If you have a road trip playlist you may want to add Sam Marks’ new single Eventide to it. I caught up with the indie-rock artist just prior to Christmas for a chat about his latest solo project.
Hey Sam thanks for taking the time to chat. This project is relatively new for you?
Yeah this is obviously a newer project, but I have been thinking about it for some time. I seriously considered doing it after I returned from a trip to The States in 2018, I was influenced during that trip to write a couple of these songs. I sat on the music for about 18 months and then Covid hit and I thought I may as well get into it. I had the studio time booked in, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after I recorded the last two songs. Now I’ve had all this time to think about releasing the music and I’m excited to go back into the studio in January and finish the album. It’s been a long process getting to the point of becoming a solo artist.
So you have been in bands before?
Yeah I have a band called White Bay which is currently on hiatus while I do this. I just needed a break from that. I’ve been doing that for some time. A band is a real effort, everyone has to be equally committed, it’s constant challenges. For me personally, I became a bit disheartened, then I went away and did this trip. I just needed some time off. I did this big trip through The States for three months and felt refreshed. I came up with all these song ideas, actually I brought the song ideas back and was showing the guys. I was feeling out the process and thought I would pitch the songs to the band, I’m the main song writer in the band. We all concluded that the songs didn’t really suit the band. In my gut I knew that, but it was more of a process of letting the guys know that I was going to do my own thing. I’m enjoying the process of complete autonomy.
Do you play all the instruments yourself?
Well I’ve only got the two songs out at the moment. Eventide which I released a few weeks back. There are only two of us playing on that, myself and my good friend Cameron is playing the drums. He is my friend, but he has also been my drummer in all my musical projects for a decade. On Ellie May I had a drummer come in, a bass player and I did all the guitar work and vocals. I played keys on Ellie Mae as well. For the new songs coming up I think I will get a bass player in. I did play bass on Eventide but there is a certain skill and artform to playing bass and I’d rather sit there in more of a directors perspective as opposed to me sitting there trying to get the take right. Bass is so different to guitar. It seems silly but it really is, there’s a lot of idiomatic things that go on with bass playing. Cameron will be on drums and I know a guy that is good on keys so I might get him in, that way I can relax a bit more over the process. I want to make sure that I’m not exhausted when it comes to tracking the vocals.
Are all the songs related back to the American trip?
No. The first two are and I have two others that I am working on. I have a third song but that isn’t fully structured yet. So these three songs are more recent, they’re not really related to the American trip. I do have other songs relating to the trip, but they won’t be on this EP.
So maybe mid this year we might see an EP?
I don’t know. The recording is booked for end of January which seems awhile away, but I like to take my time. Some people can sit there and write but I’m very fastidious with my writing. I like to keep as much objectivity in the writing process as possible. For me I like to just chip away at it, take a break, then come back with fresh ears and really assess things.
I’ve just finished a six month music, film ad TV course to supplement my Degree in Composition from the Sydney Conservatorium. That took up so much of my time. Now I’m finished that I am relieved because I can focus on the song writing. So the next single should be out mid-March.
Who influences your song writing? I had a listen to Ellie Mae to and I really liked it, that song is more storytelling than Eventide.
Ellie Mae is an unusual song for me, I’m not used to the singer/songwriter approach. I just happened to wake up in San Francisco during my trip, after meeting this real person and they had left, with the first few lines of the lyric and the melody going through my head. I ended up turning it into this song. Eventide is more my style though, it’s more impressionistic in the song writing. The lyrics are more expressive they present a mood and an emotion.
I just wanted to jump in my car and go for a drive with Eventide cranked.
It’s more of a mood piece. It’s not so direct in its lyrics, much more metaphor based. That’s the way I like to write. In terms of my whole musical upbringing and experience it’s so eclectic. I’ve done so many things so its hard for me to really hone in on influences. I can say a vocal influence for me is Chris Cornell, he has always been a big influence for me. The tones that he was able to achieve. His performances, particularly on recordings was just awesome. I really liked him towards the latter part of his career when he was with Audioslave.
His solo stuff is amazing too.
All the acoustic stuff I love. I still listen to him on a regular basis and try to work out what he is doing vocally to achieve a certain sound. With my band White Bay it’s much more intense, much bigger. The vocals are way bigger in the band. Whereas with this it’s lower register…. So far! It’s a bit more cruisy. I like his lyrics, but I have a broad range when it comes to lyrics. I examine a lot of songs. Because I play cover gigs for a living I am always playing other peoples music. That makes it hard to know how influenced I am by these artists that I really love. I can listen to there music and break it down and think I like that sound or tone and then try and apply that. I would say what I am influenced is by is completely blurred. You know I have my degree in classical, then I have all the music I have listened to and studied. In terms of rock the first rock I listened to as a kid was when Blink 182’s Enema of the State came out. As a little kid that was an amazing thing to listen to. I mean there where themes and concepts in that album that obviously as a little kid I did not understand! Actually no the first rock album I ever brought was Back in Black by AC/DC. My brother and I were in Nepal with our family and they had these knock off CD shops with wall to wall CD’s which was illegal. I remember seeing the cover and we had no idea who they were, but we grabbed it because it looked so cool, which shows you the power of artwork. But I really fell in love with rock when I heard Blink.
How was Eventide been received?
I had a good release with Eventide, and I have a good feeling about 2021 for myself as an artist. I’ve had a fair amount of traction from it, but as an artist you always want more, it’s not bad for a debut though. The Ep is technically my debut even though I released Ellie Mae. To have my second song played on Triple J and to have a bunch of the DJ’s review it is really cool.
We’ve also got, when I say we I mean me and my brother is helping me, he is a videographer and has done a documentary on the whole recording process. The first episode is out and that is around Ellie Mae and I think we have 5 episodes still to go and the Eventide episode should be up in the next few days. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkcJdqpNz7M)