Hey You Guys!! Tour
The Orbit Room
2525 Lake Eastbrook S.E., Grand Rapids
Feb. 14, 7 p.m. doors, 16+
$20 advance, $25 day of show
orbitroom.com, (616) 942-1328
For some, Valentine’s Day is a time when lovers bask in each other’s undying devotion and blissful happiness.
For others, like bassist Mike Ayley of emo-pop outfit Marianas Trench, it’s just another strange and confusing holiday.
“Over the years I’ve become the most hopelessly romantic pessimist you’ll ever meet,” Ayley told Revue. “I’m a sucker for love, but have been jaded so many times.”
So even though the Canadian band will end its current U.S. headlining tour here in Grand Rapids on the day when everyone is looking for cupid’s arrow, don’t plan on them playing matchmaker anytime soon.
For starters, just listen to lead single, “One Love,” off the band’s latest LP, Astoria. A heart-wrenching ballad with blistering vocal work from lead singer/songwriter Josh Ramsay, the song bares the pain the frontman endured recently during the dissolving of his engagement just as his career had hit its highest note yet. The track could be the theme song for shattered soulmates.
While still emerging in the U.S., Marianas Trench has a storied history north of the border. Bearing their hearts on their sleeves — and tongues in cheeks — for more than a decade, the Vancouver-based band has amassed a huge fan base in their native country. Its last two records, 2009’s Masterpiece Theatre and 2011’s Ever After, both went platinum in Canada.
“I feel like with the last two albums we’ve continued to push the envelope,” Ayley said. “We’ve pushed to new limits with songwriting. We’ve expanded how far we can go with album themes and concepts. We’ve grown as singers and musicians and are playing and singing more challenging parts than we have at any point in the past.”
Known for their cinematic and sometimes comedic videos, the band has headlined arenas and frequently rubs elbows with the likes of Drake and Carly Rae Jepsen back home. And incidentally, Ramsay also co-wrote Jepsen’s biggest hit, the 2013 mega-smash “Call Me Maybe.”
In stark, satiric contrast, last year the group preceded Astoria (their first official U.S. release) with the EP, Something Old/Something New. On it, Ramsay skewered pop trends and clichés — alongside his own history of addiction and redemption — with the songs “Pop 101” and “Here’s to the Zeros.”
“I feel like trying to tread water is kind of pointless,” Ayley said. “You always want to see what you’re capable of if you push yourself. How many people won a gold medal at the Olympics after just settling to qualify to be there?”
The band has played the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games and racked up dozens of awards of their own, but the band continues to make a point of never losing their self-deprecating sense of humor in spite of their real success.
“Taking yourself so seriously is pointless,” Ayley said. “Obviously, when it comes to recording your album and putting in the work to be able to play it live, you work very hard and take it seriously. [But] it’s so much fun to just relax and enjoy the rest of the ride as much as possible. I couldn’t imagine having to be super somber and moody all the time. I’m a happy guy and I want to have fun.”
The band captures that contrast of happy and sad on Astoria by harkening back to the easy escapism of the 1980s and the comforting fantasy world of family adventure films like The Goonies and the decade’s pop hits.
“We totally immerse ourselves in the atmosphere and vibe of the era we’re trying to catch an echo of magic from,” Ayley said about the loose throwback concept of the LP. “The recording gear was even time specific. The studio [mostly at Ramsay’s apartment] had some of the best albums from the ’80s all over the place. Each morning one of them would get spun for inspiration before work began. It was a great recording experience for us. We will absolutely do something along those lines again in the future.”
Before then, the band remains focused on building their future following here in America.
“You could really feel some crazy momentum building for us in the U.S.A,” Ayley said of the band’s last headlining run here. “It’s something we’ve only scratched the surface of before — but now I feel like we’re on the brink.”