- The Big Friendly Corporation
Ryan and Melissa Marth grew up surrounded by music. Their father, a guitarist who played with Elvis Presley, the Rat Pack and in the Folies Bergere orchestra, met their mother, a lounge singer, through a mutual musician friend. Their older brother, Tommy, would go on to record and tour as The Killers’ saxophonist. “There were also instruments around,” Ryan remembers. “As a kid, one of my favorite toys was an old Wurlitzer electric piano with an old Moog satellite on top of it. We used to turn that on and make weird noises.”
These days, Ryan and Melissa have a second musical family: their band, local indie-pop quintet The Big Friendly Corporation. What started as a way for Ryan to play and record his own songs has evolved into a collaboration in the fullest sense: All five members—Ryan (guitar) and Melissa (keyboard), bassist Timothy Styles, guitarist Jeff Ford and drummer Mike McDonald—are involved in the songwriting process, and Styles, Ford and both Marths take turns on lead vocals. Mostly, Ryan explains, “It’s just about playing music with our friends.”
The Weekly caught up with Ryan Marth for a few more thoughts as BFC prepares to unveil its third album, Nocturne, at a Saturday-night release party at Artifice.
Having started the project as your personal songwriting outlet, how do you feel about the way it has evolved?
I think it’s great. Having more people bringing more things to the table makes us a better band. I don’t need to be the center of attention all the time.
The release notes Styles sent us claim Nocturne was initially intended as “a love triangle between a guy, a girl and a Ripper-esque murderer during the early 1900s.” Is he being serious?
That was an idea of his, but we never got around to making all the songs about that. Instead we ended up with a very loose concept that most of the songs are about nighttime, things that happen at night.
This was your second time recording with local producer Brian Garth. Is it more or less difficult to work with someone you’re friends with “in real life”?
I’d say it’s easier. You can anticipate what the other person is gonna say or what they’re gonna want. There were a couple of times on this one where we could anticipate suggestions he might make and be ready to say either, “No, that’s not what we wanna do” or, “Yeah, let’s try it.”
You seem happy playing music with and for friends on the local scene. Or are you chasing something bigger?
I don’t think so. If you’re gonna get signed to a label, it’s not like it used to be. There’s no man with the big cigar and the Cadillac offering you a huge advance. It’s lots of hard work. You’ve gotta get your own van and hit the road. We’ve all got careers now and families, and it’s just not feasible. So no, we just really love what we do and we’re just committed to making music. We intend to write and record a lot more in the future.