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Best of What's Next: Hey Marseilles

June 21, 2010  |  6:00am
Best of What's Next: Hey Marseilles

Hometown: Seattle
Album: To Travels and Trunks
Band Members: Sam Anderson (cello), Jacob Anderson (viola), Philip Kobernik (accordion), Nick Ward (guitar), Patrick Brannon (trumpet), Matt Bishop (vocals), Colin Richey (drums)
For Fans Of: Blind Pilot, Iron & Wine, Beirut

In 2007, on one serendipitous summer day in Seattle, college buddies Nick Ward and Matt Bishop were killing time with some Coronas and a couple of guitars. Their mutual friend Philip Kobernik decided to buy a used accordion from a pawnshop and join them. With the sun on their shoulders and no real intentions beyond enjoying the day, the three sat on a lawn and jammed—and somewhere between a swig of beer and an accordion wheeze, a song was born.

Today, those three guys plus four more close college friends are band called Hey Marseilles, and that song is the title track of their debut album, To Travels and Trunks (coming June 29). The record features strings, brass, accordion, piano, hand claps, xylophones, crashing cymbals and more woven over musty old jazz, waltz and polka song structures. “When you have layers of distortion in rock, it gets really muddy and mucky really quick. It just becomes noise,” says guitarist Ward of his gentler approach. “I was always attracted to the idea of acoustic layers.”

Every track conjures up an image somehow far-off, either in distance or in time; the sad ooom-pa-pa of “Gasworks” brings to mind a 1940’s carnival side show, while the playful trumpet and driving hand drums on “Rio” call you to a South American escape. The band favors lyrics that are a bit profound, bordering on enigmatic: “The city’s alive with loneliness / asleep in the skyscraper night / fill up your cup with lovelessness / or be doomed to a life satisfied,” Bishop sings on “Cities.”

Hey Marseilles has a strong ties to its hometown; Trunks was self-produced over a year’s worth of weekends in a studio just outside of Seattle, and though the band doesn’t sound much like the city’s more famous musical exports, the influence of bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden is present in what’s missing from the record.

“We all grew up listening to grunge and rock music,” Ward says. “The natural and rebellious thing to do is to make really pretty music.”

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