Since 2001, Canadian band Marianas Trench has been taking the world by storm, thanks to their innovative sound and strikingly personal lyrics. Now, coming off of a four year hiatus, the band has come back with a vengeance, releasing their fourth album Astoria, which takes the bands previous works and cranks it up a notch, and announcing a world wide tour, the first leg of which just recently finished. We caught up with lead bassist, Mike Ayley, to discuss the band's new album, and to find out what we can expect from their upcoming SPF 80s tour.
PopWrapped: So you just recently finished your “Never Say Die” tour in Canada. How was it transitioning back into touring full time?
Mike Ayley: You know, it was weird because not only did we go back into touring full time, but we actually went on one of the biggest stretches of shows we’ve done ever. We did a five-week US run, then we’re home for Christmas, and then out for another five-week US run, home for two weeks, and then another five-week Canadian run. So it was close to six months straight.
It was weird to go from literally 0 to 60 in no time flat, but there was a bit of a build up to it that isn’t public. Like, we record the album and you start getting into it knowing that the album is getting close to completion. You start rehearsing at home and learning all your vocal parts; and then you learn how to play and sing your parts at the same time, because some of them are easy, some are really difficult. You start practicing with the band and, next thing you know, you just get into the zone and you’re ready. Then, the last week, you’ll go buy wardrobe for the stage and you’re designing a show. So in the mind, you’re getting ready before you’re actually out there, but there still is a transition. In this case, it was very easy for us because we were all very excited to work, very proud of the album, really excited to play new music.
And then our Tour B crew is a really really good, happy family of people--the best it’s ever been. So the vibe while we were on tour was really positive and then it made it really easy to be there. In fact, we finished our Canadian run and there was 75 shows or something, five months or whatever it was, and everybody was like, “Alright, kinda don’t want to stop yet,” which is the first time it’s ever felt like that.
PW: Were there any particularly memorable moments from this tour?
MA: We had our first time at the ACC in Toronto which is one of those landmark venues as far as accomplishments, so that was cool to do for the first time. The whole Canadian run was fun because we were trying a lot of new stuff and in the States it was really cool to play [The Troubadour]. We sold it out and it’s such a legendary place to play-- just a little 500 person place--and it was jam packed and we had a really good show. That was a real highlight. There were also a lot of industry people there and I feel like we did a good job of showing them what we’re made of for people who had not seen us before from the US side.
There’s some cities that are always good, like the Boston House of Blues--we hadn’t played there in a long time; that’s a really beautiful venue. It’s really big and right above the stage they have this big hanging piece of art that says “Who Do You Love?”. And I think that’s kind of cool that I noticed that because that’s one of the songs on our album--that’s one of my favorite songs on the album. The tours themselves were very much highlights. I like that in the first run we were bringing in, for the first time ever, some 500-1,000 people and the second one, it was more like 500-1,500 people crowds and clubs and its like, we’re growing, we’re growing. It’s exciting!
PW: Did you have to consider any different things when planning the US tour vs the Canadian one?
MA: Yeah, there’s some differences. I mean, obviously when you’re planning a 1000 or 1500 person capacity club or 5-10,000 capacity arena, the production you can both fit into the club or afford to bring, the levels are different. But what we do in the States is we just jam as much of the arena show as we can into the venues. People see us coming and usually they’re like, “Oh, I had no idea,”. But like I said, our crew is always friendly and the band is all friendly, so by the end of the day, the local portion of the crew is always happy to be participating because we’ve been respectful. And then they get to see the show and they’re like “Oh, I get it, man! That was worth it!” So there is a difference.
There’s a whole extra busload of people on our team, another 10 or 12 people that come with us everyday when we’re in Canada, compared to the US run. In the US, we have a team of four band members and seven crew guys, and then the locals will hire a few extra hands each day to help load in and all that stuff. As far as what we do, the sets are about the same length. So we really just get to go out there and rock as hard as we can. It’s just a little bit different on the production side; that’s the biggest difference. You know, the people you need to put that show together.
PW: Have you noticed any differences between American and Canadian Trenchers?
MA: I think wherever we go--we’ve been to Australia and New Zealand, and we’ve been all over the States and Canada, and we’re about to go to Europe in a bit--our fans are really supportive, really passionate, really awesome to play for wherever we go. It always surprises me the first time you’re somewhere and they’re all singing all the words to all the songs. It’s like, “Huh, how do you all know it?” But you do, even in the States.
One thing I do know about the States that I like is, I feel like the demographic is a little bit wider. There are more guys, more adults, people who are a little bit older. In Canada, we sort of got our exposure initially on the video channel--that was our biggest break and our biggest media presence-- and that had a pretty targeted market. The people that watched it were more teenagers and more girls, so people think we’re more like a boy band and I’m like, “We’re not really like a boy band. It’s like a rock band that plays pop music too.” I’d rather people say they’re more like Queen or the Beach Boys, or something like that. If you listen to the albums and listen to the subject matter, it is more mature than a lot of those other bands.
And we get to the US audiences and I feel like it’s a more mature audience that’s coming out to the shows than in some of the other places. And I think that’s just because there’s a bit of a preconception up in Canada of who we are, so some people haven’t necessarily given it a chance and assume it’s for certain people. Where in the States, people have just come across it and they’re like if "I like it, I like it. If I don’t, I don’t," and that’s really organic and natural. It’s just a cool mix to play to. I mean it’s good everywhere, I don’t want to alienate anybody, but I’m excited about who is coming to the US shows.
PW: I saw that you’d invited fans to come to your meet and greets dressed in 80s garb! Judging by your instagram photos, some of those people went all out.
MA: Yeah, it was a lot of fun! It was cool to see so many people get into that. I mean, I think it just adds to the experience for them. The whole process of getting ready for the show, you already feel like you’re getting something out of it before even being there. And then for everyone else who’s there, you get a little bit of a changed experience. The environment is around you and not just up on stage and I think that’s an interesting way to experience a live show.
PW: Is that something you’re planning for the US tour as well?
MA: I feel like they should be coming in like 80s summer style, almost like 80s beach-wear, because it’s going to be really hot. I feel like there’s gotta be some sort of 80s version that is better. Come in a bikini, I don’t care. We’re not going to be wearing much clothes. We never do.
PW: The new album is incredible and it seems to cover a wide spectrum of emotions. Is there one that really resonates with you the most?
MA: Yeah, "Dearly Departed" is a really hard song for me to listen to because it’ll affect my mood and it might stick around for the rest of the day. I mean that because I love it and it’s just so heartbreaking. I definitely feel that one a lot. The opening and closing track, like "Astoria" for sure. Partly because of how it feels when we play it live--the big adrenaline rush--but even listening to it, because it just sort of builds as it goes. And so does the closing track, "End of An Era". They both have so much emotion. They’re actually probably my two favorite songs on the album.
"Who Do You Love:, I love that song. I feel like when I first heard the demo, I was like, “This is one of my favorite Marianas Trench songs I’ve heard”. I like a lot of stuff. I find it depends on the vibe. Like, I think "Yesterday" is a ton of fun to listen to and playing that is a blast; it’s just so upbeat and "Burning Up" is like that too. So it depends on the mood I’m looking for, I guess.
PW: What’s been your favorite song to perform live, on this album or not?
MA: I don’t know why it’s always the first song of the set. So like "Ever After" was really, really… like I still listen to that song and we’ve played it hundreds of times, and I still love listening to that song and love playing that song. Same thing with "Astoria". And I’m not sure whether its just the songs themselves or because my association with them is so positive. That feeling of walking out stage and beginning the show, it’s the greatest sort of high that you can have, I think. It’s such a rush--the adrenaline and the experience. It just feels so good.
Especially because you build all day long. You like get yourself ready physically--your voice, your clothes, you work out, whatever. But you also get your mind into the zone and you just build it up, build it up, build it up for hours. The second you wake up, you start the process and then you go to soundcheck. And you just keep going and going, and then you walk on the stage and the time comes and it’s like “Right fucking now, I’m going to do this and I’m going to kill this song.” There’s something really satisfying about that.
So, the ones that have probably the most fond history and remaining feelings over all time would be "Ever After" and "Astoria". But I kind of get that with "End of An Era" too, but it’s different. With "End of An Era" I just take everything that’s left in my tank that I didn’t burn out, especially all of the emotional boxes, and I let it pour out.
PW: In creating the album, you got to work with a lot of incredibly talented people. My question is, what was it like working with the legendary Benny & the Jets?
(For those who don't know, Benny & The Jets is lead singer Josh Ramsey's dog, who received an executive producer credit on Astoria.)
MA: Oh man, she is a tough executive producer. Every time, we’d be like “What’d you think of that take?” and she was like, “Ruff, do it again!” It was great.
PW: But really, what was it like to have so much collaboration on this album?
MA: It was really cool. We had a few new characters, but a lot of the people that you heard on the album were people who have worked with us in one way or another over our previous career. And then to have them all involved in this album, and even have some friends coming in and performing parts, really made it a little bit more special than usual. I feel like this album has a lot of things about it that a lot of people might not realize. We really put a lot of guts and heart and soul into it. Especially in the producing, like all the symphonic transitions and having all those drummers, and in "This Means War", gang vocals--we had all those people in there. It’s not fake. We had a bunch of people in there, a bunch of microphones in a giant room. And then on some of those transitions, I don’t think people realize how much creativity and how many things are being done that people don’t do any more.
PW: Did working with all of the 80s recording equipment add to the vibe at all?
MA: Yeah, totally. The vintage guitars always sound so good, so using those were great. The keyboards and the microphones, even the drums were vintage drums. It’s really cool. Definitely, there’s a sound that is vintage and antique, that’s different than a brand new piece of gear. It is a really inspiring to be playing and performing upon one of those things.
PW: Since this album is so heavily influenced by the 80s, we couldn't leave without asking a random 80s question! What’s your favorite thing to come out of the 80s? (Excluding yourself, of course.)
MA: Aw man! You took my answer! The Back to the Future Trilogy was pretty awesome and that started in the 80s. It transcends the times.
PW: Finally, do you have any parting words or pre-tour messages for your fans?
MA: Wear your sunscreen! It’s going to be a hot summer and we’re coming to sweat it out!
Special thanks to Mike Ayley for taking the time to fill us in on the new album and the upcoming tour! For more information on Marianas Trench visit the band's website.
The highly anticipated SPF 80s tour kicks of this July! Tickets are on sale now and available here!