Philly rockers Marah’s second album, 2000’s Kids in Philly, drew plenty of critical praise along with heaps of comparisons to early Bruce Springsteen records. For their the next trick — Float Away With the Friday Night Gods, due June 4th on Artemis Records — Marah will have the Boss singing along on the track “Float Away.”
“We knew him a bit previously,” says singer/guitarist Dave Bielanko. “I think that he was fairly fond of what we had done, and he came out to see us a couple times in New Jersey. He’s my hero. We had a guest on the record not to pull a fuckin’ Santana or anything, but we really fuckin’ love Bruce — and I dodged a lot of Santana’s phone calls [laughs].
“He’s definitely not the star of the song,” he continues. “Towards the end there’s someone else singing, and if you know Bruce Springsteen it’s him, but the casual listener might not even to catch onto it. We wanted Bruce to play a guitar solo, and he did on that song. I’ve always been a huge fan of him as a guitar player. He’s a very expressive, high-end-y, dramatic guitar player and that’s what we wanted — and ultimately he wound up singing on it a bit as well.”
The band recorded the new album at Rockfield Studios near Monmouth, Wales, with producer Owen Morris (the Verve, Oasis). Feeling like they’d exhausted garage-band feel with their first two albums, Marah — currently consisting of Bielanko; his brother, guitarist Serge Bielanko; drummer Jon Kois; and bassist Jaime Mahon — adopted a different approach to songwriting. “We decided that we’d write some choruses on this record, which is a good starting point if you’re interested in making people happy,” Dave says. “So choruses were big, and we spent a lot of time arranging songs and looking at how to deliver a rock song in a dramatic, different way.”
Determined to break new ground, Marah wrote and discarded two albums’ worth of material before finding the winning formula. “We wrote ‘Float Away’ just before we left Philadelphia,” Dave says. “That song came into fruition on a lot of levels. We could sit and play it on two acoustic guitars, or we could do demos with it on drum machines. I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s follow that for a little bit and see where it takes us.’ That became one of the cornerstone songs for the record and ultimately we found ten songs that we stood behind.”
The brothers Bielanko wrote the rest of the album last summer in English and Irish hotels, starting on acoustic guitars and then building the songs in the studio. On one track, “For All We Know We’re Dreaming,” they are backed by a sixty-piece Welsh choir, and other songs were dragged under the knife for technological enhancement.
“With ‘People of the Underground’ and ‘For All We Know We’re Dreaming,’ we’re definitely embracing bigger dance elements and looking at hip-hop music and basically the things that excite us right now, which is big, simple things,” Dave says. “We built a lot of drum loops, and we looked at guitars in a way that they could be samples. Organic wasn’t the goal this time.”