I was lucky enough to spend almost an hour talking to four guys from Leeds, coming together under the name “Marsicans”, bringing you, what they describe as “upbeat indie meets dirty pop” a couple of weeks ago. Yes, it took me that long to finally put together what, James (vocals), Rob (bass), Cale (drums), Oli (guitar) and I (girl with all the questions) were talking about because of the many various topics. And by that I mean, we got sidetracked quite a lot – but in a good way.
First, I have to ask how did it all begin?
“We: me, Oli, Cale – Rob joined the band last – met in school and just decided we want to start a band. Literally started it one music lesson …” says James. “And we started playing our favorite bands’ songs and our teacher made us play at the assembly, we were really scared at the time – we were around 15 – 16 years old”, Oli added. Rob has been with the band for about 1.5 years now, basically since they decided that this is what they want to do professionally.
So does that mean it has always been something you wanted to do or it just started as a hobby?
“I think as a kid, when you’re being asked what you want do (when you grow up) you can say Astronaut, Train Driver, pop star – then you start playing music with your friends and it’s going alright and you realize that it’s something you can do if you really put your mind into it. I suppose there’s a turning point where it went from a hobby to something serious,” Rob answered, somewhat, seriously. “It’s quite ridiculous because a lot of our friends went through university and came out the other side, then looking for graduate jobs and careers, and during that, time would just go by and you’re not really thinking of your life plans”, he continued. “But then, post-university, when everyone’s making these grand design plans for their lives, you’re just sat there thinking, “Hmm, not sure what I want to do apart from being in a band.” Then you get to decide if you’re going to go for that or do something else; we went for the first.”
“Even when you’re still 16, you want to do it as a career, but it’s also still a hobby because you still don’t know what you’re doing, you know? Even though at that moment in time, while you’re playing with your friends, you think you’re the best band in the world”, James said. Oli confirmed that, “It wasn’t until around last year that we really decided to put everything else on hold and just do this all-together.
What does the name mean?
“Officially it means: a species of a brown bear”, James said, laughing.
“It was random. I’d like for it to have a better story but there’s really not. We just kind of wanted something different.” Well, achievement unlocked, guys.
(A small discussion of alternate, more interesting back-stories about it commenced.)
(None were chosen; we’re just going to stick to the original.)
Do you remember your very first gig and how was it?
Rob said that it was at a place in Leeds called “Cockpit”. “Yeah”, James continued.
“The place booked us and asked us to invite all of our friends – so we did and packed the room. It was a great night, seems like a loooong time ago – probably because it was around 6 years ago.” Cole mumbled, “A bit cringe-y …” Oli admitted that it was, “Probably nothing special but that was the first time we tasted how it feels to be in a band.”
What do you enjoy the most about making music?
For Oli it’s, “When you release a song to the world for the first time or when you play live and you get a good reaction from it. Gives you the feeling that people are as excited as you are when you’re writing it. Those are probably the best feelings. And just to get a few claps, you know – makes you think people (also) like the song.” James adds, “I sometimes clap when we do well.” Oli then explained that they all clap each other when they do well. “I think claps are good. We might clap after this interview”, he said. A plan was set.
I’m a firm believer that traveling with someone or a group of people will either make you closer or push you apart. Having spent a lot of time on the road, what annoys you the most about each other?
“I don’t like to participate in certain jokes, so I just stay quiet. It doesn’t annoy me – I just don’t do it. I like jokes but good jokes.” (Cale’s #WoefulJokeWednesday kind of inspired Oli’s answer. Head off to their Instagram to know what it’s about.)
For Cale it’s, “Whenever I’m sat at the back (of the van) and the guys at the front ask me to pass their bags forward which is every single journey.” Then, Rob said, laughing, ”Despite him saying every time, “Get everything out from your bag that you need for the journey”, we just don’t do it.” I think it’s safe to say, we all have this kind of friend.
“I think for me, right,” Rob continues, “Every time we stop at a petrol station, we play a game where we guess how much petrol’s going to cost and I never win! It’s starting to annoy me!” James said that he’d love to spill the dirt, but he convinced me that there’s nothing that annoys him from the other three. As I’m writing this, I’m still wondering whether or not this is true.
How does it feel to know that your music have travelled the world?
“Amazing, of course”, James jumps to answer. “I just wish we could meet them all,” says Oli. “Sometimes we get fans saying, “You should come to France”, although it’s not that far away but we just can’t at the moment.” Rob added, “It’s a really validating experience because we tend to write our songs either from our bedrooms or a tiny rehearsal space in Leeds and for it to reach other parts of the world, that’s kind of cool. The Internet is doing its job!” #YayInternet
Do you feel being in a band has changed you a person?
Oli believes you have different personalities when performing on stage and in every day life anyway. While Rob thinks, “Being in an unsigned band, where often there’s a large effort for minimum return type thing, you take a lot of knocks on the way through and makes you confident about your craft because you kind of go through so much negative stuff. Like the four of us – five with our manager – we’re all kind of still together and driving towards something and you get a sense of confidence about what you’re doing when things come off. I think we’ve all matured quite a lot through experiences in the band.”
Why do you think “Chivalry” is “bruised and battered”?
“Because, I think, we live in a weird time. You look around and you see people, like, when I see a certain few people who are in gushing over each other and then break up the next day.” Psssh, these millennials.
What’s the most chivalrous thing you’ve ever done?
“Giving her a piggyback when she’s (tired from) wearing her heels”, says Cole.
(cue to audience: awww)
“I’ve done that,” Rob nodded.
Didn’t want to be defeated, James answered, “I slayed a dragon – I don’t want to brag, but, you know …” Hmmm. Okay, James.
“There’s a shopping center near my house in Leeds and there’s an elderly community there. I sometimes go there and open doors for the old ladies. I do that just in my own free time,”Oli gives his answer. An answer justified by Rob and James.
(puts hand on own chest while still “awww”-ing).
“How many hours do you that – manning the door, on average?” Sham, their manager, got a bit curious.
“10 minutes,” he said.
Well, alrighty then.
What’s the most English thing one can do? (Tea-drinking aside)
James said it’s, “When you really want to speak out about something but you end up not saying anything.” And also, “Apologizing for something that clearly isn’t your fault”, according to Oli.
(Then we ended up in a deep conversation about tea, having milk with your tea and kinds of tea – you know, important, life changing stuff.)
You said, “Everybody wants to be in love” in Arms of Another. What’s your biggest love aside from family, friends, girlfriends, and music?
“Tea! Let’s talk about tea again!” Rob couldn’t have answered quicker even if he tried. “Sweet chili sauce” was what Oli said.” Cole said that, currently, his biggest love is darts. “There’s been a celebrity dart (show) on TV and I have dartboard as well. So…” Rob interrupted, “Can I change my answer? It was only joking. I’m going to change mine to: olives! Oh no, no! PORRIDGE! That’s it.”
(Then Rob explains his current realization that you can get a maple syrup flavored porridge. Of course, this too turned in to a quite long conversation. As it should be.)
Any particular festival you’d like to be a part of and why?
“Rock Werchter!” for Cale. “It’s in Belgium. Because you get to go to a different country and they have a lot of indie rock bands.” James opted for the good ol’ Glastonbury. Rob thought SXSW would be quite cool. Oli said, “For me it would be Heineken Open’er in Poland. Because, me, James, and some friends went there – it was the first European festival we went to and we had a really wicked time so it would be cool to go back and play one day.”
Where do you think you’re going to be in 5 years time?
“I’d like to think that we’ve released a couple of good records. Maybe three. We really enjoy doing exactly what we’re doing now – just making music as a unit. So we want to keep doing it, maybe a bit more recognition for what we do …”
Rob’s serious answer was intercepted by James, “We’d be on our third record and Oli would just come out of rehab.” To which Oli responded with, “I have an addiction to sweet chili sauce. It has ruined me. My family.” Guys …
Would winning the Brit Awards be one of the things you’d like to achieve in the future?
“To be honest, I’m not really bothered about that. Honestly, I’m just hoping to just still be able to make music and survive with 3 square meals a day and a roof over our heads,” says Rob. And apparently, Cale wants to win an Oscar for the next James Bond theme. I think it’s doable, because if Sam Smith can do it, so can Marsicans!
Aside from the Internet, is there anything else you wish we’d have in the future to make it easier for (new) musicians to make and introduce their music to the world?
“One thing that would make it easier for people to go forward in making music, especially in that kind of grassroots level in the UK is to support creative art subjects in schools. Without trying to sound very serious, it’s a lot harder to be successful in music, art, photography, writing or any of these things than in any other fields – it’s not encouraged as much in kids to go and be successful musicians. So, I’d like that to change,” was Rob’s answer.
While for Cale it would be, “More radio stations, more open music play to be exact. Having the same playlist – you might like the same current songs – but you’re not going to get anywhere if you’re only listening to the same things. Like when I was growing up, I listened to a lot of similar music, which I enjoyed, but I also want something else. Something fresh.”
Any musicians/bands that you’d like to work with?
Rob chose Kanye West. “I want him to produce something we’ve written. Publicly the guy’s an idiot but behind closed doors he’s a genius.” James went for Jack Steadman from Bombay Bicycle Club. Oli, who was really impressed by Everything Everything’s latest album would like to know who’s behind it because, “I’d like to, at least, meet them or work with them in some capacity.” Cale surprised me a bit with his answer. “Maybe someone from the metal scene. My favorite band is Lamb of God so I’d love to work with the drummer (Chris Adler).”
When can we expect an album?
“No idea,” James answered with an honest tone. “As soon as we’re given the opportunity to make a record, THEN you’ll get to hear it,” adds Rob. They believe that you only get (to make) one first album, so they want to make sure they’re at a point where that first album is going to get the acknowledgement it deserves. Hopefully, that day will come soon.
And so that was it, my evening well spent with Marsicans. We end the interview with clapping, because Marsicans loves clapping. Clapping is love. Clapping is life.