by Jasper West

Marlin’s Dreaming: Oddly Familiar

by Jasper West

Marlin’s Dreaming: Oddly Familiar

Following a successful Australian tour in 2023, Ōtepoti-born-and-bred indie stalwarts Marlin’s Dreaming have been back in the studio working up a fresh sound and direction for their forthcoming album ‘Hirl’, an onomatopoeia word for wind. Introductory single Hello My Dear is a raw and intimate story of a stagnant artist in an ever-changing world, as Jasper West reveals. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.

Headed by vocalist Semisi Maiai, Marlin’s Dreaming also includes, De Stevens on guitar, Hamish Morgan on drums and bassist Oscar Johns. Maiai wrote Hello My Dear with his much loved Suzuki Hummingbird (Lawsuit era) on his lap.

“It’s been banged up and played for years by someone else, acquired by me sort of four years ago and banged up some more. It just feels like, you know, well-worn, like it wants to just be noodled on,” he fondly explains.

Hello My Dear came together like a jigsaw puzzle, he recalls. Recorded by De Stevens and Paddy Hill at a rental property in Wānaka, the song was mixed by Justyn Pilbrow

“I had a small chord progression going with a few scribbles of lyrics and then De, who plays guitar with us, he helped build the chorus chord progression and kind of gave a place for the song to go and come back to. So yeah, it took quite a while to build, but once we got there, it all made sense.”

Close mic vocals and claustrophobic drums in the verses paint a sonic picture that mirrors the lyrics. ‘I’ve drawn a blank… I’ve fallen through the cracks… Your face has not appeared.’ In stark contrast, the chorus breathes space and a wide room into the mix as the artists exclaims they’ll fly away to a different place to hide. Maiai has noted previously that he is not a big fan of reverb.

“When I first started making music I was all about it. I just wanted reverb on everything. I think that was just learning how to play music and learning what reverb did. It’s funny because I have taken a real 180 degree. I think by nature, it creates distance. The way that we tried to track things was definitely an intimate thing, and I think reverb doesn’t help with trying to create that environment,” he laughs. “By nature reverb creates distance.”

Although Maiai reckons personal influences like Brian Eno and Pavement don’t cross over much into his music, he admits listening to underground acoustic guitar legend Robbie Basho which, for those familiar, can clearly be heard in the acoustic parts of Hello My Dear. A slightly more Americana-tinged sound is also evident on the track, however, though not from inception.

“I was writing a lot of songs on the acoustic, and we were also sort of starting to bring in slide and tremolo swelling chords into the mix. And yeah, it sort of changed the sound a little bit. I think also like listening to, and taking reference from some Blake Mills [he’s an American guitarist and producer; Alabama Shakes, Laura Marling, Sky Ferrara, Fiona Apple, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell – the list goes on!] stuff, which is fairly Americana as well.”

Concluding the song, a pulsating arrangement of strings fleshes out the space left. As it turns out, these are expertly produced guitars layered on one and other to trick the ear. It’s an uncomfortable sound but perfect choice. 

Getting his start in directing and editing videos by making skate clips with his friends as a young lad, Semisi has produced multiple music videos for his band. The video for Hello My Dear  is a piece of cinematic art unto itself, which sets an unmistakeable backdrop for the track and really helps the listener to extrapolate what the lyrics mean. Shot on Gillies Ave in Tāmaki Makaurau suburb Mount Eden, in a huge, lonely and cold weatherboard house, the set took weeks to put together and according to Maiai.

“It ruined me!” he smiles ruefully.

The video either portrays an artist in three different stages of their life, or three different generations of artist in one house, something Maiai admits to purposely keeping ambiguous.

“It just stands for an estranged artist who is probably living with some regret and feels that they don’t really want to engage with the outside world and have been doing that for a long time. The video is trying to raise the question of who really is this man in the house? Is it the older man? Or is it the man that you see who’s real and who’s not?”

This question is firmly pitched by the last camera angle between the hallway and bedroom, displaying two lives years apart but connected through an unmistakeable feeling of regret. Marlin’s Dreaming’s fourth studio album ‘Hirl’ is set to release this winter, and will be their first full release since 2021’s extremely well-received ‘Hasten’.