Although young in terms of discography, but composed of musicians with long experience, Marriages is a three-piece LA band formed in 2011 as a project between members of Red Sparowes and The Nocturnes. Travelling around Europe to support their debut LP “Salome”, together with the American folk/rock/country band Wovenhand, this charismatic post-rock trio dropped by Belgrade, where they happened to have a breathtaking performance. About the new album’s background story, about ideas, concepts and thoughts that lead them through their work, Nocturne magazine had the pleasure to talk with Emma Ruth Rundle (guitar and vocals), Greg Burns (bass and keyboards) and Andrew Clinco (drums), who were more than pleased to share all of that with us.
How does it feel like to be on a tour like this? How do you manage to do it physically and mentally day after day?
Greg: A lot of it depends on the context and the situation. There are a lot of things that will kind of help us maintain. It gets tiring but at the same time it’s super thrilling and exciting to be travelling. We love playing music and I think that keeps us going.
Emma: Greg and I have been touring for a long time together, and this tour has been pretty nice. Wovenhand has taken really good care of us.
Have you managed to see any of the cities you’ve visited, or was it just the van-backstage route?
Emma: It depends. I often say that it’s the van and the backstage, but on this tour we got to see some stuff. We walked around today... On US tours though, I almost only see the venue and the van...
Greg: And the drives are pretty short on this tour. It takes us two or three hours to drive, so it gives us time to spend it in the city.
Emma, in one of your previous interviews you said that “Salome” is an angry record. Moreover, you stated that it is full of frustration and fury that you portray through your lyrics and vocals. What do you feel while performing those songs live? What is the emotion that the rest of the band carries?
Emma: I think I’ve made myself ill with that record... I mean, I don’t know how you guys feel...
Andrew: The record has been out at a very strange time in all of our lives, and I see it like a reflection of that time. But playing the music for me means like I’ve moved on.
Greg: I think I am with Andrew. The fact that we are here playing these songs, cause it was such a struggle to put a record out, feels that we overcame some pretty big obstacles. And it feels good for me.
Emma: I feel like every time that we play the songs and the lyrics, we’re reliving them...
Is it actually painful or like a relief to put those words out of you?
Emma: If I feel something while it’s happening, whether it is pain or relief, than I know that the show has been good. If I feel nothing while performing, than it’s not a good show.
You mentioned that you had a lot of obstacles putting the new record out. Looking from this distance, are you able to see the fruits of all that hard work? What were the reactions regarding the new songs?
Greg: For me personally, I was so tired recording the record. It took two years to make it. And when it came out, it didn’t feel that good. I thought it will be like celebratory of relief and it wasn’t... I think this tour helped us to be able to connect with the audience and play those songs. It feels little more real.
Andrew: I agree. I think through the audience we’ve come to appreciate our songs again. When the record came out, I didn’t want anything to do with listening to it at all. But now, seeing people being so enthusiastic about the material made me kind of reconsider the songs.
Greg: There have been a lot of positive reviews and it seems good. The audience has been really excited and supportive.
As a Biblical figure, Salome has inspired a great many other works, among which, there's one Wovenhand’s song with the same title... In what way has Salome inspired Marriages?
Emma: I know, that was a strange coincidence with Wovenhand’s song actually... I thought the story of Salome and the character has a lot of charged imagery involved in - there’s a sexual element to it, there’s a violent element to it, there’s a religious element to it. I’m not religious, but I identify with holy experience. And I think she’s a confluence of these sorts of themes and a very strong female figure. It made sense with the song “Salome”, and a lot of those themes are titled through the record.
Andrew: There are other people involved in this story like John the Baptist, as well...
Having in mind that Red Sparowes’ song titles are extremely long, and that Marriages made them very short, was that some kind of reply to your previous ‘long-titled concept’?
Greg: (laughs) Yeah, with Red Sparowes, because we are an instrumental band, it was our way of telling the story. With Marriages we obviously don’t need to do that. But there were parts of Marriages that were intentionally very different from Red Sparowes, like we really wanted to have as few people as possible in the band. We wanted to be able to tour easily and we wanted our records to really be separate. We tried not to reference Red Sparowes that much. We wanted to create the identity that was just separate with Marriages.
It seems that “Salome” is a more song based album with more traditional structure, in comparison to your first release “Kitsune” in 2012. How has the band evolved over these last three years?
Greg: I think time helped. When Emma and I wrote that EP, we wrote it in a really short manner of time. It was very linear process - we started it at the beginning and we ended it at the end, and that was like roughly 30 minutes of music. With “Salome” there are a lot of things that happened, like most notably Andrew joined the band. He’s a great drummer but also really amazing guitar player and a songwriter, so he had a big influence on us. Our music evolved.
Andrew: There was a Red Sparowes’ element in the beginning...
Greg: It’s true that “Kitsune” is like Red Sparowes’ record and some kind of continuing from that point. I mean, we were so used to play with Red Sparowes... Now I think that we grew up as a band.
Let’s talk about the cover art of “Salome”. How did you come up with the idea of making it? As far as we know, Greg, it’s your photograph of Emma, combined with her painting skills...
Greg: We were sitting in a bar one night just trying to imagine what would it be. We had a conversation of the context of this woman figure... We talked about her being in water, we talked about her being in a field, than we talked about some poses... It was really out of this brainstorming session that we came up with the big idea. I think a lot of our work is that way, sort of refinement of these ideas over time and ultimately like execution of the bad idea.
Emma, on the cover art of your solo material “Some Heavy Ocean” you are presented in similar way, with your hair covering your face... Are those similarities some kind of symbols in your work, or is it just a coincidence?
Emma: I’m just shy (laughs). Both are done by Greg. He is a wonderful photographer. The “Some Heavy Ocean” cover was actually done while we were on Marriages’ tour... Greg just had his camera. We took off one day and were just dancing around the sand when he took a bunch of photos from that day. A while later I made a record and some of those photos became the artwork for the record. Those photos weren’t staged, they were very natural. I think we are very good at creating chemistry in whatever we do.
Greg: I think that’s the difference. Photos for Emma’s record were just totally unplanned. We all thought really hard about what “Salome” would look like. I took the pictures, Andrew helped with the lighting, Emma came up with all the make-up… It was very collaborative and it was staged, so it is different. But that’s cool that they look similar, I never thought about if there is similar side of it or not... It wasn’t intentional.
Speaking of “Some Heavy Ocean”, it’s been almost a year since you released it. Did you expect such good reactions to it?
Emma: I actually had no expectation of that record doing anything, to be honest. I recorded it at Sargent House and I didn’t know if Cathy is going to release it or not. I thought it would be something like an electric guitar record, something that I would do without a band. I think that the record deserved it though, because I really put my heart into it.
You said that you are a shy person. How hard was it for you to do the record of your own?
Emma: I don’t feel shy in the way of releasing artwork. I just don’t like to be looked at, if you know what I mean. I think it’s important for an artist to release his work and take credit for it. I have no problem with that, but I have difficulty being focused on in real life. Being in Marriages has been difficult and I think it has made me grow a lot as a person, having presence on stage and not being afraid. I think I am a lot more confident now than I used to be when we started the band. Back then I was really shy, and in Red Sparowes, I wasn’t doing any guitar solos at the front of the stage… Maybe things are changing.
How would you compare your experience performing as a solo act on one side, and as a part of bands, on the other? How does your emotion transform within each of these rolls?
Emma: It’s very different. Performing solo allows me more space to make things up as I go, to change the song to suit my emotion. I think it’s impossible to do that in a band. On the other hand, there’s a chemistry that can only happen between people that are playing together.
We suppose it’s Sargent House that put you and Wovenhand together on this tour. How do you feel about David Eugene Edwards and his work?
Emma: I saw Wovenhand play on the “Mosaic” tour, like 8 years ago in L.A.… David was playing by himself and he played a bunch of different string instruments and it was very inspiring. He really moved me when I saw him play. I actually had him sign me the record. (laughs) It’s been a huge honor to be on a tour with them.
Andrew: The entire band embraced us. I am new to Wovenhand, though. I saw David playing with King Dude in L.A. and that was my first experience with him. I spoke with him after the show and he was very kind. It happened so that later Wovenhand signed for the same label that we are on. I started to get into them in the last five or six months and listening to that insane breath of work. I didn’t even know that he was responsible for 16 Horsepower, because that’s the band I definitely knew about before. It’s cool to see a guy with such a body of work, who is a very powerful performer at the same time.
Greg: And very enigmatic and mysterious. I respect him for doing that for so long.
Maybe you can describe to us how does one day spent together with Wovenhand on this tour look like?
Andrew: We only see them at the venues actually. We interface with couple of players from the band but we mainly do our sound check…
Greg: There’s like a more specific thing that happens, I feel: we show up at the club, and generally, Chuck will come out first and he will like either high-five or hug us, and then will ask questions about how we slept... (laughs) Than Neil will come out shortly after... And then eventually Ordy will walk by and he will do a sort of head nod, maybe a high-five. And then David in sort of passing will shake our hand and will talk for a second... That kind of things happen every time. And then we may or may not have a dinner with them, and after the show, we may or may not have a drink with them, depending on the schedule.
Andrew: We are coming to the part where we clarify if we got too drunk the night before. (laughs)
Emma: Every morning we wake up like: “Oh, my god, what did we say last night? Did we fuck up with our saying? Are they mad at us?” (laughs) Every morning we are spending hours in the van asking those questions… But we like to drink. Every tour has been that way, there’s no hiding that.
Nowadays, we have a chance to see many collaboration projects and guests appearing within one label, and with Sargent House, perhaps most recent was the case between Mike Sullivan of Russian Circles and Chelsea Wolfe on her forthcoming record... Tell us, have you thought about any musical collaborations within your label or beyond it, in your near future? Is there someone you would like to invite as a guest musician on your future releases?
Greg: I would like to have Mylets. I think Henry Kohen is an amazing guitar player and I would like to play with him. He’s a friend of ours and we probably could play with him.
Emma: Henry is like my baby brother, he played on my record. We did some covers together and he’s a madman: before you’re even able to learn the chords, he’s already programmed all the drums, learned the changes, learned the solos... We’ve talked about having another guitar player in the band. And there’s this girl Aurielle Zeitler, her project is called Ghost Marrow. She is an incredible guitarist, musician and singer. We’ve thought about having her in the band, but right now we just can’t afford the space of having another person. She is actually now playing with Chelsea Wolfe… And Chelsea would definitely be somebody that I would love to collaborate with.
Greg: That’s true. There’s Ben Chisholm from Chelsea’s band, Dylan also. I am pretty much in with all of her band.
Andrew: If you want to take Dylan as a drummer instead of me on the new record, I would be okay with that (laughs). Now seriously, Dylan, the drummer of Chelsea Wolfe’s band, is one of my favorite drummers, and not only in Sargent House. He is very musical and very rare kind of drummer that plays sensitively...
Emma: We love all the Sargent House bands! They are all our friends.
Andrew: And Cathy, who owns it, is a very lovely and unique person. She takes care of her people.
Greg: She is cultivating something that is not in the label. A lot of the bands we’ve toured with are Sargent House’s bands, and we formed really closed friendships.
What would be the next step for Marriages?
Greg: A lot of touring and hopefully some writing between the tours.
Emma: And some collaborative visual arts as well, because each of us is a visual artist…
Andrew: And we’ll try to make music videos, too.
via NOCTURNE MAGAZINE
See full photo set from their performance at Dom Omladine HERE.