Going 90’s with Brian Marquis
Brian Marquis just wrapped up the 2015 Vans Warped Tour, where he performed in the Acoustic Basement Tent daily in support of his new release, “I Miss The 90’s” EP. The EP features five covers of 90s favorites and follows his debut full-length album (of originals) “Blood & Spirits.” Marquis’ latest music video for his cover CD is Say It Ain’t So. It features guest vocal appearance by Vinnie Caruana (The Movielife, I Am the Avalanche), Will Noon (Fun., Straylight Run) on drums, Julio Tavarez (The Black and The White, As Tall As Lions) on bass, and Doug Grean (Scott Weiland, The Terpsichords) on piano/keyboards Here are some questions sent through email so that deep thought could go into this interview with Brian.
“I MISS THE 90’S” How did these artist, that you cover on here, from the 1990’s influence you to do your first band Therefore I Am
There was a lot of 90’s influence in my guitar playing in Therefore I Am. I always loved the thick guitar tone from Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’ and always tried to find that roaring tone and I finally found it when I got a Soldano Lucky 13 head. The dissonant chords and bends Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains would play really lending to my darker guitar playing on ‘The Sound of Human Lives’ especially the ambient whale noises on the instrumental title track which was loosely inspired by their song “Whale & Wasp” from their ‘Jar of Flies’ EP.
How did these artist of the 1990’s influence you for doing your solo album self-title Brian Marquis EP “Snow Damage?”
I feel like you can hear the 90’s grunge and alternative rock influence the most in my solo stuff in my vocals. I’ve always had an ear for minor chords and darker sounding harmonies which I do a lot on ‘Snow Damage’. A lot of the guitar chords I use are chords I learned while playing Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Nirvana and stuff like that. It’s what I grew up on so it only makes sense that it comes through in my solo music as well.
“Shadow Boxer” was originally done by female artist Fiona Apple. How does adding your male vocals change this song and what is the meaning for you from this song or about you to want to cover it?
Fiona Apple is one of my all-time favorite vocalists. I actually attribute a lot of my falsetto and high vocal range to growing up singing along to artists like Fiona Apple, Bjork, and Portishead. Just by singing along to them I learned a delicateness and a subtleness to singing that I wasn’t hearing with the male counterparts I was hearing at the time as much. Choosing to do this song was easy as it’s one of my favorite songs and it shows my vocal range from quiet and smooth to belting much like Fiona is great at. This was my best attempt to pay homage to her influence on my approach to singing.
“High And Dry” by Radiohead is a real artistic song from that band. Did you find it hard to cover such a great produced song and making it your own and what does this song mean to you and or about you to want to cover it?
This song reminds me of driving with my Mom listening to the early days of Modern Rock radio and singing along with her to all the songs. It was so cool to have a Mom who not only enjoyed a lot of the same music I did but she also remembers those songs fondly as time we spent together as well. That’s why I chose this song in particular, for my Mom. I didn’t change up the structure or arrangement of the song because this was more about doing it justice rather than changing it. I did however go for a higher vocal melody where I belt more and that’s me putting my own stamp on this classic radio hit.
As an artist how did Kurt Cobain’s death and Nirvana effect you as an artist and why does the song “Something In The Way” mean for you or about you to want to cover it?
Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ was one of the first albums I ever had. I remember getting it on cassette and there was a blurry photo of the band and Kurt was flipping off the camera. I tore that page out and hid it so my Mom wouldn’t find it. I remember showing my mom the tape in the car but would fast forward past lines like “I’m so horny” because I thought they were bad words even though I didn’t know what horny even meant then. “Something in the Way” was the last song on that record and I remember the first full listen to that album was so amazing and then that song came on and it turned to this beautifully heavy and dark final song. After the album ended I just sat there taking in what I had just listened to until the hidden track “Endless, Nameless” came on so loud it scared the shit out of me. In hindsight this song is the most haunting performance wise and lyrically after Kurt’s death. Even though it was supposedly about when he was younger and his dad would kick him out of the house and he would live under a bridge nearby, the ominous refrain of “something in the way” repeating over and over begs to question what was that one thing? I still don’t know but I often think of that when I’m battling my own demons.
You worked with Vinnie Curuana (Solo Artist and lead vocalist I Am The Avalanche) on the Weezer song of “Say It Ain’t So.” How did working with Vinnie help you as an artist and what pointers did he give you. What does this song mean for you or about you to want to cover it?
Vinnie is a good friend and we’ve toured together quite a bit now. When I decided to cover “Say It Ain’t So” I immediately thought of his voice over the bridge and how good it would sound with his yell. He’s got pipes and a distinct style that I love so it was awesome being able to have him on that track. Due to time and distance constraints, him living in NYC and me in LA, I sent the track to him and he recorded it at his friend’s studio and sent it back to me – which is still cool to me that you can do. I remember thinking this song is pretty heavy for nerd rock and I was impressed with the guitar playing. This song also later become somewhat of a house party anthem amongst friends when I was living in Allston, the trashier part of Boston where many artists, musicians, and college students lived among the BU frat houses, and any time this song came on everybody was singing along at the top of their lungs. It just has that special nostalgic power.
Never known Equal Vision Records to put out a cover EP/CD what was that like to negotiate this to happen and how were the songs chosen for this project?
I had talked about the idea of doing a 90’s covers EP to EVR back in November of last year and was surprised with how excited they were about the idea and we both agreed it shows my roots as a musician while also giving people who are fans of those artists a chance to possibly relate to my own music. The songs weren’t too hard to narrow down, we stuck with mostly hits that meant a lot to me for one reason or another and left out some more obscure B sides that would be cool to do down the road but for a short EP they just didn’t fit. I’m happy with the final track listing and flow of the EP.
When will you be recording a new album of your own material and when will it be out?
I will be writing my sophomore full length this fall into winter and hope to have it out next Spring. I’m excited to get more road time under my belt and the inspiration it will bring to my new songwriting for the next album.
Just because there might have a natural little growl in his voice sometimes, Brian means well in all that he does. I have chalked up a good friendship through chatting and doing interviews with this great understanding songwriter and musician. He breaths and lives through music. You can tell by how he talk’s and sings and how he writes his songs. Check Brian out sometime he doesn’t disappoint at all. Looking forward to a new full length of original material soon I hope.
(Interview by Jonathan D. Wright- Photo by Jonathan Weiner)
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