Talking about The Long Haul with The Wynntown Marshals
The best alt-country band in Edinburgh, Scotland probably sounds like a backhanded compliment or at best a bit of faint praise so I’ll expand my description: The Wynntown Marshals are one of my favorite bands period.
Following Westerner (2010) with The Long Haul (2013/Blue Rose) the band stays true to its rock and twang roots and shows no sign of a sophomore slump. In an interview Keith Benzie sited “three records – ‘Hollywood Town Hall’ by The Jayhawks and a double LP I got back in 1992 of ‘March 16-20’ and ‘Still Feel Gone’ by Uncle Tupelo” as key influences. He’s used those albums as a starting point but he’s much more than a mimic simply aping those influential albums.
Keith has a knack for cranking out tunes that rock with both a hook and an unusual story. On Westerner he sang about an albino gorilla (“Snowflake”), a pin-up artist (“Gil”) and a long distance bus ride (“48 Hours”) and somehow made it work. The Long Haul delivers another equally catchy set of sometimes quirky alt-country tunes. A song about “The Submariner”? Check. Another about a Victorian magician who kills his assistant when the illusion goes wrong (“Curtain Call”). Check. The more traditional road tune “Driveaway” is a song about the joys and misadventures experienced on a criss-cross America cross-country journey in a driveaway car. The song “Driveaway”, the album The Long Haul and come to think of it a cross-country trip in a driveaway car are all highly recommended!
HB-Congratulations on the your new disc, Could you talk about your new label Blue Rose?
KB – Blue Rose records are THE preeminent Americana/ Roots label in Europe so we’re absolutely delighted to have signed a licensing deal with Edgar and his team. We’re now labelmates with some truly awesome acts, including Sons of Bill (who we’ll be playing some UK dates with in March 2014), Leeroy Stagger, Bottlerockets and Jason Isbell. A big thanks to Dietmar Liebecke for helping to make this happen!
HB-I really enjoyed “48 Hours” from Westerner. I assume “Driveaway” is also autobiographical? I don’t know how anyone could write a song like that without having a driveaway adventure.
KB – Yeah, I wrote the lyrics for “Driveaway” about my first trip to the States back in 1996 when I was just 20 years old. Some friends and I took our rucksacks and a couple of acoustic guitars and flew to New Jersey where we then delivered driveaway cars for 6 weeks, travelling from coast to coast and back again in the process – amazing times and incredible memories that just seemed too good NOT to put into song. Such a great way to explore your country, and while those adventures were not always 100% legal (!), they were truly unforgettable.
HB-What about “Curtain Call”? The life of a magician, a contemporary of Houdini, not dissimilar from that of a rock star?
KB – “Curtain Call” is a story song I penned the lyrics for after reading lots of books (including ‘The Bullet Trick’ by Louise Welsh and ‘The Winter Queen’ by Boris Akunin) and watching ‘The Prestige’. The idea of a suicidal Victorian stage magician wracked by guilt over the accidental death of his female assistant/ lover seemed just perfect for a sparse, dark, acoustic song. The music was a co-write with Iain Sloan (guitarist in the Marshals) and we’re really happy with how it turned out – just as we always envisaged it, with simple acoustic guitars, piano and, finally, some tasteful cello and violin. It might just be my favourite song we’ve ever recorded.
HB-There’ve been some changes in the band and with it some subtle changes to the sound. There’s some power pop touches and surf guitar!
KB – It’s safe to say that the current line-up is really strong and we’re in a really good place right now. We wanted (and needed) some stability in the band along with some additional sonic options and the addition of Kenny McCabe on drums & vocals and Richie Noble on keys has given us just that. Murdo MacLeod on bass is a rock and brings some great song writing chops to the party too (he co-wrote ‘Tide’ and wrote ‘North Atlantic Soul’ from the new record), and the addition of keys has given Iain (our lead guitarist and pedal steel player) the freedom to really stretch out – something he loves!
The new record does have some subtle changes to our core sound as you say – the guitars and big hooks are still there, but we’ve tried to bring a different feel to some of the tracks. We all love lots of different types of music and the recording process for ‘The Long Haul’ was intense, hard work but it allowed us to experiment a bit and was, ultimately, lots of fun and a hugely rewarding experience.
HB-Are there any tours, radio shows, downloads you’ll like to mention?
KB – We’re playing a couple of local UK gigs in Edinburgh and Perth (29th & 30th Nov) then we’re heading over to Hannover in Germany to play at the annual Blue Rose Records Xmas Party on 7th December, which we’re really excited about! After that we have UK shows lined up with the fantastic Sons of Bill in Newcastle and Glasgow (8th and 9th March 2014) and then an extensive European tour (chiefly Germany & Holland) at the start of April 2014 – dates and venues to be confirmed. Finally, we’ll be playing the Maverick Festival in Suffolk on 7th July 2014 too.
The Wynntown Marshals are:
Keith Benzie: Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica
Iain Sloan: Electric Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Backing Vocals
Murdoch MacLeod: Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Kenny McCabe: Drums, Backing Vocals
Richie Noble: Keyboards