Steel For Brains Interviews Greg Burns of Marriages

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photo credit // Greg Burns


After releasing their debut EP Kitsune in 2012, the question from listeners and music critics alike was resounding and immediate.

When comes the Marriages full-length? Three years later and that question has been answered with Salome, a stunningly beautiful record that for all its atmospheric fragility, bears a weight and resonance as heavy as any metal release you’ll hear in 2015. Members Emma Ruth Rundle (vocals/guitars) and Greg Burns (bass/keyboards) both cut their respective heavy teeth in the influential post-rock act Red Sparowes, and though remnants of that sound were carried over with Marriages, the band’s exploration of melodic broadstrokes with a powerful undercurrent of haunting ambience. Now with drummer Andrew Clinco, the band looks to meet and exceed the expectations that have come with the near universal anticipation for their full-length debut. SfB recently asked Burns a few questions about the upcoming Salome, which is being released April 7 via Sargent House.

Marriages has been a band for a while now (since 2011 if I’m not mistaken), and now you’re releasing your full-length debut with Salome. Are these songs the creative culmination representing your time together over the last four years, or was the album more an exploration of newer creative perspectives for you all? Perhaps both?

Greg: It’s really a combination of both.  On Kitsune we were discovering our sound, and creating an identity for ourselves that stood apart from what Emma and I had done in Red Sparowes.  During that time, we met our full time drummer, Andrew Clinco.  Salome really represents an extension of our original sound, but at the same time the discovery of music through our new collective friendship, and the inspiration we all drew from that.

Were there new challenges for the band with the creation of the full-length as opposed to 2012’s Kitsune EP? If so, what specifically?

Oh yeah, plenty of challenges.  It’s hard to really put this in words, but at times I think we all felt the record was almost cursed…pretty much anything that could have gone wrong, did.  We had problems with the studios and engineering process, where it was almost impossible to get a full day of recording in.  We each had some pretty massive personal challenges during the recording; houses were robbed, personal demons were fought…for some time I think we almost lost hope.  To have the record come out has been incredibly rewarding.  Kitsune didn’t suffer from anything like that - it was a very easy album to record - we wrote and recorded the songs within six months of starting the band.

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Photo Credit // Nick Fancher

Much of the spectrum in which Marriages operates is in the idea of contrast where seemingly opposing dynamics are paired together. It’s a difficult thing to pull off successfully without having it seem like arbitrary juxtaposition. You guys have avoided that handily, and I’m curious as to what your approach to that specific dynamic of your sound (contrast) is, or if it’s something you deliberately avoid being conscious of.

Thank you - I agree that balance is tough.  We don’t explicitly discuss this when writing, but it’s something that we do recognize and play with.  That tension is one that I think is fundamental to the band’s sound.  I think it’s more a result of us wanting to challenge each other, as well as find musical territory that is (hopefully) unique within a rock context, but can still reference the music that inspires us.

There’s a lot of experimentation specifically with the vocals with various effects being used and interweaved with the other instrumentation where it becomes a part of the music itself, if that makes sense. Is that something the band explored from the very beginning, or did you find that exploration of vocal experimentation happening gradually over time?

I can’t speak for Emma, but I can tell you that the vocals have evolved quite a bit over the lifetime of Marriages.  Originally the intent was to have the vocals sit in with the music and, at times, blend in to a point where they were indistinguishable.  Emma used a vocal pedal for awhile that took it into a very effected territory and, along with her use of delay and reverb, was really embedded within the music.  With Salome, we intentionally had the vocals become more prominent, although still have them spiral in and out of the general instrumentation in a way that is, at times, ambiguous and intertwined with the other instruments - mostly guitar and keyboard.

 

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Photo Credit // Greg Burns

As much congruency as the music has it’s hard to imagine the band’s creative process being anything but exclusively collaborative. That said/assumed, is the writing process one that is solely based in creative solidarity, or do you all create on your own as individuals and then bring the pieces together, so to speak?

We do both.  Either way, though, the songs become collaborative - it’s the seed of the song that either one of us brings in, or that we write collectively.

What do you see as the primary creative challenges for the band, and how do you all as individuals confront those obstacles?

One of the big challenges has been breaking away from what’s familiar. Specifically for Emma and myself, writing music that is different from our other projects (Red Sparowes, her solo works, etc.) can be tough, but rewarding.  It’s very easy to fall back into familiar, comfortable territory.  Fortunately we all call each other out on that - one of the core values of the band is that we’re always challenging ourselves.

There’s such an emotive weight and context to Salome that’s incredibly moving and honest. Again, it’s a characteristic often attempted by bands but rarely captures what seems like an authentic manifestation of what the lyrics or music are trying to “sell.” If you could, what would you attribute that kind of emotive honesty to when it comes to the music Marriages creates?

Thank you - I really appreciate that.  I’d say the main reason that Emma, Andrew and I play music together is because we all feel that the music should be genuine and honest.  I wish I had a better answer for you, but I really feel that it’s the only way we’re happy playing music.  If it felt faked, or disingenuous, we’d all hate playing it.  Ultimately, our music is an outlet for all of the shit we deal with in life.  We’d all go crazy if we didn’t have that outlet, and so it has to be honest, or it doesn’t serve it’s purpose.

I’m curious as to what you all do to challenge yourselves as musicians in the context of Marriages, and what your hopes are for the band in the coming years.

As a collective, we don’t let ourselves become lazy, or too comfortable.  We never let each other write to a template.  We use tools to force each other to think outside of the box (shorten measures, different time signatures, unfamiliar keys).  We bring in musical ideas that are well outside of any genre we’re associated with, but we also write ideas that are well within familiar genres and challenge the others to write something that brings it somewhere new.  We’re also all a little unbalanced, so that keeps us on our toes. (Laughs)
 

Thanks to Greg for his time.

Marriages is heading on their European Tour with Wovenhand starting April 9. See all show details HERE.

Marriages Tour Dates:
April 5 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo (Part Time Punks / Record Release Show)
April 9 Tilburg, Netherlands @ Roadburn Festival
April 10 Nijmegen, Netherlands @ Doornroosje *
April 11 Leige, BE @ Le Hangar
April 12 Paris, France @ Le Tranbendo *
April 14 Tourcoing, FR @ Le Grand Mix*  **
April 15 Vevey, Switzerland @ Rocking Chair *
April 16 Aarau, Switzerland @ Kiff *
April 17 Schorndorf, Germany @ Club Manufaktur *
April 18 Leipzig, Germany @ UT Connewitz e.V. *
April 20 Brno, Czech Republic @ Fleda *
April 21 Linz, Austria @ Posthof *
April 22 Ljubljana, Slovenia @ Kino Siska *
April 24 Rijeka, Croatia @ Impulse Festival *
April 25 Belgrade, Serbia @ Dom Omladine *
April 26 Bucharest, Romania @ The Silver Church *
April 27 Sofia, Bulgaria @ Mixtape 5 *
April 29 Budapest, HU @ A38
May 1 London,UK @ Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
July 11 San Francisco, CA @ Phono Del Sol
August 21 or 22 Bristol, UK @ Arctangent Festival

* w/ Wovenhand
** Emma Ruth Rundle Solo 

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