The Marble Index moves beyond the garage

For its self-titled debut of 2004, guitar-rock trio the Marble Index headed to England to record with producer John Kettle (Moco, Tuuli). For its latest CD, Watch Your Candles, Watch Your Knives, the band stuck around its Hamilton hometown and imported British knob-twiddler Scott Shields to man the console. Multi-instrumentalist Shields had been a member and coproducer of Joe Strummer’s band, the Mescaleros. “He was pretty well versed in what he was talkin’ about,” ?explains Marble Index guitarist-vocalist Brad Germain, on the phone from Steeltown. “He’s good at arranging, and he’s good at tempos.”

With Shields deciding what went where, and at what velocity, Germain—along with bassist Ryan Tweedle and drummer Adam Knickle—laid down 12 originals that move beyond the basic garage-rock stylings of the debut. “The new CD’s not so frantically paced as the first one,” cites Germain. “We wanted to flesh out the songs a little better and make sure they were more focused.”

Taking a cue from Black Sabbath, the band borrowed the title from a phrase in a book on the occult. “If you think your children are getting into the dark spirits you’re supposed to literally watch your candles, watch your knives, ’cause if they go missing it means that they’re starting to perform rituals,” explains Germain. “So it’s kind of a warning for parents if they think they’re losing their children to rock ’n’ roll and to the counterculture.”

Concerned parental units might want to shield their impressionable offspring from the subversive vibe of “Same Schools”, an indictment of the conformity bred by the educational system. “It’s not like my school experience was any worse than anybody else’s,” notes Germain, “but in Ontario they tend to cut everything out except for what they think is important for you to learn, and not necessarily what you want to learn. Maybe it’s a little more liberal in B.C. as far as the arts are concerned, but no matter what school you go to around here, you’re goin’ to the same school.”

Germain survived the oppression ?of the Hamilton classroom and is doing just fine as the 27-year-old frontman for a band that’s enjoying heavyweight distribution by Universal Music and recent tours to the U.K. and Germany. “Germany was really good because we played a lot of festivals and got to meet a lotta bands,” he relates. “Hangin’ out with TV On the Radio and Massive Attack was pretty cool.”

The Marble Index has also gotten a career boost from Zellers, which used its new song “All That I Know” in a back-to-school TV ad. The big-box retailer had previously licensed music by Joel Plaskett and the Golden Dogs to sell its goods. “It seems like they’re into promoting Canadian music along with their products,” says Germain. “It’s good, because you get a little bit of dough, and it helps us to keep goin’ and focus on the music.”

The Marble Index plays the Plaza Club on Thursday (December 14).