You know that bit in Step Brothers where the family sings Sweet Child O’ Mine in the car? Well, Josh Ramsay is pretty much that boy in the backseat. “Where most families play, I don’t know, I Spy,” he says, “my mother and father would each sing a note and we would have to guess which chord it was. So that was a sort of game to me, when I was a kid at two or three or four.” As the lead singer and primary songwriter for Canada’s pop punk outfit Marianas Trench, Ramsay is bringing the melodic and meticulously produced sound of third album Ever After live to our shores in September. It’s a style in the vein of dude groups like Blink-182 and Simple Plan (whom Marianas Trench have toured with), and claims the colourful, slapstick, self-deriding videos they’re loved for too. And if you haven’t heard of them now, you’ll be acquainted in a few short weeks.
Ramsay credits his afore-mentioned very musical upbringing with his ability to dexterously produce ideas for harmonies and songs. His parents were both singers and his father owned a studio. “I was learning about engineering and producing and stuff when I was eight years old,” he explains. “I thought everyone was a musician until I was about ten... I guess I was a little more suited to [writing music] than some other people. It’s not like I sit down at a piano and write it, it’s more like I just hear it all in my head. I picture the melodies, and what the chords would be to support the melody, and I just write it all internally.” Confessing himself an equipment nut, he now owns his own studio in which he recently co-wrote and produced Carly Rae Jepsen’s current hit Call Me Maybe. “[It has] a full console, and a guitar collection on the back wall and stuff. I’m in there right now actually, working for a really popular artist but I can’t tell you who because they haven’t approved it yet,” he chuckles with the finger-waggling tone of an uncle telling me I can’t eat a Kit Kat before dinner.
Recently nominated for a Juno award, the band are blessed with an adoring fanbase in Canada. “We’re very fortunate,” says Ramsay. “Our most recent album went gold in the first week which was really exciting to me. Once we get back from Australia [...] we’re going into an arena tour, like a stadium tour, across Canada. So I guess that’s sort of the level we’re at here.” Performing in venues of such a size affords the four piece space to jambon up their theatrical side. “You can do a whole bunch of cool stuff: video walls, explosions, or if you want to fly through the air,” Ramsay laughs. “This show we’ve been starting with a jack-in-the-box: it winds itself up, and then I pop out. I think it’s part of my background from acting, too. I don’t want it just to be a concert; I want it to be more like a show, and actually have a beginning, middle and end: like a play.”
The plan for the music videos was similar, as the idea was to create a story across several clips. Looking for the right actress for the extended role was laborious but the band eventually scooped Darla Taylor, a Vancouver native who responded marvellously to Ramsay’s “improv acting” in the auditions and who embodied “evil, but who also had a bit of a Snow White quality,” Ramsay explains. “Luckily [we] got along really well, because we had to do a lot of intimate scenes together.”
It looks like there are already several thousand fans who’d like to get intimate with Ramsay, and the band’s Facebook page promotes a system of points and rankings for fans depending on how they spread the word. “You have a lot more access to bands that you might like and you can feel like you know every member of the band,” Ramsay muses on social media. “And that’s cool to me... it’s sort of like you support each other, and if the band does well it’s because the fans contributed. It sort of makes every success the band might have, also their success.” However, he also laments the loss of magic familiarity has fostered. “I wish we could have a way where we could have a relationship with bands where some of that fun mystique and stuff could still exist too, but I don’t know if those things can co-exist together.” If the trick is to embrace, these guys are hitting their straps fast.
BY ZOË RADAS
MARIANAS TRENCH play The Corner on Monday September 24.