INTERVIEW: Martha | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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In a tucked away crevice along Framwellgate Bridge in Durham sits Empty Shop HQ. It’s a little bit of everything; a bar, an art space, a music venue, a gallery. This compelling caboodle is a coincidental reflection of the four folks who sit upstairs huddled around a rickety wooden table, clutching steaming cuppas in Scrabble mugs. Martha, Pity Me’s finest exports, dabble with the likes of pop, punk, rock, soul and indie and intermingle them into one giant explosion of witty audible amalgam.

Christened after the last living passenger pigeon in Britain (and also Paul McCartney’s dog, their friend’s sprog and the Vandellas’ leading lady), Martha consists of Nathan, Naomi, Daniel and JC, a self-confessed bunch of scruffs who hail their hometown as a jigsaw piece to their aesthetic. Nathan explains: “Often the North East is left out of the equation altogether and regarded as a cultural wasteland and a political dump; in this context we’re told to be ashamed of where we’re from and diminish our accents.” Daniel chips in: “In previous bands, I often felt the need to sing with a transatlantic accent to conform to a more song-y approach, but then I thought…why?”

From their hefty collection of ditties, their charming local tongue is always distinguishable. Born from a plethora of other bands that haven’t all survived to the current day, the group all grew up together; the original intention was to serve up a mass of bubblegum hysteria. “We wanted to do a pop band in the vain of The Beautiful South,” explains JC, “but it was all far too punk!”

The band explain the struggle of balancing music making alongside different jobs and trajectories that are vital to keeping them afloat. Nathan compares their lives to that of Hannah Montana. “I work at a uni, Naomi works in a school, Daniel’s training to be an occupational therapist, and JC drives vans on tour and other van related nonsense.” The heated Only Fools & Horses debate over whether that makes him more of a Rodney or an Uncle Albert only cements Martha’s humble approach to the fame that is splashing around their ankles. After a Glastonbury performance last year courtesy of Billy Bragg, JC points out: “DIY bands should be able to play things like Glasto, and it shouldn’t be dominated by big-timers. It’s crazy that a bunch of bloody scruffs who feel like the captains of our own destiny have the opportunity to do these things!”

Regarding the remarkable size of festivals compared to their comfort zone of barrier-breaking, kitchen sink-swilling pandemonium, Naomi depicts the bonuses of the pulse-racing rare treat and not being able to spit on your best friends in the front row. “They even bought us free hummus!” Daniel exclaims, and as the attention expands, the possible suggestion of ‘Martians’ as a loving fan base name is given the nod, however the merchandise ideas seem to only stretch to that of stickers and Minion Memes. Sign us up.

Martha has always been about stories and relationships and our own honest touches with love, and with that degree of separation you can get to the meat of it, although we should probably use a different term for that since we’re vegan

Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart is the band’s seventh release, and it’s a burst of pure unkempt energy that enraptures your ear holes with surprise as soon as opening track Christine seeps out of the speakers. A tangible surge into screeching four-part harmonies amidst a rapidly pacing drum track invites us into the quirky, fearless and experimental world of Martha, and makes us never want to leave. Chekov’s Hangnail compiles what seems to be pent up frustration that’s been previously tidied under the carpet, and demonstrates the hardcore punk attitude that is stitched into their history. Precarious depicts an ode to finding love in a supermarket aisle, a tale of modern day romance that definitely beats that of Tinder. Ice Cream And Sunscreen is a deprecating yet poetic piece with beautiful lyricism; while Do Whatever accompanies the rinky-dink guitar style of Mac DeMarco, yet a little more intense, almost like a detour through America with the windows rolled down, Naomi grabbing the wheel as she steers the tune with her faultless spoken vocal style; you almost feel a part of one of those classic movies that commences in a euphoric zip into the sunset ahead.

Speaking of the upcoming release, JC says: “Songs like Goldman’s Detective Agency are more abstract but not from our experiences, it’s a fictional story but it’s hung on our political beliefs,” to which Nathan jumps in: “Martha has always been about stories and relationships and our own honest touches with love, and with that degree of separation you can get to the meat of it, although we should probably use a different term for that since we’re vegan. We want to focus deeper than songs just about JC going to the seaside.”

Certainly more of a Gail Platt than a Pat Butcher, their new tune Curly And Raquel is about “how we use cultural reference points to understand what love and relationships are.” Nathan adds, “it’s the most unscientific thing. When you’re young and getting into bother, they can be a catalyst for these unknown feelings.”

This obsequious take on romance is enlightening, and Daniel notes: “These stories on Corrie were important, because we didn’t have this faux Hollywood romance, we had Curly and Raquel who were heteronormative, and also Roy and Hayley is another example, we really learnt from these things.” However it’s mostly about Curly’s hair. “Why isn’t it curly?!”

With an album release in America (JC worries about how they’ll interpret the colloquial term ‘cowie jaws’), and a tour over summer, Martha surely won’t be kicking back on the beach in Tenerife or Whitley Bay, but are bound to be making their mark on every inch of the industry. And how do they want people to feel when they listen to their new release? A unanimous “CLASS”.

Martha release Blisters in the Pit of My Heart via Fortuna POP! on 8th July. The band play Durham’s Alington House on Thursday 14th July and The Cluny 2, Newcastle on Saturday 13th August, as well as numerous local festivals.

 

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