Marianas Trench's Josh Ramsay On Band's U.S. Breakthrough, Crafting 'Call Me Maybe'
The man behind Carly Rae Jepsen's smash hit hopes to guide his pop-rock band to similar stateside success.
Though they might not realize it, U.S. pop fans are already very familiar with the work of Josh Ramsay: after all, the Canadian singer-songwriter (second from left, above) produced and co-wrote Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," one of the biggest radio hits of 2012. Now, his band -- the ambitious pop-rock quartet Marianas Trench, which took home the Group of the Year trophy at Canada's Juno Awards last Saturday (Apr. 20) -- is setting its sights on a U.S. breakthrough of their own. On Apr. 10, Marianas Trench announced a deal with Cherrytree Records, which became their label home in all territories outside of Canada (the band, like Jepsen, will remain on 604 Records in its native country).
Marianas Trench's slow stateside ascent started when the daughter of Cherrytree Records president/founder Martin Kierszenbaum introduced her father to the band's ultra-ambitious pop sound. Three LPs into their career after forming in 2001, Marianas Trench has had 10 singles crack the Canadian Hot 100, and their last two albums, 2009's "Masterpiece Theatre" and 2011's "Ever After," have cracked the Top 10 of the Canadian Albums chart. Now, the Vancouver-based band's Canadian success will be transitioned into the States: a teaser EP, "Face The Music," is due out May 14 on Cherrytree/604/Interscope, with "Desperate Measures" serving as the focus track.
"Ever After" is reminiscent of the pretty pop-rock of Hanson and the Jonas Brothers, but Ramsay tells Billboard that the group's last LP was "sort of all over the place." The frontman names Queen, the Beach Boys and late 70s/early 80s R&B like Michael Jackson as inspirations for his last album, and bills "Ever After" as "a mix of a rock show and play" that tells a fairytale over 54 gapless minutes. With all of its dramatic bombast, Marianas Trench's sound has a lot in common with that of fun. -- another pop-leaning group that has endeared themselves to the American mainstream after years of trying.
And like that group's frontman Nate Ruess, Ramsay has stretched out his songwriting skills and collaborated with solo pop performers, most notably with Jepsen. "Carly and I became friends when she had been on 'Canadian Idol,'" he remembers. "She was starting to work with the same management as me… we wrote a song together as soon as we’d met each other and we sort of just became friends right away."
Ramsay first worked on Jepsen's debut album, 2008's "Tug of War," which largely featured contemplative singer-songwriter material. When Jepsen later came up with the hook for "Call Me Maybe," however, Ramsay chose to push his friend in a dance-pop direction. In an effort to keep the song true to its beginnings, he chose to add orchestral strings to the rhythm section rather than synthesizers, and eventually created an inescapable sound.
"She came in with such a different song at first," Ramsay says. "It had what became the chorus' lyrics and melody. She already had that as the pre-chorus in a different song that was like a folk song. So we put that into a different song and built a new song around it."
The "Face the Music" EP features two "Ever After" cuts -- "Desperate Measures" and "Haven't Had Enough" -- along with acoustic versions of "Enough" and another 2011 song, "Fallout." Marianas Trench is also embarking on a 26-date U.S. tour two days after the EP's release to help spread the word. Once the tour wraps in late June, the group will head back into the studio to work on new material, presumably for a follow-up full-length.
As for a "Call Me Maybe" follow-up, Ramsay says that he and Jepsen are certainly open to re-teaming for her next musical project. "I hope that we work together again," says Ramsay. "I don’t see why we wouldn’t."