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Marmozets: Bright Sparks

If you’re looking for a reason as to why Marmozets’ debut album The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets sounds so fresh and modern and vital and utterly alive, consider this: until she was 10 years old, vocalist Becca Macintyre had never heard a musical recording by any other artist. There were no CDs or vinyl records in the Macintyre household. There was no computer or TV, either. Growing up in Norfolk in lieu of such distractions, Becca and her brothers Sam and Josh did what kids used to do: played and fought and sang made-up songs around their parents’ piano and generally became thick as thieves. It was only when the family finally moved to the market town of Bingley in West Yorkshire, and the siblings started secondary school, that rock music began to seep into their consciousness... and by then the trio already knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives

“The first time I heard a guitar played through an amp it blew my mind,” laughs Sam Macintyre. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s insane!’ I got my first guitar for my sixth birthday and Becca and I would make noise and sing and shout for hours. And we’ve never really stopped since!”

If Marmozets aren’t a completely new name to you – perhaps you might have caught their stunning sets at Download, Glastonbury, Reading or Leeds festivals this summer, or saw them support Gallows, Funeral For A Friend or Four Year Strong in the past – you’ll know that, despite being signed to metal institution Roadrunner Records, the Yorkshire quintet are assuredly not a heavy metal band. What they are, however, is the most exciting new band in Britain, an adrenaline spike thrust rudely into the body of the heavy music scene, a ferociously energetic unit who’ve incorporated mathcore, punk, metal and garage rock influences into an unclassifiable and utterly thrilling debut album which stands as one of the finest collections of songs released in 2014. And if they are a completely new name to you, rest assured, they won’t be for long.

It was 2012’s stunning Vexed EP which truly brought the youthful quintet to national attention, seven tracks of hyper-technical mathcore fury which marked Marmozets out as the fiercest new noise on a resurgent Yorkshire music scene which had thrown up acts such as Bring Me The Horizon, While She Sleeps and Evil Blizzard in recent years. By then, however, Marmozets had already been a band for five years, had two previous EPs (2009’s Out Of My Control and 2011’s Passive Aggressive, available for free download from their Bandcamp page) under their belts, and were veritable scene veterans compared to some of the teenage bands with whom they shared stages at punk and metal all-dayers at venues such as the 1 in 12 in Bradford and the Cockpit in Leeds.

“We were always that weird band who didn’t really fit in anywhere,” says Becca, at 22 the oldest member of the band (Sam and Josh are 21 and 20 respectively, while siblings Jack and Will Bottomley are 20 and 18). “Because we didn’t listen to other bands we had no real template or reference points for our music when we started. I think that worked to our advantage, because we weren’t copying anyone and our music had a certain purity to it. It was only when Sam and Jack discovered really technical mathcore bands that we started to pursue a certain direction.”

Sam Macintrye and Jack Bottomley were inseparable best friends from the day they met at school in year seven. The Bottomleys lived in nearby Crossflatts – “a 15-minute walk along the canal” according to Becca – and the two boys were always in and out of one another’s houses, dragging their guitars behind them. Graduating from listening to The White Stripes, The Vines and Queens Of The Stone Age to the likes of The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Fall Of Troy and The Mars Volta, the teenagers decided that their own band should attempt to out-crazy all their peers in terms of technical virtuosity and bone-juddering time signatures. With Vexed, they gave it a damn good shot, but soon enough, such eccentricities became routine for the quintet. Shortly after the EP’s release, the band sat down with their managers in Liverpool to plot out a path for the future, and were asked to consider whether they’d like to continue on the path they’d created and play to 200 people per night, or whether they might care to focus more upon the songwriting smarts exhibited on their earlier releases and tap into their full potential. At their next practice session, the quintet wrote the explosive and addictive Move Shake Hide, one of the stand-out tracks on the debut, opening up new horizons in the process.

“To me, the Vexed EP felt like we were messing around,” laughs Sam. “It’s like we took a load of drugs and just went mental, trying to throw in as much strange and weird stuff as possible. I was listening to it the other day and laughing, because I can’t play any of that stuff now. I listen to it now and think, ‘What the hell were we thinking?’

“We were getting bored. It’s like we were trying to be the craziest band ever, with all the energy and ‘What the hell?’ weirdness, but we started thinking, ‘Who are we trying to please here?’ Our managers were like, ‘We’ll manage you no matter what, but do you want to carry down this route, or do you really want to go for it?’ I’m not saying bands who make music like that won’t get far, but we wanted to write songs that we felt are great songs rather than just great noise.”

In this mission, they’ve surpassed all expectations. Recorded with former Hundred Reasons guitarist Larry Hibbitt, The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets is an exceptional collection of songs, ranging from the spiky, punky fury of Why Do You Hate Me? and Particle to the more measured and restrained but equally impactful Captivate You, Love You Good and Hit The Wave. For all its power and energy, it’s an unusual addition to the Roadrunner canon, and the band readily admit that they chose the label not for its history, but because of the enthusiasm shown by their A&R man Dave Rath, the man responsible for bringing new blood King 810, Kvelertak and Heartist to the label.

“I knew nothing about Roadrunner,” says Sam. “I only knew Slipknot, because my best friend in primary school showed me their video on TV when I was about 10, and I was just like, ‘What the hell is this? This is proper scary!’ The label’s history is amazing, obviously, and it’s incredible what they’ve achieved in pushing bands who make heavy, confrontational music into the charts, but we didn’t grow up on their bands. But from the moment we met the people at the label, it felt right.”

“I know the music industry is a business and the whole point is to make money, but some labels are about so much more,” agrees Becca. “They trust us, and we trust them, and we’re excited about what lies ahead.”

What lies ahead for Marmozets in the immediate future is a US tour with I Killed The Prom Queen and Issues, where the Yorkshire band are hoping to reconnect with familiar faces from this summer’s Warped tour, a trek on which they were voted ‘Band Of The Tour’ by their fellow artists. And while Becca describes summer 2014 as “an amazing journey in learning about ourselves”, her eyes are firmly fixed upon the road ahead, and her confidence speaks volumes about how Marmozets see their future.

“The boys had a band practice the other day while I was flying home from LA and Sam was like, ‘Becca, this new riff…’” she laughs. “We can’t fucking wait to start tracking new songs and play them to people because they’re going to fucking freak out. I want to cry sometimes when I think about my boys, because they’re the most beautiful, inspiring people in my life, and every day they make me more excited about our future and our lives.”

The singer will undoubtedly be the focus of much attention in the coming months. A whirlwind of energy onstage and the undeniable leader of the pack, offstage Becca Macintyre is charismatic, well-spoken and charming, sweetly apologising that our conversation has been postponed twice due to a recent bout of illness. In a scene where machismo is often over-played, her composure, poise and self-awareness is refreshing, but she speaks firmly when asked about her emergence as a role model for young female rock fans.

“It’s definitely important that girls have someone to look up to,” she states, “but I’m just an artist like everyone else, it’s not just for girls. I don’t really have any female artists that I look up to, it’s more about being myself and being the best that I can be.”

And as to the weight of expectation now upon Marmozets’ young shoulders? “The expectations started before we wrote a single song,” she says. “Now we’ve done our job and it’s just like: ‘Here you are, have a listen.’ And so far the reaction has been incredible. It was mindblowing to look out from the stage of Reading and Leeds and see all those people watching us: me and Sam and Josh were like, ‘Is this really happening?’ But even more freaky was going to play festivals in places like France and Germany where we’d be low down the bill but have thousands of people turn up to watch us: they wouldn’t have a clue who we were but they loved it and they stayed around.

The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets is out now via Roadrunner. The band tour the UK this month

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.