Dreaming of touring again

Marlin’s Dreaming frontman Semisi Maiai (right) with the band, whose new album is just out. PHOTO...
Marlin’s Dreaming frontman Semisi Maiai (right) with the band, whose new album is just out. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Local indie band Marlin’s Dreaming have just released their third studio album, and to summarise, it’s another winner.

Marlin’s Dreaming’s was formed in 2017 here in Otepoti, and their debut Lizard Tears defined a breezy post-demarco sound that struck a chord with indie-heads seeking a bit of casual melancholy.

Now with their third album, Hasten, they’ve taken the sound they established on Lizard Tears and evolved on last year’s Quotidian, and peeled back the layers, exposing a raw and fragile core.

"It was mainly just kind of me in my room writing on my acoustic after work at home, and then we’d take it to Chick’s Hotel and kind of jam the songs out and stuff," explains vocalist Semisi Maiai.

"A lot of it was kind of based around just day-to-day ramblings really, I’d get home from work and get something to eat and then just go straight to my room and jump on the acoustic.

"Kind of, I guess, flow of consciousness stuff that I’d run into at the cafe that day."

One of the most striking things about Hasten is the production. Where Quotidian was coated in a hazy fuzz, Hasten is confrontingly clear and intimate.

It’s like a veil has been lifted. Guitar tones are almost entirely clean (gone is the wet chorus which defines the post-demarco genre), and use of effects is restrained.

"I guess it’s just been a steady progression of sound for us, since I was kind of 19 when Marlin’s Dreaming started. I’m now 24 ...” explains Semisi.

"It’s been like four or five years of a lot of change for me, like moving cities and moving back here, going overseas then moving back here. It’s just opened me up to a lot of influences.

"I guess there’s like a seriousness, and it is quite immediate and feels quite purposeful, I feel like.

"Tom Bell who mixed it, he did a really good job of translating our vision of the music and how we wanted it to sound, and he’s quite into the kind of intimate vocal style so he pushed a lot of that visceral stuff with the vocals, like a lot of breathe and it all feels like it’s quite close up. He really leaned into that."

Nowhere is this more apparent than on final track Lumia.

On Lumia, it’s just Semisi and his guitar, a first on an album for him. It’s a beautiful song, and the production serves the song rather than distracting from it, with subtly layered reverb elevating key moments.

"It’s funny because a lot of the time the songs are written like that, but we often expand it in the jam space with the band, and continue the ideas in that live setting.

"So for Lumia it was just a demo that I wrote in my room over lockdown and instead of taking it to the band space we ended up just using that demo I recorded with a pretty out-of-tune guitar that I plugged into the interface in my laptop, and a few layered vocals recorded really quickly with really low-spec recording equipment and techniques.

"But Tom just mixed it up and it sounded good, and it definitely gave it a different feeling to a lot of the other songs on the album, which I think I’ve always kind of enjoyed, variety on a record.”

It’s a shame that the band’s overseas fans will probably be waiting a while for a tour because this sort of record deserves to be experienced live. Even here in New Zealand things are still a bit up in the air, with tour dates being shifted as the outbreak continues.

Marlin’s are feeling the frustration too.

"We were really looking forward to getting over to Australia and Europe at some point, but I guess we’re just going to have to see that all pans out.

"I think it’s been pretty tough for a lot of bands. I mean there are some bands that kind of rely on touring for their income, and they’ve all kind of quit their jobs and taken a big step, so I’m quite lucky, we hadn’t really gotten to that point where the band was our full-time thing. So I work at a cafe, and everyone’s got other jobs that they do.

"But it’s definitely been tough, I guess the spirits kind of drop a bit in terms of what you’re able to do and you can’t just be like let’s just go play a show here."

The gig

"Marlin's Dreaming — Hasten Album Release Tour", Friday October 8 at Dive. $35.

 - Fraser Thompson

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