Concert Preview: Hey Marseilles

The Harvard Crimson interviews Matt Bishop

Hey Marseilles, a seven-piece band from Seattle, write catchy folk tunes that fall somewhere between Noah & The Whale’s sunny stomp and Arcade Fire’s big-band bombast.  On top of it all is frontman Matt Bishop’s boy-next-door tenor. Since their album release tour is soon bringing them to Boston, The Crimson spoke with Bishop about HM’s new album, “Lines We Trace,” as well as the joys and challenges of working with a large ensemble.

The Harvard Crimson: How do you feel Seattle itself influenced your sound?

Matt Bishop: I think we benefitted a lot from being in Seattle because the Seattle music community is really strong. It’s pretty diverse—obviously alternative rock has a history there, and most recently it’s been folk, with Fleet Foxes, and the Head and the Heart, et cetera. In Seattle, there are people who’ll support you no matter what kind of music you’re interested in. [Debut album] “To Travels and Trunks” concerns itself with moving around, whereas “Lines We Trace” is very much about staying in the same place.

THC: What changed personally for you that led you to look at things this way?

MB: When I was writing the lyrics to “Travels,” I was a bit younger, and interested in the idea of going somewhere else. And then the years just passed. It’s a lot easier to try and find community and joy and the definition of home where you’re at, as opposed to always looking elsewhere. So I think that’s reflected in the lyrics of “Lines.”


THC: You mentioned that the sound has matured a lot—it’s a little bit less celebratory, but a little bit more controlled. How did you guys come into this sound?

MB: [On “Travels,”] were learning how to write music together. The first record was, as I mentioned earlier, songs that I might bring to the table or that other guys might bring to the table. This record was very much about learning how to write a song collaboratively, and how to create a record collaboratively. That kind of intentionality and focus resulted in that kind of restraint that you referenced—being really aware of how every note is being played at a certain moment in a song, not necessarily letting it get beyond our control or beyond what we want it to be.

THC: What are the challenges of arranging for a huge, seven-piece ensemble?

MB: The primary challenge is a multitude of opinions—as it is with any large organization. That can be challenging, but when you finally come to a decision, it’s a lot easier to feel good that you’ve made the right decision.

THC: So what are the challenges, if any, of being around each other all the time?

MB: I think it’s comparable to hanging out with anybody you spend a lot of time with. When I was a kid, I used to travel across the country to visit family—and I had a big family—so I just compare it to that. You know the personalities of each individual and you know when to give them space. It’s a really healthy relationship, by and large.

—Staff writer Matthew J. Watson can be reached at