Is emo still relevant? Marianas Trench says no

Marianas Trench // Supplied
Marianas Trench – Suspending Gravity Tour w/ Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine
Mar. 26 (7 pm)
Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium

by Ellen Reade

When asked if emo and pop punk are still relevant in 2019, Mike Ayely, bassist of Marianas Trench, laughs and says “in one word: no.”

Born out of a time of flip phones, mall goths, and cheap walkmans, Marianas Trench now boasts an 18-year-long career with five beloved studio albums. Living through the life and death of My Chemical Romance, the rise and fall of Myspace, and outlasting many of its sibling bands, Marianas Trench continues to sell out concerts and gain new fans. Once a 2000s emo and pop punk staple, it continues to thrive amidst a constantly changing musical landscape.

“It’s been a 12 – 13 year learning curve and a lot has changed,” Ayley says. You have to be willing to adapt.”

Marianas Trench has made a point of adjusting to changes like the switch from music sales to streaming, or the increasing importance placed on a well branded social media presence. The band has kept its sound fresh by keeping its fingers on the pulse of popular music and makes a point of keeping the sound current while never losing touch with the members’ own creative vision.

“We have tried to stay true to ourselves while evolving, and it’s not always easy,” Ayley says.

The latest release, Phantoms, stays true to the theatrical vocal and production styles iconic to Marianas Trench, but experiments with entirely new aesthetics and sounds. Marianas Trench has a history of introducing new creative concepts and soundscapes with each album and Phantoms continues this legacy.

The album introduces pop, EDM, and dance influences and is filled with addictive choruses and heavy drops. Despite the seemly electronic instrumentation, everything heard on the album is created with actual instruments. Ayley excitedly describes all the opportunities provided by new music technologies, and explains how the synth-y sounds were produced by guitars and vocals run through a slew of effects pedals.

Thematically, Phantoms centres around losses of love, personal ghosts, death, and haunted houses—with a heavy Edgar Allan Poe influence. Despite the dark conceptual roots and haunting sound, Phantoms has an aura of hopefulness, which Ayley attributes to the impression that New Orleans left on the band during one of their stops on tour. The band observed death as the celebration of life rather than as a tragedy. This notion then became the “zenith for the whole concept” of the album.

“It takes something that’s usually dark and creepy and then adds a strong feeling of hope and optimism and positivity,” Ayley says.

The concept seems to have gone over well with fans, as the public reaction to the album has been overwhelmingly positive. Fans, new and old, surprised the band by singing along to its newest songs less than a week after they were released.

“It was very very inspiring and very encouraging and awesome to see that our fans are digging into the whole album.”  

The Suspending Gravity tour takes place in mostly medium-sized, theatre-style venues across North America allowing intimate concerts that pull the audiences directly into the world of Phantoms. Marianas Trench plans to play seven songs from the recent release, mixed in with 11 of its classic tracks. Attendees can expect a traditional Marianas Trench-style theatrical performance filled with props, fog machines, and video projections.

One might expect a hefty dose of 2000s nostalgia at a Marianas Trench show, but Ayley says this isn’t the case. While many people have stuck by and grown with Marianas Trench’s, its fan base has evolved and diversified over time.

“We see parents who are 50 years old and kids who are five years old. It’s really great to see us reach more than just one niche.”  

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