Rider Soran, Marshall Poole guitarist/vocalist: "When I came up with that name, I never thought we'd end up being in a Pink Floyd/Jethro Tull situation. But you're going to get that with a name like this."
Totems (Defendu Records, Nov. 2015) is technically the second full-length album by local band Marshall Poole, but members Michael Hoobery (drums), Melanie Radford (bass, vocals) and Rider Soran (guitar, vocals) would rather their first album disappeared into obscurity. We all look back at some of our youthful indiscretions with embarrassment but for Marshall Poole, the self-titled release-that-shall-not-be-mentioned was clearly a learning experience rather than a mistake, because the recently released Totems is more than just an excellent album—it reveals this group of engaging 20-somethings are mature beyond their years.
"We released that album back in high school," Radford said. "We were really young. It's just the way it is when you start off, but this is, like, our first band we've ever really been in. We've grown a lot together, and we've changed our style so much."
Hoobery and Soran have been playing together since middle school, but Marshall Poole was in its infancy when the band decided to release a full-length.
"We had only been together [as a band] two months when we recorded it," Soran said, a chuckle underlining his chagrin.
It wasn't the first time they made an impulsive decision.
"When Mike and I were first jamming together, we said, 'Let's be called Black Ice,'" Soran said. "Doesn't that sound like a band that plays Def Leppard covers? Then AC/DC released their Black Ice album [Columbia Records, 2008]," he added, sotto voce, "sold exclusively at Walmart. So we couldn't go with that."
Instead, Soran and Hoobery landed on a far more intriguing name, though from a much less likely source.
"There was a street sign in Caldwell with a cul-de-sac at the end of it," Soran said. "The sign read Marshall Pl. It's an abbreviation for 'Place,' but I honestly thought it was for 'Pool.' In his kid's mind, a cul-de-sac and a pool were just different names for the same thing.
"And they practiced all the time in a pool house," Radford added helpfully.
"So we became Marshall Poole. We put an 'e' on the end because an 'e' adds class," Soran deadpanned.
On the plus side, it's enigmatic enough to be interesting and raises a good ice-breaker question, usually directed at Soran: "Are you Marshall Poole?"
"When I came up with that name, I never thought we'd end up being in a Pink Floyd/Jethro Tull situation," Soran said. "But, you're going to get that with a name like this."
Rather than feeling like they dodged a bullet, the members of Marshall Poole are able to see in retrospect how youthful choices like Black Ice and recording an album too soon aided in their growth.
"We're definitely thankful for it because we learned so much," Radford said, with Soran adding, "Especially songwriting-wise. We ended up learning a lot."
Learning is something the members of Marshall Poole work at as much as they do their music. All three are students at Boise State University, and both Radford and Soran are majoring in music business. It's a choice that seems to already have served them well, since many of their decisions have been made from a practical perspective: They have a manager (Jennifer Orr of local businesses ORRiginal Promotions and Defendu Industries); they've thought about licensing; and when it came time to go record, they were well-prepared with Soran making detailed lists and planning songs out down to the note. They also recently brought on a fourth member, local keyboardist Seth Graham—although this last choice stemmed from emotional reasons as well as logical ones.
On songs like Totems' ass-kicking opener "Evil Eye" and inky rocker "Demon Dance," the keyboard oozes with a down-in-the-bayou, almost revivalist vibe, adding credence to why Marshall Poole's sound has been described as "Southern psych rock." The band took Graham into the studio and, Radford said, Graham helped out so much during recording, they all realized they wanted to work with him on a more permanent basis. Having Graham on board gives the rest of the band some breathing room, too.
"Being in a three-piece, you have to fill a lot of sound," Radford said. "Sometimes tones would clash." Radford found she had to simplify some bass lines when they played live, and Soran had to get a little more "treble-y" to avoid those sonic clashes, as well. Like little kids, Marshall Poole can't wait for Christmas—but for these three, it's because the time off from school will allow them to really dig into the "nitty gritty" of what it means to have Graham as part of the group.
"He's got a lot of soul when he plays," Radford said.
"He's an awesome guy," Soran said, making Radford laugh. "He can hang with us, which is the most important part, but he plays guitar, he plays keyboard, he sings, he composes. And he does woodwork," Soran deadpanned. "He's a renaissance man."