Just walking through the streets of Philadelphia it's easy to see why a band would chose a name like Marah. Taken from the book of Exodus and translated as bitter it sums up the spirit at the heart of the city. When they chose to write and record their second album "Float Away With The Friday Night Gods" they felt the only way forward was to escape the confines of Philly and took time out in Ireland and London before finally camping in Wales. It was in Wales where the band convinced legendary producer Owen Morriss to come on board for the first time with an American band and if that wasn't a result in itself Bruce Springsteen agreed to record the final track for the album with them. We caught up with guitarist Serge Bielankos to talk about how dreams really can come true.
Q: "Float Away With The Friday Night Gods" the second album for you guys, but the first time you've really crossed over to the UK. Whats the story?
A: Well, I think this album was a particularly different album to make in that it was the first time we got to go to a proper recording studio and use a proper producer. We chose this guy Owen Morris, who was actually from Wales and chose him largely because he's worked with some really great bands and taken modern rock music and put an edge on it that was great for us. What we have done in the past has largely been pigeonholed as retro and I think our first record was influenced by all the music we'd ever listened to in our lives from Motown to Springsteen. All that shit when you're growing up in Philly was where it's at for us.
And this time out we found ourselves listening to lots of different types of music and a lot of this stuff that came from this side of the pond. In a lot of ways this record was our stab at making a record and seeing how far it could take us in terms of radio and shit. At the end of the day I'm f**king done with that. In America especially, it's a painful existence to play that game.
At first lot of our fans were shocked by it, but most of them came round to it. And that's the thing we want to do. Make any kind of record we want at any given time.
Q: It would have been so easy with all the critical acclaim to make the same style of album. Was it difficult to break free from it all?
A: The number 1 thing we never wanted to do was repeat ourselves. I can see if you find yourself in a position with 10 number 1 hits and you're too damn afraid to move anywhere. But for us it's like we just eek out a f**king career, all we care about is music and if we couldn't do it we would certainly commit suicide in a f**king day i'm sure.
Q: Owen Morriss has never worked with an American band before. How did you persuade him to come on board with you guys?
A: It was weird, we didn't know how to get hold of him. He's kind of a mysterious guy. But our publisher in London said he could get something to Owen, so we sent him a copy of our last album and a letter. At first he thought it was Ash taking the piss on him and then he put the disc on and realised they wouldn't have gone to the effort of actually recording the music.
It was so funny because the first thing he said to us was "It's really bluesy. I'm really not into the music, but I like the lyrics a lot", but it worked out because we just got drunk in his local beer garden and talked about music and we almost decided straight away. I think he just liked us as people which for Owen is quite a thing.
Q: And from getting your perfect producer for "Float Away....", your hero Springsteen recorded a track with you as well. Must have been a dream come true?
A: Bruce Springsteen was someone we had met about 2 years ago and he just liked our band. He had heard of us through the grapevine I guess and then he came out to see us at one of our shows in New York City. When he told me that he liked our record I nearly dropped dead - this was like my hero your know - and we mentioned to him early on if he wanted to play on the record.
So after we'd finished in Wales we went over to NYC and recorded the track. He's just the sweetest guy too...I don't know what he does over here, but in America whenever he has a record out he's just a hero. He's so cool and he never let it go to his head as well. The only thing that sucks about having Bruce on this record is on the next one we probably couldn't ask him again. To have that once in your life where my Brother and Bruce are playing guitar back and forth - I was just freaking out saying give me a tamborine or something!!!
Q: As you were saying before if you're a musician you just have to keep moving on. Are you already thinking of what the next album is going to sound like?
A: I think it's going to sound like Sly and The Family Stone to be honest with you. Again we've been listening to a lot of music over here that I've discovered. This band called the Streets and all this different shit. To listen to the ideas of using samples here and there, although I'd never lose the fact that what we do is rock music more or less and if you try and move into different territory you can't call it Marah.
The album "Float Away....." is out now on Epic Record
For more info
Post your Marah reviews / comments on the Message Board