After a four-year gap between albums, one of Seattle's most-successful unsigned acts, Hey Marseilles, will issue their long-awaited sophomore outing, Lines We Trace, on March 5th. The album stays true to the band's folk-rock roots but also expands on what they do best: striking harmonies and soaring string arrangements. For the latest edition of Tell Me About That Album, I spoke to singer Matt Bishop about the album's long road to release, the trickiness of spelling the band's name and what he misses most about Seattle when he's on the road. Hey Marseilles will celebrate the album's release on March 1st with a sold out show at the Showbox.
You made the record in your cellist's home and then had it mixed by Tucker Martine and Martin Faveyear, both of whom have done some great records. Why did you hone in on them? When we finished what we thought was the record about a year ago, we went to Tucker and he mixed the first round of songs. We picked him because we've been a fan of his for a long time. He worked with artists we really liked and that really align with our sound, like The Decemberists and Laura Gibson. And Martin mixed and mastered our Travels & Trunks record as well as the single "Elegy" that we released at the end of 2011. The new songs that we wrote on top of the first draft, we sent them to him, and they turned out really well.
Got it, so they weren't in the room mixing together. Tucker did the first batch of songs and Martin did the newer ones. Exactly, yeah.
Several Seattle musicians guest on the record, including Bryan John Abbleby and Kaylee Cole. Can you talk a bit about some of the guests on the record? They are all just really good friends of ours, so we've played with them in some capacity in the past. Kaylee Cole sings on a song called "Looking Back" and she was kind of instrumental in helping me write the chorus for that. And we've been playing shows with Bryan, who used to be in another band called Caravel, for years. Michael Cohen from Campfire OK and Melody Knight who used to be in Campfire OK are both on the record and a whole slew of instrumentalists. I think integrating the benefits of being in a music town like Seattle is something that we're really interested in.
You guys are managed by the same local management company that handles The Lumineers, who broke through to the mainstream with a mega-successful 2012. Is that kind of commercial success important to you or something you're interested in? It'd be awesome if that happens but by no means are we expecting it. Our primary interest is just being able to make a living and that's difficult enough in and of itself these days. If that happened I don't think any of us would be too cool for it but we're not aiming our trajectory in that direction.
Does having seven members pose any additional challenges? I imagine touring is harder, for exaple. Touring is a bit more challenging and can be a bit more expensive, at least in terms of finding places for people to sleep, but we manage it pretty well. The benefits certainly outweigh the challenges in just having more people to take on the variety of roles that bands have these days.
Can you talk about the album title, Lines We Trace, and why you thought that would be a good title for this group of songs? For us, this record is kind of a maturation and something we came at from a very different place relative to the first record. I think that the verse in "Dead of Night," which is where the line comes from, talks about the idea of starting somewhere but not really knowing where you're going to end up and just trusting the process and trusting that one of those trajectories will get you somewhere that's not half bad. I think that kind of feeling encapsulates our sentiments about the process of making this record but also a lot of themes of the songs.
Can you talk about the cover art and the decision to have such a simple design? We just felt that something really simple and subtle reflected the type of feeling we were going for. We wanted to make the name of the band bigger than the name of the record because we are still aiming for a bit more notice nationally and we really connected with that design when it was brought to our attention.
Does your name often get misspelled? Yeah, if we had to pick a name again I'd probably pick something easier and shorter.
What do you miss most about Seattle when you're on the road? Teriyaki. It's one of the staples of my diet, and it is not readily available everywhere else, which is probably good for my waistline!