Meet the Marsicans; the four-piece, Leeds-born band on the rise. Their upbeat indie pop tracks, dreamy vocals and clever lyrics have landed them new fans in Coldplay, Radio 1 airplay and slots at UK festivals (of course including Reading & Leeds) – and that’s just naming a few of their accomplishments.
The Voice of London chatted to Marsicans singer and guitarist James Newbigging to discuss playing support for Hippo Campus, the inspo behind their songs and everything else in between.
The Voice of London: What’s your favourite memory of playing here in London?
James Newbigging: Our sold out headline show at The Borderline this March is probably my favourite. It was during the ‘beast from the east’ and the whole week we weren’t sure if the gigs would be on or not. Despite all of this, the show was amazing. There were some people who couldn’t make it, but everyone in the room had really made the effort to get there, and there was a real “YOU’RE NOT STOPPING THIS SHOW” vibe.
VOL: When you’re touring, does playing the same songs get monotonous? How do you keep every set exciting?
JN: It’s the people in front of you that make every set different. You might play the same songs every night, but there’s differences in how the crowd react which keep you on your toes. You almost go into auto-pilot playing your individual parts, but how we interact with the crowd, and each other, keeps each show fresh.
VOL: When did you start the band and what was the process of deciding to do it full time?
JN: The four of us have been playing together about 4 years now, I think. We all got to a point where we wanted to really try and, you know, ‘be in a band’. We planned how we’d do it to make the most of it and just went for it.
VOL: What’s the process when you’re writing a song? Is it always a completely collaborative process, or is it a case of one of you having most of a song already written before you show it to the other guys to finalise?
JN: It varies from song to song really. Sometimes me or Rob will bring a whole song in and then we flesh it out as a band and make it ‘Marsicans’. Other times we jam something out and accidentally find something we like and go from there as a group. We like to write together though, as it really is the four of us combined that makes us sound how we do.
VOL: Your lyrics often seem very specific such as the “You’ll spend an hour trying to get your fairy lights to turn on” one from Too Good. Do you draw from real life experience for your songs are you just good fiction writers?
JN: It’s usually real-life experience. In that case, my girlfriend had some dodgy fairy lights which you had to wiggle the lead a certain way for the lights to turn on. For me personally, I quite like specific examples or experiences which may not sound interesting or relatable at first glance, but they have an almost mundane relevance. These allow me to say things I probably would’ve struggled to say any other way.
VOL: Can you tell us a bit about the story behind your latest release, Suburbs?
JN: I’ve called it a “quarter life crisis” a couple of times, where I basically don’t know what I want. But the idea came when I was on a bus near where I live. Someone was trimming the grass verge outside their house and making it all look very neat (the first/second lines of the song), and then the song followed from there. It’s a feeling of not knowing where you want to be, what you want to do, but always wanting more. A very confusing place to be.
VOL: I saw that some of the video was filmed in Canada, how did that come about?
JN: The song references life in both the suburbs and city. During our time out in Canada, we were in Toronto, and also spent a few days in Ithaca in upstate New York. These settings worked perfectly for the song so we just filmed ourselves out and about, exploring these places on my phone. It was fun constantly looking for locations and things to do. It was essentially just us being tourists.
VOL: What song are you most proud of and why?
JN: It probably is “Suburbs”. It still means a lot to me and I think, due to what the song’s about, always will. It came together pretty quickly once we got going. The writing process for a fair bit of it was on tour, which was fun. I think that’s reflected in the song.
VOL: Is there something you’ve learnt from one of the bands you’ve supported?
JN: I remember having a nice chat with Nathan from Hippo Campus. We got into a deep conversation about music and he was on about how they always write the music they want to, whatever feels right. It was something we were already kind of doing, but it was interesting hearing how they approach things and it’s always healthy to be open to new ideas with writing.
VOL: The artwork for your records are always quite quirky, who makes them and what’s the inspiration behind them?
JN: Our very good friend Liv Hodder has been doing our artwork for a while now. She uses colour, shapes, and collage in a very cool way and we loved her work before we asked her to get involved. There’s some subtle suggestions of the lyrics in the artwork which is really cool. For “Suburbs”, we actually incorporated a couple photographs shot by Oli of where we live, to tie it all together.
VOL: Finally, what do you hope to achieve with your music?
JN: Apart from the classic headlining Glastonbury and touring the world, we essentially want to be able to write our music and play it for as long as we can. If people are finding some connection with our music, then all want to do is to keep the train rolling, because it’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done.
Words: Millie Richardson
Featured Image: Adam Wood