Marriage At Nevers: “Telescopes”

 by Laurie Gallardo

This is one of my favorite albums of the year. Rather a bold statement, but the self-titled debut by Marriage At Nevers pierced my dark heart with jagged arrows splitting all the right morbid ventricles. (High praises from the self-proclaimed “elder goth.”)

Album artwork for “Marriage at Nevers”

Before the pandemic, Shawn Jones (The Lovely Sparrows) and Minneapolis music artist Derek Van Gieson (Witch Watch, Murder Shoes, An Atlas For Disappearing Youth) had been mulling over their latest creation in Jones’ Lockhart, TX studio, followed by placing finishing touches on tracks via socially-distanced “electronic sorcery” until it was time to bring in vocalists Dana Falconberry and Doris Blade for their outstanding contributions.

The album is perfectly haunted, reverberating with bits of ’80s darkwave/gothic shimmer, experimental machinations, and curling into the darkest folk corners. And now, KUTX premieres the Van Gieson animated video for the LP’s opener, “Telescopes.” Recently, I chatted with Jones and Van Gieson about the video, and how the band and the album came together.

Scroll down to watch the video premiere of “Telescopes” from Marriage at Nevers

LG: Tell me the tale of “Telescope.” In its brief moment as a video, it managed to crawl beneath my skin – in the best way. The animation is wonderfully eerie, and, if I may be allowed to do a callback, it’s reminiscent of artwork I became attached to through The Lovely Sparrows.

Derek Van Gieson: “Telescopes” is the last video of the album release campaign, and the only one of eight spots done in black and white. While it does mirror the lyrics to a large degree, there were plenty of details to fill in. Things like time period, fashion, location, etc. I’m fond of drawing women with crazy big hair and neo Victorian garb, so I was in my element with this one.  And of course, there’s the creature element. Shawn and I share a love of the strange and supernatural.

The music was written first and then the lyrics second. Usually, I’ll fill up a few pages of spontaneous phrases and word association until a key phrase or line reveals itself. When I discover the story, I save the line and tinker with the rest until all the events have played out theme wise. I think that line for this one was the first line- “It’s up to me, what I must do with you”. You can go anywhere with that. I chose a sea monster/alien exploitation angle.

If the artwork looks familiar, I’ve done most of the album sleeves for The Lovely Sparrows.

Shawn Jones: Actually, he’s done all but one!

LG: You mentioned that Marriage At Nevers began in the studio. What do you feel was the impetus, the inspiration, in putting it together?

DVG: My last band was about to break up and I needed a change of scenery. I flew down to TX with a handful of songs in various states and we began hatching something that we knew we had to revisit.

SJ: Me and Derek have always shared a love of very specific pop culture references, spooky shit, and the Smiths vs. the Cure debate.

LG: Shawn, how long have you known Derek? And what inspired the project name?

SHAWN: I’ve known Derek for a good while now. He did some real oddball art (still does), and I was a huge fan. I had a feeling he was a fellow David Lynch lover, and I was right. I hit him up to do Sparrows album art, thinking he wouldn’t even respond. This coincided with a gig I was playing in Prospect Park, where he lived at the time and he came out to the show! We ditched the people we were supposed to be impressing- and wandered back to his studio where he made some mean hot toddies and showed me what he was working on. We were fast friends. 

DEREK: I pulled the band name from the Grove Press edition of Hiroshima Mon Amour by Marguerite Duras.  I’m a sucker for doomy tragic romance.

LG: Tell me about getting Dana Falconberry on board! And where, oh where did you find Doris Blade??

SHAWN: So, me and Dana have been friends for a very long time. We both like to say we met in our early  awkward, gawky small house party days, where we would avoid people and mostly play with the host’s dogs. Since then, we’ve shared the bill many times, and shared band mates- but never truly collaborated. We hung out quite a bit more since we both moved to Lockhart, but it took COVID and this project to make a recording happen. She’s always been a good sport for my hijinks, so I told her about this project- promised to pay her in the finest of Bries and Gruyères, and she generously agreed! All of her vocal arrangements are 100% her, she really made them her own and the songs are all the better for her being on board.

DEREK: When I came to TX, I didn’t really have a plan for vocals, I just knew I wanted to record. As fate would have it, Shawn and I ran into Doris Blade at a record store in-between sessions. Shawn knew Doris from his Austin days and asked her what she was doing. She happened to have a few hours to kill before going to a party in town and she laid down some tracks very quickly. She’s a real pro, I couldn’t believe how brilliantly she killed it.

LG: Will there be more videos in the future? And…what about a feature-length story? 

DEREK: Shawn and I were talking about taking things up a notch for the next album, so I’m sure we’ll increase our visual game as well. I have some wacky ideas I have yet to tell Shawn about!

LG: As the pandemic hopefully subsides sooner than later, do you see live performances in the near future?

DEREK: There’s an element of wrangling involved, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out. I’d love to!

SHAWN: I am definitely a fan of the live show. I think probably as we work on the next album, and as Covid slows down a bit- we will figure out a way to make it happen!

Marriage At Nevers is available via Bandcamp.

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