Let me just say: phone interviews are difficult. Only because there is no good way to write down and record everything the person on the other end is saying. I tried, but I suspect my recorder didn’t pick up as much as I would have liked. So apologies to Mr. Trewavas if I misquote, but I do believe I have the gist of our conversation!
Mr. Trewavas is the bass player for the UK band Marillion, which has a long history of delighting their fans with their particular brand of music. In May 2004, Marillion released their latest album, Marbles in two formats: a 2-disc set for the discerning fans who would like to buy direct from them, and an abbreviated retail UK version. (The North American version will hit stores in this hemisphere on October 6.)
As Trewavas pointed out during our conversation, Marillion is in a unique position. Starting with 2001′s Anoraknophobia, the band’s contract with its label had elapsed. Marillion had a number of options: (1) sign with another label (and they had offers on the table); (2) borrow money to do the album themselves; or (3) ask the fans whether they’d pre-order the as-yet unrecorded album thus funding the album themselves! When Marillion asked, the fans answered, and the band had the opportunity to make the album their way, without worrying about a record label’s interference or infulence. Even better: Marillion was able to use the money in ways a record label wouldn’t–namely by promoting the band.
Now, with Marbles, Marillion has done it again, selling direct to the fans. Marbles was a long time in the making, as Trewavas points out: “We came off of Anoraknophobia with no break and went right back into the studio,” he said. “This time, I think we’ll take a little time off.”
The tour for Marbles is nearing its end. Since Marillion is managing themselves, I asked Trewavas how they decided where to play. He said, “We looked, you know, at where most of our fans live so we could play there. And we chose Boulder because we like Boulder, really.” He added, “And we did LA and New York. You have to do LA and New York, don’t you? Otherwise no one knows you’ve even been to America.”
Trewavas also notes that having such loyal fans pays off for the band, not only because they’ll pre-order albums, but because they can offer other perks as well. When I asked how they made their upcoming DVD (Marbles on the Road, to be released in October), Trewavas said, “We have some hardcore fans from South Africa, and they just also happen to be filmakers, and they came to us and said they had an idea to film us. It wasn’t going to cost us anything, and they would get some of the profits and we would get some, so it was good all around.”
Making music and managing the band is hard work, however. “We did the single CD retail version of Marbles because we were told again and again that double albums don’t sell and stores won’t stock them. But then everyone wanted the 2-disc set, so doing a single disc almost came back to bite us.
“Record stores are having a hard time,” said Trewavas. “They’re selling fewer and fewer records and more and more of everything else.”
Blame the Internet, maybe, but Trewavas says the Internet has been good for the band, enabling them to sell their CDs and DVDs and also to post updates on their progress for their fans. Marillion is also looking forward to releasing their first download-only single in October. Their song “The Damage” will only be available by download. They’re hoping for another hit.
I say “another” because Marbles has produced two singles that have done well in Europe–”You’re Gone” was #7 in the UK and #8 in Holland, and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” made #14 in the UK.
Trewavas will remain busy after the tour wraps up in October. “Our fans organize a lot of conventions, and I’ll be going to one in Barcelona,” he said with relish. “Much nicer weather than England, out there on the Medeterranian.” He also plans to finish up some work with his other band Keno.
I then asked Trewavas the final question: “What do you think people should know about Marillion but don’t?”
That’s hard! I think they should know they would like the music we play. They may think they know what kind of music, but they don’t because they haven’t really heard it. We have so many people who finally hear one or two of our songs, and then they go and buy everything we’ve ever done. And they say, “How is it that I’ve never heard of you?!”
You’re hearing it now–these guys are good. So good that in the past fans have actually raised money to help them tour, just for the chance to see them live. And all those fans can’t be wrong.