An Interview with Marianas Trench: The Intimacy and the Ecstasy

It’s no coincidence that Canadian pop rock quartet Marianas Trench will soon be stopping by on their American SPF 80s tour just as the true Jersey heat is settling in. Founded in 2001 by the son of a vocal coach and recording studio owner, Josh Ramsey (lead vocals, rhythm guitar and various other instruments, including the flugelhorn), Matt Webb (lead guitar, programming, sometimes trombone), Ian Casselman (drums, sousaphone), and Mike Ayley (bass guitar, trumpet), Marianas Trench is touring out their latest album, Astoria, a pop punk record named after the hometown of The Goonies.

Since winning their first of many awards for the hit single “Shake Tramp” off their debut full-length studio album Fix Me in 2007, the four-piece has more than earned their place as one of their country’s biggest rock outfits, their creative art direction, live shows and public images presenting bright, effervescent tunes ranging in influence from the Jackson 5 to Metallica and in mood from songs entitled “Pop 101” to “ End Of An Era.”

With the voices of our best boy bands, the musical arrangements of symphonic scholars, the at-times shredding riffs of a metal band, the boundless energy of a high school talent, and the thoughtful, purposeful antics and ethic of a band that continues to grow in their craft, it’s hard to pin these guys down. But they sure are fun.

Bassist Mike Ayley took some time to lather on the SPF 80s and give us a bit of a base before they brought the heat.

Hi Mike! So, where are you calling from today? I see your caller ID is from British Columbia right now, but where are you at?

British Columbia. I’m in Vancouver. We just got back from Toronto. Last night we were in there for the Much Music Video Awards. We were there for a couple days. And now we’re home and this weekend, I’m actually going to go to Vegas for fun with a friend of mine. And then 10 days after that we’re starting our U.S. SPF 80s tour.

Yes, I enjoy the artwork and marketing for SPF 80s. Could you give us some insight into the vision that went into naming the tour and the imagery that you used?

Well, when it comes to the imagery, we were like, “Let’s not look cool! Sooo…I have an idea…” And it’s: Let’s wear swimsuits. Bad swimsuits. Bad sunglasses. Josh can just wear his usual swimsuit, cuz that’s always uncool. Aaand that’s taken care of!

The name came from… I dunno, I think I came up with that one. Or Matt. We were brainstorming. SPF is obviously sunscreen. And 80s is still the sort of theme, of the art and the music and the sound and all that stuff so I thought that was a funny way to tie the two concepts together and not just recycling this sort of ‘nother Goonies sort of concept or something like that.

That’s pretty nifty! You guys look very dapper.

Did you just use the word nifty?

Ha, yes. I did.

Yeah! Now you’re speaking my language.

You mentioned that you just got back from the MMVAs [Much Music Video Awards], which is sort of like America’s VMAs [MTV’s Video Music Awards]. From what I understand, your band is known for your dramatic entrances. Could you bring us back in time and tell us a little bit about the antics you’ve performed on the way in?

The entrance for the Much Music Video Awards is on the street and it’s a giant red carpet that covers the entire street. It’s a couple blocks long, and it’s awesome. They let you get creative. Over the years, we have taken advantage of that freedom to be creative.

Let’s see, what have we done? This year, we showed up and we were dressed as sort of old school golfers (somehow, I got stuck being the caddy). But we were in a golf cart and played a little golf on the red carpet. We thought it’d be fun. It was Father’s Day, and it was all right. It was the Sunday of the U.S. Open, I think, so it was ideal. That was good. Last year we came as a boat, like a speedboat and two water skiers. Matt and I were carrying the boat and Ian and Josh were the water skiers. That was actually a really funny one. We have come as hamster balls, two giant hamster balls—two guys in each ball, and rolled all the way down the red carpet, such was deadly, and I swear Matt and I almost died. We were three seconds away from suffocating. But as long as people are entertained, right?

One time we came in a hot tub in our suits. The hot tub was full and we got out and we were soaking wet and then these crazy sort of ninja children started attacking us. What else have we done…We came with an entire parade one time with, like, the marching band and then us and balloons and streamers and these acrobats flipping up and down and around. That was a fun one; that was actually the first big one we ever did. We came in a bouncy castle as men on horseback a few years ago.

I dunno, there’s more. The first year we came out as a new band, we came out in tuxedos, which is funny because we’re all a bit more caj. But we came in tuxedos carrying a six-foot, giant Subway sandwich and gave it out to the crowd. And it was just lettuce and a mess everywhere behind us, and people entering had to, like, deal with it. It was pretty awesome that our lettuce-y mess was there for the whole day.

The funny thing is that we were originally going to get a tandem bike and a little trailer and all four of us were going to ride on a tandem bike. And we were practicing, and it was so hard! So we were like, “Let’s see if we can do it with three people.” And then three people sort of got it, sort of. And then I climbed back on, and it just broke the back wheel. It just bent and turned in like a moon-shape. “So, that’s never going to happen.”

It’s probably for the best because we were also going to ride on this bike while carrying this six-foot sandwich, and that sandwich was, like, 50 pounds for something. It’s really wide, not like a regular Subway sandwich. It’s probably six inches wide and, you know, six feet long. So, that would have failed miserably, it was probably for the best. We just carried it on our shoulders and marched in, kind of thing.

The New Jersey date on the SPF 80s tour is at the legendary Stone Pony. What have your experiences been?

We’ve played there twice. It seems like in that part of New Jersey, that’s the option, and that’s okay because the place is badass. Although the layout’s weird, because it’s not deep, but it’s really wide, and the stage is wide and not deep. So it’s a little bit of a logistical challenge for our crew trying to put our large stage, club production in there. But it’s always fun. And I don’t mind. Because while they’re doing that, I just walk around the beach all day.

What kind of stage production can a concertgoer that has never seen you before expect?

We’re doing our best job to bring our arena-level show into the venue. Most bands bring a trailer of their gear and stuff; we’ll bring a whole semi-truck worth of lights and additional sound and video wall and things like that. We want you to get the full experience. Just because it’s 1,000 people and not 5,000 people or 10,000 people, it doesn’t mean you can’t get something pretty close to that.

I think it’s really cool to have that much stuff in a venue, and then still have the intimacy of a club. I really like doing that.

What Vancouver, BC venues do you recommend stopping by for a concert for someone coming into town?

The Commodore is awesome. It’s a 1,000-person capacity venue, it’s right in the heart of downtown, it’s very high quality. The sound system’s good. We haven’t played there in a year, but we have a few times over the years. It’s an open floor, not assigned seating, which I think is fun and more organic. The crowd can pack up if they’re excited or you can wander around and go to the bar, and there’s an upstairs area. There’s a lot of venues, but you’re also going to want to go where you like what’s being played.

Your last album, Astoria, came out at the end of last year, but any plans for new music?

            No, we’re going to work this one for a bit. We just put up the second video about a month or two ago, and there will be another single and another video, and because we are going to tour the USA, then we have a European tour after that, then we’re coming back and there’s going to be another Canadian tour, and then next year probably some Australia and Asia. And then another bit of North America and maybe a bit of Europe, then, if we’re lucky; those are unplanned

And then after that, there’s a lot of work to do to promote this album, and then, we will obviously go on to the next! I love this album.

What are you favorite songs on the album, and your favorite ones to play?

It depends on the mood. I mean, I like “Yesterday” and “Burn It Up” because they’re so upbeat and fun and lighthearted. Playing live, they are always fun for that same exact reason. “Yesterday” is just so over the top with all the stupid fun keyboard stuff… spin around the stage and just be a bit of an idiot.

Uh…I really enjoy playing “Astoria” and “End Of An Era,” those are more emotionally invested. “Astoria” is a big adrenaline rush because it is the opening track and there’s this big guitar payoff at the end. And “End Of An Era” is more of an emotional one with a big, long tense buildup and a big payoff.

It’s weird. This is most I’ve ever enjoyed doing live shows ever and I’ve always loved doing them. This album has been a really positive experience for the whole band.

What’s your favorite tour food?

We eat very, very healthy. So I would say 50% of my meals are light salads, with some sort of lean protein and a mixture of lots of vegetables, maybe some beans or something, not very much dressing. My favorite thing on Earth: I would love to just eat Pop-Tarts and pizza all day long, but my body won’t like that, and neither will you if you saw me after eating that for a month.

We work so hard. We workout before every single show. When I’m home, I’m swimming for working out at least six days a week. It’s a lifestyle, because you want to be in your best shape to put on a good show. You also want to feel good…It covers a lot of things. Mostly health, though. It’s the health. It feels so good.

How do American disco fries (brown gravy and wiz or sliced cheese on French fries) compare to Canadian poutine (dark gravy and cheese curfs on French fries)? I think we stole that idea from you guys.

Pretty similar…But I love pizza. I ate pizza on Friday night, I’m confessing it right now: I had a slice of pizza. And I was in the pizza place, I’ll admit, and it was late. And I had had a couple of drinks. And I was telling everybody, like [high pitched comical voice], “I need pizza. Oh my god, I’m so excited! It’s gonna be so good!” And the people I was with were eating pizza like they probably always do, and they all looked at me like I was an idiot, but they probably didn’t understand. I’ve had, like, two slices a year.

The other guys don’t care. Ian just has a high metabolism, and he drums all night long, so he doesn’t have to watch it that much. Matt is a little less strict but he’s also very active and does eat very healthy, and Josh is extremely strict with his diet. So Josh would never cave in, Matt would do it for sure, Ian more often than everybody else but he doesn’t eat that much, to be honest.

Any word to the fans coming out for the SPF 80s tour this summer?

Not only is it going to be hot outside, it’s going to be hot inside. We’re going to be bringing some blood, sweat and tears, so lather up, bring some Kleenex, and wear your ’80s best, ‘cus its going to ROCK!


Marianas Trench will perform at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park July 24 and at PlayStation Theater in New York City July 26. Their latest album, Astoria, is available now. For more information, please visit