At any given Marshall McLean show, one of two things will usually happen.
McLean will either be onstage alone, just him and his guitar for a sweet acoustic set, or he’ll be supported by his band for a rousing, dancing-shoes-required type of show.
McLean is very aware of this division, but instead of working to make his Northwest Americana rock shows more uniform, the Spokane transplant is using his latest project – Marshall McLean and the Holy Rollers – to make the dichotomy in his music even more pronounced.
The band will play its first show on Saturday at the Bartlett.
McLean began toying with the idea of the Holy Rollers as a way to add a new element to his music while highlighting the fact that he’s always played music with a rotating crew of friends in various projects.
“I never want things to get stale,” he said during a recent interview at Vessel Coffee Roasters mere hours before the band’s first rehearsal. “I love making music with the people I’ve played with but there’s always a point where you hit it and you’re like ‘I’ve heard this song so many times.’ I didn’t get into music to do the same thing.”
Though he appreciates the power that comes from acoustic shows, McLean also likes to make noise, which is where the Holy Rollers come in.
“When there’s a show where it’s Marshall McLean and the Holy Rollers, it’s going to be a louder show,” he said. “It’s going to have a different crowd … I think this is a good way to really solidify the polarization of what I feel like my music is already doing on its own.”
McLean isn’t too concerned about throwing listeners for a loop, because he understands he has two sets of fans.
At solo shows, he’ll inevitably be approached by fans who wished his band was with him, and at full band shows, he’ll no doubt hear from fans who wanted McLean to take the stage himself.
“Instead of trying to please both groups of fans, it’s a great way to flip it,” he said. “I’m thankful enough that I have great fans. It’s cool that I have two different avenues to go down.”
Marshall McLean and the Holy Rollers features both new and familiar faces.
Fans of the Marshall McLean Band will no doubt recognize Justin Landis on electric guitar, Jesse MacDonald on drums (Caleb Ingersoll will fill in when MacDonald can’t make a show) and Jamie Frost on pedal steel guitar.
New to the crew is Michelle Miller, playing synth and singing backup, Matt Mitchell (Folkinception) on keys and Max Harnishfeger (Cathedral Pearls, Water Monster) on bass.
“I’ve worked with Max over the years and he’s always been a good friend of mine,” McLean said. “We’ve always passed each other with different projects and wanted to be more involved so I finally reached out.”
McLean said the band’s name lends itself to the idea of a rotating lineup and sees the Holy Rollers as a way to let fans know there’s a good chance they won’t see the same show twice.
“It also allows me to try things out, to experience something that we haven’t and to feel something that we haven’t,” he said. “Sometimes you have to put a new ingredient in.”
A fixture in Spokane since moving from Montana in 2006, McLean has become a resource of sorts for others hoping to launch careers of their own.
He usually finds himself grabbing coffee and talking shop with aspiring singer-songwriters and recently participated in a Base Songwriting Workshop facilitated by Scott Ingersoll.
But McLean doesn’t consider himself to be a veteran by any means and chalks his presence in the local music scene up to persistence.
With that persistence, and the support of a community that’s always willing to lend a hand, be it through buying concert tickets or writing songs together, he’s hoping he can contribute even more to the sound of Spokane.
“I’m just getting started and there’s so much more music to be made,” he said.
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