LIVE: Hey Marseilles @ The Linda, 2/4/16

Hey Marseilles
Hey Marseilles

Review by Steven Stock
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Neatly attired in sensible button-down shirts, the newly-streamlined version of Hey Marseilles that performed at The Linda last Thursday looked more like a college debate team than a rock band, five young men that co-eds could take home and introduce to their folks without any apprehensions. There’s a certain restraint to the band’s sound as well, as if they’re afraid to rattle the china cabinet.

The arrangements are spartan and tend to eschew any flashy displays of virtuosity – Sam Anderson on cello (and occasionally bass) solos nearly as often as guitarist Nick Ward, while keyboardist Philip Kobernik is content to lay the foundation of most tracks. Matt Bishop was joking when he said, “As a singer, it’s really nice that I can hear so much of myself,” but there’s some truth to his jest. Just as the players don’t overplay Bishop doesn’t over-sing – even on the band’s cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” he doesn’t really get worked up, just lets the soundman apply a dollop of reverb. The West Coast spawned cool jazz in the fifties, and this Seattle band is perfecting its own brand of cool pop.

The set list featured nearly all of the band’s new self-titled record, along with four tracks from their debut To Travels and Trunks and three from sophomore effort Lines We Trace. There’s been a great deal of fuss about Anthony Kilhoffer producing Hey Marseilles, since his prior credits include Kanye West and Rick Ross. Thankfully he seems to have respected the band’s intentions – the new album is a progression from the preceding two rather than a departure. If anything, it’s essentially a more focused presentation of the band’s chamber-pop aesthetic.

Highlights of the show included a spirited version of “Calabasas” that actually got the band moving around a little bit (Anderson took two steps towards Bishop before retreating – very exciting!) and the new single “Eyes on You,” a pop song that benefits greatly from fleeting bursts of unmanicured noise thanks to Ward’s guitar squalls. In general Hey Marseilles prefers a simmer to a boil – it’s actually very effective over the course of a 40-minute album, but a 75-minute live performance would likely benefit from more judicious use of dynamics.

Perfect OK
Crooked Lines
Heart Beats
Another Life
Hold the Morning
North & South
Eyes on You
My Heart
Heroes (David Bowie)
West Coast
Looking Back
To Travels and Trunks

Sam Anderson
Sam Anderson
Nick Ward and Philip Kobernik
Nick Ward and Philip Kobernik
Matt Bishop
Matt Bishop
Matt Bishop and Sam Anderson
Hey Marseilles
Matt Bishop and Philip Kobernik
Matt Bishop and Philip Kobernik
Bad Bad Hats
Opening act Bad Bad Hats

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