Whether it’s onstage or in their videos, one thing’s for sure: the five Québec musicians in Les Marinellis play retro garage and surf rock in French and they clearly enjoy it. They don’t take themselves too seriously, so they’re your run of the mill indie band, right? Not! Les Marinellis’ goal is to earn a living with their music, and they’d rather die than quit before they make it.
Paroles & Musique talked with Benoît Gromko, the band’s bassist, a few weeks prior to their SOCAN showcase at the Rendez-vous Pros des Francos on June 18, 2015. “All of us gave up a lot to play the music we love,” says Gromko. “A lot of older musicians I meet tell me, ‘I had a band too, when I was your age. We shoulda… We coulda…’ I didn’t want to become that dude. I don’t know where our band will end up, but we will surely have tried everything we could!” The band has already toured Europe three times, played the FrancoFolies festival three times, and played at South by Southwest last winter in Austin, Texas. And those accomplishments are just the beginning.
The input of mythical Burger Records
The many efforts of Gromko and company haven’t gone unanswered. With their first recordings under their collective belt, they started pitching to labels locally and internationally. The drafted a short list of preferred labels, and it was the mythical Burger Records that answered their call. “We’ve made quite a lot of friends through Burger,” says Gromko. “It truly is like a family, a community where people help each other: when they tour, bands crash at the other bands’ places and they help with the gear. We’re also lucky to have signed with a label that really has an identity of its own, and that draws a really cool fan base. Not only do they naturally fit with our sound, but as time goes by, we realize we get more and more people that come to check us out only because we’re on Burger, even though they might not know us, because the label is such a solid reference. It definitely helps.”
Thanks to the support of Burger and that of German label P.Trash – which distributes their (mostly vinyl) albums in Europe – Les Marinellis end up playing the Euro zone as often as they do on their home turf. As a matter of fact, they’re prepping a new European tour, and will follow with a stint on the Eastern seaboard in the fall. “It was quite hard, at first, to book shows in Europe. It wasn’t always glamourous,” says Gromko, laughing. “But now that we’ve created a network and people know us over there, booking shows is becoming easier and easier.”
Besides, the bass player isn’t one to give up easily. Hard work, commitment and devotion are standard operating procedure. “We’re reaping the efforts we’ve invested in our band,” says Gromko. “Often, bands are in a hurry to get signed so they can delegate those tasks to others as soon as possible. Nothing wrong with that, but we decided to do things differently, the D.I.Y. approach, never compromise on the choice of venue or musicians we play with. We play late, people are drunk and it can sometimes get weird, but that’s our world and we give it our all.” As for Canada, in the end it was the upstart Kapuano Records – also home to Les Deuxluxes – that signed Les Marinellis.
Sounds, Influences, Attitude
But Les Marinellis’ work isn’t all about promotion. Guitarists Alix Lepage and Alexis Patry, as well as Gromko, are all “tone heads,” musicians who seek the perfect sound, even if it means using different instruments or vintage pedals and amps in order to achieve the “color” they seek. Drummer Jean-François Martin rounds out the quintet.
Even though they have a surf rock aesthetic – think Chocolat meets Dick Dale – Les Marinellis don’t sound like a cover band or a novelty act. “When we started, we were called Kid et les Marinellis, and Luc Brien of Breastfeeders played guitar in the band, which was quite different than it is now,” says Gromko. “Our main influences were Jacques Dutronc and Antoine. But as we gradually changed musicians, our singer Cédric Marinelli shifted the band towards the garage sound we have nowadays. Usually, Cédric will come to rehearsal with a melody and a few chords, and he quickly shares his ideas with us, and we each work on our parts separately before working them out together. “
The band’s third album titled Île de rêve came out on March 27, 2015, and was introduced on stage in early May at Club Lambi, in Montréal, shortly after a concert run in Europe.
Their SOCAN showcase during the Rendez-vous Pros des Francos will happen on June 18 at 5 p.m. , where they’ll share the stage with Le Couleur. “For once, we’re playing early and the show is free, so all you poor people have no excuse for not coming!” wrote singer Cédric Marinelli on his Facebook page. It will indeed be a great opportunity to catch Les Marinellis for free in Montréal, because after that, they will play L’Escogriffe on July 15, then Rimouski (Le Villageois, on Aug. 6) and UpFest (Sudbury, Aug. 14), before hitting the road abroad.