HELLO AND Happy New Year to all Roguers!
Yes, we realise we’re already at the arse-end of January, but the New Year festivities took it right out of us. Speaking of which: what a night!
Midnight heralds a New Year at Rogue
New Years Eve at Club 85 proved to be the best night out for miles around, with appearances from Winterschool, Neil Webb, Modern Day Jester, and of course Martell who won the Rogue Performers’ Poll and were presented on the night with their very own glittering “drinkable” trophy (courtesy of the fantastic folk at The Winestop, Hitchin).
Here we catch up with Jon Myers, lead singer with Martell:
Hello Jon, congratulations on winning the Performers’ Poll. How’s your year been so far?
Thanks very much. That was such an amazing end to the year, onstage at Club 85 after everyone had invaded in our last song, then being given the award. The start of 2011 is very hazy after that, owing mostly to the fact that our prize was made of Jaegermeister and Rogue had turned up with some very questionable home brew. That night actually ended up finishing on the 2nd of January after a couple of lost days with our manager. The rest of the year hasn’t really compared so far.
How and when did Martell begin?
We were born out of the ashes of another band whose name I shall not speak. When that had broken down, Tim, our old bass player and I our decided to start something new. We found our drummer Paul online and went and picked him up from school, which he agreed to after we promised we weren’t grooming him. We went to the pub, decided to form a band in about five minutes and then got kicked out. We started playing as a five piece at Rhythms of the World Festival 2007. Since then Mike’s joined as our bass player and Dean, our original rhythm guitarist, unfortunately left towards the end of 2010.
Is there a meaning behind the band name?
It’s not the most interesting story. We’re either named after a Cribs song, the one that goes “Someone’s got their eye on you now, don’t you know, awhoa a oh oh” or a Libertines lyric: “Fifteen holes in the dealer’s chest; Yo ho ho he was a mini Martell man”.
Do Martell have a mission statement or a grand design?
We did. When we started out we had a statement on our MySpace page that basically said we were here to change the world. Our earlier songs were supposed to have some sort of socio-political message, but I was never comfortable writing like that. A lot of my lyrics from that time seem rather forced and I think we came across as being fairly (very) pretentious. That isn’t to say we don’t have a social conscience, I just think its most important to write about what comes most naturally, which in my case is whatever I care about most at the time: whatever I’ve been thinking about all day. That could be about a girl you know or it could be about factory conditions in China. If you honestly care about it, that will come across in the song, I hope.
Jon Myers, singer/guitarist from Martell
Have your influences changed since you began?
I’ve known Tim, our lead guitarist, since I was 12, but we became friends a bit later on through our music tastes. I remember being on a school trip and Tim was the only person I knew, so I sat next to him and we both put on our walkmans and it just so happened that we were both listening to The Coral’s first album. Later on we both learned to play guitar at the same time and we used to sit in the practice rooms at school playing Libertines songs. Basically, we’re both indie kids, and I don’t think that will ever change. Paul (our drummer) and Mike (bass player), are much more into punk bands and at that time they were probably listening to stuff like Green Day and Blink 182. What that means is that while our tastes converge at weird points (like accidentally discovering that we all love Los Campesinos!), if someone brings a song to practice it’ll probably never end up exactly how it was originally intended because we all play in different ways and have a different end in mind. It’s an interesting dynamic and it pretty much guarantees we won’t end up chasing a particular genre or movement.
What’s your favourite Martell song?
My favourite song is always the newest one in the set but that’s probably because I have a short attention span. We have a song called Isabelle that most people seem to respond best to and it’s always really fun to play because people sing along (or shout along), and that’s what it’s all about really.
Who are your heroes?
Musically, David Bowie. Not because of how he reinvented himself so many times, but because he produced consistently brilliant songs and albums throughout. A lot of my heroes are writers. I have a fairly healthy obsession with Paul Auster. I also try as often as possible to hide quotes from novels or poems in my lyrics.
Rogue reports on all sorts of different things, but we’re primarily dedicated to local music. What’s your opinion on the local scene?
I may be completely wrong, but I don’t think the local scene is particularly healthy at the moment. It wasn’t particularly long ago that Remix, The Phoenix and The Hertford Marquee closed, plus we’re constantly competing with the smoking ban making people go outside during bands’ sets and the strict drinking laws meaning that 16/17 year olds would rather sit outside than watch a gig. Then we have the fact that Rhythms of the World has gone from the streets of Hitchin, and while its still a great festival the buzz it brought to the town has decreased and several pubs seem to have stopped putting gigs on without it as a focal point. The scene isn’t exactly dead, but in comparison to a couple of years ago, its certainly struggling.
Is it different to other places?
I know from Facebook that certain promoters around Cambridge can’t seem to find enough bands for their gigs and the nights we’ve played there recently have been pretty quiet. London is always going to be busier but the smoking and drinking bans are universal. However, the sort of music that we play had a bad year last year and the nights we play on might have suffered because of that. With the Vaccines and Tribes emerging this year, things might pick up.
Do you have any other favourite bands in the local circuit?
I still miss the Runners, they were the best band Herts has ever produced and they weren’t far off making it. I think the best local band around at the moment are The Tubries (with Kaj and Ed from Jukebox Vandals). I hope they’ll be big this year.
Where can people hear your music?
Most easily at www.myspace.com/thisismartell
The view from above, Rogue NYE 2010
Jon was interviewed by Charlie Frame
Photos by Gavin Felgate and Barry Hobbs