Aaron Marsh of Copeland
Currently finishing up their current tour with The Appleseed Cast, Owen, and Acute, Copeland (Aaron Marsh on vocals, guitar, and keyboards, Bryan Laurenson on guitar, James Likeness on bass, and Jonathan Bucklew on drums) just released their third full length album “Eat, Sleep, Repeat”. The band, recently picked up by Columbia Records, unleashed everything they had into this new album from the unique rumblings of a vibraphone to the inviting sound of strings, they left no stone unturned. Wanting to keep the organic feel of the music, they left in the fret noise and the natural sounds encountered in the recording process.
The outcome? An album they call “the biggest step that Copeland has ever taken in any one direction.” Going into it, they knew they would face the fact that some fans would like it, and some wouldn’t, but they didn’t feel pressured to stick to any sort of formula. They wanted to stay true to their creative progression. They went into it with blazing guns and recorded an album that they are quite proud of. Self described as lush it’s not just the band standing behind this album, fans and critics alike are eating it up and asking for more.
Vocalist and chief songwriter Aaron Marsh sat down with TWRY to talk about their new label, their new album, and the nonstop rollercoaster of life on the road…
What inspired the band name?
Aaron Copeland, the 20th Century composer.
Who formed the band and how did you all come together?
James and I formed the band. We met at a summer camp. We were camp counselors about seven years ago. We were both doing music separately. We were both in school, and eventually it worked out that we could play together. John and Brian came along later. We played with a lot of different guitarists and drummers before deciding on them.
And what made you decide on them?
A combination of musical chemistry and friendship.
You’re the primary song writer, correct?
What are the inspiration for the lyrics?
Inspiration is kind of abstract. It’s kind of just a combination of personal experiences- maybe friends and family, love, my general outlook on the universe. It’s hard to just pinpoint one thing. People always ask us “what’s this song about?” and it could be about three or four different things, not even anything specific. The themes of those things are the way it made us feel. It kind of shows up in the lyrics.
Your first record deal was with the independent label The Militia Group. How did the label find you?
We actually had a record before that on a different Indie label, and they heard that record. It was a split EP. They heard that, and they said they would play the EP in the office and everyone loved it. We started talking to the guys, and it seemed like they had a good vision for the band, and they believed in what we were doing.
You’ve toured with bands like Switchfoot and The Early November in the past. Who has been your favorite band to tour with to date?
Gosh, it’s so hard because every band is so different, and so dynamic. Artists are very funny people, and they have very quirky personalities. There’s been stuff that I’ve loved about every band. Actually we had a great time with the guys in Sparta. We had a great time with the guys in Switchfoot. We have a blast. That’s probably one of my favorite parts of touring, getting to hang out with those bands. We have toured with tons of bands. Too many to really pick a favorite. They’re all so different.
Yeah, I know what you mean. I go to a lot of shows and a lot of times when I meet the band, everyone does kind of have a personality.
Yeah! It’s kind of interesting because they spend so much time with each other. It’s interesting how sense of humors develop. Like the band Norma Jean, for instance. If you hung out with those guys, you’d think they are so weird because they think the strangest stuff is funny. But I’m sure if you hung out with any band, the stuff that they think is funny is so strange because it goes past inside jokes. It’s like and entire insider sense of humor. I spend more time with the guys in my band then I would spend with my wife, if I was just married and home, just working a regular job. We are working literally 24 hours a day. It’s very strange, the way that it works out. You almost become closer than brothers, in a way.
In 2003, the band recorded an EP consisting entirely of covers by artists like Phil Collins and Billy Joel. How did this project come about and how were the songs selected?
It was just kind of a study in early influence with the song selection. It was all stuff that we remember from our childhood, stuff that our parents listened to. It was kinda the first pop music that we ever heard. The idea was to cover these songs so you could hear where we came from, and where we’ve gone. The way it came about was we recorded a cover of the Police song, “Every Breath You Take”, for a compilation, and the label really liked the way it turned out. They were like “man, it’d be great if you did a whole EP of covers”. And so, that was kinda how it got it’s start. It was really just an interesting study on our influences and the way we’ve grown over the past, whatever, twenty years, since we first heard pop music.
It seemed like it was a lot of fun for you guys.
It was fun. I think, probably, halfway into it, we started to get a little crazy because we wanted to be recording our own music instead of cover songs. We swore we’d never do another one again, but now we’ve kind of got the itch to make another one. I don’t know if we’ll have time to do it, though.
After releasing 3 records, the band has been signed to the major label Columbia Records. Does it feel any different being signed by a major label now?
It kind of feels like playing with squirt guns for five years, and then all of a sudden you have an AK47 in your hands. It’s very very intimidating. Working with people who are extremely powerful, it’s very strange and kinda scary. We don’t know how it will go. Major labels can be a great thing, or they can be career enders. You always hear the horror stories of band versus label. When you’re in a small pond, with the Indie label, they aren’t very powerful, so they can’t really do that much to hinder you or help you, but for sure when you’re dealing with extremely powerful people, it can be either really good, or really bad. We just met about a dozen people from the label yesterday, so we’re getting to know everyone and getting our feet wet. Nothing really too significant yet.
It’s definitely a big step for the band.
Yeah! It’s cool, because people know what Columbia Records is. It’s a little bit of a career satisfaction. I’ll be able to tell my kids I was on Columbia Records.
In the middle of your career, the band was on tour for almost 2 years straight. What was it like being on the road for that long?
We were dangerously close to being burnt out altogether. It kinda of soured me on touring in general. I don’t really enjoy touring anymore. It’s kind of this unnecessary thing that we have to do. I love making music, but I don’t really like the touring lifestyle like having no roots, not really seeing my friends and family, the wear and tear that my body undergoes. It’s a little bit stressful.
Where was your favorite place so far?
I really like the Northwest-like Seattle and Portland. I think as far as spending time in a place, or to move somewhere, I would definitely move somewhere up there.
What is it about Seattle that grabs you the way it does?
It’s just so beautiful. Everything there is so lush. The weather is great, and it’s very dreary. It matches my kind of personality. I’m a very dreary person. Well, not really dreary. Somewhat dreary.
What new music are you listening to these days?
There’s a band called Annuals. They are new. I love them. The Cardigans. Their new album is great. It’s not super new. An artist named Stina Nordenstam. She’s a little older. She was more popular in the 90’s, but she has a record that came out about 2 years ago called “The World Is Saved”, and it’s incredible. I’ve been listening to that a lot. Oh! The new Beatles. The Love.
The band has built up a loyal fan base over the years. What is the coolest thing a fan has done for you?
We have absolutely awesome fans, so that’s a really hard question. You know what? One fan drew an awesome cartoon characters of us. It was anime looking characters of us. It’s awesome. We all had it as our background on our computers for a while. It was this family that always came to see us and they would always bring us food and stuff and it was really cool how they drew this.
The worst thing a fan has done for us, and this has happened several times, is steal street signs that say Copeland, like Copeland St or Copeland Avenue, and bring them to us. We don’t know what to say! It’s totally unethical and against the law. I mean, I know it was done as a nice gesture. I remember one that we carried around in our trailer for so long, it was a pain in the butt, so we eventually just threw it on the side of the road. We’ve probably gotten four or five of them. It’s kind of annoying. So, don’t steal street signs and give them to bands.
Alright, they can make a note of that now. On the new album, “Eat Sleep Repeat”, there are several guest appearances by an up and coming singer named Anna Becker. How did she end up in the mix?
She’s just a really good friend of mine. She was living in Orlando, where I met her, and she was in a band called “Gasoline Heart”. They were her backup band for a while on the side. She’s just a great vocalist and a great songwriter, and a really good friend. I worked with her on a couple of other things, and I’m recording a project called Anchor and Brail with the lead singer of Anberlin. It’s his solo record, and she came and sang on that. I liked working with her.
And how’s the project going with the lead singer of Anberlin?
It’s almost done! We’re about halfway done with it. We’re going to finish it next month. I think it is slated to come out mid-next year. It’ll be a while.
“Eat Sleep Repeat” is definitely the most mature album to come from the band. What experiences have the band shared that you feel has helped you mature to this point?
Lots of just, kind of, re-evaluating my life and what’s important to me. That kind of thing. It’s a lot of questioning love, god, and purpose. Kind of borderline hopeless undertones to the record, and I think that is what inspired a lot of the growth, was wanting to make it a little more introspective, meaningful record that’s about more than just breaking up.
What was it about your producer, Matt Goldman, that made you want to relocate to Atlanta?
It wasn’t so much Matt that made us go. The reason we went to Atlanta was because we had been a band in Florida for three years, and no one was coming to our shows. We were playing every weekend and no one really cared. We thought we were getting a lot better, and we felt like we had potential but we didn’t have a really strong hometown following. We couldn’t seem to make any headway in Florida, so we moved to Atlanta. It was more of a career move then a move for Matt Goldman.
When you say career move, I think it’s strange that you moved to Atlanta. When I think of where people would to, the first places that come to mind are either New York or California.
Yeah, I think so many people go there, that it’s almost like shooting yourself in the foot. The great thing about Atlanta, was there were so many people there, for a big market, but not that many bands that were coming out of there. Norma Jean is pretty much the only band that was a significant band at that point. There’s been a few bands since then, but there weren’t really that many bands up there, just a lot of kids who loved music.
Describe the new album in one word?
I’d say lush.
And why is that?
Just the texture of it, with the instrumentation and it’s very thick and layered.
Looking up the new album on the internet, you’ll find that the critics seem to have nothing to say but good things. Do you guys pay attention to what the critics say, or is their opinion irrelevant to you?
We definitely pay attention, but their opinion is pretty irrelevant. We do read it. It’s hard to know that things are written about you, and your music, on the internet and not read it. But, that doesn’t mean that we take their opinion to heart. When we first started making music, we cared a lot. If we got a bad review somewhere, we’d be pretty bitter and if we met the person, we’d be like “screw you dude”. But yeah, we pay attention for sure, but it doesn’t really effect what we do. We’re just trying to make the best records we can. We know we’re not gonna make a record that everyone loves.
What is next for the band?
About half of December and January, we are off. Then we’re doing more U.S. touring starting in February. Then we’re going overseas, to Japan and Australia. Then, hopefully, Europe after that. That’ll be cool.
Any last words for the fans?
We have a record out, “Eat, Sleep, Repeat”, and come see us if you see we’re playing in your town!