MarchFourth is an Oregon-based band. They are playing Fed Up Fest October 15th at CrossroadsKC at Grinder’s. Fed Up Fest is a benefit for Harvesters and is presented by X1051. Bass player John Averill recently discussed the beginnings of MarchFourth, his favorite bassists and the challenges of leading a 20-piece band.
Did you come from a musical family? We’re your parents musical?
Yes. My parents had regular middle class jobs, but they played bluegrass together with bands on the weekends. My dad’s record collection was mostly bluegrass, but also included a lot of mostly 50’s Rock and R&B, and stuff like Django, classic country, and some old jazz and swing.
What first got you interested in playing bass?
I didn’t play anything growing up, but I was an avid music fan and delved into a lot of genres. Around the time I got to college I started listening to the bass lines in songs, and determined that it might be doable to learn to play the bass.
Who are some of your favorite bassists and why?
I don’t consider myself a bass-centric person at this point, but I appreciate different bassists for different reasons. In terms of pocket and groove, there’s James Jameson. In terms of melodic sensibility I like Paul McCartney. Geddy Lee is a bad ass. When I first started playing bass, I was into Flea. Then there’s Mingus: holy hell! What did he just do there?! Ha! In general, I love bass players who serve the song with simplicity and inventiveness, and I have a ton of respect for bass players that can sing lead simultaneously: that’s a bitch!
How do you approach covers to make them your own?
A little of both. We’ve only started getting into the cover thing recently, playing maybe one or two covers a night. Sometimes we’ll do an instrumental version, sometimes one of us will sing, and we’ll mess around with the arrangement, add extended solos, etc.
Your latest release, Magic Number, was recorded in New Orleans. What did you enjoy most about recording in NOLA?
Just the vibe of the place. So many genres of music were born there, and you can feel the history. It was so nice to spend all day in the studio and then afterwards walk down to a dirty bar or check out the amazing local live music on Frenchmen.
What was the first song written for the album?
Hmm, only a couple of songs were written just prior to the recording. The rest of the songs we had been playing for years live. “Jan Jar” is probably 5 years old! Paul (trumpet) wrote all his songs just before the album was recorded, as was Anthony’s “Call To Action.”
How did the collaboration with Stanton Moore came about?
Ben Ellman (producer) plays sax with Stanton in Galactic. We talked about wanting cameos from NOLA-based musicians, and Ben hooked it up (as well as Trombone Shorty, who he also produced). We recorded the track and then Stanton came in and recorded a track with our drums muted. We wanted to give him the freedom to interpret it in his own way. Then Ben mixed between the two, using mostly Stanton’s track, because they’re slightly different grooves. It came out interesting.
You lead a 20-piece band. What are the biggest challenges of touring?
Just trying to make enough money to keep this thing together is the biggest challenge. Bus breakdowns, being in debt, having 20 mouths to feed: no one ever said this was easy!
What quote or motto do you live by?
Hmm… an oldie that I like is this:
“Either I am a genius or I am insane.” -John Lennon
(I relate to the latter, for the record)
What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
Oh man. I left a lucrative animation career in my mid-30’s to try to become a working musician because I knew that’s what I really wanted to do and figured I wouldn’t have the motivation to pursue a musical career if I waited any longer. I haven’t gone back, but there is never a time when I am not challenged. My advice for “if you want to make an actual living as a musician” is this: If you love it: go for it, listen, be patient, and learn how to work with people and relate. If not, take it easy on yourself and play music as a hobby or for relaxation.