With a knack for strong production values, grandiose melodies and over-the-top theatrics, Canadian pop-rock superstars Marianas Trench are primed for American success. This past fall, Marianas Trench toured the U.S. with Simple Plan, Forever The Sickest Kids and the Cab, and released their third full-length, Ever After. Last week, AP had the chance to chat with drummer Ian Casselman about where their sound and theatrics come from, how they’ve crossed over to American music fans and what they have planned for 2012.
Interview: Matthew Colwell
So where are you right now, and what’s been going on with Marianas Trench during the past few months?
We’re back home in Vancouver and are doing lots of rehearsing. It’s snowing right now, which we aren’t used to—I’m the only one that’s okay to drive in it. We leave next week for Korea. We’re playing a show in Korea and then we start a bit of pre-production for our Canadian tour, which starts on the ninth [of February].
You guys released an album in November called Ever After, and on it you guys took a more pop approach, especially when compared to your pop-rock-based catalog. You also added a huge dose of theatrics. Where did this sound come from?
A lot of it comes from not wanting to create the same album over and over again. [Sometimes] when you fall in love with a band, you get stuck in their sound. But if you create the same album over and over again, it pretty much spells the death of a band.
I think we wanted to make more of a concept record. We tried to a little bit on our last record, but it wasn’t quite as full as we wanted it to be. This one, we were able to pull it off a little more. It still has a very Marianas Trench vibe, and you have to stick to your guns in terms of what you think you are and what your identity is, but you have to move with the times or else you’re going to get left in the dust. Times are sort of changing, and we wanted to have a modern feel and modern sound without selling out.
What did you want to achieve with the concept of the record?
We wanted to make a fairy tale type album—a dark, Tim Burton-esque fairy tale—that was one continuous work. What we were trying to do was create interludes that join all the songs together to make it a constant flow. It’s tough to do, but we think we pulled it off okay. When songs are different, it’s hard to flow one song into another, so it took quite a while to decide what the order is and what to put in between them.
There’s this girl that gets trapped in a fairy tale land, but it’s pretty open. We didn’t want to have it be super-specific. When fans ask us “What’s that song about? What do you mean by that?” we’d rather just leave it open to interpretation. Art is something that provokes something in someone else, so they get out of it what they get out of it. It’s a little bit open and that’s on purpose—we want to leave it up to the individual listener.
Going through your catalog, your theatrics and sound really seem to continually get bigger each time. Where do you plan to go from here?
Every time we write a batch of songs, we really try not to have any filler on it. So on this album, if there was a song that was a b-side or isn’t quite good enough, we don’t keep it. We try really hard to have every song be a really, really decent song. The reason why we do that is because we find musicians have contributed to the downfall of the music industry because they will have a couple of hits and the rest of their album really isn’t very good, so we try not to do that—we try to make an album where people don’t want to hit next. Obviously you’re going to have your favorite songs. If you continually raise the bar, you get close to the ceiling, so we have to blow the roof out next time.
Your biography describes Marianas Trench as a “multi-media vision.” How do you execute this?
For videos, we try and make them part of what’s going on. For our first video for “Haven’t Had Enough,” it had to do with us getting caught in a weird toy land and being controlled by this queen and we’re sort of her puppets and we were trying to tie into the album concept with that. We try and tie everything together. For this album, the series of videos we’re going to try really hard to have them tie into the concept. The girl that was in the first video is also in the second video, which is for “Fallout.”
For the show, we’re going to have stage props and make it look toy land-ish so the whole show is more of a show in its entirety with video boards and stuff like that that will show other aspects of the story that’s going on in the toy world.
Coming from Canada, how is breaking into the U.S. going for you?
It’s a double-edged sword. It’s a big market, so to try and make a splash in a big market you have to spend a lot of money. It’s tough to make noise unless you have a big player backing you, so that’s tough. But when we toured, there were a lot more people that came to see us and knew who we were than expected.
What’s your favorite part about touring America?
Our fans are pretty good. They’re good hearted and nice people. We don’t attract a rough crowd where there’s fights or drugs. It’s a good show and the thing I like about it best is going to see a bunch of cities in the U.S. I’m reasonably traveled, but there’s a lot of places I haven’t been.
Ever After just came out at the tail end of 2011, so what does the plan for 2012 look like?
We’re doing this spring tour and hopefully after that we’re going to do some touring in the U.S. We’re not positive if it’s just going to be ourselves or if we’re going to take a tour offer. Hopefully we can get a really good offer and take a national tour. If not, we’ll probably do it on our own. Then lots of summer festival stuff—a ton in Canada, but hopefully some in the U.S. too. Then the fall will hopefully be more Canada and U.S. touring and we’ll see where things go from there.
What would you say to fans just discovering Marianas Trench? What is essential knowledge you want them to have about you guys and your music?
If you like vocals, you’ll like the band. We’re very Queen-influenced, and we take musicianship and songwriting seriously. We try and put out good material. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we take what we do seriously. We’re more humor than ego—just look at our videos—but we try to create good music. alt