Music interview: Marsicans

Marsicans. Picture: Portia Hunt
Marsicans. Picture: Portia Hunt
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Marsicans are a jewel in the shimmering crown that is the Leeds music scene. Their instantly recognisable blend of indie-pop has gained them legions of fans – most notably Coldplay, who recently posted a link to their most recent music video on Twitter to their 19 million followers.

Last year saw them invited to play the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury, as well as relentless touring both in and outside of the UK. Suffice to say, Marsicans mean business.

I talked to the band – made up of James Newbigging, Rob Brander, Oliver Jameson and Matthew McHale – about their monumental experiences in the industry so far, and about their plans for the future.

How long have you been playing together?

Rob: The four of us, two and a half years. The three of them, longer.

James: Probably about seven years. We started out in GCSE music and just messed around together for a few years before Rob joined. And here we are today!

Marsicans. Picture: Portia Hunt

Marsicans. Picture: Portia Hunt

Rob: We thought we’d try and be popstars and see what happens.

Would you say your sound has changed much since your early days? If so, how so?

James: I think we’ve got heavier. There’s a lot more dirt going on within it!

Matthew: There’s a lot more melody.

A lot of people I’ve spoken to use the word diverse when describing it, because they think it doesn’t sound like your typical Marsicans track until they reach the chorus. I think I agree!

Oliver Jameson

James: Cale started out as a samba drummer so earlier on, it was very much influenced by samba beats and stuff like that.

Rob: It’s more vocal driven as well and there’s more thought going into harmonies and how we can utilise every instrument.

It’s only March but already you seem to have had an extremely busy tour schedule which has seen you playing to audiences far and wide. How do home crowds differ to elsewhere?

Rob: Not largely in the UK. We found from spending time in Holland and Paris that there’s more ease for a crowd to just get into the show. With a lot of UK crowds it seems like people wait for the first couple of people to start having a good time before they can. People often seem slightly scared to look like they’re having a good time where as when we were in Europe in January, everyone was jumping around and going nuts.

Oliver: When we toured with Hippo Campus, there were five dates and they were all sold out. They were the first shows that we were playing to full rooms where people were instantly really into it so that spurred us on a lot.

You’ve just released your new single ‘Friends’. What’s the story behind that track?

James: We came back from touring once and my mates had been texting me about meeting up, which I couldn’t because we were on tour. It was just a constant thing and when we got back, I really wanted to see my friends. I’d been really busy and not seen them for ages, which I’m sure everyone experiences at some point, so we just decided to write about it.

Rob: James came to us with this page of half written lyrics that seemed like a bit of a cry for help. We all felt exactly the same, so through mutual experiences we managed to pen a song about how when you get older it does get harder to make time for people and see them. That’s essentially it.

Coldplay put out a tweet recently about being a fan of your music. How did you react when you saw that, and has it had quite a big impact?

James: I just smiled to myself. I had to charge my phone three times that day because I was constantly trying to reply to everyone.

Rob: There was a lot of smiling! It was a weird thing for perspective because obviously that took Chris Martin and co two seconds to do, but it’s such a massive thing for us. It’s almost like a validation.

Oliver: Twitter, and social media in general, is just a weird place. We got 60,000 views on our video! It was so great.

You’re opening the University Stylus stage at this years’ Live At Leeds. Does that look set to be the start of a busy festival season for you?

Rob: Thing’s are still coming in but we’re playing 110 Above Festival in Leicestershire and Barn On The Farm which is nearby. We’re doing one called Redcar Rocks which is North East, where we always get treated really well.

James: I can’t wait to play at Unversity Stylus. I’ve been to so many gigs there.

Oliver: The stage is great too. Live At Leeds is always a highlight of the year for us.

James: I always say it’s like having another Christmas, but with your band and your friends instead of with your family!

If you had to pick one song from your back catalogue that you feel best represents you as a band, which would it be and why?

James: I definitely think ‘Friends’. Everyone always says how we are just four idiots together, and the word ‘chemistry’ seems to come up a lot!

Oliver: A lot of people I’ve spoken to use the word diverse when describing it, because they think it doesn’t sound like your typical Marsicans track until they reach the chorus. I think I agree!

The music scene in Leeds where you’re from is stronger than ever at the moment. Do you have a favourite venue in the city or one that you’ve had particularly good experiences playing shows at?

Rob: Brudenell Social Club.

Oliver: I’ll second that one.

James: What’s great about it is that it’s just so different to everywhere else.

Rob: It’s family run too, they’ve been in charge of it for years and the coolest bands in the country just descend upon an old working mens club!

Oliver: The people that work there know it so well, and it’s professional. It’s one of the best in the country.

What would you say is the most rewarding thing about what you do; the creative process of writing and recording a track, or being able to play it to a live audience and see how they react?

Oliver: With recording, you can get so bogged down with all of the little details to the point where you kind of end up falling out with a track that you haven’t even released yet. Then on premiere day, all of the feedback that we get is a rewarding thing in itself.

James: For me, when you’re at a gig and people are singing your stuff back at you is great. In Paris, we opened with ‘Gone In A Second’ and as I started singing everyone started singing it with us. It was on my birthday, and it was the best day of my life.

Rob: When we’re in the studio I get itchy to play gigs, and when we play gigs I get itchy to record. You have to do one to do the other, and they’re both really rewarding.

Finally, what’s next for Marsicans?

Oliver: We’ll be releasing another single in a couple of weeks time.

Rob: It’ll be the second in a string of releases with Lab Records who we’ve just started working with.

Oliver: They are an Indie label based in Manchester/London. It’s been really great working with them.

Rob: They just get us, they’re like our spirit animals. They get the whole ethos and the reason that we’re making music, so it’s cool to work with like-minded people.

Oliver: There will be an EP, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves!

Rob: There is a lot of decision making to do. There will be another tour when we release the single, and then festival season.

James: I’m looking forward to April because we don’t have any gigs, so we’re just going to write, write, write.

Marsicans play at Live At Leeds on April 29. www.marsicans.co.uk