It’s easy to make a song about a tragedy sound gimmicky and to not come off as exploitative is an extremely hard act to pull. Making a super-serious song an exciting listen to is an even harder act to pull but has been done: Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”, CES Cru’s “Wall-E”, and RA The Rugged Man’s “Uncommon Valor”. However, more often than not, the artist or artists involved sound like they’re just trying to cash in off the sadness.
¡MAYDAY!’s “Marathon Man” is an exception to the norm. The song’s fictional and narrative take of on the bombings of The Boston Marathon is stylishly executed, respectful of the subject and calls for no overt attention to the event itself. It would be easy for a lesser group of artists to take a song dealing with this tragedy and fall extremely flat, but with “Marathon Man”, ¡MAYDAY! crafts a subtle and deeply metaphorical song dealing with the event which turns tragedy into an instantly-relatable testament of willpower.
We talked to Wrekonize, Bernz and Gianni Ca$h to get their perspective on the making of the song, what it means to them and their thoughts on the tragedy itself.
BERNZ We wrote it for the Boston Bombings. It was all kind of done deliberately. That track was done in a very quick time, maybe a week, a week and a half after the actual bombing.
WREKONIZE It was me and Bernz in a room and I told him I wanted to speak on that, but we always have that tug of war when something happens like a tragedy or a current event that is widespread, mostly tragedies. It feels weird to make music about it because a lot of times someone goes out and makes a song about it and it’s super-hokey or very gimmicky and just doesn’t feel right at all. It’s very “Hey I’m going to put this on YouTube today so it gets like a bunch of hits because it’s about a tragedy that happened yesterday!”
GIANNI CA$H I was in the studio with them when concept ideas were getting thrown around. The lyrics were written right around the time the Boston bombings happened. It was a no brainer to elaborate on the matter – it’s an ode to the victims and survivors.
BERNZ It’s just who we are, we like to talk about relevant shit – and that affected us. We try to just be as sincere as possible with the subject matter. We’re not trying to sensationalize anything, it’s already pretty fucked up as it is.
WREKONIZE Violence for no reason. I don’t like seeing innocent people get blown away for no reason. That’s totally senseless, but it’s always going to be there. I’m not one of those “We need to turn it around!” kind of people. I think the world’s always going to be like that.
BERNZ: We also found a parallel between the Boston Marathons and everyday life, the rat race that we’re in. We’re all in this marathon and we’re all just running from bombs trying to get to that finish line. So we found parallels in that to our lives and it just kind of came to be.
WREKONIZE We were throwing around the idea and talking about the thing that happened and we were like “What if you were there and you were running in that race? How crazy would that be to run in a race and bombs go off and people are getting their legs blown off around you?” There’s a deeper meaning or a metaphor there that no matter what you want to run that race and finish that motherfucker even though you’re being attacked. You went to run that race and you’re going to run that race.
That was the vibe of Marathon Man: “Conceptually, let’s do a song about someone who’s running that race and all hell breaks lose without having to do the whole ‘It’s a tragedy!’ song. Let’s do some poetry about it.”
GIANNI CA$H To me it symbolizes longevity. Through thick and thin, we most continue to be strong and march through the difficulties of life while holding our head high and not letting these disasters affects us. That’s why we must treat life like a marathon. There’s a “Marathon Man” in everyone.
WREKONIZE: I like songs where you could piece it together if you were really listening, and at the same time if you didn’t know what happened it would still have meaning to you. Anyone can relate to the subject matter in Marathon Man knowing about the bombings or not and it did happen to stem from that. I could’ve gone off record and said “Oh, it’s not about that at all” and just said that it was coincidental but it really was from around the time that it happened that we wrote that song. The concept just fit the beat so good and the vibe worked so well for it.
BERNZ To say that we try and be a mouthpiece for social issues, I would say no. I think what’s funny is that we try and be that happy, fun, party band, that’s what we try and be and just because of who we are in the process, some of these more serious kind of things tend to just make their way to light with us. I just think because we’re good at talking about that kind of shit for some reason. Our intentions are always to have fun. That’s what ¡MAYDAY! is. We want to give people a reason to chill and have a good time but at the same time we live in the same world that everybody else does and I never want to make anything that’s not relevant. How many fans you get and how many sales you get, that’s always going to change, but when I do my art I always want to make sure that it’s relevant. I think the album does that.
BERNZ The beat was made by our friend Ralfy and Infamous. Ralfy is is someone who played on [Tech N9ne’s] “Fragile” as well. He’s a really amazing bass player and guitarist. We loved the track.
WREKONIZE We had already known the dudes forever. They know our sound, we know theirs, and it just felt super-organic and super-natural. It wasn’t like “Let’s go and work with some other people!” Even though we were feeling like we wanted to expand. With them it felt like we already know them like family already so it’s just like “Hey, let’s make some music.”
We had the beat slightly before [the bombings] happened but hadn’t started to work on it yet. We just played it a couple times and was like “That’s dope. Let’s work on that for sure. We don’t have any ideas for it yet but cool.” Around that same time the bombings happen and it wasn’t like we worked on it the next day or anything, but by the time we came back around to work on that record it was still fresh in the mind, like that week or the week after.
BERNZ It’s an eerie beat and we always like to dabble in the blues and I feel like that song is our attempt at fucking with that.
GIANNI CA$H It has a Black Keys vibe laced with some raw hip hop shit.
WREKONIZE The crazy thing is is when you hear the track it sounds super-¡MAYDAY! though. It feels like they nailed the composition really well. When we heard it, that was the first thing I thought: “These are some producers we haven’t worked with on a ¡MAYDAY! project before but they are so in the zone.” They got it. We loved it when we heard it and it also filled a void that the album didn’t really have either.
BERNZ We wrote that song pretty fucking quick. It’s got singing in it so for the most part so that’s not as hard to write in terms of lyrics but the hook we had really fast. The song came about in about a day. It was a really fast song. The guitar solo took us a little longer to put on just because we experimented with a couple different solos and stuff like that.
WREKONIZE The guy Ralfy who produced it is an incredible bassist and really good guitarist as well so we knew that we could have him play a solo on it and kill it. Gianni had a whole vision for how he wanted to lay it out and arrange it and have effects and he had the whole vision. I have to give him the whole credit for that.
GIANNI CA$H Once vocals were in place, we felt it needed to end with a bang. so i geared up and met with Ralfy. I said “Yo, I need a banging ass guitar solo!” so he grabbed the guitar and gave me a three minute solo. I took this back to the ¡MAYDAY! HQ and chopped it up, consolidated and arranged it to a minute or so.
It was a task that needed to be perfect. You can’t just chop it up and slap it together. It’s a guitar solo so it needs to flow up and down the fretboard perfectly, making sure the notes make sense and don’t jump from one extreme to another. I also used a couple of vocal drops from the hook and verse, delaying them to layer the background up a bit. I had NonMS play a heavy cymbal throughout the solo to build tension. I love how the arrangement came out.
BERNZ We wanted the guitar to talk to you too.
WREKONIZE It’s a highlight of the album for me because I just love that Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin-esque thing. It wails. The guitar takes you on a whole ‘nother journey but after the lyrics. You could hear the song without the lyrics but still have a story within that guitar, which is dope. I want more of that shit! I love that shit.
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