Hey Marseilles: Some people really dig the sad stuff

Hey Marseilles: Some people really dig the sad stuff
Photo courtesy of the artist

Hey Marseilles is a Seattle band that has been creating what they like to say is "orchestral pop" music since the band's inception in 2006. Their debut album, 2008's To Travels and Trunks, was noticed for its swelling pop sounds and varied instrumentation -- the six members commit themselves to something like three instruments each, give or take -- and the band's newest release, Lines We Trace, continues strongly in that tradition.

With 11 tracks full-to-burst with youthful energy, Lines We Trace is a record that is remarkably easy to like. It's a record that can be effortlessly imagined as a summer symphony, with lead singer Matt Bishop's soft tenor guiding the listener along through songs that sound sunny with just a slightly melancholic undertone.

Ahead of the Hey Marseilles gig at the 7th Street Entry on Thursday night, Gimme Noise chatted with Bishop about the new album and all those weird instruments.

Give me some background. Set the scene. What is Hey Marseilles all about?

So, six of us met in college and started making tunes. We just released our second record and we have an eclectic array of instruments. We make what we call orchestral pop.

Let's talk about the album. Your debut, To Travels and Trunks, came out in 2008. How long has it been in the works?

A couple years ago is probably when we started recording... some of the songs are maybe three years old. Recording took maybe six months or so. It's been a while in the making, for sure.

Do you have a favorite song off Lines We Trace?

"Heart Beats" is a lot of fun to play live. We're still enjoying the challenge of figuring out how to play it.

Tell me about the promo video for Lines We Trace. It was pretty brilliant. What made you decide to make that short film?

We spent a fair amount of time thinking about ways that we could engage creative endeavors outside of just making music, and we're fortunate to live in Seattle, where we have a lot of friends who are doing well in the film photography community. The idea came from a brainstorming session with a filmmaking friend, and he was really excited about it. I think for us it's a fun way to connect with fans and display our personality and get out of the practice space.

There are so many different instruments on this album. What are some of the more interesting ones?

I would be remiss if I didn't say that any musical instrument could be categorized as crazy... Unusual, perhaps. So we have a bass clarinet... We have a harmonium, that's not that crazy. That's pretty normal stuff. Sometimes we find things in the studio that sound interesting and we just play with it.

How do you manage to play them all in a live setting?

We have a cello, clarinet, trumpet, bass clarinet, standard bass guitar, keyboards... our set up is fairly elaborate, but we've been playing long enough now where we know how they all work together, and we know how to make it sound pretty.

Your lyrics and your songs can be super sad. How is your creative process, and how does that sort of affect playing live?

Well... the vast majority that we spent time writing, and the arrangements for the various instruments and the melodies that we write--I write all the lyrics, so it's a combination of my lyric writing and that. We have a cello and string instruments and things that are generally very emotive instruments. [Being sad is] not something that we're really trying to do, and I promise that we don't really cry in the practice space, but you're right, the album is kind of sad. But anytime you sing anything over clarinets, it's going to sound sad.

In a live setting, those dynamics are only amplified, and that's what makes our live show interesting. Even if an audience is fortunate enough to be at a venue where they can hear what I'm saying, hopefully they'll be compelled beyond how sad my lyrics can be, but some people really dig the sad stuff.

You're going on tour, and you have quite a few dates lined up. Are there any places you're most excited to visit?

We always enjoy the Northeast. We've toured the East Coast a few times, and this is the first time we've gone through the Midwest, and we're excited to get to Minneapolis and Chicago. We've been wanting to play there for a long time.

Hey Marseilles will be performing at the 7th Street Entry on Thursday, April 4. Doors at 8 p.m. $12. 18+. Details here. 

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