In the spotlight – Marveline

In the spotlight – Marveline

Marveline is the eclectic solo project of Pete Marley, who also plays in a band called Nature Strip. He was born in England, but his family emigrated to Australia when he was very young. Pete Marley is currently living in Sydney, Australia.

“I’ve lived in London a couple of times. It was great, so much happening but I love being here near the beach.”

Where did you grow up?

“I grey up in the western suburbs of Sydney, and there wasn’t a lot of art around. It was a bit of a cultural desert. It was all sport and drinking really. Music was an escape from all that for awkward boys like me and my closest friends. Hanging out and making noise trying to learn to play together was a great way to pass the time, keep out of trouble and escape the boredom of suburbia.”

How did you get into music and what is your musical background?

“My closest school friend was forming a band. I wanted to play drums, but there was no room in our tiny house for them. I still want to learn them. I played guitar at home, but there were already two guitarists, so all that was left was bass. I didn’t have one, so for the first few months I played the lower strings on a borrowed electric guitar. That was pretty crap, but we had fun.”

“It was all rock & guitar based pop: Sex Pistols, XTC, Bowie, Led Zeppelin, T-Rex, stuff my mate got from his older brothers.”

“But when I was even younger, it was the mysterious sounds on my parents’ car radio that made me want to hear and play music. Stuff that sounded like it came from another planet. Strange reverbed voices and gnarly guitars, and drums that made you want to jump up and down. That stuff got me hooked.”

“I’ve been in bands since high school. I’ve done some touring the good old-fashioned way but that was a long time ago! Before COVID-19 hit I was playing bass in a few different bands-original outfits like Fallon Cush, The Starlings and Distant Drum, plus a Motown covers band and a Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazlewood covers band. Playing the bass is my musical home I guess. I have my own studio and write and record there. I usually only work on things I’m musically involved with directly, but I would like to break out into more mixing of other peoples’ stuff.”

Who are your main influences?

“Bowie features very brightly in my musical universe, genius songwriting and always changing. When I first heard ‘Heroes‘ I was broken open. As do the Beatles, Radiohead & PJ Harvey and Elvis Costello. Melody, interesting songs, that’s what draws me in. XTC too, but also Kraftwerk and Talking Heads. All of the above write great songs and have distinctive voices. Jeff Tweedy influences me a lot now, I love his writing and his character. Wilco is a great band.”

Have your musical tastes changed over the years?

“My tastes have changed a bit. I hated jazz and country when I was younger, but now I love a lot of great jazz. I learned the double bass because of it. Miles Davis’ album ‘Kind Of Blue‘ stands out. What a record! I’m just now discovering real country too. Hank Williams, George Jones, earlier Dolly Parton. The Ken Burns docu series on country music is genius.”

You started Marveline as a project when your other band The Nature Strip was on a break. What can you tell us about Marveline?

“My main musical outfit for the last decade was indeed The Nature Strip. In Oz, the nature strip is the bit of grass, usually, – between your house and the roadside. We did three albums and two EPs and a lot of Sydney shows. My musical buddy John E and I are the songwriters – it’s a retro-guitar-pop-rock 4-piece band, but we’re on a very long break for a rest and for John to finish a PhD. He teaches & studies music.”

“Anyway, I had a bunch of unfinished tunes recorded by just me and I decided to put out an album. I played almost everything on it except drums and the twelve songs on my debut album ‘Savoury-Toothed Tiger‘ are the result.

What’s the story about the band name?

“Marveline comes from my surname Marley and wanting to have a “product” name that had a logo and everything. Just for a laugh really! So I copied that from a certain brand of engine oil and made the big M logo. I formed a band from musical friends and we just did our first show. The plan is to record some songs as a band instead of just me. I want to be able to rock out with a band playing together instead of constructing music one instrument at a time.”

What’s your creative process like?

“My songs nearly always start on acoustic guitar. I have written a couple from badly-played piano. I noodle till I find some interesting chords, riffs etc and record quickly on the phone. I’ll often have music for entire tunes but no vocal melody. And hundreds of snatches of little riffs etc. The vocal melody usually comes later in conjunction with decent lyrics. I sweat over lyrics a LOT. They have to say something to me. I’ll make noises and mumble along til something sticks melodically or lyrically. Or, I’ll record the entire song with all the instruments then sing nonsense over the top until something gels. Then it’s stream of consciousness lyric writing which gets hammered and cut til it fits. Simple ?!?! Ha.”

Do you enjoy the process of creating?

“I love creating music, it’s the most fun and satisfying thing you can do with your clothes on I reckon. When you get going, time becomes irrelevant, it’s another world. I love it from the writing to the releasing. Recording is especially great. You never know what’s going to happen, you have to be open to ideas on the fly and often the best parts are the mistakes and side-alleys you go down. I have that luxury with my own recording space, I can take my time.”

The music you make with Marveline is more pop influenced compared to The Nature Strip. Regarding musical styles and genres, is there anything different that you would like to explore?

“Not anything like genres, but I want to simplify things, get to the core of a good song. Make the song do the work and not rely on so many layers. The Tiger album has a lot going on, stacks of keyboards under the surface for example. Lots of guitar tracks. Stuff that got mixed out or way down. I want to write songs that reach you with the least number of tracks possible. Sparser. I’m thinking of buying my first proper synth that we can gig with. The instruments you play with can determine the course of a recording. Let’s see what that does.”

Our Parade’ is your new single. We spoke about it for the Release Talk. You mentioned you were shooting a video for the tune. When can we expect the video. By the way, I really enjoyed the videos you made for the singles of the Savoury-Toothed Tiger album.

“Thanks, I love doing videos. I’m editing ‘Our Parade’ now, it should be out in a couple of weeks.

Another Perfect Day‘ had an animated video. Did you make that one yourself too?

“Yes, I drew and animated ‘Another Perfect Day’, it’s all a kind of stop-motion animation so it’s 2,000 photos joined up! Man, that’s a lot of work but it came out pretty well! I stole the sand – it takes place mostly in the desert, from my local Sydney beach.”

What can you tell us about the other Marveline videos?

“‘Made of Stars‘ was all me too, with help from my partner. She shot some of me performing, the rest was a static camera on a tripod and me hitting record and jumping in front of it. I have a house out of Sydney with an old pianola. I stuck the lyrics in a piano roll and filmed it going round as I pumped the pedals.”

“My good friend Mark is a video guy who used to edit and animate big-budget vids for bands way back when. He directed ‘Turpentine‘, which was shot by a pro cameraman. I had the ideas for the storyline and Mark made it happen. We shot it at our drummer Tony’s work warehouse. Mark masters all my vids and gets my amateur iPhone recordings looking great!” 

What’s next? Can we expect a new Marveline album?

“I hope there’s another album. We have booked a recording date in May to get drums down in a bigger studio than mine. Let’s see. I have to write a few tunes by then. I’ve got a few half-written. Also booked a Nature Strip recording date….crazy busy.” 

What’s your favourite song in the Cool 20?

“Leigh Thomas’ song ‘Something About You‘ is great – he has a way with a chorus! And I really like OrangeG’s song ‘Orion’s Arrow‘.” 

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why? 

“‘Where The Time Has Gone‘ by Wretched Pinhead Puppets. James writes great interesting tunes and records them really well, he’s into lyrics and melody and exploring sounds and variety. A proper songwriter! He also has great videos.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

“I could talk music all day, but I wonder where it’s heading. Most people have disconnected from hearing it played in a room on real instruments. Everything on commercial radio is in perfect time with perfect pitch, it’s catchy and shiny, but it usually doesn’t feed your soul. Not all of it – I like Billie Eilish, but her imitators annoy me. She and her brother are unique. Stop copying them people! Then bring back guitars!! Ha ha.

“I just realised I forgot to mention The Pixies, what a band.”

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