A Conversation with Survivors of The Kraken

Allan Furtado, Brian Decoteaux, and Justin Marra, better known as the Alt Rock power trio ‘Survivors of The Kraken’ [Providence, RI, USA] have been making music together in one form or another for two decades. Their new single “Tattered Baggage” is streaming now. We spoke with Justin Marra [guitar/vocals] for this interview.

What initially sparked your interest in pursuing a career in the arts for those who may not be familiar with your background?

We knew other bands in our scene that were getting signed and playing on tours with established acts so « making it » seemed attainable. I don’t know that I ever thought of this as a career though until very recently. I’m an introvert, being in a band, being a performer it’s a great way to interact with people in a controlled way. I’m up here playing music, you’re out there listening, and in 20 minutes to an hour maybe we’ll have something to talk about…There’s this picture of me, five or six years old standing on the landing of the staircase in my parent’s house and I have this Mickey Mouse guitar and microphone on a stand. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love music, where it didn’t excite me, but my parents were reluctant to let me play an instrument. I was fourteen or fifteen and finally got my first guitar—just a rubbish department store kind of thing—it was barely playable, but there was no going back at that point. Everything else, sports, hobbies, etc. ceased to exist for me.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your latest single?

“Tattered Baggage” is a genre bender, which maybe isn’t the best idea for your first single, but we’ve never fit neatly into any categories. It’s a little shoegaze-y with this big guitar solo that would probably fit better in a song from “Live”. I’m biased, but I think it works. I almost exclusively played fixed bridge traditional guitars, and I bought my first offset and really fell in love with that tremolo system. It gave me permission to try different styles of playing and different effects, and really experiment with space and time in the music. The notes you don’t play are as important or in some cases more important than the ones you do.

What themes or emotions are explored in this song?

There’s a longing—for the past, for different circumstances, for another go at it—to this song. It’s been suggested on more than one occasion that I can be somewhat of a downer or pessimist, but I maintain I’m one of the most hopeful people I know—to see things as they are and still get up and do the things that sustain and inspire me isn’t always easy, but the alternative is not preferable. I think you can hear that in this song.

How does this single fit into the larger narrative of your music career or your upcoming projects?

We started loosely playing music together again in 2012 and we wrote a couple songs over the years, but “Tattered Baggage” was a musical fresh start. It definitely influenced the direction and sound of what comes later in terms of style and using time and space in our songs. In the past we were more loud and fast, and we’ve experimented with blending and bending styles and genres. The sound of this song sits in the middle of the other songs we’ve crafted

Could you describe the creative process behind this single, from concept to production?

I had the melody and guitar bits and an idea for the lyrics by the spring of 2021, but it wasn’t working. I took that back to Allan [Furtado- bass] and Brian [Decoteaux-drums] and we worked on it in Allan’s garage working out the rhythm. Our writing process is a little like an improv game where we ‘yes-and’ passing ideas around trying to impress and compliment each other until we arrive at something…This song—along with all the others that we’ll release in the coming months—was created in a really special way. It’s the way records used to be made. We recorded everything to 2” tape and then mixed down to 1/4 inch. It’s all analog. Our friend and producer Andy Davis [subModern Audio, PVD, RI] has this really amazing analog studio. We would show up and tinker a bit and then demo something immediately on to tape. So the record was written in the studio over the course of like a year. When you can’t go into the computer and stretch and tweak and fix something, when you’re limited in the number of tracks, it forces you to play a certain way and to make very strategic, but also creative choices you may not otherwise have made…It was invaluable to shaping this song and our record.

What can listeners expect to experience or feel when they listen to this track?

This song was written during the lockdown of the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic. There was so much uncertainty, loss, nostalgia, and longing for—well just about everything—but I think there’s a hopefulness and a knowing to this song that eventually we’ll be on the other side making music together again, that this isn’t an ending, but a beginning.

Are there any interesting stories or anecdotes from the recording or writing of this song that you’d like to share?

We started working on “Tattered Baggage” in the summer of 2021 and I suffered this freak accident while making an iced latte at home for wife Elise. It was a major injury requiring surgery to my fretting [left] hand, I almost lost the use of my index finger. I chose to get a local anesthetic instead of general anesthesia so I was awake—listening to Foo Fighters— through the whole thing. No pain, but I could feel them pulling on tendons and ligaments as they stitched the insides of my finger back together; It was wild. I’m lucky to still be playing. So six months of healing later we started work on it again and what you hear is from our first formal recording session.

As an artist, can you identify three key traits that define you?

Driven—I have a brain that has its own running soundtrack; they’re not songs I know, or songs I’ve heard before, or songs that I can always communicate. Making and sharing music helps to quiet that. Persistence—I’m more methodical as opposed to prolific. Levity—As a band we’re making things we want to hear and having a grand time doing it; the feel of something is more important than any musical rules.

What can we anticipate in terms of your upcoming projects?

Our next single “Dying on the vine” is out 12/22/23 and our debut record “Amid Life Crises”comes out March 15, 2024. It is a really special record—I’m biased of course— it’s the record I wanted to listen to, but no one else was making, so we had to make it. It’s an emotional and musical rollercoaster that grapples with loss, aging, belonging, but ultimately resilience.

Where can our readers find additional information about you and your work?

Our website is survivorsofthekraken.com, we’re on instagram @sotkband and our music can be found with most digital retailers or on our band camp survivorsofthekraken.bandcamp.com