Bearing down in a blaze of feverish, affected folk and uptempo jazz, and swinging humble songs of heartbreak and perseverance, Marc-Antoine and the SoHo Ghetto are readying the release of their newest compilation of trepedation-laced tales for your patiently waiting ears. A good year or two in the making, the Halifax-based band of sincere eclectics are finally dropping their anxiously awaited EP this Friday at the Seahorse.
“From beginning to end we worked on this album for the better part of a year,” says singer/songwriter Marc-Antoine Robertson. “Getting the money together was kind of a challenge, and you’re always faced with the ebb and flow of the band members schedules as well,” he notes about the rocky recording process.
The EP is a diverse smorgasbord of styles and sentiments, ranging from uptempo traveling ballads to downtrodden dirges mourning broken friendships and battered emotions. Robertson cites the tumultuous process of touring and surviving in today’s vicious, cutthroat industry as the backbone for the EP. “The inspiration for the album comes from wanting to survive in the music scene. It’s very competitive, so this band works hard to write music to be able to contend with everyone else. It comes from all of us caring about this music enough to want to work hard to produce an album that everyone loves,” he elaborates.
Walking the tightrope between bouncy indie-folk balladry and insightful alt-country, the band’s creative output is a constantly evolving creature, due largely to the rotating band roster and a multifaceted mishmash of instruments. Songs swell from meanderings of Matthew Gibbon’s moaning, creaking harmonica and soaring angelic group harmonies to suddenly drop into a fierce wash of jangly acoustics by Robertson and featherlight, sparkling keyboards from ivory tickler Rachel Sunter.
“There were a couple band member changes this year,” says Robertson. “But there are 7 of us on the EP…and we had some help from Jeff Mosher and Jody Lyne from the Mellotones, and had some fiddle performed for the album by Cassie Ann MacDonald. We cover a lot of musical ground by ourselves, though, so it was us for the most part,” says Robertson. “I bring the completed song on acoustic guitar to the band, lyrics, chords and melodies and the band molds it and gives it shape with their own little idiosyncracies,” he explains of the writing process.
Following the EP release, Robertson hopes to further saturate the Halifax scene with the band’s soulful, sanguine stylings, but anticipates it being a bit more difficult than it used to be. “The bar scene is definitely hurting. It means you have to work even harder to get a decent gig at one of our few venues. So yeah, like many other bands the bar closures have affected us for sure. We just have to be more creative. It kinda forces you to think outside the box and look for different opportunities,” he says. “Halifax is a small city with a lot of great bands. Resources are limited, but there is no shortage of great music. Getting a band together has had its challenges but everyone involved loves the music enough to keep pushing forward…So I guess we’ve been lucky in the sense that we haven’t really had to deal with anything too major.”
After playing the Evolve festival for a second time to a cavalcade of praise from jubilant, energetic and intoxicated fans, Robertson thinks it might be time for the band to infiltrate the festival circuit. “Playing that festival our first time in 2010 did big things for us and if they’ll have us back then yeah, we’d play it in a heartbeat. We’re definitely looking to play festivals this summer. It’s a great opportunity to garner new fans ‘en mass’ and they’re also just incredibly fun to be a part of.”
It seems there won’t be much rest for the weary travelers after their stint of release shows in the Atlantic region, as Robertson makes it clear his top priority is relentless touring and building on their already dedicated following. “Honestly,” he says, “our next move is really just to promote the shit out of this thing.”