They wanted it to be interesting — to themselves, for starters.
Matt Bishop met Nick Ward and Philip Kobernik when they were students at the University of Washington. Kobernik knew brothers Sam and Jacob Anderson. Collectively, they made music that made room for its various elements.
“We just kept adding layers in trying to make something not necessarily experimental, but something a bit more interesting, I think, and compelling to us as listeners,” Bishop, vocalist and guitarist in Hey Marseilles, recalled in a phone interview with The Goshen News. “And then we decided we could play a show. And then people showed up to that show and we decided we could play some more.”
“Some more” grew to include gigs at festivals including Bumbershoot and Sasquatch! On Sunday, it means performing at Ignition Garage in downtown Goshen.
Hey Marseilles is touring in support of its “Lines We Trace” album. The core band is Bishop, Ward on guitar, the Andersons on viola and cello, Kobernik on “keys and squeeze,” and Colin Richey on drums. On record, they’re augmented by the “Dear Friends” listed in the liner notes.
“Lines We Trace” is a push and pull. There’s a sometimes expansive sweep and uplift to Hey Marseilles’ orchestral pop. The lyrics are forward-looking but tempered by life lessons, a hopeful sigh.
“You can’t deny the shore its tide/or sermons their amen,” Bishop sings on “Tides.” “If you’re looking back, that’s all you’ll ever see,” he suggests on “Looking Back.”
“The music is I’d say what we spend about 95 percent of our time on, in terms of just making arrangements and finding melodies and progressions that are compelling and interesting,” Bishop said. The lyrics arrive toward the end of the creative process. Bishop is the primary wordsmith.
“I’m really trying to get a feel for the gist of the vibe, I guess, to put it casually,” he said. “And what I’m getting out of the music.”
Bishop said tension is interesting to him, “kind of singing sad songs on top of what could otherwise be interpreted as relatively upbeat background music...”
In Bishop’s view, the music on “Lines We Trace” is more focused than Hey Marseilles’ 2010 debut “To Travels and Trunks.”
“We were trying to write collaboratively (on “Trace”) and we were very much interested in making a compilation of songs that sounded cohesive, perhaps more so than the first record,” he said.
As with “To Travels and Trunks,” Hey Marseilles had much freedom and flexibility to be creative in terms of how it was recorded. The bulk of “Trace” was written and recorded in a home — the band’s home base, of sorts — in Columbia City, south of downtown Seattle. Other recording venues included a warehouse, a church sanctuary and tunnel in Seattle’s Golden Gardens Park.
“A lot of kind of the acoustic instrumentation, of which there’s a decent amount in our band, was recorded in naturally acoustic spaces,” Bishop said.
More broadly, credit Seattle as a city conducive to Hey Marseilles’ efforts.
“It’s hard for me to think of a better context for an independent musician to start making music,” Bishop said. “It’s a small-enough city that it’s really easy to meet people and to become a part of the community, but it’s got a really rich arts and music scene.” There are many venues to play and studios in which to record, and blogs and papers and magazines for press coverage. It’s a diverse environment where listeners want to hear something unique, Bishop indicated.
“And I think that’s really the only way we’ve been able to find success,” he said. “We didn’t move to a town having formed a band beforehand with the idea of hoping to get famous. We were just making some songs in a basement. And people kept showing up to shows and wanting to buy our records that we hadn’t even made yet.”
Hey Marseilles made the records. On Sunday night, its show will be in Goshen.
If you want to go
Hey Marseilles is scheduled to perform at Ignition Garage, 120 E. Washington St., Goshen, Sunday at 7:30 p.m. PHOX will be the opening band. Tickets cost $18 and can be purchased at Ignition, by phone at 574-971-8282 or online at ignitionmusic.net.