Marsicans (no “the” at the start) are the latest bud the sprout from the popular music bastion of Northern England.
The self described producers of “upbeat indie meets dirty pop” consist of four boys from Leeds, whose debut album The Absence was released last year after an EP run. The record’s effortless blend of pop, indie rock and even orchestral influences propelled the group into a successful European wide tour and greater attention.
After releasing two new singles in quick succession, I was lucky enough to chat to Rob, Marsican’s vocalist, bass and keyboard player about the band’s journey so far. Rob’s friendly and flat Northern accent is complimented by how humble he is about the group’s success. “We’ve been relentlessly touring and writing music and its the best thing we could think of doing with our lives.” His gratitude is audible, as he expresses, “if it continues like this it will be amazing. It’s all we’ve every really wanted for our band. The band are all aspirational people and we’d love our music to spread worldwide and of course, it would be amazing to be a festival headliner one day. That being said, we are really just very very happy to keep doing what we’re doing now.”
Later this year the band will be hopping on tour with Clean Cut Kid and Callum Beattie, “after the festival run this summer, going through the winter into 2018 we have a lot of plans up our sleeve,” he teases, “and even though I can’t tell people too much about that right now its going to be really cool.”
I had believed by mistake that after a release of the two singles, ‘Too Good’ and ‘Friends,’ there was a second Marsicans album soon to be released. Not right now, as Rob corrects me. “At the moment we’re releasing a string of singles, which will ultimately culminate in a body of work for an album. The sophomore record, when it eventually comes together will I think be different to our first album. The singles the band has released so far will probably speak for that difference better than I could.”
Moving on to talk about the releases, its clear that despite being a band that markets themselves as laid back Northerners, they nonetheless mean business when writing their back catalogue. The tropical sounding ‘Too Good,’ which is released just a few hours before I begin chatting to Rob over the phone, is first on our agenda. He is more than happy to share the recipe behind crafting what promises to be a staple of summer pop play lists. “The song is essentially about being so in love with someone you feel that you are dreaming. It’s written from the perspective of someone at the start of a relationship, going through all the doubts and questions one might have at such a stage. However, eventually you get so caught up in it that you stop questioning whether its too good to be true.”
I remark that the song sounds very different to its predecessor, ‘Friends’ which Rob agrees is somewhat intentional. “We try and keep people guessing when we release singles. We always want to release one that’s slightly different to the last. Prior to ‘Friends’ we released a song called ‘Absence’ which was our attempt at a ballad, so we wanted something with brash guitars to contrast with that afterwards. ‘Too Good’ is another element of our writing style.”
The story behind that heavier number, ‘Friends’ is no short of intriguing. Explaining how it was written after a long time of touring, Rob explains, “The song was originally written, essentially as a cry for help. None of us had seen any of our friends for a long time. We all has a shared experience of being really close to one another as band-mates, but also missing the friends from home we seldom got to see.” The lyrics, “Have I got all my friends / or am I loosing them one by one” certainly plays testament to how isolated the boys must have been feeling at that time. “We wrote the song while thinking about those people and how much we all missed them.”
The last year hasn’t been all doom and gloom for the boys however. Rob excitedly tells me the events that have made the past months some of the most important yet for the band. “One of the biggest highlights was playing at Glastonbury last year for the first time. That was definitely a career high so far, obviously with there being so much gravitas associated with the festival. Our appearance sparked a pick up in touring at the end of the year.” Making their way around Europe earlier this year, a stand out moment was on lead vocalist, James’ birthday which was celebrated with a show in Paris. “It was our first ever show there and it was amazing that loads of kids turned up. They sang “Happy Birthday” to him in both English and French! It was a really special moment for us and definitely one of the highlights of this year so far.
“It’s so different when you actually arrive in a place where you have fans, and you see them in front of you for the first time. It becomes so real. We are very aware of the fact that we are still a band under the radar in the UK and we are certainly not a household name here. Therefore to travel so far and to see people singing the words to our songs is very odd but very fun!”
Rob admits that the group’s actual sound is hard to pin down to one genre and puts it down to each member growing up listening to different music. Explaining, “That combination is the bedrock of our sound. Our drummer, for example started out playing as a samba drummer. For the first few years when we were feeling our way around the writing process that certainly influenced our sound. We all listened to classic pop stars like Michael Jackson and Prince, those unabashed 80s stars who didn’t play by any kind of rules. That influence is definitely in there. However we also like to stay abreast of current music, and listening and taking influence from the bands that we tour with helps with that.”
The term ‘dirty-pop’ sticks well in an attempt to try and convey that Marsicans sound. Making “pop music in dingy rehearsal rooms with loud guitars and lots of feedback and distortion” means that the pop sensibilities are there, but voiced “in a more loud and unapologetic way.” Describing the latest single as “probably the most polished thing that we’ve released,” Rob says “The place from which the music comes is raw and authentic.”
“One thing we have in the band that people always comment on is that we have four distinct personalities and I think that comes across in the music as well. We are conscious of bands that have eccentric front-men. The other members are kind of given license to exist in the background and stay out of the limelight. However, we’ve all got quite quite a lot for us to say for ourselves, and we want to make sure that every voice is heard.”