Marielle McLeod: Vocals, violin, Accordion, Bells
Benjamin Dueck: Bass, Vocals
Genres: Indie Rock/Emo Band
Mabel's Flight is a 5-piece Indie Rock from the suburbs of Winnipeg. These quirky and talented kids are definitely taking the scene by storm! Since their debut performance in January at the United Fiver, these 5 have left a lasting impression on the Winnipeg community. I was very excited to meet Marielle and Ben and was really caught off guard by how eloquent and knowledgeable they were about their music. They know exactly what they want and how they're going to take it!
Ashley: How long have you been playing?
Ben: We all grew up in the same area, and we have been playing together in various bands for four years. We all met in high school but Mabel’s flight has been [together] for about two years. We had our performance debut and the Uniter Fiver in January and that was the first time we had a show, we had only been jamming for a few months before then. Since then we have just been playing and recording
Marielle: and working on our EP.
Ashley: Where does the band name come from?
Marielle: It’s actually a somewhat interesting [story]. There is this show that Cam and I had gotten into called Gravity Falls and the band name came from one of the episodes where the characters break into this store. The character Mabel found these old bags of candy, ate them and got kind of high from them. She then imagined this thing that turned into this bird and then she started riding it.
Ben: Also no one in the world has that name so it’s really Google friendly. When you search ‘Mabel’s flight” you actually get us. That was a main thing too.
Ashley: So why did you decide to start playing together?
Ben: We come from a quiet suburban area and we didn’t see a lot of music around us. I think I read somewhere [that the area where we are from] has the oldest average age in all off Winnipeg. So obviously there are not that many young bands are happening there. To combat that we got together and we tried to create what we wanted in the area, which was a music scene. We are pretty much the only band,that I know of, that’s all from [that same area]. We didn’t see music around us so we wanted to create it.
Marielle: Also,I guess growing up listening to music we were all just drawn to [it] and that was something that was unique in the suburb we live in so we ended up bringing us together.
Ashley: What is a practice or jam session like with the rest of the band?
Ben: Well usually Cam – the front man – or Marielle will come with a demo of a song. Cam writes his music on an acoustic guitar and he will have his lyrics and a rough melody [ready]. He’ll bring those to the practice and we’ll work together as a band in arranging and composing the songs. Cam will play the demo and we’ll jam out ideas for a long time. We find that songs come naturally, you can ‘t force it. Sometimes songs will come in an hour and sometimes it will take weeks. There are things that separate the skeleton of a song to a full-fledged, developed idea that are very subtle. It’s not something you can pinpoint but when it works you just get it. It’s pretty much just a matter of doing things over and over again and trying new ideas.
Ashley: What is the most stressful part about being in a band?
Marielle: For me it’s the fear that the music won’t come out in the best way possible.
Ben: It’s hard to get your band to sound, especially when you’re recording and you don’t know what you’re doing, you usually sound when you’re playing. It’s hard to convey that message. Especially in Winnipeg considering how many good bands we have. When you first get into the scene it’s almost disheartening because there are so many good bands. I think it’s pretty saturated market in Winnipeg and it’s hard to stand out. It’s just a cultured city so for me [the most stressful part is] standing out.
Ashley: So what do you try to do is stand out?
Ben: We have a pretty diverse array of influences, we all listen to different music. Obviously we are influenced by our city bands like Yes We Mystic, Royal Canoe andGreek Riots, those are some of our favorite bands. We are an indie rock band mainly but Marielle is trained in a lot of different instruments like accordion, bells and violin.
Marielle: We do have this sound that sounds like other bands that people have heard of but there is also this mesh of different genres in our music too. Our keyboard player, he was really into pop music and I was really into baroque music so there are a lot of different colors of every different genre.
Ben: We aren’t trying to sound like another band, it’s all of our personalities coming through. Marielle with her instruments, Cam has his R&B, and then we have more of an intense punk and rock influenced rhythm section.
Marielle: I think part of it is really we end up writing relatively heart-felt songs. I almost feel like we are really talking musically, if that makes any sense.
Ashley: So does Cam do all the songwriting?
Ben: Most of it, Marielle writes some songs as well.
Ashley: So what is your songwriting process like?
Marielle: I tend to like layering a ton of different sounds in my music. Usually I’ll end up coming up with a melody and record it on my phone; but my phone is really crappy so it will end up really distorted and if you listen through it, it will have these overtones and like I will start to imagine different things [coming from it].
Ben: Cam and Marielle’s songs are very different. Marielle definitely has a composer mind so she’ll usually come with an idea with how the songs would sound and it’s just a manner of translating it to us; where as Cam comes will just the skeletons. He has a more earnest style of songwriting.
Marielle: Yeah, he’s really lyrical.
Ben: If you can’t play a song on an acoustic guitar and have it sound good, it’s probably not that strong of a song. We try to make sure the melody and the chords are strong before we layer things out.
Ashley: That’ s really interesting! It’s cool that you have two very different styles to work with! So then with the band, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
Ben: Well we just released our first EP on Bandcamp called Bedroom Fire and we had been working on that pretty much since we started and we finally [released it]. It took a long time but we are very proud of how that turned out. And the songs go over really well live. Out keyboard player’s dad has his own studio so we were very lucky. We are hoping to do an official release this summer, but for now it’s up on Bandcamp where you can name your price and download it. We are so very proud of it.
Ashley: I wish I could do that, I’m kind of a chicken when it comes to sharing my music. What is performing your music like as a band?
Ben: We have a very interesting dynamic because we all just pretend we are in different bands. Cam is not your traditional, flamboyant singer. He’s understated and likes the songs to speak for themselves while he is off to the side. Our drummer and I are very energetic people so we have this hyped up staged presence. So our shows are trying to balance our personalities. I find with a lot of bands their songs are melodically good or lyrically strong but they don’t have a sense of momentum. We try to make it sound like our music is going somewhere.
Marielle: Yeah and keep it interesting. You don’t want to come up with a song that’s going to repeat exactly the same. You want it to have [and keep] someone’s attention on it.
Ben: We try not to talk very much live, we try to play as much as we can. We try to keep it fast paced because no one really wants to hear your sad self-indulgence unless you’re brilliant.
Ashley: What advice would you give to beginners who want to do the same thing as you and start a band?
Ben: Just focus on the music because that has to be the most important thing. You can only get so far on mediocre songs so practice as much as possible especially when you are in high school. When you get home at 3 o’clock and you have nothing to do for hours, practice as much as you can and make sure you play with as many people as possible. What sounds right will fall into place the more you play. So just put in the hours.
Marielle: and definitely keep an open mind. Accept ideas even if you come up with something that sounds like crap. Some of the simplest ideas I’ve come up with I find are the most successful.
Ben: Also there is this common misconception that success is a constant upward trajectory but it really ebbs and flows so working through the tough stuff and not breaking up too.
Marielle: Be interested in yourself. Don’t try to be interesting for other people because if you don’t love your work it’s going to be hard for others to love your work.
Ashley: How do you find people so you can play as much as possible?
Ben: We were really lucky to have the United Fiver to kind of get us in the right scene especially when you are a new band. [In the beginning] your image of the music scene seems like a really exclusive club but Winnipeg has this super open [community]. I think the main thing is even if you don’t have people to play with, just going to shows and start getting your name out there, people will start recognizing your face and come up and start talking to you. That’s what we did, we just went to shows and we talked to the bands after they played and asked them where they started and where they practice. That’s the main thing; just supporting the scene and it will come back to you if you do that. Being visible.
Ashley: Before a performance, what do you do when dealing with nerves?
Marielle: I have a pretty ridiculous imagination so when I’m practicing I’ll imagine the show and it’s weird because sometimes if I screw up while I’m practicing I’ll actually feel embarrassed. On the show you know you just want to forget there are actually people there and just enjoy yourself.
Ben: Once you get up there, if you practice enough, it should come back to you in muscle memory.
Ashley: What is your favorite song to perform live?
Ben: My favorite song is the title track from our EP Bedroom Fire; it’s my favorite song. It’s the song we close our shows with and it’s six and a half minutes long and has two time changes in it. It’s probably our more Arcade Fire sounding song. It has this really simple chorus that anyone can sing along with. It’s very important to write a song that’s easy to sing for everybody, I think.
Marielle: For me, it’s a bit hard to choose. My favorite might actually be Playground because I did write it so I have a slightly different interpretation of it. It has chunks of my life that have inspired it. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s years within 5 minutes and I experience it all in such a short amount of time.
Ben: Yeah, Marielle’s songs have a very strong sense of imagery.
Ashley: How is it balancing this commitment to your band with everything else?
Ben: It’s hard sometimes, it always seems that things line up on the same day like school and work or practices. Even when you can’t get all your band members together, just trying to have consistent practices. Even if it’s just running over stuff you already know just keeps your polished and motivated. It’s really just time management. We try to set up at least a day or two a week so whoever can make it shows up and we work on songs. We also send stuff over the Internet, that’s a big thing, emailing each other demos because we can’t always be in the same place at once. We need to rely on the Internet.
Ashley: What’s the best advice you’ve heard since you started working in the music business?
Ben: Just remembering, music is at its heart is an emotional affair. I can’t remember who told me this but no matter how hard you practice, and I think this is something that music schools needs to teach you more, but you can be the best musician in the world and practice all day but it’s that emotion that connects people. You just need to focus on being conscious of what emotion your song is trying to convey because that is the universal part of the song that brings people together. Just trusting your gut and that’s what makes it a great song.
Marielle: Definitely what Ben said, a huge part of the song is the meaning. You can have a song that’s well written and people want to buy and like it, but when you hear a song that really does have a meaning in it it is really a feeling within.
Ben: The thing that separates a good some from a great song is the emotion. We aren’t the best players in the world but we pour our hearts into it and I feel that really comes across.
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