Pop/Rock Act Marianas Trench Gets Personal on 'Astoria'

The guys in the pop-rock act Marianas Trench were just teenagers when the band first formed in Vancouver in 2001. While the songs on their 2006 debut, Fix Me, suggest a certain innocence, the guys sound all grown up on their latest offering, last year’s Astoria. They play with singer Skylar Stecker at 8 p.m. on Sunday at House of Blues.

A press release announcing the album claims it’s “about completely falling to pieces, and picking yourself back up again.” Singer-guitarist Josh Ramsay, who received a Grammy nomination in 2013 for co-writing and producing Carly Rae Jepsen’s breakthrough hit “Call Me Maybe,” wrote songs that chronicled both the break-up of a relationship and his mother’s struggles with a terminal disease.

“Josh was going through personal shit,” explains drummer Ian Casselman in a recent phone interview from a Raleigh tour stop. “His mom has Lewy body Dementia, which is like Parkinson’s and dementia rolled up into one but it’s fast-acting. She was going through that. It’s really hard. It’s a hard thing to deal with. I lost my mom a few years ago. It’s not easy for anyone. An important relationship fell apart and he was going through shit times and not feeling creative. There’s nothing you can do if you’re not feeling creative. As a band, we just let him be. If you push someone when they’re not ready, it’s a bad move. He came out of it really strong.”

The album features strings, and a variety of guest vocalists contribute to the recording.

“It was fun,” says Casselman when asked about the recording process. “It was the most fun we ever had. All of us have friends in the musical community so we wanted to collaborate. We turned his penthouse apartment into recording studio. We set it up so it didn’t have to be crazy, crazy loud. If anything was crazy loud, we did that early in the day. You’d invite people to come down and people sat in on the recording. From a band perspective, it was a collaborative effort. From a personal perspective, it was fun to bring friends in to sing on the album.”

A song such as the jittery pop number “Yesterday” suggests the way the band incorporates different musical styles on the album.

“We kind of wanted to have ’80s sounds with more modern songwriting,” says Casselman. “We wanted to keep a modern pop vibe but use some production tricks. 'Yesterday' has an ‘Oh Mickey, you’re so fine’ vibe and some ‘Footloose’ and some Van Halen ‘Jump’ in the bridge. It also has a ‘Tom Sawyer’ keyboard sound in there. We had fun with production ideas without copying. We didn’t want to not copy ideas but sounds.”

The title makes a reference to the ‘80s flick The Goonies.

“Ever since the second album, we have done albums with a theme,” says Casselman. “We were watching Super 8, which was a Spielberg [produced] movie but could have been something like The Goonies, E.T. or Back to the Future where it’s a coming of age/kids save the day adventure movie. We used Astoria, which is the town where The Goonies takes place, as the reference. There’s not a good name for a coming of age movie so we just chose Astoria instead.”

After a successful trip to town last year to play House of Blues, Casselman says he’s looking forward to returning to the club.

“To tell you the truth, we had a day off in Cleveland last year, and it was the best day off on the entire tour,” he says. “I fricking love that city. I’m being totally sincere. We stayed at a hotel close to the arena. I went to a cool vinyl store. I do that to kill time when we’re on the road. [Bassist] Mike [Ayley] has a cousin who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. They happened to be in town playing the Cavaliers so we got tickets. I thought it was cool to see a home game in Cleveland. It was a great day off.”

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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