Interview by Sarah Williams. A shorter version is published in the Manchester Punk Festival programme, for which this was written. You can download the programme here. If you haven’t already, be sure to grab your MPF2019 tickets before they sell out!
In 2019, it’s hard to find any UK punk rocker who’s not a fan of Martha. Heavily influenced by pop music but rooted in Northern DIY punk, Martha make lovable, upbeat music that appeals to old school punks, hardcore kids and pop-punk fans alike. We spoke to them ahead of their upcoming performance at Manchester Punk Festival 2019.
You’ve got a new album Love Keeps Kicking. How do you think you’ve grown as a band since Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart?
The new record is a bit more world weary and sombre, but it’s still got hope and optimism within it. And it’s full of songs we’d want to listen to. The world feels fucking shit, and that’s bound to filter through into songwriting.
What can fans expect from the new album?
Love songs, sad songs, pop songs, references to places in Durham city, where working class people used to go that have been bulldozed to make way for student accommodation.
You’ve been described as having an ‘unashamedly Northern edge’. How do you feel your Durham roots influenced your sound?
It’s who we are and so it’s inevitable it comes out in the music. We can’t really avoid it. I think it’s also the case that when bands from smaller towns sound like they really sound, it’s more noticeable just by virtue of being a bit different. Every band is from somewhere!
Musically, do you all have similar tastes or is there a wide variety of influences?
We united around a love of motown, garage punk and power pop to begin with, and generally we stick to a pop path when writing songs. But there’s also variety in our individual tastes. Daniel likes a lot of heavier music and that’s probably where he developed his chops for shredding and solos.
How important do you think the ‘DIY’ approach is to you as a band?
It’s important but it’s gotten harder and harder to be DIY as we’ve gotten older and life has gotten in the way. We’ve had to admit that we need help in ways we never used to, and that’s not the end of the world. Or maybe it is? We couldn’t have toured the USA last year without help from a proper booking agent as the US system requires visas to travel, and we couldn’t risk spending money on flights and being turned away at the border. The main thing for us is being critical (and self-critical) about our relationship with ‘the music industry’, and being sustainable as a band.
This is your second time at MPF. What was most memorable about your first time playing?
It was amazing to play before and get to watch Paint It Black last time! We’re excited to play again this year. Manchester has always been one of the best cities to play in and this show will be the equivalent of a Manchester album launch show for us, so we’re very excited.
What do you think makes MPF so special?
MPF seems to bring together so many friends, bands, labels and punks from all over, who we don’t get to see as much as we’d like! It’s a fun time and we feel very lucky to be involved again. Even though we see ourselves as a punk band, we kind of sit between punk and indie-pop a lot of the time, so it’s a nice vote of confidence in our punk credentials to get asked back!
What part of the festival are you most excited for?
There’s a lot of great bands playing; we’re particularly excited for Fresh, Muncie Girls, Kermes, Nervus, Big Joanie, Woahnows, Youth Avoiders and, of course, the beautiful nightmare of late night Grafteoke! Plus loads of others!
Martha has grown a lot in popularity in recent years – it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy your music! Do you feel that there’s a pressure that comes with that success?
It’s hard to say what success is objectively. I think still being a band after 7 years is a success, regardless of anything external! We appreciate the support we’ve gotten so much and we feel very lucky that people come to see us or buy our records. We also know that, in the grand scheme of things, we’re a small band, with very little profile beyond our bubble and that’s fine. I think real pressure would be if we were ever at the point where we were able to make a living off the band. That would be scary cause it would be like ‘we need this album to go well or we can’t pay our rent’. We all have day jobs and so the pressure is less life or death!
What are your ambitions for Martha in future?
We’d love a benevolent millionaire to pay us to do this full time. Or for a hit movie to use one of our songs so we can live off royalties. Or just to keep doing what we’ve been doing for a few more years! Also we’d like to play with Ted Leo some day.
Manchester Punk Festival takes place on April 19-22nd across 9 music venues in the Rainy City. Tickets are still available but running short; be sure to grab yours from the MPF website.
Martha’s new album Love Keeps Kicking is out on Big Scary Monsters from April 5th 2019.
Read more from Sarah Williams here.