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LtR: Josh White, Kirk Kitzul, and Mason Krawczyk of Maritime Bleach. All photos by Nneka Nnagbo.

Q&A with Ottawa grunge trio Maritime Bleach

By Nneka Nnagbo on May 20, 2016

I caught up with the boys of Maritime Bleach to discuss their influences, the concept of a Youtube album release, marketing music to a millennial fan base, and the making of their recently released, 8-track debut, I Am The Door Through Which The Cold Gets In (2015).

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Apt613: First, really quickly, just go around and let us know who plays what within the band

Kirk: I play drums and I do a bit of vocals, but mostly drums.

Mason: I play guitar and I sing.

Josh: I play bass and do harmonises mostly.

When did the band start? How did you all meet and come together?

Kirk: So me and Mason knew each other from Saskatchewan. We played in a band from, I guess, 2010 to 2012. Then we moved here to go to Carleton [University]. And then once we moved into this house in second year, we started to write some music. We tried out a couple bassists that didn’t quite work and it wasn’t until this September that we started playing the three of us.

Mason: Yeah, we wrote five or so songs just in the basement here; the two of us, and then when Josh jumped in, it was super easy and organic and I had known Josh from a couple years prior because we were in the same program.

Why did you settle on Maritime Bleach? What’s the significance of the name?

Kirk: Maritime Bleach —I had that name for a bit I guess. Bleach Blonde is the name I really wanted to use. Like a hardcore band. And then—

That’s a good name.

Kirk: Yeah! And so, Maritime Bleach really comes from the idea of [being] on the shore, on the coast, you’ll have things like rocks that get bleached by the sun and bleached by the salt water too. And so, while these things turn light; so they lose colour, even in the absence of [certain] things, there’s still something there and there’s still something beautiful. And so, the band’s based a lot on absence and space; musically, as well as lyrically, and I think just atmospherically too. So the name kind of ties in, I think, to what the whole band does.

So cool. When I first heard the name Bleach, I thought you guys were a Nirvana cover band. (laughs)

Kirk: That is the second time that’s been put to us! (laughs)

Who are your influences? Favourite bands, favourite songs.

Kirk: For me, Attack in Black. Their album Marriage is my number one. Like, that’s it. So there’s definitely influence from that in terms of some of their tempo and some of the pace on that record. Not necessarily the overall sound. And beyond them, Corb Lund is my absolute favorite.

Josh: For me, Radiohead. I love Radiohead. That’s my favourite band ever. But heavier music too. When I started learning how to play guitar, I listened to Metallica and Megadeth and that kind of music. And then hardcore, like [The] Holly Springs Disaster. That was a band that these guys knew from out West. And I was so much about that band in high school; I loved them. And then, Brand New would be huge!

I was going to ask you guys if you listened to them.

Josh: Yeah, Brand New is really big for me. Modest Mouse [as well].

Mason: For me, Brand New, Balance and Composure, like that kind of a swath of music for me, musically. But lyrically, a lot of poetry. E.E. Cummings is one of my favourite poets. Dalton Derkson is a great poet; he’s a friend of ours from Toronto. But I think melodically, I really draw from both rap music and pop music. The 1975 are one of my favourite bands right now. And I think they are people who craft brilliant songs with incredible melodies and that’s something I really admire.

Who writes the songs? Or is it a collaborative effort?

Mason: I think we all do. I usually write something on acoustic and have a melody in my mind and then what’ll happen, typically, is I’ll have this big idea of how everything should sound in my head and then I’ll bring it to Kirk and then he’ll just be like “nope, this is how I hear it” (laughs). And then he’ll put something over it that I never would’ve thought of, and then we’ll kind of go back and forth with it and kind of negotiate a little or not at all and we’ll both be like “this needs to be here” and we eventually work out something that’s much better. So I’ll bring a skeleton to something and then Kirk kind of puts the flesh on it a lot and then Josh puts a lot of the clothes on it. (laughs). Like, literally dresses it up. That’s how I kind of see it.

Which two songs off the album are each of your favourites?

Kirk: For me, It’s “Drawer” and “Nails”. Drawer, because that’s one that’s written differently. I wrote the whole song on drums; so [it’s] just a straight up drum beat, which I’ve never done before. And then Nails is—

Apt613: I love that song.

Kirk: Yeah! Like the first time Mason showed it to me, I was crying after —not like bawling (laughs) but just feeling so proud of Mason for that song. And just being touched by the song too. And being so excited to be able to make that more than just him on the acoustic guitar playing.

Mason: Yeah, I would say probably the same songs. Drawer’s really personal for me [because] the lyrics are about my brother; he passed away. So that’s something that means a lot to me and resonates a lot with me. That’s maybe one of the most personal songs for me. And then I would say Nails; it slowly became my favourite song. It’s certainly one of the most adventurous conceptual things I’ve written as a cohesive song. And it reflects on a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about a lot, like modernity, and religion, and kind of the contrast between those two things.

Josh: Yeah, I hate to say it but those two [songs] are my favourite too. Drawer is just a special song. That’s just such a good, beautiful song. And then Nails is also my favourite because that song is just such a rocker. And it was really a great thing to work on with playing the bass. I found myself being really creative with that one which I really like; like pushing more. Lyrically too, it’s just awesome.

My favourites off of it are “Unlatched“, “Waiver” and “Skin”!

Kirk: Skin was one that after I got into the lyrics, I really liked it. Not that I didn’t like it before but sometimes playing in a band, you need that other thing to change the song to get you into it.

Josh: I love that you love Waiver. I’m a Waiver apologist. I love that song. They never want to play it!

Oh really? So you’re kind of sick of it?

Mason: Maybe, I don’t know what it is.

Kirk: I don’t think we worked on it that much.

Josh: To me, it just felt like a punk song. And I love hardcore punk, like Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, all that stuff. And it just reminds me of that. That’s why I love playing it.

I love the concept of a YouTube album release. Whose idea was that? What was the reasoning behind it?

Josh: I find when I’m listening to a song from an artist, that’s one experience. And then when you listen to the song with its respective video, it’s a whole other experience. Often times I find it an even better experience because as a fan and viewer, I’m able to connect with the artist or band on a different, more personal, visual, and artistic, level. And it just makes me appreciate the music even more.

Kirk: That was my idea. So, I really thought a lot about: How do you get people to listen to music? Basically, everyone’s thinking about this with everything. ‘How do we make the new [whatever]?’ That’s become the new boardroom question. And being in Journalism, I see it all the time with ‘newspapers are dying’ [and so forth]. So thinking about this, my last band put out an EP just onto Bandcamp. And not many people really listened to it. Even friends that I know like my music and respect me as a musician to want to check out a new project, I don’t even think it really hit their radar that much. And so, I was like, “Okay, your Bandcamp link shows up on Facebook, and you click play then you keep scrolling on Facebook. Especially when it’s a more “hard” song, that’s not that nice to be [listening to when you’re] just scrolling through Facebook. But if you give [people] a visual, then they’re going to stay on that post. Especially if you make that visual bigger.” So that was really the [idea].

And also, wanting to film it live off the floor and not have to wait around for mixes as long as you do when you’re actually going in the studio. Knowing it would be a more expedited process and wanting to showcase the band as a live unit. I knew that this band, especially as a three-piece, was best enjoyed as that. And so, while we could record stuff, it would have been fun to put it down in the studio and really take our time, but part of this too is just the transparency of just showing us playing the music. And there’s mistakes and stuff like that but whatever. I never looked at something and have been like, “Oh that was perfect, that’s why I like it”. I like it because of everything else. You know? And so, all those points brought together of just wanting to put something out there that has a bunch of different aspects to it and that people actually hopefully watch.

Mason: Yeah I think when Kirk explained it to me it made total sense ‘cause it made me kind of reflect on myself critically as a consumer of music. And I’m really bad for putting something on and then scrolling through Facebook forever and then I’ll just exit out of the tab and I’m not [even] listening [to the song].

I always think of Drake as being one of the smartest music marketers. And I think the reason he does that is because he has really got it down to marketing to a millennial fan base where people are so quick to move onto the next thing and memories are so short they aren’t going to give [songs a full listen]. Opposed to someone like Kanye, who can only do what Kanye does because he’s Kanye. But it’s not like a glacial speed. It’s not an album every five years. There’s a hit now, and then there’s a hit a month later, and then there’s a mixtape. It’s such rapid succession.

So, I guess what I mean to say by that is that you need to rethink how you’re marketing music. And I think when [Kirk] pointed that out, I was able to look at myself and say “you know, when I do watch music and I really am engaged with music it’s because I can visually access it.” So I think it was a great observation and it was really fun and we got to work with our friends. And it was a cool studio and good band experience.

Kirk: I think it really pushes you too because we’re going to be doing these songs live off the floor. There [isn’t] going to be any going in on Pro Tools and changing those parts.

Apt613: And where can people find you online?

Kirk: Only YouTube. That’s part of the YouTube thing [we were talking about]. If someone likes your Facebook page for your band on Facebook, that doesn’t really matter. Because Facebook makes it so hard for you to get notifications from people. You have to be paying. Well, if we have one Facebook band page, that’s only one place where the link exists. But if we’re each sharing it and then friends are sharing it from that and so on and so forth, then it’s coming to the same audience, if not more.

Mason: It’s almost an attempt to subvert that kind of cyclical distribution process of “Oh, we’re this new band, Like me on Facebook” or “here’s the new band, [we’re] up on Bandcamp”.

Kirk: YouTube’s not going anywhere in my mind. If you only have Youtube, anytime you link that, people are going right to the music. They’re not going to some page and then something else. They’re just going to see Maritime Bleach and you can see all three of us. There’s not really much else to know about the band. I mean, if you want to know us super personally, that’s just going to eat away at you until you  can come see us and talk to us or something.

Check out Maritime Bleach’s YouTube page.