Friday, 18 November 2016

An Interview With MARSICANS ~ 10.11.16

Marsicans are a real jewel in the shimmering crown that is the Leeds music scene. They're talented, charismatic, and their instantly recognisable blend of charming and unique indie-pop is a real treat for the ears. The band (frontman James Newbigging, bassist Rob Brander, guitarist Oliver Jameson and drummer Matthew McHale) have been together since their high school days, and those years of experience show; their live performances are nothing short of breathtaking and in terms of chemistry, I've yet to come across a band who are so perfectly in tune with one another as they are. Their 2014 debut EP 'The Chivalry EP' was quirky, fun and packed full of feelgood tunes that leave you with a smile on your face and with the recent release of 'The Absence EP' they've taken their music in a completely new direction, resulting in a different and somewhat more mature collection of songs to add to their already impressive back catalogue.


This Summer, they were invited to play the BBC Introducing stage of the legendary Glastonbury Festival... a dream for most up and coming bands, I'm sure. The months following have seen them touring relentlessly up and down the country, thus increasing their already substancial fanbase as well as promoting their monumental new EP in the process. On the 10th of November, the band played a sold out show in the main room of Leeds' Brudenell Social Club, and I was able to talk to them beforehand and find out a little more about what Marsicans are all about...

How did you all meet? Obviously Rob, I know you weren't a Marsican right away, but did you know the guys before you joined the band?
James: Me, Cale and Oli met at school, we did GCSE music together. We decided to start a band, and here we are!
Oli: We started playing in assemblies and stuff, and then we started playing at some of our favourite venues in Leeds every other week or so... and then Rob joined in!
Rob: Essentially, the planets aligned... James and I were living together and writing together, and I just ended up being in the band.
James: It did kind of just happen, but all the best things do I guess!

Now I know this is a really generic interview question, but where did the idea for the name come from? Because I tried googling 'Marsican' and the only thing that comes up is a rare species of bear native to Italy called the Marsican Brown Bear...
Oli: That's it! You've cracked it.
James: It's the bear. We were trying to think of a band name... we were on the internet looking at animals and stuff like that. There was this bear and it said Marsican at the side of it, so we thought that was a cool word. We looked into it and there's only about 50 of these bears left.
Oli: They're just rapidly dying out...

I'm by no means downplaying your previous releases, because you know I think they're great, but 'The Absence EP'- the title track in particular- has a real maturity to it, and I feel it is incredibly different from your older material. Was that change in sound something that you'd planned, or did it just happen naturally?
James: We just grew up! It kind of was concious, but we didn't realise till after we'd done it.
Rob: The things that we write about change, and we change as people. With the Chivalry stuff, I think when the guys were writing those songs they were 17 or 18 year old kids where as we wrote The Absence EP throughout university. That whole EP centres around the notion of being away from loved ones... family, girlfriends... we all went through that, so I think that is where the maturity comes from. It's more adult-like emotions.

I'm really interested to hear more about your creative process because I don't think there's another band out there quite like you... you have a very recognisable sound and image, and I can imagine you have your own way of doing things too. Generally, do the lyrics come first or is it the music?
James: That totally differs from song to song. In general, either me or Rob will have an idea, kind of flesh it out a bit, then bring it to the group and we'll work on it together. Whether its lyrics, melody or chords... it's totally different.
Rob: 'Arms Of Another' literally started from the first lyrics 'a parisian parting of lips,' just because I liked that and I thought it was cool... so I decided to fabricate a story around that, which is the only time I've ever really written in that way. Sometimes you can just have chords that you think are cool, or some kind of melody that you'll be whistling when you're on your way somewhere. Our mobile phones seem to be the way that we capture everything. James and I will be constantly texting eachother or he'll be on a bus singing into his phone and he'll ask me what I think of it. We wrote the chorus to 'Absence' stood on the street, really drunk outside of Oporto in Leeds... James just said he had this idea, so we were there at 3am absolutely freezing and just singing it to eachother! So there's no process really, it can be whatever... but there is always one factor that inspires the rest of it, and it snowballs from there.

Has music always been a part of your life? Was it listening to certain bands and artists growing up that inspired you to want to make music, or something else entirely?
James: I did always love music, but I didn't know till I was 11 or 12 and started playing guitar that I knew I could actually do it. I watched School Of Rock and that made me want to be in a band! 
Rob: It's funny because a lot of people from our generation watched that film and then wanted to be in a band. But my mum and dads' record collection was the first music that I ever listened to. But we all bought our first embarrassing Pop CD's... I had a Five CD...
James: My first cassette was Afroman, 'Because I Got High'...
Oli: I had Dido's album... depressing album, but I loved it.
Cale: I liked 90's Dance and Trance stuff, just compilation CD's or illegally downloaded...
Rob: For me, the first time I properly knew I wanted to be in a band was when my brother started a band and I went to their first gig. Obviously you never think your siblings are that cool, and after that I was like 'Wow, look how cool he looks now.'

You played Glastonbury this year... what was that experience like?
Cale: We got announced for it by BBC Introducing, which we were elated about. We found out we were playing the Sunday, and so realised we had to be sort of sensible on the Friday and Saturday and be responsible with our voices! It was nuts! We just went exploring on Friday and Saturday, got lost in lots of random places...
James: When we were in crowds and one of us was singing, we'd tell them to stop it and save their voice.  
Rob: I had white jeans which I had in a polythene bag, and literally just before we were going on stage I put them on and then took them off as soon as we came off stage!
Oli: I only had one pair of jeans and by Sunday they were really muddy, so I spent that morning baby wiping them! Then I stood on some concrete flag thing and the mud went all over my sock, so I had to change my socks last minute to the ones I'd had on the day before and ended up wearing odd socks... and I got lost on Sunday night. Lost them all!
Rob: We'd all been drinking post set, which was like 1 o'clock in the afternoon. When it got to evening time, we just turned around and Oli had gone.
Oli: We were going somewhere together and then I lost them! I spent an hour trying to find them, then took my backpack full of beer and went to the hippy area and ended up just sitting there with a bunch of hippies and fell asleep!


You've been doing a lot of touring this year... when you're on the road, is there anywhere in particular that you always look forward to playing?
Rob: London was crazy this time. We turned up and there was about 300 people there, which we did not expect nor deserve. It was one of my favourite gigs ever. So yeah, I'm not sure what's happened there but people in London think we're a good band.
Oli: We're really looking forward to playing in Scotland, because that's not somewhere we've played before.
Rob: Basingstoke is always fun, and we've got some really good friends there. They booked us for a show last year, and now every time we go down there we have a really good laugh.
James: Manchester and Sheffield are always good. To be honest, they're all pretty good! It's just fun.

I'm sure that music takes up much of your time, but what else do you like to do?
Cale: I play chess a lot.
Rob: Cale has got loads of weird hobbies! Dog walking, Xbox, skateboarding badly... I don't even know what I do when I'm not doing music. I just watch Louis Theroux documentaries and sleep, and that's literally it.
James: I have something that I've been doing, but I haven't even had time to do that recently... I've been trying to learn Japanese. We've got a pretty much entirely free December, so I'm going to get my head down! I'm trying to learn all of the characters first and go from there.
Oli: I take some photos every now and again, that's something I do when I'm with the band as well.
Rob: We like to play football at the service stations where the trucks are supposed to park! That's our group hobby!
Cale: I watched a video on how to grow a colony of ants, and how to get the Queen to lay the eggs. I haven't done it yet, but I want to...

Do you all have day jobs outside of the band?
Rob: If we didn't, then we would die of malnourishment. My day job is to look after disabled people. I've been doing that today, one of them is coming to this show and he's buzzing! So shoutout to Joe.
Oli: I work in the kitchen at Pizza Hut.
James: I work in a pub, serving pints to people. We all only do it for 2 days a week though!
Cale: Once a year, I'll do a garden. Landscaping.
Rob: You know snakes when they eat one meal and then they don't eat anything for three weeks... Cale's like that with money. He'll do one job, get a big sum of cash and just live off it.
James: We've seen his work and it's great. I recommend him.
Rob: It's expensive, so he can live off it for the year. You could remortgage your house instead! Charlie Dimmock, eat your heart out...

Christmas is just around the corner, and one of the best things about this time of year is the music. So what would the Marsicans Christmas playlist consist of?
Oli: Last Christmas is my favourite Christmas song.
James: White Christmas is mine.
Rob: I quite like that Coldplay one! Writing a Christmas song must be hard work... we're gonna do it one day, it's going to be a smash. One hit wonder! We can live off it for the rest of our lives, like landscape gardening...
Oli: It's gonna be called Landscape Gardening (Christmas). 

If you could each choose one song from your back catalogue of music so far that you're particularly proud of, what would it be and why?
James: It's gotta be Absence. It's something different for us, and it took us a while to get it how we wanted it
Oli: Yeah, Absence for me too.
Rob: I'd probably go with Absence as well. I once wrote it down on a setlist without the S so it was Abence...
Cale: I like Far Away.

Finally... what's next for Marsicans?
James: We've got a gig, then another two gigs, then we're off straight into the studio to record.
Oli: Then we will be in the Netherlands, we're going to do a little tour over there... and then we'll have a new single coming out pretty soon, next year.
Rob: Single out, then tour pretty much straight away.


It's the track the band say they're most proud of, so heres' Marsicans performance of 'Absence' from this years Glastonbury Festival. You can purchase their new EP via iTunes here.

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