Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Marriages is the product of Greg Burns and Emma Ruth Rundle from the post-rock band Red Sparowes. In 2012 they released their debut EP Kitsune gathering a lot of deserved attention, before recruiting Andrew Clinco on drums and hiding for three years to work on their debut full-length album. This spring they came back to us with “Salome”, an exceptional record that explores new territories of their creativity, and more experimentation with the vocals and rhythms. We got in touch with Greg Burns to chat about the new record, their life on the road and their plans for the future.
First I’d like to congratulate you on your new album “Salome”. Going through it I see a lot of changes from the previous record. The tones seem less heavy and the vocals seem more dominant and confident. Can you tell us a bit about the composing journey for this record and how the addition of Andrew Clinco before this record affected it?
Thank you, I appreciate that. The writing of Salome was very different from Kitsune. Kitsune was very much a stream of consciousness; meant to be one cohesive piece of music that evolved over time. It was important to us that the songs on Salome could each stand on their own as independent pieces, so we spent quite a bit of time crafting each song to be unique. We also really worked to define our identity as a band while writing Salome, and I feel that the album represents a larger musical scope and landscape as a result.
Having Andrew Clinco join the band had a definite impact, not only for the drums on the record, but the overall songwriting and aesthetic. Andrew is a strong musician and guitar player, so he had an equal voice in the crafting of the record. Additionally, his style of drumming is unique and very musical – I think it helped steer the band in a more interesting direction rhythmically.
What was the recording experience for Salome like? Were there any special moments during it you can recall?
Pretty rough, honestly. There were a number of challenges, both as a band dynamically and throughout the recording process itself. For a while, I think we all felt like the record may never happen – we were done with the record about a year before we actually finished recording it.
Personally, the most satisfying moment was actually after the record was recorded, when we toured Europe with Wovenhand. The tour started when the album was released on April 7th. Having it come out, and to play the songs to people who knew the record was incredibly satisfying. Also, it allowed us to really put the challenges of the record behind us and reconnect around the live experience, which has been really invigorating.
The story of Salome seems to be contributing to a lot more than the album’s title. Many of the tracks’ lyrics and the artwork seem to be affected by this character. What does Salome represent to you and how did it affect your creativity during the composing process?
This is a question better answered by Emma, but I can tell you that the character Salome and her story, more specifically the violence and eroticism, resonated with Emma and some personal events in her life. We worked together to create an aesthetic in the artwork that would match that of the lyrics and general theme, but this was not overt, rather a subtle influence in the music and artwork.
I heard that Fred Sablan contributed some of the guitar lines on the album. How was the experience of working with him, and are there any specific musicians you wish to collaborate with in the future?
Fred is a great friend of ours; we were really excited to have him play on the record. It was impressive; he came in one day and within several hours had tracked guitar parts on several songs that we were all thrilled with. We didn’t give him any direction at all, we just looped the tracks and he went for it. I think it worked great, and I’d love to have him play on future records.
As far as other musicians, the list is huge. It’s important that collaborators are people we know personally. Without thinking too hard; anyone in Master Musicians of Bukkake, the guys from Isis, the huge circle of Sargent House friends (Deafheaven, Tera Melos, Mylets, Russian Circles, etc., etc.). Honestly, I could go on and on. I’m sure we’ll get together a good group of guests for the next one!
Gregory Burns: “We really worked to define our identity as a band while writing Salome, and I feel that the album represents a larger musical scope and landscape as a result.” Photo by Nick Fancher
Emma and Greg have been playing together a long time ago in Red Sparowes before starting Marriages. How did the idea to start a new project grow? And did the fact that the two of you played together before affect your harmony and inspiration in the new project?
Haha, yeah we put some years in. Basically Marriages started for two main reasons: because Emma and I started to bond over musical ideas that didn’t fit in Red Sparowes, and we both wanted to tour more than Red Sparowes was able to do at the time. It made sense that we find an outlet, and that very quickly became Marriages.
Obviously our history playing together impacted Marriages, but in some interesting ways. It became important to us not to fall back on musical ideas that were too comfortable and similar to Red Sparowes. We really wanted to challenge ourselves to do something different that could stand on its own. This continues to be important to us; we don’t want our success to be tied to the fact that we were in Red Sparowes. In fact, we intentionally excluded references to Red Sparowes from our marketing and PR as much as possible so that we could create our own identity.
Your first record “Kitsune “ seemed in some way more homogeneous with your musical background in Red Sparowes, while “Salome” stands more on its own and offers something away from your comfort zone. How did you manage to explore this new side of your music and was this drift intentional?
Kitsune was written very quickly, and while we were still in Red Sparowes. I think it was just a natural part of coming from that band that we were used to writing in a certain way. Salome was an attempt to evolve from that and, like I said, create a separate and independent musical statement. It’s not that we don’t love Red Sparowes, but we didn’t want to create another version of the same band, that just didn’t make sense. I hope that we’ve been successful; obviously we have our personal styles which have informed both bands, but we really try to break out of that context as much as possible, both for the Marriages identity, and to challenge ourselves as musicians.
You have been touring all through Europe this month with Wovenhand, playing in many countries and headlining many sold-out shows and festivals from the UK to Croatia. How is the experience so far and is there a specific city that you wish to visit againin the future?
Yes, it’s been an incredible experience. I’m so thankful to Wovenhand and their crew for bringing us along – they’re all such sweet, talented people.
The shows have been great – the Wovenhand audience has been really receptive and supportive. We played a handful of headline shows without Wovenhand which was great, and really allowed us to see that we have our own audience in Europe as well – which set a precedent for us coming back soon.
Some of my favorites … I mean the entire tour was really amazing. I love Leipzig, Germany – the city in so energized, and UT Connewitz is one of my favorite all time places to play. Traveling down the Danube river on our way to Romania was incredible … I’d love to see more of that country.
You have an exciting summer ahead of you especially with the ArcTangent Festival performance. What are your expectations for the festival and which bands are you looking forward to see there?
Yeah, I’m really looking forward to ArcTangent. There’s a large Sargent House presence there, so it’ll be kind of a reunion, which I’m sure will be a blast.
With any festival, I tend to look forward to the bands that I’m not aware of, or haven’t heard – there are plenty in the line-up. It’ll be a great opportunity to check out some new music for me. That said, I’m sure I’ll try to catch the SH bands, as well as Deerhoof and Joan of Arc.
So what does the future hold for you guys? Any new projects or records we may see soon?
We’re doing a full US tour starting on July 11th. As you mentioned, we’re going to ArcTangent, and will be playing some additional dates in UK/Europe around then – those are being booked now. I’m sure plenty of more touring to support Salome is coming in 2016.
Besides that, we’re working on a Marriages art book; all three of us are visual artists so we’re going to release something that will be a supplement to Salome.
We’re also going to start doing some songwriting for our next record, just playing around with ideas here and there. Possibly we’ll record a one off for a split with another band soon. We’re thinking about renting a cabin and getting weird in an effort to kick start writing for the new record.
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