After the dissolving of post-hardcore outfit Therefore I Am, Brian Marquis set out to do what most musicians do following a band's end – continue writing music. While he's certainly been busy as a solo artist, including recently releasing a covers EP, Marquis has also put a lot of effort and time into being the producer of the newly created Acoustic Basement at this year's Vans Warped Tour. I reached out to Brian as he prepared to head out for the beginning of Warped Tour, mostly to talk about his thought process behind the creation of the Acoustic Basement, but also to talk a bit about his solo work as well.
How did the idea for the acoustic stage come about? How did the idea get worked in with the entire Warped lineup?
It was just an idea I tossed around in my head for a while as I was thinking about where I fit in musically. After my band Therefore I Am broke up I still wanted to remain part of the punk/alternative community, whatever you want to call it, but playing solo acoustic I didn't want to go down into the mainstream singer songwriter oblivion. I came to the realization that there were a lot of musicians like me that had been in punk, hardcore, indie bands and were now playing more stripped down solo acoustic music as well as a bunch of singer songwriters that existed in that community as well and I thought it'd be cool if that community was represented at something like Warped Tour. I had done Warped in 2009 and loved the experience, the crowd and the people that put it all together and I wanted to be a part of that again. I had just moved to Los Angeles in October of 2011 and met up with Kevin Lyman to talk about job ideas and this idea just kind of came out and Kevin was into it and asked me to see who'd be interested in my idea. I hit up a bunch of guys I knew that might be into this like Anthony Raneri, Koji, A Loss for Words and everyone was really into the idea. From there Kevin hired me to produce the stage and put it all together as well as perform on the stage. It was one of those "wait, really?" moments and from there it's been full steam ahead. I'm very excited and honored to be given a chance to not only do what I love but also be a part of putting something like this together and to be a part of something bigger than myself.
There are many bands that are playing both full band sets and acoustic sets. How do you feel this heightens the connection to fans that many of these growing bands already have and bring it to a setting like Warped?
I know a lot of these guys personally and they love what they do but they don't think of themselves as rockstars or anything but there are a lot of young kids at Warped who look up to these guys. For fans to be able to sit right up in front of them without a barricade, security guards and a high stage and then be able to talk to them right after their set and buy merch directly from them is a pretty cool and intimate experience and I think it'll be great for the connection they will make with new and existing fans. Fans will also get a second chance to catch some of these acts if they happened to miss them earlier in the day or missed them for some other reason which is pretty cool. I'm sure you'll also be getting some interesting set lists and cover songs at the acoustic basement so that'll make it even more special for the fans.
There are a lot of artists doing one or two day stints on the stage. How does that flexibility help showcase artists in different ways? Any particular reason to some of them only doing shorter runs?
Since this was the first year we are doing this stage we had to make sure our budget made sense and we didn't have the space to take on a lot of acts and groups with more than one person in them so I reached out to some great acts that I knew locally around certain cities to see if they'd be into coming out for a day or two and all of them were more than happy to do so. I think this will bring a freshness to the stage having new people on every couple days and it's also a lot easier for some of the acts to do just one day. Warped Tour can be a very grueling and expensive tour to do on your own so it worked out for everyone. It also helps give me an idea of who might be good for next year.
What was the process for deciding or selecting bands to be a part of the stage? Any bands you would have hoped to have that maybe would have been a bit out of the ordinary due to scope or not being on the tour?
I basically made a huge "wish list" of band and acts that'd I would love to have on the stage and just started going down the list. Some bands were a bit too big at this point for the idea of this stage, some had prior tour or other band obligations but loved the idea and a few weren't interested because they were more focused on playing full band. I really wanted to get my friends Dallas Green and Anthony Green out there but both had other plans so hopefully down the line we can do something together. Luckily, I was able to get 80% of the acts I had set out to get. I knew some of them personally from touring with them or meeting them throughout the years so that was where I started, people I had already known. There were no set guidelines for choosing the bands other than I wanted to get people who were really doing great stuff on their own or aside from their main bands and had a passion for playing acoustic and solo. People who really connect to their audience and have good ethics about the way they produce music and treat their listeners.
Therefore I Am played Warped in the past. What made you want to return to that environment as a solo artist with this stage?
I love Warped Tour. I've been to probably 8 total at this point and I remember going to the first 3 Warped Tours and just falling in love with the mix of bands, the energy, the crowd. The summer Therefore I Am did Warped was the best. There's just nothing quite like it. What's also so amazing about it is the people that make it all happen. You tour with almost 700 people and a lot of them become family. You share a bond like you've been through war together and those friendships carry on. Now I have family in every city I stop in whether I'm visiting, playing music or working for another band and no matter how much time has passed you still have that bond because you've been in the trenches together, in the best possible way.
As far as what you're going to be playing, what can we expect to hear? Anything in particular you might be inclined to play a cover of?
I'll be playing most of the songs of my 'Snow Damage' EP as well as a new tune and some cover. I'lI be releasing a 6 song covers EP right before Warped Tour and on that I covered a handful of songs that I had really enjoyed playing live over the past year such as: Ryan Adams' "To Be Young", Thrice's "Digging My Own Grave", Lucero's "Hey Darlin Do You Gamble?" and more. So you can expect to hear some of those and maybe a few others. We shall see!
I have to ask, is there any chance of translating Therefore I Am songs into acoustic stuff?
Not at this point. The thing with Therefore I Am was the lyrics were very intense and personal to our singer Alex Correia. I'd feel a little weird singing them without him for that reason. But who knows, maybe Alex will show up on his motorcycle and play a tune with me...
What made you want to do this as a part of Warped Tour as opposed to perhaps doing the tour along the lines of Where's the Band, The Revival Tour, etc.?
I felt like those tours were great and had their own vibe and that Warped Tour was a whole other animal that could be a cool setting with a built in audience that was excited, curious and into checking out new and different music. That's the beauty of Warped Tour, it's got a little bit of everything. That being said, I'd love to expand this into a satellite tour that goes during the year with artists from the past and upcoming year on it to help promote and further that community vibe. We'll have to see how this summer goes first, I don't want to get ahead of myself just yet. But I have a good feeling about this stage and hope this will become a staple.
Warped Tour has generally been known for bringing bands with perhaps smaller followings in front of bigger audiences and giving them the chance to gain exposure. What are your thoughts on the suggestion that the acoustic stage does the opposite of that?
Just like any stage on Warped I believe you get what you put in. I don't expect thousands of people to crowd the Acoustic Basement tent but I feel like anyone who comes into the tent to check out an artist will very likely enjoy ALL of the artists on the stage because it's the only themed stage on all of Warped Tour. Many people have even said they could stay in the tent all day and be satisfied which is pretty cool. It's not meant to be the biggest stage but it is meant to be the most intimate. You know what you're getting into when you come into the Acoustic Basement whereas other stages can do a 180 in genre from act to act. I think it'll be a stage that most people will stop by at some point during the day even if it's just to sit in the shade of the tent and not be blasted by double bass. It doubles as a chill zone and I'm betting will be very popular when it rains...which it will at some point haha.
Do you believe that there is a want from the crowds at Warped for this to perhaps become a reoccurring stage for the festival?
So far the response has been extremely positive to both the artists I've chosen and the idea of the stage so we'll just have to wait and see how it goes this summer. Only time will tell but I feel pretty confident that we have something good going on here and I'm only getting started.
What are some things you are particularly looking forward to outside of the acoustic stage?
Spending time with my brother Shawn who plays bass in the band Vanna. This will be the most amount of time we will have spent with each other since we both lived at home in 1999. So that's really awesome for me, especially since I live across the country now. I'm also looking forward to seeing all my friends bands like A Loss for Words, Four Year Strong, The Ghost Inside, Transit, Bayside, Senses Fail, Man Overboard, I Am the Avalanche. It's really cool to be on tour with so many great old friends and a lot of bands that I've met over the years of touring. It's going to be a Masshole takeover! Hopefully I'll be able to catch some of their sets late in the day after my stage is finished. I'm also looking forward to the catering from which is the best and healthiest I've ever eaten! So good. Not to mention all the amazing people that work production for Warped and that work for all the sponsors, labels and non-profits that I've become friends with. I'm gushing now haha, Warped is a big family love fest.
You can check out and download Brian's covers EP, entitled Beneath the Cover is Earth, for free here. Be sure to catch Brian all summer on this year's Vans Warped Tour.