RELEVANT recently caught up with Aaron Marsh, lead singer of Copeland, one of the latest bands to sign with The Militia Group. Marsh and the rest of the boys played at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival in Austin, Texas. He talked about their relocation to Atlanta and the release of their debut album, Beneath Medicine Tree, and much more.
[RM:] Is this your first full-length album?
[AM:] It’s the first full-length as Copeland. We recorded an independent album under another band name.
[RM:] What inspired the song topics? Pain seems to be a big theme on Beneath Medicine Tree.
[AM:] A lot of the songs were written around the time that my grandmother died and my girlfriend was sick in the hospital. The artwork from our album features a lot of overdramatic photos of hospitals. They’re really harsh and dramatic. A lot of the songs come from finding strength in the pain.
[RM:] What helped you get through those tough times?
[AM:] A lot of it was my beliefs and other music that I was listening to. I listened to a lot of Counting Crows and got encouraged by that. I definitely hope that someone finds strength in our music. It all goes back to your beliefs and your upbringing … Turning things around and looking at the positive side.
[RM:] What’s the songwriting process like? How does that work for you guys?
[AM:] Pretty much, I would have an idea vocally. We all contribute to the music. I come with the song structure, and then we arrange it together. Individual songs, I start out on the piano.
[RM:] I noticed that you played the mellotron on this album.
[AM:] The mellotron was kind of a new toy in the studio. I was voting for [it] on every song.
[RM:] When and where did you guys first start out?
[AM:] We started out in Florida about two years ago. We just formed from other bands and mutual friends. We were in a lot more rocky bands. It’s kind of a change to do something really pretty. We moved to Atlanta after doing small touring in the East.
[RM:] How has it been being in Atlanta?
[AM:] It’s awesome. The kids in Atlanta have been really receptive. We think it’s a cool place to be.
[RM:] Any meaning behind the band name?
[AM:] Yeah, Aaron Copeland was my favorite composer. There’s just something kinda magical about him. So that’s why I named the band after him.
[RM:] So you have a background in classical music?
[AM:] I went to a performing arts high school … you know, symphonic music and arts music. James [Likeness], our bass player, he was trained classically, choirs and stuff. He and I know a lot of classical stuff and theory.
[RM:] Well given your classical background, do you have other musical influences?
[AM:] Good question. Vocally for me, Jeff Buckley is a big one. When we recorded, we listened to a lot of Queen. I really gained a lot of respect for Freddie Mercury’s vocals. I modeled some of the vocals after him, the layering.
[RM:] What are your thoughts on the current music scene?
[AM:] As far as the industry is concerned, it’s a great time to be an indie band. Big labels are downsizing. The influence of the Internet is huge. We did a few dates with Nodes of Ranvier, a hardcore band from South Dakota. And they had a lot of kids there who were there because of the Internet.
[RM:] What’s on the horizon?
[AM:] I think we’re just looking forward to touring our butts off. When we moved to Atlanta, there were five months where we didn’t leave. We were recording, and we got cabin fever. We’re just looking forward to getting out and touring. As far as long-range goals, I’m not really sure. We’re just overwhelmed with things to do and people to meet.
[RM:] Do you have upcoming tours?
[AM:] Right now we toured out to SXSW. That’s where we are right now. It’s a big Militia Group showcase here at SXSW. We’re doing a couple laps around the country, out to the west coast.
[RM:] How is it being with The Militia Group?
[AM:] We love them. They’ve become great friends. We have a lot of respect for them on a business level and on a personal level.
[RM:] What’s been your craziest experience touring so far?
[AM:] We had a traumatic traffic accident about nine months ago. We were driving in an ice storm in Michigan, and we did a 360 on the highway and flipped the trailer. It was a definitely trying time. But it’s been balanced by the good times. We hate the driving when we’re touring, but we love it when we get to the club and meet people and hang out.
[RM:] Speaking of shows, it’s always cool to know about other bands that musicians would like to see in concert. Who would you like to see in concert together?
[AM:] I really love the band Matthew, one of my favorite bands of all time. Brian McSweeney [lead singer of Matthew] and his vocals … I should probably have included him under the influences. I’m actually walking to see of my dream bands now, The Fire Theft [ex-Sunny Day Real Estate]. They would definitely be one of them. I would love to see Counting Crows. And James Taylor.
[RM:] What do you guys do in your spare time, not that you have much of it now?
[AM:] We all total Internet nerds … We like talking to our friends on the Internet. James is a graphic artist. He designed the artwork for the album and he does stuff on the side.
Video games. My guys like to play video games. Bryan [Laurenson, guitars and piano] likes to play this really nerdy game on the Internet. He talks on a microphone to the other guys, “You got a bogey on your niner.” He’ll be talking to his screen … We like going to shows, hanging out. We’re pretty boring really.
[Jeremy Hunt is a freelance writer and musician based near Charlotte, N.C. Soli Deo Gloria.]