on the one hand, everyone can get music from pretty much anywhere in the world - that's awesome and wonderful and is what keeps me excited about finding new music. people like the dudes at holiday records are an example of just how radical music distribution nowadays can be.
at the same time, however, i wonder if the current distribution setup makes the idea of creating an album obsolete. i mean, most of my friends (myself included sometimes) don't really buy albums anymore. instead, we listen to songs by different artists on playlists. part of my heart hurts to think that the album as a piece of art is dying (or maybe already dead). i think this, in large part, is a direct result of the way music is distributed nowadays...

matt: i agree entirely, i think the barriers to creating and distributing your music are much lower, and that because of it, it's exponentially more difficult to make any money. i just try to remember that there was never really a time in history when making a living off of music was very easy, and that in a way, because there's no real road map to 'making it' anymore, it opens the door to trying lots of different ways and experimenting with marketing. for us, it was much more important right now that people hear our music and hear of our band than to sell our songs.

05. i wanted to talk about two songs in particular. actually, hear your thoughts and motivations when creating 'grace' (probably my favorite song of the álbum and unquestionably my favorite song at the moment) and 'the cave' where you seem to go political and use a speech by george w. bush.
'grace' is one of our faves, too. we wrote this one as casual collaborative musical experiment where we would take the same basic chord progression, but every time we played that progression, we'd pretend we were playing a completely different song with a completely different feel/idea/mood. interestingly, it ended up fitting together so well that it didn't come across to many that the song was basically a frankenstein's monster of three or four different song ideas. the common lyrical theme within each section deals with moving to new surroundings and learning to brush aside your inner child who would otherwise be screaming and crying about the experience.
"the cave's" music was a riff that we originally sat down and messed around with on drums and keys in a jam. the idea behind the lyrics was to write words that could both describe a late night dance party getting out of hand and also the fictional final battle in afghanistan where osama bin laden is finally caught and killed in his cave. we were both pretty frustrated by bush's arrogant ignorance at the time, so the speech parts are generally ironic clips from a press conference on bin laden where, in our opinion, bush essentially describes his own presidency while attempting to describe osama. the song ends with the notion that even when they do finally catch/kill bin laden, they will merely come up with something else to keep us constantly scared.

06. as i mentioned before, your sense of melody is extremely rich. could you share your ideas of a perfect pop song?
graham: if i had to sum my beliefs up into one sentence it'd be... i think the perfect pop song says something meaningful or interesting about society, art, love, the world (or anything worth thinking about really) in the catchiest and most unassuming of ways. it's tough to say what i think a perfect pop song is because i think there are so many that are perfect for so many different reasons. some are complex musically and some are just two chords repeated over and over again - in my mind, there is no way to say that one is better or worse than the other. a perfect pop song touches something in listeners that can't really be described with words - a feeling that something is instantly and forever recognizable... or completely assumed, yet radically or slightly different in the most profound ways. i'm doing a bad job of this i think... maybe if the perfect pop song could be described with words, it shouldn't be?

matt: for me good pop music starts with the right chords. i always think the chords dictate the mood of the song and after that, the melody can be anything from a cheesy 3 second jingle to a drawn out 8 bar theme. i don't really spend much time thinking about what makes pop perfect, but i do think about what makes it compelling... when I consider melody and lyrics I think it's a matter of striking the right balance between accessibility and provoking thoughts in the listener.

video for their single 'davey' released last october on holiday records.

07. do you get to live off music or have another job?
graham: no! not yet...
i just finished up a master's degree and am now serving tables and trying to work in the green/sustainable development sector. i'm pretty passionate about being more environmentally intelligent and efficient. so, in this way, i don't get to live off of music just yet, but even if i did, i'd still probably be doing things in the environmental/efficiency sector, as well.

matt: i work as a personal trainer for money. right now we have very little coming in by way of the music, but because I view things more long term, i'm not yet disturbed by that.

08. any song(s) you'd like to cover?
we just covered two prince songs in our other band (holidayholiday) and it's gotten us extra into any and all prince songs recently - a raspberry beret cover would be super fun. we also recently covered 'runaway,' by del shannon with our friends from the band 'i'm turning into' - that was awesome. we love covering any early 60s pop...

09. name the perfect place and time to hear your music.
graham: it definitely depends on the song, but, in general, on a rooftop in the late afternoon anywhere in the world... (i think i'm biased, though, because i pretty much just always want to be on a roof in the late afternoon/early evening)

matt: probably in headphones while riding a bike (though in nyc that can get risky, but still very fun).

10. recommend something you've been listening lately.
sooooo many to tell you about. here are four:
north highlands - collar bones
cults - go outside
roulettes - love is like a telescope
i'm turning into - chin

11. anything else you feel like saying?
thanks for being so interested in and supportive of us! we really appreciate it! keep in touch!

now, to get the amazing 'tubular', go to their bandcamp page (if you click below, i'll show you the way).

they also have a very good single called 'davey' (you saw the video a few minutes ago). here you can see what we wrote about it last october and watch the video for 'the coolest girl on new york'.


No comments: