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Octoberman - Interview

  by Paul Waller

published: 1 / 6 / 2010

Octoberman - Interview


Paul Waller speaks to Marc Morrissette, the front man and founder of Canadian group Octoberman about his band's recently released third album of slacker pop anthems, 'Fortresses', and the increasing cynicism and back-biting against indie rock

Essentially Canadian indie rock champion Marc Morrissette is Octoberman. This month sees the release of his band’s third full length album, ‘Fortresses’. The record, a collection of playful, but also sometimes bleak slacker pop anthems, captures all the potential greatness he hinted at with his previous output and manages to eclipse it and just about anything else released so far this year for good measure as well. It’s a compelling listen and one I can not recommend enough. For this interview Pennyblackmusic caught up with Marc on the phone shortly after he left the Camden Head stage in London on his recent UK tour to drill the man on the subject of his new LP... PB: During the recording process did it hit you at any point that you were recording something really special? MM: I remember being worried that it wouldn’t sound cohesive because it was completed in two separate segments, an electric session in Ottawa and then two months later an acoustic session in Portland. Some people were worried that it wouldn’t fit together but I remember when I started to sequence the album I began to realise there were some cohesive themes that were emerging. In my opinion it fits really well together. It made me realise that there were a few crazy things that were going on in my life. It captures what I was going through. I think it’s a very honest album and I am proud of that honesty. Yeah, you can’t fake that. I don’t know if it’s special because there is a lot of great music out there but I am proud of it and I guess that’s all I can ask for. I don’t even know if it is special. If somebody else thinks it special than that makes me feel really good but then again somebody else might not think it’s special at all. It’s a very subjective thing. So yeah whilst I am proud of it I still think I can do better. I hope that doesn’t sound cocky. The majority of musicians are most excited about their newest songs and I have a new album that I am ready to record and I am more excited about that. It’s interesting to listen back. It definitely captured a dark period in my life. I am glad now that something good has come out of it. PB: Did you originally plan to record in two different countries? MM: Basically I wanted to capture the sound of a band on the road. There is something about sleeping on the couch or on a floor or having three people in a hotel bed. PB: It’s the romantic notion of the travelling rocker! MM: Yeah, the music becomes more urgent and you become really committed to it. You are not thinking about catching the season finale of ‘Lost’ or trying to pick up that girl at the local bar. You are just doing music. So I knew we had some shows in Ontario and there is a great analogue studio there called Little Bullhorn so that made sense and then we got back to Vancouver and I had these other acoustic based songs and that is kind of how Octoberman started so I wanted to keep that part of it alive so with very little rehearsal the five of us went down to Portland. We entered another great analogue studio with a wonderful producer called Larry Crane whose recorded some great artists that I admire. PB: Yeah, I’ve heard of him. He has worked with Sleater-Kinney, Cat Power, Elliot Smith and Steven Malkmus. How was that for you? MM: He did everything 100% live with just some overdub of bass and a bit of background vocal. Everything else was just five people in a room. That I think is a great way to make a record. That’s how they did it for many, many years and a lot of people have gotten away from that but I wanted to try it out and I am really glad that I did. He basically put a lot of microphones in the room and told us to play. We didn’t do too many takes and after we’d done a few we would stop to listen to them, take a break and move on. It was very fast. We did five songs in two days, everything recorded and mixed. It was unbelievable. He has a whole different approach from the normal done thing. He mixes it as he goes along and his aim is to capture a performance. Millions of engineers or band members for that matter will spend an age figuring out how to make a guitar sound better but in the end it’s always been about performance. The irony is he runs a magazine that caters for people that worry about all those small details of the recording process. People think there is a secret to it or a trick but there isn’t. It’s simple. PB: I find it bizarre that ‘Fortresses’ sounds like a cohesive whole. You can not tell that the date and the countries these songs have been recorded in are different at all. MM: Hmmm, I don’t know how it worked that way, it’s just good luck. I write songs very quickly and rarely change the words. I can complete a song in five minutes and I have a lot of songwriter friends who find that very strange. Sometimes I question it because some of the lines are too…. honest. A song like ‘The Backlash’ in particular. It’s something that a lot of musicians have thought but rarely say because they perhaps are too scared to say it. One of the guys at the label was really uncomfortable with that song and he didn’t even want to have it on the album. PB: So in retaliation you opened the record with it? Nice! Is the song about a particular artist at all? MM: Not really no, a lot of it is about my friends who played in bands in Vancouver. I think they’re brilliant but they are so poor they can’t really afford the time, the luxury even of touring a record but if they did I think they would do really well. Some of them are just under appreciated in general. These are cynical times in indie rock. People try to knock things down, some of it is anonymous like if its on YouTube’s comment section or a blog where you don’t have to leave your real name. It’s always been a pet hate of mine. If you’re going to criticize something that’s totally fine but when it’s anonymous it’s a bit dangerous. People can say things that they normally wouldn’t. beyond music even, reading the comments section of ‘The New York Times’ or whatever sometimes racism will come out or something else that bothers me that under normal circumstances would never happen. I read an interview with Win Butler of Arcade Fire and it was right after their first album, ‘Funeral’, had come out which I still think is a great album. I don’t think many people can deny that. Well, he said that one day he was bored and he googled his name and he found all this really negative hateful stuff written about him that attacked him personally and attacked the band. He said it really depressed and scared him. To me that just sums it up. Here you have someone who has done something great and he still gets knocked down and that happens all the time where people enjoy knocking down something that’s successful. I couldn’t thing of a more interesting way to start an album than with ‘The Backlash’ and again some people think it’s a mistake but the funny part is that song in reviews is the most divisive song I’ve ever written. Some critics hate it but some love it but I like the idea that it least it evokes some kind of reaction. PB: The song ‘Trapped In The New Scene’ has some fantastic animation in the video, I take it you guys don’t have a huge budget so how did that come about? MM: I have a friend who recommended a great director in Toronto called Anita Doron and, yeah, I had a coffee with her (Laughs). I told her my budget and she was concerned that in fact we couldn’t work together but she really liked the song. I understood that and was okay with it, but then she e-mailed me about a week later and told me she had this animation that was supposed to be used for some kind of a short and she thought it really suited the song so she called in some favours from some friends of hers. She did a great job. PB: Also that song was featured in an episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, what response have you had from that? MM: I landed at Gatwick Airport at the start of this tour about four weeks ago and it was my birthday and I had a text from my mum who was watching ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and that song came on. She said she almost fell off the couch. So ,yeah, it was a nice birthday present for myself. I heard that they were maybe going to use it but the publishing world is very unpredictable. They never really know anything until it airs and things often get cut. The funny thing from this is I now know which friends of mine watch ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. A lot of my guy friends actually, I called them out on it. I’ve never seen the show myself so I can’t really comment on it. PB: Well ,over 10 million people watch it. That’s a lot of people being exposed to Octoberman. MM: Yeah, I don’t think I quite understand what exactly than means but who knows. I try not to think about that stuff too much. To be honest I’m quite happy to be sitting here in Camden right now, touring around Europe. Paying small rooms is enough for me. PB: Has there been any different reactions when audiences hear the new songs as opposed to what you have previously released? MM: Not really, it all kind of meshes together. I’ve had people that have come out and heard these new songs which I am always surprised about. The internet is a funny thing. Songs circulate. PB: Finally, are there any plans for you to be coming back to Europe any time soon? MM: This is my third time in Europe and every time I come back it is better than the time before. Hopefully I’ll be back in the late Fall, November maybe. Hopefully that’ll happen. I can’t wait to come back. PB: Thank you.

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Octoberman - Interview

Octoberman - Interview

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