Marianas Trench are not haunted by the echoes of the past - they are inspired by them. We caught up with the band prior to their show in Calgary to talk about their latest album, Phantoms, as well as the Suspending Gravity tour and their evolving career.
First of all, thank you for taking the time out of your day to answer these questions. How is the Suspending Gravity tour going so far?
The tour is going great! It feels so good to be playing new songs and seeing such a positive reaction from all of the people coming out to the tour.
Congratulations on Phantoms! This is your fifth record, so you are no strangers to the writing and recording process. What was the biggest challenge you faced in the process of making this album?
Honestly, during the recording of Phantoms, the process went quite smoothly. It was very inspired and we had a lot of fun putting the songs together. We really took our time to get the songs exactly as desired and invested a lot of time exploring our options to do so. However, by the end of the album, we were really under the gun for time. It wasn't our initial intent to have the album out 5 days before the first show of the tour. Fortunately for us, our fans are so passionate that most of them seemed to take that as a challenge to see if they could memorize all the songs so quickly. I loved seeing that!
Phantoms is a concept album that was inspired by darker, almost paranormal like concepts, as well as Edgar Allan Poe. Were there any other concepts or artists that you drew inspiration from, or did you only want to focus on those sources of inspiration?
The initial inspiration came during a day off in New Orleans. That city just oozes a cool, creepy, inspiring vibe. There is such a spiritual culture there. It's interesting and different how they take something like death and turn it more into a celebration. Although at first glance it's creepy, it actually seems to feel more hopeful. After that, the idea of creating the setting for the album as a haunted house seemed like a great metaphor with lots of creative potential.
These outside inspirations that you drew from, alongside personal experiences, seem to enable you to reference a personal experience in a metaphorical way. Has that always been the approach to songwriting in Marianas Trench, or would you say that it has evolved and grown over time?
The songwriting is always evolving. You hope that if you put this much time into something you will gain some skills or wisdom over the years. Although all of the songs come from Josh's personal experiences, many of the lyrics can be interpreted in whatever way the listener relates to them. Using metaphors is one way to get that accomplished.
You've mentioned in some recent interviews about wanting to make the songs the best they can be. Is there ever a moment that you know a song has reached its full potential, whether it's in the writing process, the recording process, during the tour - or is it more of a feeling opposed to a moment?
We don't stop tinkering with a song until we think it has reached its full potential, and moving forward you can just continue to apply the new studio and writing skills. We don't look back at previous albums and think "we would have done this different". At that time they were all written and recorded to the absolute best or our abilities and with the best tools, we had at our disposal.
You've re-imagined some of your songs from past albums for the Suspending Gravity tour, like the "Cross My Heart/Celebrity Status" medley - what is that process like for the band, and does it add to the excitement of playing new material?
The idea for doing that medley actually came from the problem of having too many songs and not enough time in the set. This album is really the first time there was a crunch while trying to put together the set list. Putting that medley together allowed us to add another new track! It's also fun to play the older songs in a new way and definitely keeps them exciting for us and keeps the audience on their toes.
Masterpiece Theatre just turned 10, which is insane! A lot of artists entertain the idea of anniversary shows and tours because of the importance of an album to their fans, while some artists feel like "that ship has sailed," so to speak. Would there be any chance of an anniversary show or tour for Masterpiece Theatre, or has that thought not really been entertained due to the busyness of the current album cycle?
I feel like that type of tour is something you would do when you were out of material. I'm inspired by our new music and I have fun playing the new songs, so at this time I don't think that is something we would do. I have thought about maybe one day doing a tour where there are multiple dates in one city and having more emphasis on songs from one of the albums for most of the show but still playing most of the songs we want to over the course of a couple of nights. Again, I don't see that happening for a long time…. but you never know.
Ultimately, what do you hope that your fans take away from Phantoms - whether it's a message, an experience, a feeling, etc.?
I just hope people are willing to give the whole album a listen. We really pride ourselves in presenting complete bodies of work rather than disjointed singles and hope that our fans and new listeners will dive into that world with us.
Check out our photos below of Marianas Trench from when they performed in Calgary on March 25, 2019!
Phantoms is available now through 604 Records. Click here to listen to the album and be sure to catch Marianas Trench when they come to a city near you!