Q & A: Hey Marseilles’ Jacob Anderson

Sept. 27, 2010, 12:30 a.m.
Q & A: Hey Marseilles' Jacob Anderson
Hey Marseilles' Jacob Anderson. (Courtesy of Shurui Sun)

Seattle’s baroque-pop outfit, Hey Marseilles, played at Bumbershoot for the second year in a row earlier this month, bringing their hodgepodge of instruments – accordion, cello, shakers, etc. – with them. Intermission caught up with Hey Marseilles’ viola player, Jacob Anderson, who gave the lowdown on new material, Ultimate Frisbee and what it’s like to play in a band that has more instruments than people. And maybe one day, Hey Marseilles will bring their folk rock to Memorial Church.

So your music, to me, is very uplifting and emotional.

Thank you.

So I’m curious, what kind of things bring down Hey Marseilles? What are your pet peeves?

Everybody wants to play all together at the same time, which, with seven people, that doesn’t work, you know. It’s a struggle for us to try to keep it simple, keep it enjoyable, rather than a bunch of stuff all going on… Well, everybody else hates it when I turn up my viola too loud on the monitor because I need to hear myself. Nobody wants to hear that.

But I’m a big fan of viola.

Thank you. What else brings us down… work.

What’s your day job?

I’m a bank regulator.

Ok, that’s not too bad.

I mean, we all have day jobs, so that kind of brings us down.

You guys have a lot of instruments, obviously, but what is one musical talent you’d like to recruit for Hey Marseilles?

Woodwinds, banjo… Nick [Ward], the guitar player, has been messing around a little bit with the string bass, which we’ve done a couple shows with, and now we’re not doing anymore. But we’d like to bring that back in. Samuel [Anderson, Hey Marseilles’ cello player], my brother, he also plays mandolin. And I think we want to start incorporating that a little more.

It’s been almost two years since “To Travels & Trunks was released the first time. How do you keep the live show fresh?

We keep changing up the songs, and a lot of stuff we play live isn’t from the record. So that keeps it fresh. We’re constantly getting bored with the songs and adding new things. We all want to make another record.

On to some serious business. You guys on your Twitter are always talking about Ultimate at Ravenna Park in Seattle. So if all seven of y’all are on the line, how good is the Hey Marseilles team?

We’d be very good. [laughs] No, we would take on a pretty decent team. When we’re touring, we’ll stop at a gas station – we get out and just throw it around. It keeps us getting fresh air and stuff like that. I think we would take on any Stanford frisbee team.

I don’t know, Bloodthirsty [Stanford men’s ultimate team] is pretty good.

I would be glad to go up against the Stanford ultimate frisbee team.

Who do you think is the team MVP?

Samuel and Philip [Kobernik on accordion and piano] – they’re taller.

Better targets.

I think that I’m a pretty good addition to the team. I like to move around a bit on the inside – be the fast breaks. When it goes up for the like, jumping, I’m not that good at that since I’m not as tall as other people.

You can box them out.

Yeah. So I think we’d actually do pretty well as a team. We should try that. We’ve never actually all seven of us played on a team.

Lot of leagues in Seattle?

There are. If we have time, I think that’s the next thing we’d do.

Will you be recording any new stuff soon?

We’ve been doing some demos. We will be recording – we’re still kind of in the process of just coming up with ideas, melodies. We’ll sit down and play different versions of some melody for hours a day. We’re just in this recording these little snippets, seeing where our heads are going. So we’ve got a few demos, which will probably be changed a lot.

With the songwriting process, how do you step back and say, like, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t do the extended thumb piano solo?

Yeah, I don’t know, it’s pretty collaborative. That has its drawbacks – a lot of opinions. And some strengths. The theory is that if everybody’s ideas are there, we’ll end up with a good one. Yeah, it’s definitely a battle. We’ll see how it goes. We haven’t really started recording tracks for real, like what’ll actually end up on CD, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how that’ll go. We’re excited about it, that’s the bottom line. We weren’t really a band even, per se, when we made that record – I mean, we’d played together a few months. The new record, we’ve played together for a few years now, so that’ll make it easier some ways.

Are you playing any shows in California this fall, or will you be staying up in the Pacific Northwest?

You know, I think we are. Maybe come down and do some shows in November. I think that’s tentative, but we’re looking at that.

Come to Stanford.

That would be cool. Can we play in that really crazy church?

You might be able to. It’s always good to have cherubs in the background when you’re playing cello.

It is always good. We could probably play pretty much acoustic in there.

A version of this review appeared at Treeswingers.com on Sunday, Sept. 4.

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