weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Vegas indie rockers The Big Friendly Corporation find ‘life after tragedy’

A chorus of birds chatters loudly nearby, courting a projectile.

“Should I throw something?” Melissa Marth asks, The Big Friendly Corporation singer/keyboardist wondering aloud if she should dispel the chirping by scattering the source.

“No, it’s happy,” counters bassist/guitarist Jeff Ford, seated poolside with the rest of the band at Marth’s eastside home, where Big Friendly rehearses. “It’s springtime.”

This is the season of rebirth, of renewal, the cycle of life coming full circle. As such, the setting suits the subject matter at hand: Big Friendly’s stunning new double album, “Carry On, Carrion,” an artistic and emotional triumph where sadness, anger, longing and resolve are so deeply felt, you can’t help but feel them, too.

The inscription on the back of the record underscores where so many of these emotions were mined: “This album is dedicated to and inspired by the life and death of our brother and friend, Thomas Christian Marth, 11/23/1978 to 4/23/2012.”

Five years ago, in the same place where Melissa Marth and her brother/Big Friendly singer-guitarist Ryan Marth currently sit, their sibling Tommy Marth took his life.

A fellow musician who played sax with The Killers, Tommy Marth was a beloved figure in the Vegas music scene, and his passing predictably sent shock waves through this community.

“Carry On,” which features a wide range of contributions from more than a dozen Vegas musicians, is a true group effort. Musically, the album’s a stunner: suffused with gorgeous melodies and multipart harmonies that buoy tunes densely packed with an abundance of instrumentation and texture, the album’s a kaleidoscope of voice and song. Nearly everyone in the band contributes vocals on tunes that span gutsy, synth-powered indie pop, ruminative garage rock, stirring Americana, even the stray near-industrial soundscape, all brought to life via a warm, organic-sounding production courtesy of guitarist Andrew Karasa, who recorded and mixed the album.

Lyrically, there are songs of love and dashes of whimsy, but ultimately, the record revolves around the Marths wrangling with their brother’s death.

“It acted almost like a diary of our grieving process, the emotions change with every song as we were processing everything,” Melissa explains. “We didn’t force lyrics to come out, ‘OK, we’ve got this melody, so let’s write a song now.’ We thought about what we wanted every song to sound like and to be about.”

There are times when these feelings manifest themselves in wistfulness.

“I wish I could send this song straight to you back through time / So when you see how much you’re missed, you’d change your mind,” Ryan sings over whirring synth on “You’re Gonna Miss Out.”

But at the same time, there’s no romanticizing the hurt they’ve all felt.

“It’s an ugly thing that happened,” Ryan says. “To try to sugarcoat anything would be a disservice to everybody.”

To wit, “The Best Is Yet To Come/We Lost You,” which follows “You’re Gonna Miss Out,” is blunt, graphic and stinging in its candor.

“Found you out back in your chair / With your brains sprayed everywhere,” Melissa sings on a song that startled some of her bandmates, initially.

“Even I was like, ‘Maybe we should cut this song out. It’s a little too much,’ ” drummer Brandon Johnson acknowledges.

They kept it, though, after some deliberation, because while shocking, it’s also unflinchingly honest.

“We wrote it and we were fine with the lyrics,” Melissa says, “and then I came back and I was like, ‘You know, Ryan, I think that’s a little heavy, our parents are going to hear this and it’s going to be really upsetting for them.’ Ryan got angry and started banging on his chair, like, ‘No, I know it sounds filthy, but this isn’t a romantic situation; people need to know that it’s not beautiful and poetic. It’s a dirty, gross thing that happened.’ It was a real, true place that we were at in the process when we wrote that.”

And so while “Carry On, Carrion,” which the band will celebrate with a release show Saturday at The Bunkhouse, may be a record about loss, it’s also about survival, reconciliation.

“There’s life after tragedy,” Melissa says.

This is what it sounds like.

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)