“That’s All Folk”: Matt Bishop of Hey Marseilles

After hitting SXSW and before stopping by the Newport Folk and Firefly festivals this summer, Seattle-based Hey Marseilles, fronted by guitarist Matt Bishop, play Brighton Music Hall on March 29 to promote their latest album, Lines We Trace.

Where did the folk-music revival come from?
It’s a lot easier these days for guys playing acoustic guitars and writing songs in their bedroom to expand their audience, just in terms of technology, the way the music industry works and the way that one can connect with other musicians. If you have an accordion in your band, six or seven years ago there’s no way that radio would’ve wanted to put that on. There were certain gatekeepers that kept accordion players and clarinetists out of the pop-rock mainstream.

You and guitarist Nick Ward met at a kegger, right?
Yeah, it was at a house party in the University District. I was the guy with the acoustic guitar playing in the corner hoping that people would start to listen, and he was the only person that I attracted. It worked out for the best.

How did the band pick up classical elements?
Nick, Philip [Kobernik] and I were writing songs in their basement bedroom six years ago, and Philip and Nick knew Sam and Jacob Anderson, who happened to be playing cello and viola. We discovered that they were really a means by which we could make our sound unique, and they were also two of the strongest musicians being that they were classically trained. So we integrated that into our songwriting process.

Do you all write the songs together?
Essentially, yeah. The vast majority of the energy and time we spend is writing the music arrangements and the progressions for each instrument, and then I, by and large, write the lyrics. Even that’s changed, because Philip has written lyrics for a couple of songs that we recorded, and a number of the other guys are starting to write, so it’s definitely been a very collaborative process.

Sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll — choose one.
Of those three options? I was just considering the possibility that anybody would spend six weeks going on the road for anything other than rock ’n’ roll—although if the option were presented, I’d probably take a tour of sex or whatever. My official answer is rock ’n’ roll, or folk rock. Whatever the hell you call what we play.

This article originally appeared in the March 27, 2013, issue of The Improper Bostonian.