’Maribou State – Wallflower’

UK production duo Maribou State have had a fascinating musical journey starting as a high school band who evolved into accomplished DJs and, more recently, coming full circle with their newly revealed fully live setup. Building on countless influences along the way, they have undoubtedly established a lane all their own as they prepare for the release of their debut album. It’s no accident that Maribou State have hit their stride lately–they’ve, quite literally, been building and fine-tuning for years. Recorded and engineered in a home studio that they assembled themselves, their output thus far, “Wallflower” being the most recent, balances electronic and live instrumentation blurring lines between dance and easy, trippy listening.

We had a chance to chat with Chris Davids and Liam Ivory, the long-time collaborators behind Maribou State, over the phone while they were on tour in Berlin and they went in-depth about their roots and the making of their upcoming debut, Portraits. Read it in their own words below. Portraits drops on June 2nd and can be pre-ordered here. You can also keep track of their upcoming tour dates at their website.

TMN: You guys have been on tour for a while now. How’s it going? 

Chris: Yeah, on and off. We’ve always kept the dates pretty regular. Good thing about DJing is you can go there on the weekends and play a set then come back and get in the studio. Now that the live band’s coming together and touring, it’s going to be more of a thing where we actually have to block out time. We’ve always played gigs most weekends since doing this. 

TMN: Have you unveiled the full live set in front of a crowd yet? 

Chris: We’ve only actually had two shows as a live act at the minute. One was in London and one was in Holland and we had that BBC performance. When we come back from Berlin in a few weeks, we’ve got some festival dates across Europe up until September. Then hopefully we should have a full tour come November.

TMN: So, backing up a bit, how did you first get into music? You both grow up outside of London, right?

Liam:  Yeah, we grew up in a place called Hartforshire which is about 25 minutes north of London. It’s close enough for us to get into the city but it’s really rural and excluded. I got into music, on the production side of things, when I was 16 or 17. I took music as a GSCE at school and one of the modules was to produce a piece of music. It kind of stemmed from there and I ended up doing it in college and further. 

TMN: And you both also played in bands prior to getting into production? 

Chris: Yeah, we both played in separate bands when we were like 15 in school. We eventually joined the same band that was originally full on guitar, bass and drums—there was no electronics involved in it. By the time I joined, we started using laptops and keyboards. From that up until what we’re doing now, we’ve stayed working with the same band. We moved in together and then carried on with that. We kept condensing it until it was just a laptop.

Liam: Now the band’s back! 

TMN: I remember hearing that you guys didn’t get along so well when you were growing up. Were your bands competing at all?

Chris: Kind of, not necessarily competing. We probably did share similar interests but we hung around different people. We never really crossed paths and didn’t seem to get on until we started making music together. It’s quite odd when you think about it, going into working with someone you don’t really like. It worked out and obviously we’re alright now. 

TMN: What kind of music were your bands playing back then? 

Chris: We both listened to alternative music when we were younger like a lot of rock and punk. That was kind of the idea when we started our bands when we were young that we’d play music like that. Slowly our taste started changing and started listening to a lot more electronic music. The band was basically following our taste. It was still guitar, bass and drums but then we started adding drum machines and keyboards. It kind of merged with our taste at the same time. So, there was a lot of horrible hybrid, kind of, sounds coming out at one point.

TMN: Watching you guys on BBC performing live it kind of reminded me of Caribou’s live setup. Are there certain electronic acts that were particularly inspiring as you started moving in that direction?

Chris: LCD Soundsystem was definitely a big influence. Soulwax as well when they started doing their live stuff. 

TMN: Did you guys make it in to London a lot for shows growing up? Was that also influential in your sound? 

Liam: Yeah, definitely. We used to go to London quite a bit to check out clubs and used to go see a lot of bands play there. It definitely did have an influence on our sound back then. There’s one story where we went into London for Chris’s birthday when he first turned 18 and we were going to Fabric, which is a quite well known club in London. Half of us got in and the other half didn’t. I ended up at a bar around the corned where a DJ was playing and it was kind of the first time I had really got into House music. That obviously had quite an impact on what we did the following week in the studio. So, yeah, it did have an influence for sure on our sound at that time at least.

’Maribou State – The Clown ft. Pedestrian’

TMN: What’s been really interesting about the releases thus far from Portraits is that you have a huge variation in the types of sounds we’re hearing–from “Raincoats,” which is really atmospheric and airy, to “The Clown,” which leans towards a straight house track. How do you guys toe that line and tie together all those different sounds? 

 Liam: That’s something that we question ourselves a lot of the time. Because we find it quite hard not to go too far from how we originally intended something to sound. I think the main thing is we always try to find a nice balance between the electronics and the organics going within a track. It’s just fine tuning that for each song, which makes it sound like the other tracks along side it.

Chris: It’ll make a lot more sense when people hear the album in its entirety. Obviously you can pick out certain things in songs and they may seem rather distant from each other but hopefully when people hear the record as a whole they’ll hear how they’re all married together.

’Maribou State – Raincoats’

TMN: We, obviously, haven’t heard the whole album yet, but do you each have a favorite track from the new album? 

Chris: We do have favorites but it changes quite a lot. We have different experiences with each track. Especially now playing live as well because you start to hear the tracks in different ways after stripping them apart. And now that other people are starting to hear the tracks live, you also see the reaction that people have, which gives us different feelings towards them. 

Liam: That being said, I think my favorite is a track called “Home.” It’s the first track on the album. That’s just one of those tracks that took the least effort. There’s always the songs that kind of just come out in one session that I think we’re both sort of drawn to the most. It was done quite quickly and was natural in the way it came out. It wasn’t forced. I also think it’s a nice balance of everything in terms of the instrumentation that’s used.

TMN: What’s been the most rewarding part of putting this album together? And what’s the most challenging?

Chris: Well, we started by writing down as many ideas as we could. So, the challenging part was really trying to cut the album down. We had about 20 songs for the album completely done. I think the hardest part was deciding which of those tracks would fit on the album. 

Liam: It’s really nice to work in our own space—it’s a studio we built ourselves in the garden of my parents’ house. It was nice when we finally finished the album and submitted it, to look back and realize that we created this whole body of work all in our own space. We worked with some featured artists but there was no engineer or anything like that—all mixed ourselves. It was just nice to see that process through from start to finish.

TMN: Now that you’re transitioning into the fully live set up, how does that differ for you from your DJ set?

Chris: We’ve been wanting to play live for a long time. We used to play live before but I don’t think we were very good. I think it’s the way we feel that music is best intended to be listened to. There’s obviously a lot of differences from DJing. DJing is a bit easier in a sense that it’s a lot easier to travel with just the two of us—it’s a little less preparation that has to go into it. Whereas, with the band, it’s quite expensive and difficult to move everyone around. We obviously have to drive everywhere. It seems to be that more has to go into the live show to make it happen but the rewards is also greater. 

TMN: What do you guys think of the current state of electronic music? Are there any contemporary acts you’ve been into lately?

Liam: Being completely honest, I think in the last year we’ve veered away from most electronic music. There’s a few acts we consistently listen to, but we find it hard to find new exciting electronic music to play in our DJ sets. Recently, though, there’s been a few in particular. A guy named Harvey Sutherland from Melbourne who’s incredible. Also some guys over here in Berlin like Max Graef and Glenn Astro—the sound they’re making at the minute is very much up our street. 

TMN: If aliens came down to Earth and asked you what music was, what song would you play them?

Liam: “Everywhere” by Fleetwood Mac. That’s a funny thing to think about. They just came down and you wouldn’t even say hi–just play some Fleetwod Mac and have a cup of tea. 

Special thanks to Maribou State for taking the time to chat with us from all the way across the Atlantic. We can’t wait for the new album! 

If you want to get started on your own music career and are learning how. This Top 4 questions about Buying Spotify plays on Spotistar article could help you get a great start.

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