INTERVALS is a band that has undeniably gone through quite a bit of change throughout its history. Beginning with an instrumental, progressive djent sound for their first two EPS, The Space Between and In Time, they added vocalist Mike Semeskey (Raunchy, Rest Among Ruins) to their line-up for their first full-length album, the aptly named A Voice Within. Now, INTERVALS mastermind Aaron Marshall continues on as a solo act and returned his instrumental roots with 2015’s The Shape of Colour.
While at UK Tech-Fest 2016, I got a chance to speak with Aaron about how the sound of The Shape of Colour came to be, the differences between touring at home in Canada and Europe, and his working relationship with fellow instrumentalist Plini. Perhaps Plintervals may become a real thing after all…
ID: Hello Aaron! How’s it going?
Aaron Marshall: Pretty good, yourself?
ID: I’m doing very well thank you! I’ve really been enjoying the festival so far. Is this your first time playing UK Tech-Fest?
AM: Yes, it is my first time.
ID: Awesome! Now you are currently, or are about to, embark on a European tour with Plini and Animals as Leaders?
AM: Yeah, we just started! We’ve been in London for the past couple days rehearsing, Plini and I, and the boys. The bus came and picked us up at the rehearsal space yesterday, had a night to hang, and now here we are.
ID: So this is your first stop then?
AM: Day one of a six-week adventure across Europe and the United Kingdom.
ID: That’s awesome. So, The Shape of Colour: a fantastic album, we loved it here at It Djents. Definitely a change of direction for the way things were going for INTERVALS. Can you speak a little bit about that, how you changed back to six stringed guitars and purely instrumental music?
AM: I think the best way to describe it would be to say that it was probably the most honest approach that I could take with making a record that I thought I felt inclined to make at that point in time. You know, there’s a couple things that inspired that. I’ve sort of wanted to make a record somewhere in that realm for a while as a bit of a goal of mine. Some aspects of my scenario with personnel and just the overall arrangement with INTERVALS was changing, and it was a really good opportunity to just throw all caution to the wind and make the record that I felt like making. It was a bit of a strange time in my life, there was a lot of stuff up in the air. And I’ve said this before, I have a hard time writing music that reflects my current state of mind. I prefer to channel the opposite, so things were… I’m not going to say dark, but I ended up writing a “feel-good” record to sort of put myself there. I think the funny thing is that perhaps things are going the way I want them to go, and actually this cycle has performed probably the best it ever has for INTERVALS. This has been a very fruitful year. And who knows, maybe I’ll write something weird and aggressive next because I have to do the opposite, I’m feeling pretty good about everything.
ID: I was going to say, maybe you could make a return to the seven-string.
AM: It doesn’t even have to really be about that, in terms of vibe. At the same time, who knows man? I’ve got a lot of touring left to do and then you come home to decompress, and you do whatever you feel like doing. If I want to pull an eight-string out, who knows? My mind changes all the time, I just try to be consistent in some regards and I try to be as spontaneous as I can in others. That’s the certain kind of way I’m going to roll with it, because I think art is the most conducive to that. I feel like the best art comes from allowing yourself to trust your instincts.
ID: For sure. And speaking on that point on how The Shape of Colour was more of a “happier” sounding album, despite things like personnel changes and personal health issues (we’re glad to hear you’re better now, by the way!), it’s very interesting how such a happy sounding record came to be.
AM: You’ve gotta just…for me anway, you have to channel the opposite. I feel like I sound like a broken record, I’ve said that in a lot of interviews. I can’t sit in a room and wallow in my thoughts. Like, if I’m not feeling… happy about something, or if I’m not excited about a certain situation, or perhaps somebody’s getting me down, I’m not going to sit there and milk that feeling. I feel like music is supposed to be cathartic, you’re supposed to use that to channel good vibes and turn it around, you know?
ID: Another great part about The Shape of Colour are your amazing guest stars. How’d you go about getting them involved?
AM: Nick Johnston is a good buddy of mine, and we live close to each other. I’m in Toronto, he’s just outside a bit in Guelph, Ontario. We’ve been friends for a long time, we’re very like-minded. Nick was great, Plini and I have known each other for a number of years now. It’s funny, you know, that his solo on “Libra” – and everything that we’ve accomplished together this year, that was sort of the precursor to that – we met back in 2014 the last time I was over here with Protest the Hero, we met in Berlin and we talked about how great it would be to collaborate, to team up and play music together. That’s exactly what we did, we dipped the toe in a little by having him on my record, and then we’ve been able to come out and bring it all to life together. I think it’s actually more than we thought we would be able to do together, which is great. And then lastly, the third guest is Leland Whitty. He’s the saxophone player for a trio called BADBADNOTGOOD, who I guess are not so much a trio anymore. I believe Leland is officially in now, so they’re The Beatles now of jazzy hip-hop. Another incredible band, they have a record coming out. I don’t know if the It Djents crowd is fond of that kind of stuff, but everyone should go check that out. They do instrumental jazzy hip-hop stuff, everything from shit that sounds like J Dilla, some laidback Motown shit. They have an EP with Ghostface Killa from Wu-Tang Clan, and it’s all really dope. I like a lot of different stuff, I’m a big fan of what they do. I love that they’re from my city. Leland was an obvious choice for when I wanted a saxophone solo. He wanted to step outside the box, it was a really good way to feature him on something that’s outside of what he’s been doing. He showed up to the studio and absolutely smashed it. I can’t thank him enough, I love those guys. So yeah, those were my guests and they turned out great!
ID: I just want to speak on the Nick Johnston guest solo. I caught you and Plini at Adelaide Hall for your Toronto stop on The Shape of Colour tour, and I lost my mind when Nick Johnston walked on stage and played his guest solo live. That show in particular was great, I walked in and it was like a “Who’s Who” of Canadian metal, it was awesome. The boys from Mandroid Echostar were there, I’m pretty sure I saw Mike Ierardi (Protest the Hero) there. You would just look around and see some of the best of the best that Ontario has to offer. So yeah, that was really sick (laughs).
AM: Hell yeah dude! (laughs)
ID: Now, going back to your collaboration with Plini, do you think that an official Plintervals will be a thing?
AM: (Laughs) Yeah, I can’t really speak too much on that now, but… Actually, I guess the cat’s out of the bag because we’ve announced our Australian tour, so directly after this tour I’m headed back to Australia with the boys. We’re going to go over there, and Plini has a record coming out and I’m going to support him over there. I’m really excited about that. And, we have ten days off before the tour starts, and we may or may not make some music. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but we’ve been talking about it. If we can get some ideas together over the course of this tour, start working on those, maybe we’ll be able to bring Plintervals to life. We absolutely want to do it, you know, and this tour is the closest we’ve gotten to it. And now I’m playing for him, he’s continuing to play for me, and we’re on stage together pretty much all night. It’s going to be cool, again we’re putting the other toe in now so we’re getting closer!
ID: So Australia, is that going to be your first time touring down under?
AM: Yes, it’s the first time being down under. Very excited about it, I never thought I’d make it over there. I can’t believe we’re doing it. I can’t thank him enough, you know? It wasn’t like it was necessarily part of the deal to bring him to America and do that whole thing, in order to achieve going back there, but it just made so much sense. He was in the midst of putting it together, we had already confirmed Europe together and then he was like, “Screw it, you’re closer than if you were flying from home, so let’s do it. Are you in?” And then I said “I’m freaking in man, let’s go.”
ID: When you’re on tour, here in Europe or in Australia, what are the things from back home that you miss the most?
AM: My girlfriend, we have a cat named Pepperoni, he’s cute as hell. Friends, the city itself. I’m close with my parents and stuff. All the things you normally would, it’s a pretty basic bitch response, but it is what it is man! Those are the things that make you feel like you’re at home. The more I travel the more I appreciate being in Toronto, it’s an awesome city. Just vibes, man, really. That’s moreso it than anything. I’m really comfortable with where I’m at. I love home. I love travelling too, though.
ID: Life’s good in the 6ix, right?
AM: Yeah it’s good, man. It is good. Again, the more I tour around doing this whole thing, the more I appreciate where I came up and where I continue to be.
ID: What do you think are some of the biggest differences between touring here and touring back home?
AM: Oh my goodness… I’m going to have to say hospitality. People are willing to go a little more out of their way here for you, which is awesome. It adds to the experience, I think. It makes you feel appreciated and… What I mean by that is, for people who don’t tour and play live music, I just mean common courtesy is like having a shower in the venue, offering the ability to get to one if there isn’t one. Catering spread all day long, making sure you’re fed. The other thing as well is it’s a lot more communal here. We’re sharing a bus with Animals as Leaders, there’s sixteen people on that thing, it’s a double decker type scenario. That doesn’t exist at home. They’re typically like a twelve bunk, standard size tour bus and the headliner’s in with their crew, and you travel separate from them. But when everyone converges here on another continent it’s amazing to be able to jump into a vehicle together and compile crew. It’s not every man for themselves, so to speak. It’s like the tour package is one giant family, and it already feels that way. We’re twenty-four hours in right now and it’s already like that. It’s just like it was when Protest the Hero brought me here for the first time. It continues to feel like that. Everyone’s already super comfortable and they’re going to have the best time for the next six weeks. It’s going to be sick!
ID: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know before we sign off?
AM: I think that’s probably about it. I just want to thank everybody who gave the new record a shot. I know that for the It Djents crowd I probably threw a curve ball on this one. I’m very appreciative for how much support the outlet itself and its followers have given INTERVALS since the very beginning. I don’t ever take it for granted. I think a lot of people might assume that “Oh, you made a record in standard tuning and it sounds this way, he’s an elitist, or his this or he’s that.” There’s a lot of assumptions that go around on the internet. Just… I don’t ever take it for granted. I appreciate anybody who ever gives my music a chance and I just want people to maybe understand that art is, like I said, it’s supposed to be cathartic. And if the person making it isn’t one hundred percent at terms with what’s going on or how it’s meant to feel, then I don’t think it’s honest and I don’t think it’s anything that people should would find themselves attached to in the long run. So perhaps if it is a curve ball, and it’s something that you weren’t expecting or whatever, don’t write it off. It doesn’t mean that whatever is coming next isn’t something that’s a little more up your alley. It’s just a snapshot of where my head was at, at that time. And I don’t just mean “me” me, I mean the proverbial “me, us, we,” artists in general. This is what music is about. Just because a certain band puts something out that you’re not feeling in that moment, they’re not to be written off. It’s a snapshot of how that artist was feeling at that time. Not everything is a magnum opus, and not everything is a masterpiece. But, the thing you’re not that into, is a wonderful experience and a memorable one for somebody else as well. Art is, you know, both objective and subjective. So, that stuff aside, I just appreciate the attention and the support from everybody who follows the publication. You guys are the lifeline, there’s no record label here, this is a one hundred percent independent operation. Without the followers and supporters of websites like It Djents and all the other ones, guys like Plini and myself, and many more, wouldn’t be able to come over here and do what we do. So yeah, that was a very long-winded thank you (laughs).
ID: Fantastic, well thank you very much Aaron and I’m looking forward to seeing you play tonight.
AM: Yeah, tonight I’m playing with Plini then we’re doing the thing for INTERVALS, and then it’s Animals as Leaders. And then there’s going to be a giant jam with David Maxim Micic, and Jakub Zytecki, and Tosin Abasi and Matt Gartska, Mike Malyan and myself. And Plini, and Troy Wright, and Simon Grove. It’s going to be pretty dumb.
ID: Can’t wait for that! Thanks again Aaron, great chatting with you!
AM: No worries man, thank you!
Aaron just recently finished up a European/UK tour with Animals as Leaders and Plini, and is about to begin an Australian tour with Plini. Be sure to keep an eye on It Djents for more UK Tech-Fest coverage over the weekend!