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

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On the face of it, Martha’s rise must rank among the purest and most seamless in recent memory. Hailing from inconspicuous Durham village Pity Me, the unassuming quartet have proved unlikely trailblazers, inspiring and elevating a local DIY scene while establishing themselves among the North East’s most recognised names.

Nevertheless, the period since 2016’s Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart has presented its challenges; not least the collapse of Fortuna POP!, the beloved indie label who’d issued both of their full-lengths. With Brexit’s grim spectre adding further uncertainty, the group’s buoyant pop punk could easily have been muddied by dread and disillusion, yet on new record Love Keeps Kicking such disquiet is conspicuous only by its absence.

“We’re all political people and we consider ourselves a political band, but we’ve never really been that overt about it on record,” acknowledges drummer Nathan Stephens-Griffin. “With our other bands such as Onsind [the duo of himself and Martha guitarist J.C. Cairns] we’re a lot more direct and explicit, whereas with Martha the songs are more like personal stories with a political subtext. I guess you could call it escapism – certainly for whoever’s listening, but also perhaps subconsciously for ourselves as well.”

This may come as a surprise from such a forthright, outspoken outfit, yet when it comes to matters of the heart there are no sidesteps. Indeed, while Love Keeps Kicking isn’t ostentatiously a concept album, its 11 songs follow a clear thread of breakup and heartache, running the rule over everything from commitment (Into This) to regretful self-examination (Orange Juice) to bittersweet reflection (The Only Letter That You Kept). Poignant and celebratory in equal measure, they’re underpinned by the same rollicking tempos, soaring choruses and wry lyrics which have become their hallmarks, all while earning a devout and swelling band of disciples.

We’re all political people and we consider ourselves a political band, but we’ve never really been that overt about it on record

“We never set out to make a concept album or anything like that, but we did realise that the songs all centred around certain themes,” Nathan explains. “When you have four people – all of whom write and sing – you get quite a range of experiences, and we each brought our own perspectives to our songs. We’ve never written with a view to striking universal chords, connecting with larger audiences or anything like that, but we try not to be too specific.”

The new record also marks Martha’s debut for Oxford-based imprint Big Scary Monsters, adding to a roster already boasting the likes of The Get Up Kids, Beach Slang and American Football. “We love Sean and we loved Fortuna POP!” says bassist Naomi Griffin. “It was a real shame they had to stop; they were really good to us and it left a lot of great bands without a label. Luckily, though, we had an offer from Big Scary Monsters, who we found to have a pretty similar ethos.”

Although Naomi insists the group have no intention of going full-time, their ascent over the past five years could scarcely be clearer. “I work in education, and back when we started half of our crowds were made up of my students!” Nathan recounts. With a near sold out UK tour and a series of EU dates this month alone, their juggling act may yet get a whole lot tougher.

Love Keeps Kicking is released on 5th April via Big Scary Monsters. Martha play The Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle on Wednesday 17th April.


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