The lush layers of orchestral pop on Hey Marseilles’ self-released debut, 2008’s To Travels and Trunks, helped the band become a darling in the local indie scene. Quite the achievement for a group born of casual jam sessions in the park—just singer-songwriter Matt Bishop, guitarist Nick Ward, and pianist/accordionist Philkip Kobernik. In March, the band finally delivers To Travels and Trunks' worthy followup album, Lines We Trace, and celebrates this Friday with a sold-out album release show at Showbox at the Market. Next stop: SXSW in Austin later this month.
In our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Bishop about the band’s songwriting process, working in college admissions offices, and trying not to burp in public.
How has the band's sound evolved since its inception?
When we first were writing music, we were kind of taking either my or Nick’s singer-songwritery songs and adding instrumentation. But I think now we’re a lot more intentional about making the instrumentation and the layers of tools at our disposal—using those as an integral part as to how the song is composed. Not just throwing in arrangements that build on something and makes it sound prettier, but really for a cello line to have its own weight within a song, for a trumpet part in a bridge to really pop as much as it can.
What’s the biggest change between To Travels and Trunks and Lines We Trace?
We wrote the songs pretty collaboratively. The first record consisted of songs that we had all written as individuals and then came together to perform and put on a record. This record is very much a process of learning how to write together and learning how to put our unique stamp on one piece of collective work. It took a bit longer to complete the project just because we were very much learning as we went along.
How has Seattle influenced your music?
Just being a musician in Seattle is significantly advantageous, because the community is so behind you and there’s a strong network of support. On the record we had a number of musicians come in from other bands to help us out [including Bryan John Appleby, Cataldo’s Matt Batey, OK Campfire’s Mychal Cohen, and Kaylee Cole]. Logistically, it’s something that’s really helpful, just to be a musician in Seattle.
In terms of the music itself, I wish it weren’t necessarily the case, but thematically there’s definitely reference to being somewhere that’s gray and has mountains and water. A lot of the imagery I paint in my lyrics probably wouldn’t be the same if I weren’t living in Seattle.
What up-and-coming local bands should people keep an eye on?
One that I’m most excited about is Pollens. We actually convinced them to open on our album release show at the Showbox. Kithkin is another band I’ve been really excited by recently. There’s a band called Pretty Broken Things and I’m excited to hear their first record; I think they just finished it.
If you weren’t a musician, is there another line of work you might’ve pursued?
I actually worked as a college admissions counselor (at the University of Washington and then Seattle University) up until recently. It was something I fell into, but it was something I really enjoyed. Engaging with students was something that I really appreciated.
Do you have any preshow routines?
Making sure I don’t eat anything that’s going to make me burp when I sing. That’s not really a routine so much as a warning.
Mar 1 at 8, Showbox at the Market, sold out