(originally published in Lot’s Wife)
Having spoken to Marcus Azon (lead vocals and guitar) and Nugget (Alister Roach – percussion) before their tour supporting Boy and Bear in May, I was lucky enough to have a full interview with Marcus ahead of their coming tour.
JM: I really enjoyed seeing you guys live. It was the first time I’d caught you performing, and I was totally blown away. But I know that you only met Peppa [Cameron Knight] in early 2010 is that right?
MA: Yeah, well the story goes that one of my friends Johnny was going on this camping trip to the Central Coast up at Cresecent Head, and the day we were heading up there he bailed and said he didn’t want to go. So I said, ‘Well I’ll go anyway’ and on the way up there I spoke to my mum on the phone and said ‘I’m just going to meet these new people’ basically with the thought in mind that I didn’t want to be lying on my deathbed and think ‘what would have happened if I’d been more spontaneous in my life and done things that I don’t normally do?’ So up there is where I met Peppa and Joe and we started jamming and we realised we could have something in common so we started writing. After that I went back down to Tasmania and they went back to the Central Coast and we just started emailing ideas.
JM: So how did Nugget get involved then? Because you guys have been friends for ages.
MA: (laughs) Yeah, well basically the story of our relationship is told within the lyrics of ‘Vagabond’ we met when he was 7 and I was 9. And we’ve wanted to play music together since then. I made him a drumkit out of tin cans when I was 10, and said you’re going to play drums and I’m going to play guitar and we’re going to be in a band someday!
JM: Naaw, that’s so cute!
MA: Ha, we never got to though, that’s the thing. We didn’t get to play together until we were 23, so it was a nice full circle. So many of things that have happened have happened so naturally. When we (Marcus, Joe and Peppa) were setting up a live band last year [Nugget] just happened to be passing through when he was busking around Australia with another friend of ours, and it was just perfect timing.
JM: So you didn’t really have to seek any of the members out, they just naturally came to you?
MA: Yeah that’s it, there was just so much synergy going on.
JM: Okay, so we’ve heard about the other members, what about Jacob? How’d he fall into the mix?
MA: Well he’s played with Cameron (Peppa) for 10 years, so he was just a natural choice, and he’s one of the best drummers I’ve ever met. He plays to a click track so he’s always on the money you tell him something once and he’ll remember it. He’s the one pulling us up on new changes. He’s the reliable one sitting up the back driving the ‘big truck’ the ‘tempo truck’.
JM: Turning now to Splendour, what was it like opening Splendour in the Grass last year?
MA: Well I wasn’t as terrified as I looked. The reason I looked so terrified was because I was getting an electric shock thought the singing, every time I got to close to the mic it would give mr a little whack on the lips. We were pretty on edge already because we’d only played a few shows, and all of a sudden it was a jump onto this massive stage.
JM: So just to be discovered on Triple J and then end up on a stage across the country?
MA: Yeah it was just such a different frame of mind, recording songs in your bedroom and then to hear them on Triple J was just such a blow-out. We were all together when it happened, and then having to play at festival in front of so many people, it was great it was really great. But we were still learning to be a band, there was so much to learn about ourselves and eachother. It was the first time I’d been the singer ad writer in a band and it was all very new. But we’ve been together for a year now so hopefully we’ve picked up some tricks along the way.
JM: During May was one of your first shows right? And then Splendour would have only been two months, so were you working a lot together over that period to get ready?
MA: Yeah we had our first show, the one in the forest on May 1st, then we played a show with Miami Horror, and a few shows at a little club called World Bar, but we played under a fake name.
MA: Well it was crazy, because there was already attention, and we didn’t know how to play the songs live, so we wanted to see if we could do it. So wer thought if we did it under a fake name and got people dancing that we knew it was going to work, and ti worked! Turns out if its late enough in the night and people are drunk enough they’ll dance to anything!
JM: So what name did you play under?
MA: It was called the Stepping Stones.
JM: So you guys already have a massive following, looking at the amount of fans that were dressed up in jungle inspired clothing and furry hats, and vines and that sort of thing at your Corner Hotel gig was very cool! Back at Splendour were there already people that knew a few of your songs?
MA: Yeah I think so but they may just have been our friends down the front, we did have a lot of friends that went to Splendour that year. Dressing up was a thing we were trying to get people to do when we first started playing, we just told everyone to always come dressed as animals and woodland creatures, and there have been some hideous looking costumes! I guess we just grew up out of dress ups, we haven’t seen many of them in a while and it’d be nice to see the [dressed up fans] make a comeback.
JM: You seemed pretty surprised to see all of the dressed up people at the Corner [Hotel]. There was hell of crowd in front of Nugget of vinely clad people.
MA: I think it shows a hell of a commitment to get dressed up to see a band. I cant think of a time that I did it, I think I dressed up as Neo when the Matrix came out, or a hobbit for Lord of the Rings but other than that I don’t think I’ve ever done it!
JM: Leading on from that, where did Forest Pop come from? How did you and Peppa end up in that groove? Was it intentional? Was it just the way the music was going?
MA: We never really had a genre or style that we wanted to subscribe to or write within the confines of. It was just like ‘let’s write songs that we like’. I had a lot of lyrical ideas and he [Peppa] had a lot of very jungle foresty sort of sounds, so it was just a matter of matching up my ideas with his sounds and structuring them with guitars, and then Nugget came along with a big bloody djembe, and turned it into more of a dance fiesta. It got pretty jungly because of having two drummers. So we’ve been evolving more and more over the year, the songs we are writing now are certainly different to how we started but that’s how we wanted it we didn’t want to stay on one level for I don’t know if you can call it a career, more a journey.
JM: So did you all have to move to Sydney when you formed the band or do you still go back down to Tasmania when you need a break when you’re not recording or touring?
MA: I moved from Tasi 6 years ago. We all live in Sydney now, and Nugget and I live together, the other boys live up on the central coast. We rehearse here in Sydney. We like flying around a bit, so it doesn’t matter where our home is based because we’re moving around a lot any way. It’d be nice to be set up and have a unit together but we spend so much time together that it’s nice to have a bit of time away.
JM: I can imagine that living with your band mates could get quite claustrophobic?
MA: Yeah you’d think that but I’ve known Nugget since he was 7 and we relate to each other the same now as we did then. We’re probably a bit more respectful of each other now, we write so much music together, we jam together we talk about girls, oh its sounding to much like a sleep over club right now!
JM: So the Mermaids and Other Sirens tour, is it going to be accompanied by the launch of an album?
MA: Its promoting the new little EP that we did, which is going to be a part of a bundle with our first EP at the end of the year through JB Hi-Fi.
JM: Are you planning on releasing an album in the near future?
MA: The album’s going to be out this time next year.
JM: Awesome. How do you keep up your energy when you’re on stage because you go absolutely crazy with the dancing.
MA: Well I can tell you that Nugget has a banana and red bull every time before he goes on stage that’s his pre show workout, I go and have some quiet time and go over the lyrics. It seems like it would be an effort every night but it’s actually just really fun. It’s really exciting to be on stage in front of that many people, it kind of just makes you do weird stuff.
JM: Like your ugly dancing?
JM: Haha. Well we better wrap this up, it’s been great talking to you and I’ll catch you in Melbourne soon.
Jinja Safari will be a playing at the Corner Hotel on the 23rd of July (sold out) and the 24th of July. Tickets are selling fast so get in quick! Tickets are available through the Corner Hotel website.