By Nicole Ireland
Marianas Trench: one of the biggest names in Canadian music right now, with four of the most loveable goofballs. I sat down with all four of band members, and the hilarity ensued. It’s really great to see that Josh, Mike, Ian and Matt still have fun even during early morning interviews. We chatted about the album, the process, the tour, and balloon animals. The album in question is called Astoria and it’s out today! It’s their best work to date, and the album comes highly recommended by yours truly. “One Love” is the current single from Astoria, but the album is full of hits that are definitely worth a listen. Whether you listen to the album before or after you read the interview is up to you, but you should know two things: 1) There may be a few spoilers below. 2) It really doesn’t matter when you listen to the album, just make sure you do. You don’t want to miss out.
Nicole: Create a four word sentence describing Astoria, with each of you saying a word.
Nicole: I’ve listened to the album and I don’t know if “juicy” is the word I would use to describe it.
Mike: Is it “well it’s juicy, man” as in hey you’re saying man, or “well it’s juicy man!” Like there’s a dude over there that’s juicy man?
Josh: No I meant like comma, man.
Nicole: That was how I interpreted it, I assumed there wasn’t a juicy man on the album.
Mike: There could be! There were a lot of people on that album, he might have snuck in.
Nicole: I’ve been curious since you announced it, why is the American tour called the “Hey You Guys Tour?”
Ian: Have you ever seen The Goonies?
Josh: It’s a line from that movie.
Mike: Even before our time there was a show called The Electric Company and I think that’s what that’s from, right? Because he was watching it on TV and it was his favourite line.
Nicole: Why did you decide to release Pop 101 and Here’s to the Zeros on a separate EP?
Josh: They don’t fit the theme of the record at all. I think with Pop 101 we had to release when we did because its references were so topical that we didn’t want those to be stale. A song like that isn’t going to have much of a shelf life, so we had to put it out when it was done. Those two songs wouldn’t have fit on Astoria at all, they were never intended to be.
Nicole: Josh, you work a lot as a songwriter and a producer for a bunch of other artists. Is it hard to switch hats from writing and producing for others and then back to writing and being the frontman of Trench?
Josh: No! I think I always look forward to it because it’s fun writing and producing with other acts. But since you’re not the artist, you have to make sure that you’re doing what’s right for that artist that you’re working with. Whereas when it’s us, there are fewer rules so I find it a lot more freeing as a writer and producer. Also, I feel like when I work with other people or in other genres, it forces me to learn new tricks. If you do a country song and you’re like, ‘okay, cool, fiddles’, then those are all different skill sets or different moves I can then apply to our stuff, which I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of had I not been working outside of our band.
Nicole: See, I thought that would have been really difficult.
Josh: No, it’s fun. I think it keeps you really fresh as a writer. We never really try to redo the same thing over and over. I think our records all sound really drastically different from each other. I think that’s because I get bored doing the same thing over and over, so I like jumping around and doing lots of stuff. I get ADD.
Nicole: There was obviously a lot of down time between records. What were you guys doing during that down time?
Mike: Well, there was still stuff going on, there were shows going on here and there and we were learning some of the new songs as they were coming up. Also, tending to personal lives.
Ian: I became a master at balloon animals. I locked myself in a room and bought three books and just learned.
Matt: Books on how to make balloon animals?
Ian: No, just three books. And while I was doing that I learned how to make balloon animals.
Mike: He’s really good at the balloon snake. That’s his specialty.
Matt: And… the balloon.
Mike: The legless, headless balloon wiener dog as well, he’s really good at that one.
Matt: He’s really good at making almost spherical objects.
Nicole: What was it like to DIY it and turn Josh’s apartment into a studio? Do you think you will work like that again?
Matt: I’m a bit of an interior decorating connoisseur, if you will. It’s tough picking out the wallpaper, the tiling, and the faucets were a little challenging…
Josh: But rewarding!
Matt: So rewarding, especially when you see that f***ing water coming out of it.
Ian: It was honestly a lot of fun. As long as Josh is okay with it, I would love working like that. If he ever needed a break and home and work weren’t separate, that could drive someone crazy. But if he likes it, it has made the process so much more comfortable and enjoyable.
Mike: We’ve actually already even talked about, whether it’s at Josh’s place or someone else’s, just having a place that is more of a home type environment where it’s a creative center and not as much of an isolate studio experience – more of a living environment for sure.
Ian: We may never work in a traditional studio ever again. It was such a good experience, I don’t know if we’ll go back.
Josh: I remember from the producer standpoint, there are a lot of producers out there that are known for being vibe producers, like Rick Rubin, or Brian Eno, or Gil Norton. Guys who facilitate a vibe to create the environment where one feels creative, and I’ve never really tried that before. As a producer or a musician, I had never worked in that environment before and I personally loved it. It ended up being awesome, especially because we were doing the whole 80s thing at the same time. All of a sudden I was getting up every morning and listening to a vintage record, and then dressing up in a crazy 80s ensemble. It felt like method acting, like really living it. I really liked that process and the end result was awesome.
Nicole: All of the 80s gear your used, did you have some of it already, or did you say ‘I need things that are from the 80s’ and go on a shopping spree?
Josh: Matt and I both already had a lot of vintage guitars and stuff like that, and it wasn’t specifically ‘we need guitars from the 80s.’ It was more like, ‘we need stuff that is 80’s or older,’ stuff that would have been available at that time. One fun thing we did though was that everyone did specifically go out and buy one or two instruments for that.
Ian: I bought a mid-70s kit from a brand I always kind of wanted. It’s a wicked sounding kit and it sounded great on a lot of the songs. It was very sonically appropriate for the songs we did.
Josh: Mike bought this awesome Telecaster bass.
Mike: I think it was ’67 or ’68.
Josh: It’s the same bass that Sting had, that was pretty cool. Matt and I both bought a couple of vintage guitars. Some stuff we did actually buy, like a couple of synths and stuff like that. I had bought a miniature, vintage Neve console around Christmas time. That ended up being an awesome thing. It was this miniature portable one that I found, or it found me I guess. It was super expensive and I was like ‘should I buy this thing? I’ve already got a console in the studio’, but I was like ‘ahh, this is too sweet, I’ve got to get this.’ Then a few months later, we decided to record at my place and it was like ‘oh f***, I’ve got the perfect thing!’ That ended up just being an awesome coincidence.
Nicole: The last question is about the last song on the album, called “End of an Era.” What era are you ending? This doesn’t mean the end of Marianas Trench, right?
Josh: I don’t understand why so many people have asked that question, I don’t understand the connection.
Mike: Whether it’s the end of us?
Mike: Well, I want them to think it, and then realize another album is probably going to come their way.
Josh: The title originally came because it was the end of that period of my life, and also the whole record is so era specific to the 80s, and it’s the end of that.
Nicole: I think why everyone keeps asking this question is that “End of an Era” ends the album, and it very much wraps everything up with the little bits of the old stuff, which I absolutely love. I think the whole last song on the album thing really pushed that idea though.
Mike: If there was to be a last song, it could be that, if it was an intended final epilogue thing.
Ian: People always panic with us though, like ‘you better never ever, ever stop’, but I don’t know why and then it goes online and people go ‘oh my god, is this the end? Are you guys quitting? Are you breaking up?’
Mike: And we are!*
Ian: And then I get so sick of it and I go ‘yup. This is the end. This is the last album,’ meanwhile there are a hundred tour dates about to be announced.
Josh: But no, there is no intention of ending the band.
*Mike was 100% joking. He was laughing as he said that.