Leeds’ very own Marsicans had an incredibly impressive year. During 2017, they’ve released plenty of singles featuring their colourful, indie sound and have been turning heads all over the country, including receiving praise from Coldplay. With 2018 looking even more promising for the group, I caught up with front man James Newbigging to discuss the year ahead. In particular, I was keen to find out whether a full-length album was coming soon. “I wouldn’t say soon, we’ve been discussing it recently because, obviously, there has to be one at some point […] We basically just want to write as many songs as we can and then see what comes out really […] It probably wouldn’t be this year, but maybe next year. Who knows? It’s definitely in the pipeline though.”
One of the most exciting things about Marsicans is how much personality comes through in their music, from their tight Beach Boys inspired harmonies to their playful lyrics and jangly guitar riffs. James gave me a bit of insight into the band’s song writing process. “Usually, for me, it’s when I’m not trying to think of anything […] I remember when we wrote ‘Throw Ourselves In’, the “these things happen all the time”… I just remember I said it and thought “Oh, I like that” […] One line can just spit ball into anything and then you can write really quickly after that. It’s just getting that initial idea at first – that’s the tricky bit.”
Influences cited by the band in the past include Circa Waves and Foals, bands who Marsicans match in blending the blueprints of alternative guitar music with disco and pop influences, so I was interested to find out whether the brighter tones in their sound came from any traditional pop influences. “McHale likes the kind of heavy metal stuff so he’s bringing us back one way, but it’s hard not to like pop music, isn’t it? I mean, is it Jason Derulo’s ‘Want to Want Me’? That song is probably in my head like, once a week […] I know people in some bands will just be like “fuck pop music”, but it’s pop music for a reason, isn’t it?”
“Although McHale listens to [heavier music] he takes influence from it and puts it into what we do, and some of the new stuff we’ve been writing has gone a bit heavier anyway, naturally. Especially live, we prefer to do the lighter stuff because we like pop music but then I also love having the moment of just going all out, you know? Just putting a pedal on and having a great time. Some of the new stuff is getting heavier than we thought it was going to get, but we just went along with it because, I don’t know, it felt right”.
Marsicans have attracted a loyal fan base, not just through their music, but also through their personal social media presence, keeping in touch whenever they can. “We try our best! […] Twitter’s the best for it really, it kind of just encourages, like, terrible jokes. Sometimes we just like to wind them up with like, annoying nonsense and see how they react to it, and usually they react well, but we’re always making sure we’re trying to reply to everyone. […] It’s a fun part of it, seeing how people are enjoying the music because that’s what we’re doing it for.”
What do you call a cow with no legs?
— Marsicans (@Marsicans) March 28, 2018
Having been residents of the Leeds music scene for a few years now, and with Leeds gaining more recognition as a base for upcoming music, I wanted to learn about their experience making music and playing in their home city. “We’re obviously very lucky to have had Leeds because it has so many venues, and it used to have even more – like our first show was at The Cockpit, which was, like, under railway arches and had three rooms all going up in size. We started in the small one and were just like “we really want to play the middle room now” and we did eventually, and just kept building our way up.
“There are so many different size venues […] which was great because, although when we were younger we were guilty of overplaying and taking any gig we could, it just helps to build us up and get better at what we do. Brudenell is always […] a really nice vibe. It’s just so relaxed and because Nathan owns it and runs it like a family business, the vibe just rubs off on people, and it’s just got a charm we love.
“But there’s so many cool ones, and there’s new ones opening. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, there are a lot of venues in Leeds and I like them. And they’ve been kind to us over the years.”
James also mentioned a few bands they’d met along the way. “I would like to see Clean Cut Kid get more [recognition] because they’re just the nicest guys. Indoor Pets I also think are great, formerly known Get Inuit – we’re big fans of those guys and they just write absolute bangers. Who else deserves more credit…I kind of want to say bands like The Magic Gang but they’re doing really well at the moment […] so well done them. They’ve been playing for years and it’s always nice to see bands do that as it’s a lot harder for bands to do that now… they have a nice Beach Boys influence, which is always a good thing.”
So what are Marsicans most looking forward to this year? “We’re looking forward to festival season this year – it’s always great when it comes around. It’s just great seeing bands that you’ve met before and, like, little reunions, throwing out your show-biz hugs and all that. […] It’s just nice to hang around after you’ve played at a festival because festivals are the best.”
Catch Marsicans at Live at Leeds on the 5th May, as well as at many other venues and festivals across the country in 2018.
Image: Robbie Jay Barratt