Marianas Trench creates a haunting realm with new album ‘Phantoms’

Vancouver Weekly interview with Mike Ayley of Marianas Trench

Photo by Karolina Turek

Mike Ayley, bass player and backing vocalist for Marianas Trench, shares that in the past he’s definitely used the band’s music and tight-knit family friendships to get through transitional times in life.

“If you were to look at our lives individually, we’re all in pretty good places – which is nice cause it doesn’t always happen,” he told Vancouver Weekly. 

Ayley says in these life moments where he felt a little bit lost, it wouldn’t have been as easy to come out the other side if it weren’t for the band, and the cathartic, healing effects of writing an album.  

On March 1, the Vancouver-based, JUNO award winners released their fifth studio album Phantoms. The compilation sings of long-term, messy, real love with an overall theme of coping with memories of past relationships.

Marianas Trench explores this theme with the album’s first single “I Knew You When,” which lead singer Josh Ramsay describes as a fun pop dance track that actually means something personally. It’s about love with consequence, the real-life relationship that takes years to build through ups and downs.

But although the catchy pop beats surrounding the band’s impressive vocal range are catchy, it sounds a lot like past radio hits they have released.

The easily recognizable sound of the group is part of why fans love them so much and have stuck around all these years since their first album, released in 2006. But since the release of their two platinum-selling records Masterpiece Theatre and Ever After, fans have held their albums to a certain musical standard. Through each album’s theme, the band has created magical harmonies in each song, saving the best surprise for the final track as they find unique ways to blend every other song from the album together. Their albums would not be the same without it. And lucky for fans, Phantoms will not leave them hanging. If the pop-rock radio singles don’t sound like anything new and exciting, the rest of the album has some pleasant surprises.

Though the writing process was similar to past albums, Ayley says what they did with the songs this time around was a little different. Writing the songs in a scattered order, they worked with the haunted house vibe, creating the sound of ghosts from their past by exploring new instruments they had never used before – like Theremins and a harpsichord.

“If you listen to it over and over and then really listen carefully, you’ll see there’s so many little details going on that you’re probably not going to hear the first 10, 20, 30 times listening through,” Ayley shares. “All those details take time.”

When listening through the album the first time, there are three tracks that stand out the most: opening track “Elenora,” “Echoes of You,” and the closing track “The Killing Kind.” As the songs with major acapella components, Ayley says these are the ones that really shape and define the album. As the three that bring the rest of the album together, they were also the last songs the band wrote.  

“That last track is a weird one,” Ayley admits about the creepy vibe in “The Killing Kind.” “At first I was like I don’t know if I like this one. Now it’s my favourite song on the album.”

Photo by Karolina Turek

In preparation for the album’s release, Marianas Trench have been getting ready for tour, “practicing their butts off” and getting cool clothes to suit the new world they’ve created for Phantoms. Kicking off their Canadian tour on March 6 in Windsor, the band is saving their hometown show in Vancouver for last – where they will close this leg of the tour on March 29 at the Orpheum Theatre.

As the album creates the sound of descending into madness as we get over the ghosts of our past, Ayley hopes fans can get something from it that they haven’t been able to from past albums – whether through the catchy, emotionally-driven dance tunes, the eerie sounds of voices singing perfect harmony, or dramatic ballads like “Glimmer,” which Ayley thinks is the best ballad they’ve ever done.

“I feel like as much as we’ve created all these worlds or realms, this is the first one that actually makes me feel like I’m inside it. It’s really emotionally driven as it kind of always is.”