Marina Orchestra
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Marina Orchestra

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
Band World Rock




"Marina Orchestra's "Oceans""

Rating: 5 out of 5

Tropical dance trailblazers Marina Orchestra could arguably be considered one of the best rising groups from Knoxville, and rightfully so. After listening to their debut album, “Take on the Silence,” you should expect nothing less with this second album, “Oceans.”

If you happen to already be familiar with Marina Orchestra, then the quality of their newest album should come as no surprise to you, and if you aren’t yet a fan of the group, then you certainly will be after listening to this release.

Justin Powers, creator of this eclectic sound, has honed in on his talent and provided listeners with perhaps an even more refined release than their first release. They have taken the styles and ideas of world music and translated them into a tropical indie-rock sound that absolutely anyone can enjoy. The unique vocals of Powers combined with the sugary sweet vocals of his female backing and the island flavor of the group’s instrumentation make this an album you can’t forget.

They have a sound you can’t easily replicate and one that you can’t very well relate to any type of music out there today. At the same time though, it’s a sound that is so appealing that you wish there were more musicians out there creating this type of music. Theirs is a fun sound, but it is also one that allows you to understand just how much thought and dedication has been put into creating each of these songs and making them as irresistible as they are.

From the beachy excitement of “Oh Baby” to the dreamy softness of “Field of Dreams,” Marina Orchestra takes you through every possible mood you could wish to have on an island vacation. Although some of the highlights of the album include “Mississippi,” “I’ll Send For You (Two Oceans),” and “Body Language,” you can find pleasure through any of their 11 flawless tracks.

Just like at any of their live shows, the energy and excitement they relay within each of their songs is infectious. If you have the chance to make it to a live show you’ll undoubtedly be delighted by how effortlessly they’re able to replicate the sound found on their albums, and you’ll be hard pressed not to find yourself dancing right along with the musicians.

The sizeable band celebrated their album release at the Pilot Light on Friday, Feb. 7 with fellow musicians CrumbSnatchers and PERSONA LA AVE, and they are currently preparing to extend their fan base by getting out of the Tennessee area as much as possible and introducing their sound to other states. - Blank Newspaper

"Marina Orchestra Takes on the Silence with Debut Album"

If you’re looking for a type of music that transcends multiple genres and continents – a sound unlike anything you have ever heard compiled onto a single album before – then Marina Orchestra and their debut full-length album Take on the Silence may be just what you’ve been waiting for.

There have been numerous bands over the years to incorporate the word “Orchestra” into their name - Manchester Orchestra, Dark Star Orchestra, and Electric Light Orchestra to name a few. But in this case, these guys (and gals) live up to their name. The “Marina” portion takes care of the tropical, summer atmosphere they bring to the table, and “Orchestra” lets you in on the immense backing they have behind their sound. The band is made up of a whole slew of musicians; seven of them contributed to this first album, but they bring in even more artists to help them out while playing live shows.

On paper, hearing that a guy with an apparent indie boy voice is the front for such a size-able band with deep island influence may seem like a stretch. But once it hits your eardrums you realize that they are able to make it work flawlessly. They start strong with the catchy “Talk of the Town”, continue solidly throughout the thick of the album, and finish just as impressively with “Music Like Thunder”. They have found a way to introduce a world music atmosphere into the indie realm, and in doing so have created something that is a perfect combination between the two.

The band set out to make a sound that everybody and their mother would want to dance to, and they have created nothing less than just that. It is almost impossible to not have the urge to get up and dance, or at the very minimum the impulse to tap your feet and bob your head, after hearing this music.

There is a lot of repetition of lines within the lyrics, although that doesn’t take away from any of the music’s intensity and in fact makes the songs catchier. It also makes it easier to start singing along to the songs. Because they don’t rely too heavily on creating complex stories to pepper their album, they are instead able to better depend on their elaborate instrumentation and equally impressive melodies to make their songs so memorable.

The album itself is all about music, right down to many of the song’s lyrics. They sing about everything from a man playing on the side of the street whose music is so good that people will be talking about the performance for years to come, in “Talk of the Town,” to “Midnight Tonight,” which explains the meaning behind the album’s title, Take on the Silence. He sings, “Takin’ it slow while the music is easy. Take on the silence, take on the silence. From the tops of the trees to the bottom of the salt seas. Takin’ it easy, takin’ it easy. And off in the dark where the music is sleeping. Take on the silence, take on the silence!” Their whole idea throughout the album is to replace silence with an abundance of music, and that is just what they have done.

Marina Orchestra has proved that you don’t need to live on an island in order to be able to create great, tropically-infused music that will plant the dancing mood deep into your soul. And they retain that same beachy, care-free mood no matter what type of turn their songs take. They’ve got a sound that is great via album, but one that would without a doubt expand tenfold at a concert where direct interaction with the music is possible. Marina Orchestra has taken on the silence by introducing themselves with a big bang. - Blank Newspaper

"Local band Marina Orchestra cuts a perfect summer soundtrack on new album"

Credit a musician born in Benin, the break-up of one of an eclectic East Tennessee indie-pop ensemble and a sense of general restlessness for the creation of one of the most refreshing new bands to come down the pike in a while.

Marina Orchestra, the brainchild of I Need Sleep veteran Justin Powers and 10 other talented, energetic musicians, celebrates the release of “Take on the Silence,” it’s full-length debut album, this weekend at The Pilot Light in Knoxville’s Old City. It’s a direct reflection of Powers’ personality and interests, he told The Daily Times this week, and the driving force behind the tropically tinged pop-rock is a relatively simple concept.

“I’m not a cynical person, basically,” he said. “I can enjoy some cynicism from time to time, but for the most part it kind of bugs me. I like people to enjoy music and have a good time. There should be no secrets, and you shouldn’t have to know anything to enjoy it. And I love it when people dance.

“I just went at this project from a very selfish point of view, almost. Music doesn’t need to be this big mystery, and you don’t have to be ‘in the know’ to like it. As far as our music goes, we just want you to lose yourself. The lyrics are a little bit cheesy, but you know what? It’s good. It’s not cynical, and it’s not trying to be cool. It’s not trying to be anything but fun and happy.”

Marina Orchestra got off the ground in 2010, when Powers and his I Need Sleep bandmates returned from the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and decided to call it quits. After a few months of working and not playing, Powers began to feel “cooped up,” as he calls it. At the time, he’d been listening to a variety of world music — African, Caribbean, South American, Cuban; and it was while listening to the Benin native Ignace De Souza that the concept of playing such music locally hit him.

“I realized I wanted to hear this music out loud, that I wanted to hear someone play it, and since I wasn’t hearing it anywhere around here, that maybe I should start a band that plays this music,” he said. “I don’t feel like there’s a lot of music made today that has the same heart as the music made in the ’60s, ’70s and even the ’80s, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to bring that back — of course, putting my own little spin on it. It can’t be just me loving on something; thee has to be a little bit of me in there, too.”

His original idea was to start a loose ensemble of street performers who would perform throughout the city; long enamored with street buskers, he called upon some of his old I Need Sleep bandmates, as well as veterans of other projects like Matgo Primo, and started small.

“The picture I had in my head was a couple of horn players, a guitarist, percussion and a bass; not a small band to begin with, but we just kept adding ideas,” he said. “Right now, we don’t even have a keyboard player, but there are keys all over the new record, so we could totally use one. But the flip side is that 11 people are too many. I would love to have more people, but I can’t.

“It gets to a point where you build a tower too tall and it just crumbles down. Really, it just started with me and Tim (Eisinger) on bass and Joel (Thompson) on drums, and we were just driving like that for a while. Then we need backup singers, and more percussion, and a horn section, and another guitarist … it could continue to go on and on, but I’ve had to put a cap on it.”

At the band’s first show, a dedicated group of friends came to support the group; the infectious nature of the music fueled word-of-mouth, however, and soon the offers came pouring in for Marina Orchestra. Rhythmic percussion, swaying beats, catchy melodies, lyrics that are easy to sing along to and a vibe that’s blindingly sunny have made winning over fans the easy part. The hard part is finding room on local stages to accommodate 11 musicians.

“I need Sleep was also a big band with a whole bunch of gear, but now it’s - The Daily Times

"Marina Orchestra ready to start the party"

Spawned from the ashes of I Need Sleep, Marina Orchestra finds its numbers expanding to encompass nearly as many players as it has influences. Two years into its existence, the band presently boasts an 11-member ensemble and shows no signs of stopping there. Born out of a perceived evolutional inertia in the dynamics of today's up-and-coming acts at the South by Southwest festival, Marina Orchestra aspires to increase awareness and interest in exotic musical styles from around the globe.

The band maintains some similarities to its predecessor I Need Sleep, which was comprised of a large cast (made up of many of the same members) and performed tropical music. While Marina Orchestra's catalog is predominantly tropical in nature, more attention is paid to the cultures that inspired it. The tropical themes offer a sort of escapism for its local, landlocked following that originated with founder/frontman Justin Powers listening to Hawaiian music on snowy days in his former Chicago home. The vision was furthered when Powers performed at I Need Sleep's final appearance at South by Southwest in 2010, noting the need to escape from the recurring styles and layouts of the festival's other rock acts.

"I remember feeling pretty overwhelmed with all the music we were hearing and how a lot of it — including ours — all started to sound the same," admits Powers. "There was one basic formula for bands repeated over and over. So I decided I wanted to make a band specifically designed to play on the street, sort of like a second line in New Orleans. I wanted it to be a giant dance party with horns and drums and loud choruses that everyone could sing along to. Obviously that is not quite what Marina Orchestra is today, but it is the direct decedent of that initial concept, and I consider every year of South by Southwest to be Marina Orchestra's birthday."

"I have always had a love of 'world' music — I use that term loosely because I loathe it, all music is world music — and I had recently stumbled upon an endless supply of out-of-print albums posted on blogs. These albums were from Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Congo, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, and Cambodia. Being sort of a sponge, I just began coming up with melodies and rhythms in these exotic styles as a result of completely immersing myself into those records."

Recognizing the necessity of physical bodies to deliver the intended vibe of these international tones and rhythms, especially in a live setting, Marina Orchestra has aggressively broadened its roster to represent adequate percussion and brass. Powers points out that while the enlarged band may eventually create logistical difficulties in regard to touring or simply fitting on smaller stages, Marina Orchestra can, if needed, perform at a limited capacity.

"The lineup additions are actually an ongoing thing," says Powers. "We have not replaced anyone, we're just expanding. Most recently we've added a second guitarist, a trumpet player and a trombone player. The arrangement of the songs is quite complex and has always called for more than we've ever been able to do live. These additions are helping to more fully realize the songs. Now we have 11 members, and yes, that is a huge pain sometimes. We're quickly outgrowing a lot of the smaller venues — but don't mind cramming onto one — and touring will be a feat, but it's all about the music. We're a party band; we want people to come to our shows and be overwhelmed with music, with horns, backup singers, congas and timbales. It all needs to be there."

Marina Orchestra has spent the past year writing and recording its debut full-length release "Take on the Silence" with brothers Jonathan and Fred Kelly of The Rockwells at Famous London Recording Studio. The band expects to wrap up the mixing effort this week and projects a coincidental, albeit appropriate, warm-weather release date by mid-summer.

"Every song on the album is about music," Power - News Sentinel

"Marina Orchestra Taps Into Decades of Global Music for Its Pan-Everything Worldbeat"

Before Rachel Gurley joined Marina Orchestra, she had never seen the band or heard its music. A friend directed her to YouTube, where the band had posted videos of its live performances.

“I was immediately like, ‘Paul Simon, Graceland,’” Gurley says. “That’s what I grew up listening to, so it was exciting. A lot of people are like, that’s odd, for a group of twentysomethings to be playing this music. But I don’t think it’s that odd.”

It’s not that odd, really—some of the most critically acclaimed pop artists of the last decade, like M.I.A., Dirty Projectors, and Vampire Weekend, claim music from Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and the Caribbean as major influences, and labels like Sublime Frequencies and blogs like Awesome Tapes From Africa have made decades’ worth of original folk and pop from around the globe readily available to Western listeners. Still, there is something novel about a nine-piece band (guitar, bass, drums, plus three backup singers and three additional percussionists) in Knoxville performing a ragged but enthusiastic—and funky—kind of worldbeat rock that absorbs inspiration from all over the world but doesn’t limit itself to strict imitation.

“Well, this is what I’ve been influenced by—a lot of internationally renowned groups, not necessarily Afropop but even Cuban and Caribbean and Latin American, that all had an influence,” says singer and guitarist Justin Powers, one of Marina Orchestra’s founding members. “But also more obscure ones—there’s a lot of blogs online with tons of really old albums that nobody listens to anymore. I’d eat it up.... I’ll come up with something at practice and pull out my iPod and say, ‘Play this beat’, and I’ll put it up to the microphone. ‘Just do that.’ Obviously we’re emulating, not trying to rip off. It’s meant as high praise. We’ve also started trying to get into our own thing. We play something called the Marina beat. There’s one beat that overarches everything we do. We’re definitely honing in on a certain style that’s our own.”

So far, the band has released only a self-recorded three-song EP, available as a free download at the band’s website, They have started working on a proper full-length album at Knoxville’s Famous London Recording Studio, owned by Jonathan and Frank Kelly, but that is turning out to be a complicated project for a nine-person band. Getting everyone together for practice is hard enough.

“We’ve been working pretty hard on those recordings,” Powers says. “It’s expensive and it’s taking a very long time.”

But they are learning through the process.

“I Need Sleep was the only band I’d been in before this,” Powers says. “I Need Sleep was just smashing stuff, basically. Now we’re trying to play something that’s—there’s a rock aspect to it, but it’s a little bit softer. It’s been an interesting experience holding back. It’s still energetic, but trying to tap into different motions than headbanging.... Jonathan and Frank from Famous London came over to practice one day—I had given them a compilation of some of the things I was getting into—and they were like, ‘Okay, you guys are all playing all your own separate things. These guys on these recordings are like one meta-instrument.’ I feel like we’ve learned a lot from that session.”

Even as they hone their sound, though, Powers and the rest of the band—Gurley, Joel Thompson, Tim Eisinger, D.L. Bergmeier, Scott Kapusinski, Andy Fagan, Alaina Smith, and Nichole McMinn—envision Marina Orchestra getting even larger.

“It’s only going to get bigger,” Powers says. “Most of the songs, I’ve written horn parts for, but we don’t have any horn players. I have put so many things on Craigslist or flyers around campus, but it just hasn’t happened yet.... That’s the music I want to bring back to Knoxville. I guess there’s a good amount of the whole spirit of all those recordings—the old ones and the new ones—that I just don’t feel is happening in Knoxville. A lot of positivity that we miss out on.”
- Metro Pulse

"Positivity in Knoxville: Partying with Marina Orchestra"

Positivity in Knoxville: Partying with Marina Orchestra

Much like many cities' club venues, the Pilot Light is a fairly cozy dive-bar style place (think simple fixtures, $1.50 Schlitz/$2.00 PBR cans, and a crowd of hip young people). Leah was feeling under the weather when the concert was about to begin, so we dropped her off at the hotel and doubled back in time to catch Marina Orchestra.

* Download a free 3 song demo at:

Seemingly only in existence for a few months, this was Marina Orchestra's first show of the year. They describe themselves as world music enthusiasts channeling an ethic of "positivity" to unite people through music and dance.

I describe them as a mood-driven, indie-rock party band -- and believe me, you don't need to see or hear them for longer than 20 seconds to figure that out. Me likey. Their setup for the night featured a lead singer/guitarist, a drummer, three additional percussionists, a bass player, and two female backup vocalists.

When they first took the stage, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. After the first song, I was making Vampire Weekend comparisons in my head (note: I am not really a Vampire Weekend fan), but by the second song, I was bopping in place among a sea of dancing bodies. To be sure, fans of Vampire Weekend would see clear lines to Marina Orchestra, but to be perfectly honest, I never really got into the Prozac-driven vibe of the band. Where Vampire Weekend can seem a bit chipper and minimalist, Marina Orchestra bring a party to the stage to create a fuller wall of sound and crashing, bumping rhythms.

Marina Orchestra's set (fairly short, given how new the band is) moved from lush Calypso-style beats layered with rock tones, to groovin' Ventures-style surf-guitar dance numbers. In spite of the seemingly diverse set, the band is clearly charting out a solid and consistent sound and tone in their music -- and it is decidedly upbeat, festive and danceable. For anyone that has listened to the party tones of the Go! Team or Architecture in Helsinki, Marina Orchestra might seem like a distant cousin -- strangely familiar, but different still. No wonder then, that they write this of their music: "the exoticism of foreign music is not the only influence for the group. An inherent sense of popular Western music makes their sound feel natural and familiar. It’s truly a crossroads brand of music only possible in this new age of communication."

But this still doesn't explain the party vibe of the band! The heavy use of backup female vocalists on every track, alongside the churning beats created by four men smacking around metal, wood, and plastic objects means a bigger party for the listener.... without being annoying.

Though it is early yet, we give a big shout-out to Marina Orchestra and encourage Megabus travelers to check them out in Knoxville or on the road! They are a tight, well-practiced unit with high hopes. We caught rumors of some potential South-by-Southwest appearances by the band this year and hope to see them traveling through D.C. soon.
- MegaBus Trips

"Anyone else heard of Marina Orchestra yet?"

I think the stalest thing in the world is music that impresses. I mean anyone can impress really, just get stuck in one thought pattern long enough and you're bound to make impressive leaps in sheep counting even. But what I think is hard, what I think is the real heart punch of music, is making people dance. You know how hard it is to make people dance even if they're drunk? It's crazy most people would rather pout then dance. They would rather fight then dance. They would rather spend one hundred dollars on a meal that's sure to collapse into the toilet a day later then dance.

I'm still on a Marina Orchestra kick, island music on the cornbread and milk train. Movement music, as in music that prods people into moving around foolish happy swinging their hips even when the whole room is looking. Four percussionist. One base player, one guitarist, and they've got some sort of awesome backup singers. Not just doo wap doo wah diddy wah doo, but actual counter singing that somehow highlights what the lead singer was just saying. Anyway they got the pilot light to shake it's collective ass so it's not just me, this group is in it somewhere.

Youtube has a video here, and while it's cool it really doesn't show off the band as they are now. The in the foreground background singers aren't there and I think the guys were still getting into their groove hats. Still even then there's a lot of something going on you now, a lot of sweat, laughter, and magic dancing.

Am I hinting that the Metro Pulse do a story on them? Me? Subtle??? *Pointing in the direction of the video* Big thing just starting out, lots of coolness in that visual and that audio might just give some scruffy magazine/periodical/zine/whatever it is now direction and ideas for a cool ass article on a cool ass band that might help win a cool ass award. - KnoxBlab


Demo: 2011
Take on the Silence: 2012

Oceans: 2014



There was once a house named The Marina. It wasn’t very large, or very well kempt, but it did have a very big wooden deck hanging off the back. It was such a big deck, that with little imagination one could picture a boat just come gliding up to make harbor. That house has since been completely obliterated in a boating accident, but in its heyday, it was home to Marina Orchestra. 

The “Orchestra” half of the name is derived from worldwide giants like Orchestra Baobab, Orchestre Poly Rythmo, and yes, even Electric Light Orchestra. All are groups that have heavily informed the musical styling of project founder, Justin Powers. Yet despite the shout-out built into the band name, Marina Orchestra has carved out its own unique brand of music that is now aptly called Trop n’ Roll.

Trop n’ Roll is call-and-response style vocals, ringing out over a driving four-on-the-floor kick drum, while a reverb-laden guitar strikes out a clave beat. Congas and shakers weave out poly-rhythms, Trumpets and Trombones punctuate the groove, and deep down beneath it all lives the melodic Bass lines holding it all down. It approaches Reggae without ever quite hitting it on the nose. It gives a nod to Caribbean Soca and West African Highlife without the guardrails to be labeled as such. It rocks out when it wants to, but always brings it back to that tropical sentiment.

Since its inception in 2010, Marina Orchestra has been on the move. It started in Knoxville, TN, where it quickly found a devoted audience that felt more like family. Encouraged by all the love at home, Marina Orchestra began touring the Southeast and Midwest, playing with such acts as Future Islands, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars, and Rubblebucket, all the while releasing albums “Take on the Silence” (2012) and “Oceans” (2014), as well as an EP “Wildlands” (2016).

In 2015, Powers relocated the project to New Orleans, LA and now has begun to release a series of singles beginning with, “Before You Walk Away” (2017).

Band Members