By now you’ve probably heard of Juno Award-winning Vancouver band Marianas Trench, and if you haven’t, you’ve almost definitely heard their work. Their hit single “Cross My Heart” was blasted from radios all year when it was released in 2008, and was also featured in season one of the hit show “The Vampire Diaries”. Their latest album “Ever After”, released in 2011, has certainly had its fair share of success as well: the single “Haven’t Had Enough” reached the No. 1 spot on iTunes Canada and Pop Downloads. Oh, and we should mention that it also went platinum. Plus, they most recently won Group of the Year at the 2013 Juno Awards. Mike Ayley, bassist, took some time with 1968 Magazine to answer our questions on the band, horror stories about touring, and creating an album.
What was the first thing you did when you found out you were nominated for a Juno Award?
We have been nominated for a Juno award a couple times before. We didn't win those times. So other than booking the flights, hotels and weekend passes nothing was different. Once we were at the Junos the whole weekend experience was different than before. We were performing this year and that involved multiple early morning rehearsals.
In full glorious description, what was winning like?
While I was in a state of pure fatigue our first Juno category was announced. While they were introducing the category a couple of camera men perched on the floor and aimed in our direction. It appeared as though we were going to win. However, there were a lot of potential winners in the immediate vicinity. When they said our name it was very surreal. It seemed like it wasn't actually happening. I had a huge smile on my face and couldn't have stopped smiling if I had to. I remember high-fiving Matt and kissing my girlfriend. It was such a relief. I felt loose like I was melting into a puddle and had a super calm feeling of peace inside for the rest of the day.
When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
I always loved music. I used to sneak into my brother’s bedroom when nobody was home and play his keyboard and bass guitar. I thought I was doing something bad, but I just loved making songs. When I was 17 I would listen to live CDs of bands and, although I never thought it was unusual until now, I would always picture myself as the singer rather than somebody in the audience.
How did you guys form Marianas Trench?
Matt and Josh knew each other from high school. Ian and I worked together and were already in another band before. When that band broke up Ian tried out for MT, got the gig, and soon after I became the bass player.
Where did the idea come from to name the band after the deep chasm in the Pacific Ocean?
Is that what people think? Okay, we’ll give the chasm all the credit; but truth be told that Chasm was pre-named after us.
How would you describe your sound?
We’re a pop rock band. Our songs have great melodies and LOTS of harmonies. There are many times in our live show when we do four-part harmonies. I think that is one of the things that sets us apart from other bands in the same genre.
Is there a message that you wish to communicate with your music?
We like to let people interpret the music and lyrics for themselves. That way the songs are open to personal interpretation and will mean more to our fans than if we explicitly describe what they are about.
I know this is a loaded question, but describe what the journey’s been like for you to gain the success that you’ve achieved?
As I answer this I am in Saskatoon, Canada. I remember the first time we played here at a basement bar for 15 people. We met every one of those early supporters. They have been with us since the start and helped us along the path in so many ways! We have since played this town at least a dozen times and are headlining our own full-production arena rock show tomorrow night. It’s been seven years of steady and gradual growth. Our fan base has a very organic and “real” quality to it. There wasn’t any TV contest or crazy one-hit-wonder type of thing that propelled us to this point. It has just been hard work and persistence coupled with our incredible fan loyalty.
You’ve toured with other accomplished bands such as Simple Plan back in 2011; what was that experience like, and what is it like touring with other bands?
Simple Plan was a GREAT experience for us. We got to do our first national U.S. tour while playing with them, and in Canada got to do our first arena tour. We watched how well they treated their crew, the local help, and all the bands on the tour. They are all very nice guys and we were very fortunate to work with them.
Any upcoming tours we should know about?
We are doing our first full U.S.A. headlining tour. It starts May 16th and runs for about 5 weeks. We also have our last shows in Canada for “Ever After” this summer at a few select festivals including Bluesfest in Ottawa and one final show in Toronto (where we hadn’t been able to bring our “FACE THE MUSIC” show due to venue scheduling availability).
Do you play any other instrument besides bass?
I can play guitar and trumpet as well.
If there was one instrument you wish you could learn to play, what would it be?
I would love to be a very good piano player. It’s such a great instrument!
Could you describe the process you guys take when creating an album?
The songs come at whatever rate the music gods let them. Josh writes and re-writes until a song is complete and then we record it in the studio. We like to record the songs as they come instead of waiting and doing a whole album at once. It keeps the performances more inspired and the songs are still fresh when they are being tracked.
We all know touring can be tough; any ‘horror stories’?
Let me just put it this way: We nicknamed our first national tour “Flirting with Death”.
If you could pick the brain of any musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I would actually love to go back in time and watch the recording process of the Beatles doing “Sargent Pepper”. I would also love to watch the writing process for Max Martin. He’s a genius.
How do you feel about the current music industry in Canada?
I think Canada is a very supportive place for music. Canadian content regulations are great to help new bands get a chance at having their songs played on radio and TV. The people have been great to us and I really only have our own experience to judge from.
What is something people may not realize about pursuing a career in music?
Oh man, it is so much harder than you think it will be. Even three albums and hundreds of shows later we still have to grind for everything if we want to continue growing. You can never take anything for granted and remember that your fans are THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Without them, there is no career; only a hobby.
Where do you want to be in five years?
Hopefully we will be just finishing up our 5th album cycle and continuing our growth outside Canada as well. I would love to get to see more of the world through this job. It’s a heck of a bonus to the job.
What is currently paused on your music playing device?
Uhhh… well to be honest it’s Taylor Swift’s “Trouble”. That is one great pop song.
Any advice for aspiring musicians/bands?
Write your songs over and over until they are as good as they can be. Practice over and over until your great songs will translate with your live show. Promote yourself over and over until you get noticed and a foot in the door, and then do it all over again.
How do you think/hope things will change now that you’ve won Group of the Year?
I don't know if thing will change much. The Juno exposure will always helps and seems to increase our visibility to a new demographic but I expect we will just keep working hard. Perhaps even harder than ever. We are starting to expand to international regions. Maybe the Juno will give us some "street cred!" In the new countries. Lol