Portland, Ore.-based MarchFourth Marching Band will bring its wild stage antics and infectious dancing to The State Room Thursday, Oct. 20., which will serve as the starting point for a tour to promote their new album ---Magnificent Beast. City Weekly interviewed bassist John Averill about the new release, the band’s new direction and the logistics of working and touring with a 14-piece marching band complete with acrobats and stilt-walkers.
City Weekly: For the new album, The MarchFourth Marching Band chose to take a revised approach, transitioning from an “alternative marching band” to a “dynamic dance band.” Is this move a stylistic change for the live performances, as well?
John Averill: Definitely. We have been playing a lot of the stuff on the album for over a year now. We’ve been working to evolve the sound from the performances and adapt it to the studio. When we were recording Magnificent Beast, we didn’t try to re-create our live sound. We’ve tried to do that in the past, but we wanted to make this record stand alone, even if you haven’t seen the live show.
CW: The musical styles represented in Magnificent Beast are diverse. In addition, a 14-piece marching band, crammed into the studio, recorded the album. Yet the band is constantly working on new material and refining their sound. How did the songwriters and producers of the record concentrate that much creative input?
JA: Everybody learns their own part when the demos/sheet music go out. When we went in to record, [Los Lobos' producer and saxman] Steve Berlin picked the main room, then set up partition walls, like cubicles, in the shape of an asterisk. The whole band recorded and jammed at the same time.
CW: This past summer, M4 was on the road for an incredible number of days in a row--130 days on the road in a six-month period. Does the group plan to have a similarly rigorous tour schedule in the winter?
JA: We were on the road for that time, and working on finishing the record from April to August at the same time. Our upcoming month-long tour is going to be kicking off in Salt Lake. After that tour, we will wait until summer for another blowout schedule.
CW: From the amount of shows you play at summer music festivals, it seems that those are the preferred venues for your music. What makes those gigs your specialty?
JA: There are definitely advantages to both [small, indoor venues and festivals]. I like festivals because it’s a chance to play for thousands of people who didn’t come to see you. There’s something about small venues, too. It’s a whole different beast. You can blow the roof off the place, because there’s literally a roof to blow off.
CW: The dancers and the crowd’s interaction are a really fun and exciting part of this group’s performance. Do you guys miss the input of that energy when you are playing in the studio?
JA: The live thing is part of the experience, but it is a different experience all together. We all travel together, but when it comes to making the CD, the fewer pieces of the puzzle the better. Dancers try to break down the wall between the band and the crowd. Every band tries to have that kind of interaction.
CW: On the new record, the style of music changes almost every song, yet the feel and energy of the each track is similarly positive and fun throughout. How important is it for you to have fun and stay positive with your music? How do you think this affects your audience?
JA: It's crucial for what we’re doing. If we were a black-metal band, being funny and goofy wouldn’t fly. People take that shit pretty seriously. We try to appeal to a broad range of people. The best way to come to a wide audience is with open arms.
MarchFourth Marching Band
The State Room
638 S. State
Thursday, Oct. 20