Let's talk "Two Nations" etymology.
It was something a friend came up with years ago. When I was writing the lyrics for the track Paint By Numbers I sang the line "Two Nations will play with fire" It was an improv line. That's how I tend to write, recording nonsense words then listen back to see if anything interesting emerged. I liked the line and remembered that a friend had tossed that name around as a band name years prior. I recognized that's where it came from. I liked the dichotomy of it. My producing partner Nate Pyfer and I did the majority of the album late at night after hours. Sometimes the name made me think of our styles and backgrounds colliding to make a record that sounds different than if we had gone it alone. Other times I thought it reflected the people represented in the lyrics that were struggling to get along despite having huge differences.
Tell us about the other band members and their/your history together.
Years ago I recorded an EP for Nate's old band Code Hero. We've been close ever since. I played some guitar for that project when he needed me and he returned the favor and played keyboards in a previous project of mine called Location Location. Over the last few years Nate has become a great producer. He's worked with The Moth and The Flame, Polytype, Mideau, Parlor Hawk, Fictionist, Sego, and others. He's also co-written several tracks for Kaskade. Last year I wanted to record some drums and self-produce a new album. I was talking to him about options and he really wanted to get involved. The rest is history. Aaron Anderson (Fictionist) laid down the drum parts. He's fantastic. He's got great instincts. He played a song in one take after hearing it for the first time. Nate invited guitarist Devin Powell down to the studio to contribute some great guitar parts. He's fronts a project called Showgun and the Clay Pigeons. Nate is involved in producing that as well. I play guitar sometimes for it. We're all helping out one another.
How is this different from your other projects?
It's more mellow.
Who are your inspirations and intention for the current sound?
I don't know if I had any specific intentions for the record. I have a lot of demos recorded on my computer. I think I just had a grouping of 5 or 6 that I thought would be cool to build on. A few tracks are 3 or 4 years old when I was listening a lot to Kaputt by Destoyer. I was feeling a Fleetwood Mac kind of melancholy.
One of the things I think sets you apart in my mind is the thoughtful choice of instruments and electronic bits. How did you go about implementing guitars vs. drum machines and keyboards into the writing and mixing?
You can mimic nostalgic eras from the past with keyboards. I like that. Guitars are just put where they normally go. Sometimes guitar parts get muted later if you're trying to make space.
Marcus, when I first met you your sound was more in lines with, for lack of a better term, alt-country or folk-ish rock. Then you became much more interested in electronic-leaning music. But if I'm correct you still play around with non-electronic sounds. Describe your relationship to genre and how it influences both your songwriting and creative direction.
I never think about genre. This becomes a problem when you need to categorize your music on sound cloud or iTunes. I've always listened to different genres. And I'm probably missing out on some that I haven't given the time. I think as a music maker you just use the tools that are in front of you. Early on it was guitars for me. My interest in electronic music has probably been more about how vast synths and computers are as music creation tools. I bought Reason 1 when it first came out around 2001. It was the first time I could make a complete song on my computer.
What happened to Location Location and what have you been focused on in the interim? How does Two Nations compare and differ from your previous project?
Location Location just stopped I suppose. I stopped booking shows. Maybe If I find some inspiring demos that sound like that I will put it on the internet. I dunno. Nate likes to think that Two Nations bridges the gap between the folkish rock stuff I used to do and Location Location. I don't think that macro about it. In comparing Two Nations to Location Location, the tempos are slower, the drums were played manually, the synths are moodier. As far as the songwriting goes I don't know that it's that different. Hopefully I've gotten better as a songwriter. It's all about taste though. I don't think the songs I write are for everybody. I don't write songs to please people. I just write songs when I feel like singing, and I record them. That becomes a demo.
What did you learn from your experience with Location Location, which saw some great success? What was it like being involved in things like SXSW and L.A.-based industry circles? Did you enjoy that scene? What's your overall takeaway about "making it"? How do you define success as a musician these days?
I learned that it's hard to get people to watch you play at the Viper Room. It's exciting when you find yourself in those circles. You never now what might happen. I've seen bands who are ready for success meet the right people and those people seem to know how to break a band. I suppose that bands that have "made it" know a lot of things that I don't. I just want to play these songs for people and enjoy doing it. I guess the trick is getting the songs in as many ears as possible. I'm still trying to figure out how to do that. As far as success goes I think that can vary. If you can tour and make money and have a life that sounds like success to me.
Do you prefer to collaborate with others or work as a solo artist? Or, describe the pros and cons of both endeavors.
I love collaborating. I think the results are usually better. I haven't been able to write songs with others at the same time in the same room though. The collaborating I do is like here's a recording of words and melodies over chords, change whatever you want. Then we might build the track up together or they might do it without me. You've got to be open if you're working with other people.
What's on the horizon for you guys?
We are booking shows and working on new music. We also have a track that we wrote and produced with Kaskade that will be released on his forthcoming album 'AUTOMATIC' this fall.
Hear Two Nations play with Kaskade Friday, Sept 4th, 7:30 PM at Downtown Provo's Rooftop Concert Series. Follow, listen and buy Two Nations self titled album at www.twonationsmusic.com.