Hello Emma Ruth! I’m so stoked to be doing this interview with you and finding out more about your latest band Marriages. From what I understand, this is the second band that you, Dave Clifford, and Greg Burns have been in together, the first one being post-rock outfit Red Sparowes. Emma Ruth, you also recently formed the band The Nocturnes with Dave. What is the impetus behind these (re)incarnations and are all the bands active at this point?
Thanks for taking an interest. Just so you know, The Nocturnes have been a band since 2007 and it was only on the last release, Aokigahara, that Dave did lend his talents. The Nocturnes is still active and has a rotating cast of players. The idea behind starting Marriages was really just to explore some things outside what would have been appropriate for the other bands (Red Sparowes, The Nocturnes).
Could you briefly break down the stylistic differences between the 3 bands for prospective listeners?
To be brief and put things simply, I would say that Red Sparowes exists on the planet “post-rock/instrumental,” The Nocturnes hovers somewhere in the new-folkgaze/sadcore world while Marriages is a bit more difficult to pin down. I would say that Marriages is taking a tour of a few different genres and that we are not really ready or sure where to land.
Your debut album, Kitsune, recently came out on Sargent House. What has its reception been like?
So far, so good.
From what I’ve read, Marriages took shape in late 2011 and you recorded Kitsune in December of that year. Have you always worked that quickly together when in Red Sparowes or is this a whole new process for you? What compelled you to put the album together asap?
We did make quick work of this release. The album was written almost as one long song in late 2011 during a short time when Red Sparowes was taking a break. Greg and I were motivated to put some work together after having been asked to play some local shows with Russian Circles. What is now Kitsune was our set for those shows. Writing in this way, one thing after another, proves to be an expedient method!
What is it like recording with Toshi Kasai? You’ve already worked with him as Red Sparowes and I’m wondering what he brought to the table for Marriages.
Toshi- the man likes bananas and we both enjoy a good 7/11 sandwich. He kicks ass at guitar and can really play some finger style blues; he’s not just a producer or engineer, but a great musician. It’s a pleasure to spend time with him in any setting.
Have you been doing gigs already before the album’s release? I think you played SXSW in March and might have toured right after that with Deafheaven and Whirr. What was the live experience like? Do you feel it differed from your other bands?
We played a few shows before recording the record and a few afterwards, but before its release. We did play the Sargent House showcase at SXSW and were lucky enough to play shows on our way from LA to Austin with Deafheaven and Whirr. Playing with Marriages is a pleasure for me because there is room to move within the song. There are only three of us so that allows for some divergence.
One reason I’m into both Marriages and The Nocturnes is because of your captivating, hazy vocals. In instrumental band Red Sparowes you play guitar, but in Marriages you play guitar and sing. Do you feel comfortable stepping into the role of vocalist?
Thank you. Yes, I feel comfortable singing, in a way. I was singing in bands before Red Sparowes but was happy to have a break and let guitar be the vehicle for melodies.
Actually, you, and I think even Dave, sing in The Nocturnes, and create lovely, haunting harmonies. Why did you decide not to replicate that type of vocal style for Marriages?
The Nocturnes is a very different band. I don’t think all those harmonies would work too well in Marriages, but we have been using a vocal effect pedal that does generate some more unusual sounds.
On the song “Body of Shade”, with its built-up drum-battering from Dave, I do detect a shadow of male spoken vocals in the mix. Is that David or Greg contributing?
What you are hearing is the vocal pedal I mentioned before. It creates a formant shifted harmony in real time which ends up sounding a bit like a man singing under me.
I’m hearing some Sigur Ros-like elements in the tumultuous to soaring guitar lines and hints of Slowdive and Malory in some of the suspended-in-air guitar grind and your despondent vocal tone. What bands have influenced your sound? How much of an influence is the shoegazer style on your sound?
I think we all grew up listening to and playing different kinds of music so it’s hard to say what our direct influences are. I think this is reflected by the album and the various places it takes you musically. When it come to guitar though, I would feel comfortable saying that Shoegaze definitely spearheaded the tones and use of effects I employ.
I love how your restless soundscapes move from a stormy roil to a dissipated calmness, especially on standout tracks “Ten Tiny Fingers” and album-ender “Part the Shade Again”. What types of guitars do you use to get both the burnished fiery side and the liquidy, cascading vibe?
One guitar, a Gibson SG – just the most basic one you can buy – standard pick ups and everything. Greg plays a Music Man. Dave plays an SG on one song too.
Your album cover image seems a bit risqué. Where does it come from and how does it fit with the meaning of the album title Kitsune and/or song concepts?
Kitsune, in Japanese folklore, is a fox spirit or to be possessed by the spirit of a fox. I collect Ono masks. In the center and most clear portion of the cover art you can see of a woman becoming the Kitsune and returning to a woman on either side. The image captures the movement and process of this if you follow it from top to bottom. So Greg and I got together and created what you see as the album artwork.
Official Site: http://www.marriagesband.com/