MarchFourth is a large 13 piece band that purchased its own bus to bring their flamboyant party to you. They also carry acrobats, stilt walkers, and dancers for a maximum spectacle. The jazz/funk dance band just recently drove "said" bus to New Orleans to record its first album in 5 years titled "Magic Number". With help from New Orleans musicians such as Trombone Shorty and the legendary producer Ben Ellman, the album brings a fresh new sound to the MarchFourth bandwagon of fun. The album of 10 songs has as much excitement as a special anniversary New Orleans parade down Bourbon Street. It still stays true to the dance party sound that they're known for. I talked with founding band member John Averill about the new album and tour.
R.V.B. - Hello John... this is Rob von Bernewitz. How are you today?
J.A. - Not too bad. How are you.
R.V.B. - I'm doing good. I understand you started your tour and that you're in the midwest now.
J.A. - Yeah... we just played Madison last night and we're playing in a town called Muncie... just outside of Indianapolis tonight.
R.V.B. - Congratulations on your new album that's coming out. This is your 5th album up to this point right?
J.A. - Yes. If you consider the live album we put out 10 years age. It's our 4th studio record.
R.V.B. - It looks like you guys have a lot of fun with your stage act. I presume that you can't play in any places with low ceilings?
J.A. - (Haha) We do actually ask what the ceiling height is when we are booking our shows. We prefer to have about 14 feet but the show has become more musically focused over the years, as opposed to the giant spectacle thing. It started out as kinda like a party band with a big spectacle. We still have performers that come out and do stuff but it's scaled down to what it used to be. The music itself is a lot stronger.
J.A. - My personal influences were rock and roll, r & b, old country, classic rock, and the new wave of the 70's. It's funny... I never was really into glam rock. The costume portion of our show really came from Burning Man. They've become quite popular with the arts festival in Nevada. I went to Burning Man in 97, which was the same year I moved to Portland. I started creating these events that were in the same spirit... costume parties. I'd have performance art. I'd have a DJ at the end of the night. I created a band and would insert it during the party. There would be a lot of experimenting. MarchFourth really came out of that. We wanted to do a Fat Tuesday New Orleans kind of thematic thing. I started playing electric bass and it just kind of stuck.
R.V.B. - With this new album "Magic Number", I read that it has something to do with your birthday? You were 47 years old?
J.A. - The song is about that, not the record. The band decided to name the record. I didn't make that choice. The song "Magic Number" is based on mortality and that kind of thing. It's the only song on the album that makes a statement about something. The rest of the songs have kind of party vocals.
J.A. - It was really efficient. It helped tremendously that we were able to bring our tour bus down there. We had a home base. Our alto sax player, Michelle, happened to have a house four doors down from the studio so we also used that for a base. As far as the recording process, it was very efficient. We had 10 days to put out 10 songs. We got everything set up and did one song at a time. The drums were all set up. We had the horns in isolation booths. We all played live with headphones. We did like 3-4-5 takes of the song until the producer thought we nailed it. We did that until we had all the songs down. The last couple of days we went in and added the vocals and the horn solo's.
R.V.B. - Did you feel that you achieved a New Orleans feel?
J.A. - I definitely think so. We liked the work that Ben Ellman did on it. He did some nice work with Trombone Shorty and Galactic. We gave him the creative license to add creative sounds and textures. We gave him the freedom to experiment a little. One thing that we let go a few years ago was trying to recreate our live show on a record. There's a couple of tunes in particular where we brought in some guest musicians from New Orleans. One song "Science (Free Your Mind)"... the irony is that we did about 11 takes of it with me playing bass. The trombone player who wrote the song thought it would be fun to bring in a tuba player so that it would have a more New Orleans vibe. We ended up not using the bass track at all, and using the tuba track for the bass of the song. It also adds a little variety to the record.
R.V.B. - Well the tuba was the original bass in jazz music.
R.V.B. - How do you guys enjoy traveling around the country in your tour bus?
J.A. - It's a necessity more than anything else. A lot of bands at our level think they can get away with one van and a trailer. There is so many of us, that we have to have a bus. We can sleep 22 people on it if we need to. The bunks break down into tables and we have a kitchen. We cook and eat on the road as opposed to stopping at restaurants. The overhead is ridicules for a group our size.
R.V.B. - So you guys are totally self sufficient.
J.A. - Yes. After a show when the adrenaline is still rushing, we'll go into the bus and party it up. During the day it's pretty quiet. A lot of people work on their laptops and play games. You keep yourself entertained until you get on the stage again and let all the energy out.
J.A. - Most legitimate venues carry their own PA. We bring our own mic package. We have very specific mics that we use for our horns. A lot of clubs have standard rock and roll gear. We bring our own mics and we have our own risers. We bring our own bass and guitar amps. We do bring our own mixing board.
R.V.B. - You keep the equipment side a little light. You don't have to carry too much stuff.
J.A. - We have more people than gear. We do have a sound technician that travels with us. We don't bring any of our own lighting.
R.V.B. - I see that you've performed overseas in Europe. How do you deal with the traveling over there?
J.A. - It's a little more problematic. We've had 3 overseas trips and they haven't been longer than 12 days. It hasn't been too extensive. I wish we could get back over there. They've been cultural exchange sort of things, that were sponsored by the State Department. In Europe we don't have our own bus so transportation is arranged.
R.V.B. - You guys seem to be having a lot of fun by doing it the old fashion way by getting out there and traveling. MarchFourth is based out of Oregon. How is the music scene there?
J.A. - It seems to be thriving. It all changed drastically in the last 6 years. That's about how long we've been touring consistently. We left Portland when it was starting to become really popular. I've been a little out of touch with up and coming new bands but there is definitely a thriving music scene there.
R.V.B. - You've been teamed up at events with very high profile acts like Fleetwood Mac... No Doubt. What are some of your good performance memories?
J.A. - I was just talking about this last night. I think maybe one of my favorite shows was in a tiny little town in Colorado called Salida. What makes a show really amazing is the crowd. A lot of times we'll do shows in performing arts centers. People will be sitting down and will be not sure what to do. We try to get people dancing and get them out of their seats. When we played in Salida, everybody was going crazy from the first note. That adds to our energy and helps us give a better show.
R.V.B. - It's all about the energy connection with the audience. It goes way beyond the financial aspect.
R.V.B. - That's a good venue. I see you're playing a cruise in New York. Are you bring the standard lineup to that?
J.A. - We're pretty consistent. We have 12 musicians and 3 dancers... it's a 15 person troop. We always have the shenanigans going on.
R.V.B. - Are you featuring your new music on this current tour?
J.A. - We're playing everything off the album. We also have some new songs that we wrote after the album was recorded. We always try to bring new material.
R.V.B. - Do you play any covers?
J.A. - Occasionally. We have a hand full of covers that we have done. One of our horn players re-arranged a Destiny's Child song and we do "Late in the Evening" by Paul Simon. We've done "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin.
R.V.B. - That sounds like a nice variety. Good luck with the new album and enjoy the rest of your tour
J.A. - Thank you.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
This interview may not be reproduced in any part or form without permission from this site.
For more information on MarchFourth visit their website www.marchfourthband.com
For information on this site contact musicguy247 (at) aol (dot) com
Musicguy247 has thousands of music items on Amazon... records, tapes, videos, books, CD's and more. Click here to view items. Musical items for sale