Marianas Trench And Beyond: A Discussion With Matt Webb
“Try a little more, little more, little more / They slap you like a bitch and you take it like a whore-”
Between classes, these were the words that echoed through the halls of my high school, around ten years ago now. Marian’s Trench were the next big band, stealing the hearts of scene girls and beyond. I’d come home and hear my little sister singing that song, “Shaketramp,” though she usually frowned upon swearing. For them, she had a dirty mouth. What’s more, Marianas Trench are from Vancouver, and were Canada’s foot in the musical movement that was blowing up at the time, and that had record label executives shouting on the phone, searching for the next big band. In addition, they had the longevity to persist through the pop-punky trend they rode in on, to experiment with other sounds and styles, and recently have been playing with electronic, pop and dance music, finding ways to work elements into their sound. Through two double platinum albums, five platinum singles and a JUNO award, Marianas Trench’s career is nothing to scoff at, and along the ride, each member has gone through their own path of musical maturation.
I recently got hold of guitarist/keyboardist/sometimes vocalist Matt Webb to hear his take on the whole process, as well as on his own flight towards becoming a prolific solo artist. Matt has been on tour with Marianas Trench this summer while he’s been making moody and groovy pop music, just recently releasing his single “Again and Again,” produced by Kevvy on 604 Records. I managed to get his take on satisfying rabid fans, on braving Canadian winters, as well as on how his dog Fred’s budding music video career.
Kyle Lapointe (KL): How did the music video idea for “Again and Again” come up? Is there anything in the video you think a lot of people might miss or not realize while watching it?
Matt Webb (MW): The treatment for “Again and Again” was written by Emma Higgins, an insanely talented director who I’ve worked with many many times over the years – both personally and with Marianas Trench. It’s meant to symbolize a beautiful love story over the ages. You may notice my dog Fred make a few guest appearances as well as me gazing longingly from the picnic blanket while eating a fruit plate. Other than that, it’s pretty straightforward.
KL: How do you find you approach the creative process with your solo material, compared to the way you approach it in Marianas Trench?
MW: Josh is the writer in Marianas Trench, but solo… I get ALL THE GLORY. *Evil laugh*. To be honest, I love working with Josh in the studio. I learn so much from him every day and often try to incorporate his trickery into my own stuff. It doesn’t come as automatic to me. I wouldn’t consider myself a strong writer so I love to enlist the help of much more talented people to bring my ideas to fruition. I had the pleasure of working with Kevvy Maher and Mathew V on this track, the more brains the better in my opinion. That’s not to say I won’t write on my own, but I love bouncing ideas around with other people, it takes the pressure off!
KL: Throughout your career you’ve toyed with a variety of sounds and genres. Have you ever felt at odds with fans in terms of a disparity between the direction you/your band’s creativity is taking you, as opposed to expectations from fans and the current musical landscape? How do you approach this?
MW: I have never, ever felt at odds with the fans. They’ve always been incredibly supportive no matter what direction we’re going. Everyone has a song they love or hate, including myself, but they’ve grown as we have, and I firmly believe that the evolution of our sound and writing styles has been completely natural. I can’t imagine sticking to a format and recycling it over and over, it would be so uninspiring.
KL: Is it ever difficult balancing two musical projects and finding stability with family and friends? Does this get easier or harder over time, as you grow older and more accustomed to it?
MW: Well, solo stuff takes up very little of my time. I fill in the blanks when I can. There aren’t really any expectations so I can just have fun with it. As for Marianas, it is obviously an enormous commitment, but it is my livelihood and my passion. I’ve invested nearly 20 years into the project and look forward to investing another 90. We’re a family and we strike a good balance between work and our personal lives. Sure, being away from family and friends while on tour can be challenging, but all four band members (and crew) are in the same boat. We recognize that down time and personal time is vital to our survival and happiness, and that is priority number one.
KL: How has the Vancouver music scene changed since you started? Do you still go to see smaller shows of up-and-coming bands there?
MW: The Vancouver music scene is cooking, there are always amazing bands popping out of nowhere. I do, however, have a difficult time going to shows unless it’s someone I truly love. Being at a concert feels too much like work. I’ll always support a friend’s band, just as they did for me in the beginning, but in general I’d rather be hanging out with my dog.
KL: Most bands strive to have the same level of success that you’ve attained with Marianas Trench. Is there anything you miss from being on tour or from when you were just starting up with the band?
MW: There’s a lot I miss about the early days. Some of the best times in my life were in a shitty van with three other dudes, risking our lives in evil Canadian winters, driving 1000 km to play a show for six people. I used to love jumping off stage into the audience to meet everyone, interacting on a one on one basis, selling our own t-shirts after every show while sharing a drink with the fans. It’s still do-able in smaller venues, but less frequent these days.
KL: What is some advice you have for young musicians making their way through the Canadian music industry? What is one pivotal career moment that you feel you learned a lot from in this regard?
MW: If you’re a young musician with rock star aspirations, work very, very hard on your craft. Write songs every day, practice every day, learn the ins and outs of the music BUSINESS, because it is a business. We never had a backup plan. We were hungry and ruthless because there was no other way to survive. Tough to pick one particular pivotal moment as we never had a “lucky break”. I attribute our success to year and years of hard work at every aspect of the job, enjoying the little milestones, surrounding ourselves with talented and supportive team members, and trying to be nice guys.
KL: Can we expect another full-length solo release in the future? If this happens, what should we NOT hold our breath on expecting?
MW: Oh yeah, I’ll get around to it one of these days. I’d say just about any genre is game. Sting once did a solo lute record that sold millions of copies. I will not do that… sell millions of copies that is. Lute, however, is my jam.
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