On Stage: Marianas Trench gets deep into its work

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Marianas Trench

Marianas Trench, an indie-pop band based in British Columbia, broke into the Canadian music scene in 2006, met with immediate success and has been riding high north of the border ever since.

The four-piece band from Vancouver — Josh Ramsay (lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, pianist, songwriter), Matt Webb (lead guitarist, backing vocals), Mike Ayley (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Ian Casselman (drums, percussion, backing vocals) – initially won over Canadian audiences and then moved south to conquer America.

Along with double platinum and gold digital singles, the band has also garnered multiple SOCAN and MMVA Awards, number 1 videos on MuchMusic, JUNO Award nominations and won the 2013 JUNO Award for Group of the Year. Ramsay also received a GRAMMY nomination in 2013 for co-writing and producing Carly Rae Jepsen’s international breakthrough smash and certified US diamond selling single “Call Me Maybe.”

On May 1, Marianas Trench is bringing its “2019 Suspending Gravity U.S. Tour” to the area for a stop at the Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com). The band is touring in support of its new album “Phantoms,” which was released in March on 604 Records.

“Making the new album took a while,” said Ayley, during a phone interview last week from his home in Vancouver. “We recorded it all last year. It wasn’t a rush-rush thing. There were a lot of details. The mixing was done in December and January and it came out on March 3.”

On “Phantoms,” a house possessed by the spirit of lingering loss whose inhabitant is driven to madness by the ghost of a former love. The band drills down into the consequences of that loss deeply on lead single, “I Knew You When” — a track that showcases Ramsay’s staggering vocal range and the band’s ample musical chops in equal measure.

“Josh is the writer, but we all take part,” said Ayley. “It’s not like Josh saying – here’s the exact song. We all give our input. We’re like the sounding board. We usually pool ideas. The completion of the sound comes in the studio.

“With our earlier albums, we had all the songs ready before we went in the studio. It was long process but not fresh or new.

“Our first album ‘Fix Me’ was just an album with 11 or 12 songs. Our second album ‘Masterpiece Theater’ had just three songs — beginning, middle and end. They were longer songs — more like Act I, Act II and Act III. The last one played as a continuous piece of music. As soon as one track ended, the next one began.”

Like past records, “Phantoms” finds the Vancouver-based four-piece pushing their musical boundaries relentlessly.

“Now, we write as we go,” said Ayley. “We don’t do demos. We sit down, play the basic song and decide what we want to do different. We have our own studio in Richmond, B.C. so we don’t have to worry about studio time.

“This album definitely has a concept. It has a creepy, haunted vibe but it’s also a celebration of love and joy. We were on tour and had time off in New Orleans. There is cool old architecture there that is kind of creepy. Josh said – this is a cool vibe. It gave us inspiration.

“It’s a really fun album and, with that vibe, it opened up a lot of doors. The third track starts off with a harpsichord and we’ve never done that before. And, we use a theremin which is also a first.”

The band shares its name with a trench. Marianas Trench is located in the western Pacific Ocean and is the deepest natural trench in the world. It is a crescent-shaped trough in the earth’s crust — 1,580 miles long and 43 miles wide. The maximum known depth is 36,070 feet. To give you an idea of just how deep this is — if Mount Everest were dropped into the trench at this point, its peak would still be more than 1.2 miles underwater.

Video link for Marianas Trench — https://youtu.be/4XkxKIh3MB0.

The show at the Theatre of the Living Arts, which also features New Dialogue, DJ George Thoms, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $26.50.

Slothrust

Slothrust, which is headlining a show at the Chameleon Club’s Lizard Lounge (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net) on May 1, is a band that started when its founding members were in college but it has never been what you’d call a “college band.”

Leah Wellbaum, who sings and plays guitar, and drummer Will Gorin met when they were undergrads at Sarah Lawrence College just over a decade ago. They added bassist Kyla Bann and formed a band which had rock, jazz and blues in its DNA. In 2012, Slothrust released its debut album “Feels Your Pain” on Ba Da Bing Records.

That was the start of a regular two-year cycle of releasing LPs. “Of Course You Do” came out on Ba Da Bing in 2014 and was followed by “Everyone Else” in 2016. “Everyone Else” was released on Dangerbird Records as was the band’s latest album “The Pact,” which dropped in September 2018.

“If ‘The Pact’ came out in September, I feel like we were recording it the winter before,” said Gorin, during a recent phone interview. “We spent one month in the studio at Dangerbird Studio, which is located in the Silver Lake area in L.A. Them, we took a little break and came back later to do the mixing.

“We’re still touring ‘The Pact.’ It’s been a busy year. We did a headline tour right after the album came out and also played all over the U.K., Germany, France and Scotland. This will be our last headlining tour on this album cycle.”

The band’s latest album showcases the trio’s dynamic evolution through experimentation and exploration. Slothrust’s efforts have been recognized with millions of streams on Spotify.

“Usually, we build up songs for a while and play them live before we record them,” said Gorin. “This time, we did a lot more experimentation in the studio. We used the studio as an instrument. It really opened up a huge amount of doors for sonic exploration – keys, horns – bigger than a three-piece.”

Using a studio this way is great but Gorin also knew they couldn’t take the studio on the road to recreate the songs the way they were recorded.

“I was most concerned how the expanded sound would translate in our live shows,” said Gorin. “Everybody else said – don’t worry about it. We handle it live by using Roland sampler pads for horns and keys – not a tom of stuff. We use it on four or five songs.

“I felt this record was less than an overall concept. It was more a collection of songs – groups of songs that fit together. In the end, it came together as a dynamic record.”

Fans attending shows on this tour will be treated to many songs from “The Pact” – and a lot more.

“With four albums and a bunch of covers, it’s hard to make a set list,” said Gorin. “We have to play the hits. Fans want to hear ‘7:30,’ ‘Double Down,’ ‘Horseshoe Crab,’ ‘Like A Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone,’ ‘Peach’ and ‘Crockpot.’ So, we play the hits – and some random older gems.”

Video link for Slothrust – https://youtu.be/31gBizKYAnc.

The show at the Lizard Lounge, which also features Summer Cannibals, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15.

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