Behind The Beat: Interview With Maribou State
OTB: First thing, what is a “maribou state?”
Chris Davids: It’s nothing really. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s just something we made up. It’s from a book I was reading at the time. We kind of just put a few words together, and thought that kind of sounds like what we think our name should be.
OTB: Well the name seems really fitting. We hear a lot of influence in what you guys make…jazz and classical and folk and indie. What’s your musical background that allows you to have such a diverse sound?
CD: It varies how we both grew up listening to very different styles of music….fuck me, it’s loud isn’t it? I grew up with my parents listening to a lot of folk music and rock n’ roll…Led Zeppelin and stuff like that, and that played a big part in the sort of music that I listened to growing up.
Liam Ivory: Not being focused on one particular genre. Both coming from very diverse musical backgrounds has allowed us to explore those influences in our writing. Not being pigeonholed into one kind of sound or genre.
OTB: What made you guys want to go in the direction that you went? It’s very ambient and emotional and you guys have stuck with that since you became Maribou State.
LI: We’re both emotional people and we’re from Europe. (laughs) We actually spent many years writing together trying to work out a sound that we wanted and the Maribou State thing it wasn’t decided that this would be the sound. We’d written loads and loads of music over the space of ten years, and we did lots of different bands and different projects, and we just kind of click on the Maribou stuff. Yeah this is cool, let’s do more of this. But even since then four years ago, we’ve changed the sound so much. It’s just being more comfortable injecting our influences into what we’re writing.
OTB: The sound you guys have is this blend of indie rock and folk and DJing, and is something that’s becoming really big now. But it’s something you guys were already making when everyone was listening to dubstep and big room house. Was this ever a direction you thought that your music would take, or is it just the kind of music you wanted to make?
CD: It was always just the music that felt natural to make.
LI: We’ve always done that.
CD: We’ve always strived to make our music a little bolder and more club friendly, but it was just a natural direction that came out sounding a lot more melancholy in the end.
OTB: There is a lot of emotion in your music, a lot of really strong feelings in your lyrics…distrust and betrayal. “The Clown” for example. Are those your lyrics or Pedestrian’s lyrics?
LI: We shared the lyric writing on that. With the other vocal tracks on the album, me and Chris actually didn’t write the lyrics. But with “The Clown” with Austin and Jack of Pedestrian, we actually did write that.
CD: He’s had a lot of bad relationships in the past unfortunately… (laughs)
OTB: We hear your lyrics and just think…”Who hurt you?” (laughs)
CD: He’s had a tough life leading up to this.
LI: That’s not actually true! (both laugh) I feel that we probably live quite sheltered lives. Our approach to lyric writing is to write the lyrics first and then attach a meaning to it afterwards. If we’re being completely truthful, there’s not really much heartbreak there. That’s just the way we write. We make it sound cool first and then we work out what it means.
OTB: Are most of your lyrics, like “Tongue” and “The Truth,” is that all you guys?
LI: No that’s Holly [Walker] and Jimi [Nxir]. When we work with Jack of Pedestrian we collaborate lyrically, but with Holly and Jimi and Jono [McCleery] as well, they’re songwriters in their own right and they know what they want to say. They do have heartbreak, and they do have stuff they want to talk about, so we never get in their way. Every now and again we’ll pitch in a word or an idea. It’s all them. They take all the credit for those lyrics.
OTB: Where do you find your vocalists? You guys work with Holly a lot…
LI: It’s all just kind of fallen into our path. Jack’s a good friend of ours, he sings on some tracks. We met online sharing tunes. Holly through our manager who knew her manager. They said you guys should work together and she ended up being really great, and we’ve worked with her since. Jono came through the label. We signed the same label as him. There’s not much to it. We’ve just been really lucky that the people who have turned up on our doorstep have been amazing songwriters. Really incredible people.
OTB: Speaking of your relationship with Pedestrian, you guys just announced that you’re starting your own label. That’s so exciting!
LI: Yeah it’s the first time we’ve taken on something like this. We’ve been friends with Jack for a while now…not only musically, but we just click as friends. We share so many of the same ideals and share a very similar taste in music. It’s us three and our other friend Josh as well. We put together a label, and it was kind of a reaction to an EP that Jack wrote under Pedestrian. It’s such an amazing EP. We have to get this out. People have to hear this. The first release is in February coming up.
OTB: Yeah, you guys have the release party in London! What’s in store for the release party?
CD: At the minute we just have a really small hundred and fifty cap venue. And it’s just going to be us and Pedestrian playing for the whole night. Decorate it in a way that we envisioned. Really dark, and there’s not going to be any stage and it’s just going to kind of feel like a house party. We’re going to have all our friends and family down and whoever else buys tickets.
OTB: Is that where you’re going to drop your first track?
CD: To be honest, it’s actually the week before the EP gets released.
OTB: What’s the vision for your label? Where do you want to take it?
LI: There’s four people that run it, and between the four of us we very much trust each other’s music taste. We share a lot of the same music taste. There’s no rush to put out music consistently. It’s just more about quality. It’s basically a home for music that we really, really love that we feel deserves…not deserves… but that we feel proud enough to put our name on and say this is really, really, really good, in the eyes of four people that we trust. Power by numbers.
OTB: What does the name Dama Dama come from?
LI: We live in Hartfordshire. We’ve always been very proud of where we’re from, just because it’s where our family is from and we really enjoyed growing up in the countryside. I just moved into the city, into London, and Chris is about to move there as well. Dama Dama is a nice reference to where we’re from, being from the countryside. Dama Dama is the binominal name for the deer that lives in our area. Just a nod to home.
OTB: Other than the label, what’s after this? Or is that keeping you pretty busy?
CD: The next thing really is the second album. When we get home after this, we’ll break for the new year and then around February, getting back in the studio. Over the summer, we’re taking a live band back out on tour for festivals throughout the UK and Europe. That’s pretty much the eight months, nine months.
LI: And there’s the final show of the Portraits tour. It’s at Coco’s. It’s a venue in London and it’s the last show from the whole tour, the whole album, just putting that to bed. And then starting the next album.
OTB: You guys are busy. How’s the tour been?
LI: It’s been amazing.
OTB: Have you had a favorite spot?
CD: All the live stuff is our favorite part. Amsterdam was a really amazing show. It was so dark in the club, we could only fit half the people in there. The fact that that many people wanted to come see us. Before that we only played small cap venues. And then we played a big show in London, which was amazing because we had all our family and friends there. Everything has been great. This DJ tour has been incredible.
OTB: Last thing since you guys have to go on pretty soon…can you talk about the success of Portraits and where it came from?
LI: Never really expected much in terms of success. We were working on EPs together, we were defining our sound. Portraits was the moment when we said, “What we’re writing is really cool. We should do more than an EP…we should do a bigger body of work.” And from the moment we finished it almost a year ago now, everything’s just been a massive surprise. It’s just been really exciting seeing how far it’s stretched, and seeing all the support people have been giving it. Not just in the UK, but in Europe and obviously over here. We’re doing this DJ tour as part of the promo for the album. It’s just been overwhelming. It feels like a pretty mad year, to be honest. Kind of ready for the break.