Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Hey Marseilles performing at the Iron Horse Music Hall

By Araz Havan

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Flickr/essgeel

This Saturday night Seattle-based indie group Hey Marseilles will be performing at Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall at 10 p.m. Though it seems like there is no end to the music scene from the Pacific Northwest, Hey Marseilles is trying to carve a niche with their chamber-pop sound.

Initially formed as a duo in 2006 by lead vocalist Matt Bishop and guitarist Nick Ward, Hey Marseilles added Ward’s roommate Philip Kobernik to its line up, and by 2008, the band had integrated four more members into the mix. With its seven-person lineup, Hey Marseilles utilizes a wide range of instruments. The standard guitar and drums give way to accordions, mandolins, cellos and violas, creating a folky classical style.

“To Travels & Trunks” was first released in 2008 as an independent effort. It was later re-released with an additional song, “Gasworks,” in 2010 after the band joined with the record label Onto Entertainment. The album received good reviews from both national and local critics in Seattle. NPR even seems to harbor a soft spot for Hey Marseilles, calling the album “sublime and heartfelt,” in a review, and highlighting “Rio” as their Song of the Day.

Hey Marseilles’ first album showcases its signature sweeping acoustic sound. The band’s MySpace profile states that “‘To Travels and Trunks’ is both Hey Marseilles’ mission statement and its hazy dream put to music.” They build songs that are emotive and sensitive, but the true vision of “To Travels and Trunks” is the open road.

“[The album] gave musical voice to the universal longing for unfettered freedom,” the band says on its website.

The group’s sophomore effort, “Lines We Trace,” released in 2013, shows an evolution from its pop-influenced sound that underlined “To Travels and Trunks.” The goal that Hey Marseilles is aiming for comes closer as the band members’ work to fine tune their abilities to create “poignant, panoramic” music, as it says on band’s website.

Committed to achieving a certain sound for “Lines We Trace,” Hey Marseilles has recorded in a tunnel, an abandoned office building and a church sanctuary to get the desired acoustics.

Though the band diverted from its folk roots into a “more new school” sound, the artists say on their site that they “hope the arrangements reflect our maturation as musicians and songwriters.” The new album features more classical tunes, evocative of symphonies and intricate instrumentation with cellos and accordions. “Lines We Trace” dips into other genres while staying within the boundaries of the musicians’ desired voice. “Bright Stars Burning” dabbles in drum ‘n’ bass, while “Dead of Night” is a funkier piece.

“Lines We Trace” is a step forward for Hey Marseilles, but also an exploration of where the group comes from. By parting from the aspects of its folk influence, the band can finally develop the classical side of its music that was apparent in “To Travels and Trunks.” Though the band’s open-road ideals are far from gone, Hey Marseilles brings its sound back closer to its roots. The band may be heading back, but its road trip isn’t over yet. Like Bishop sings in “Café Lights,” “make your way back home again/I am here still.”

Young Buffalo will also perform at Saturday’s show. Tickets are $10 in advance and $13 at the door. The Iron Horse Music Hall is located at 20 Center Street in Northampton.

Araz Havan can be reached at [email protected]

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