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Thursday 28th April, 2011 10:31PM

MarineVille formed in 1999 and throughout its career has been composed of musicians from some of New Zealand’s great bands – the Renderers, the 3Ds, the Verlaines, Signer etc. For a band with considerable talent (and great songs), they’ve only released three albums. Their latest, Fowl Swoop, showcases their gnarled and excellent take on pop songs, and is being released via American label Last Visible Dog. Vocalist Mark Williams was kind enough to answer some questions via email.

You guys have been involved in a number of musical projects – how do you view Marineville as fitting in with your musical past/other projects?

Basically MarineVille is all about songs and the primary influences are new wave and no wave 1977-84. ... with songs you have to remember the changes, play and remember the dynamic of the whole piece, whereas in improv you're in the moment, riding the wave. But the improv attitude carries through - none of us want to practice to death... we're not trying to be super tight in a live show, what really matters is giving it 100% at each gig... Apart from that crossover, I spent 3 years singing Jacques Brel songs a while back and Greg had to constantly reign my vocals in during the recording. I was getting too goofy. Jeremy plays horns in Upper Hutt Posse and electro with Signer but there isn't much evidence of radical politics or big beats. Greg and Denise were in The Verlaines and the 3D’s, they both have a good bullshit meter for music and the music industry.

Plenty of people who have come in and been part of the band – has that been a difficult thing to control? Or has it helped with the making of music?

Ha! I certainly can't control it...and trying to keep someone in the band when they're over it is a major drag. The flow in and out was perhaps an influence of playing in improv groups. Why not play with a violinist if the bass player can't make it, etc? And it felt like a chance to make the live shows more interesting - how can we make this different, more exciting, more spontaneous?

Has that made performing live more difficult? Do you see yourselves as much as a live band as a studio one?

Ultimately, it was more difficult. If people are coming in and out the dynamics become very hazy. Certain songs you can't play because they need to be learnt. But it's been pretty settled for about 3 years now, and I've been writing more for a live rock group. Right now there's also bunch of local bands we can relate to ... Full Fucking Moon, Terror of the Deep, Brilliant Swords and a few others, so playing live seems like fun. But I love the studio - I love creating a psychological space in the background of the songs, I love adding a note, or 1 beat that changes the emphasis and gives everything a lift. It's heaven.

The vocals have always been interesting in how they interplay (or don’t at points, in traditional ways) with the guitar – was that a conscious thing when writing the songs, or are the separate parts conceived of completely differently?

It's fairly intuitive. Perhaps rather than singing I'm more interested in delivery - somewhere between Richard Hell and Jacques Brel. I have been trying to write vocal lines lately. But just as effective has been improvising nonsense lyrics and writing lyrics to match the syllables. It's more intuitive.

How was Fowl Swoop recorded – I read that it was written over three years? Was it continuously, or quite sporadically? It’s been six years since the last – why the lengthy period?

The basic tracks were recorded in 2 days at the venue Happy in Wellington. We just played several takes and chose the best. Everything else was added in bedrooms and hallways. The lengthy period is because of people leaving the group after the last record, work commitments, not feeling much affinity with the local music scene for a long time, the success of other projects, looking for a label, trying to maintain democracy so everyone has an investment in the group and thus it stays together. And money.

Did you have any specific plan when writing Fowl Swoop? Any reactions against anything you had done previously?

Mostly what I'm uncomfortable about in the past is lyrics. So for Fowl Swoop I added a lot more humour, which was always my natural inclination but a hard thing to incorporate. "I think I know what this means - bring me a plate of ice-cream!"

It sounds like a pretty eclectic album. Was that due in part to the long writing period ? You don’t hold back by opening with ‘the Birds in the Trees’ either…

I'm glad it seems eclectic. It just reflects our record collections and all those other bands we play in. We've been described as music nerds in the past, perhaps we are. The Birds in the trees is a pretty wild beginning, and about 3 songs in one... we argued over the song order, and then what was Side 1 and Side 2, in the end there is Side Fowl and Side Swoop - see, this is what happens with democracy..!

Last Visible Dog seem to be a fan of a lot of great (and comparatively ignored) New Zealand stuff – is it gratifying being seen overseas in that light as being worthy of distribution? Or is it more an example of the sorry state of music distribution in this country that you have to go offshore first?

There's more audience overseas, more money for a future release and ultimately that's what we're fishing for. Plus if you're pushing yourself in NZ, you're competing for column inches against wildly disparate artists in other genres. It just seems silly. Plus there's no record shops left in NZ for distribution.

Already onto the next album?

Recorded 6 songs already, and yes, trying to release a record every year from now on. Even if we self-release in small editions the future must be about producing the music not pursuing other labels interest or whatever. At the end of the day the only thing you can control in the music biz is artistic self-satisfaction... so it's up to us to get working.

Brannavan Gnanalingam