Rosie Driver met up with Maggie8 in anticipation of the EP release in May and their appearance at Live at Leeds.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to talk with two members of the very large Maggie8, ahead of their EP launch in May. Their music brings together Asian and Western influences to create an eclectic mix of interesting sounds, soon to be launched via their own label and Dance to the Radio. Their latest video is creating a bit more of a buzz around the band, especially as the gentle tones of the song are contrasted with the darker backstreets of Bradford.
Mark and Niv met me in the Wrens pub and told me a little about the band, their inspirations and what the future holds for them. They started by introducing themselves and attempted to label the music that they encompass. Mark referred to the music as "indie led pop music, indie power pop" where Niv interjected with how they use influences from the East and the West but recently had been finding it hard to fit themselves into a specific genre, "we'd have to create something new really, we're a little bit of everything." They meet every week, first having a meal together and then having a practice. Mark describes the band as previously being a bit of a free-for-all, with members coming in and out, but right now it seems very stable as they have just found a new drummer and are excited to move forward with the launch of their EP and further material. Mark described "no-one wants to leave at the moment. The aim is to go to India, touring in India as a long-term plan."
The band have an interesting past with lots of different members and so I found out how they have got to where they are today. Mark tells me, "I have been playing with the keyboard player for quite a while, then we met Niv who started singing with us and then she started playing bass." Niv details how she "started as pretty much a singer and I've always been I'd like to be a musician. Then I met Mark and he said I'll teach you how to play something so started playing bass. It's quite good to sing and play something at the same time."
Their contrasting music appeals to lots of different people but Mark and Niv are keen to attract an Asian audience. "It's our dream to get some Indian faces at our gigs, we'd like to hit that market." Niv adds that "I don't want to generalise but I don't even know if Asians are into our sort of music because it's very much...it's about R n B and hip hop with them and quite dancy whereas they might struggle with what's actually going on with our songs. My mum doesn't get it, but that's always a good thing if your mum doesn't get it!" Mark expresses how their aim is to get more Asian girls in their audiences and Niv adds that "it's a bit of a cliche with Asian kids, if it's a girl she's going to be a doctor and if it's a boy he's going to be an engineer, but there are other things out there and it can be music. You might not make money out of it initially but maybe one day." Mark adds, "I don't think we're everyone's cup of tea but I want to just get our stuff out there. I don't think we're going to be a buzz band."
Their debut video has been generating lots of interest into their music all over the world. Niv tells me how it came about: "Mark's inspiration has come from Morrisey and so if you watch the Smiths video we tried to pay hommage to it." At this point Mark interjects to state that "me and James were just playing the Charming Man and so when Niv came back, started singing different things over it. That's how the song came about. It's quite a good thing to get out there, go viral and get people interested in it. So we decided to get a video done and then Gavin, our manager, took us to all these places in Bradford." The video is filmed in some of the rougher areas of Bradford and really encompasses the atmosphere which is then joined with a more cheerful-sounding song. Niv explores this: "we're quite into the idea of doing videos in places where people would stay away from, boarded up houses etc. Most of the time people do videos in beautiful places, we're quite interested in making videos where you wouldn't normally." Mark describes how "I made it look really mashed up, I didn't want to take away from the song, because the song is quite polished. If you listen to the song it is very summary and upbeat, but the video is a bit grimy." Niv disagrees; "the song has its own feel about it and the video captures that. Everyone thinks different things about the songs that we sing." Their ability to convey so many messages within one song is very clever and does add something a little bit special to the mix.
Maggie8 has obviously had a full past and so I wondered what the strange but memorable moments might have been. Niv told me how they have played some funny festivals. "We've played John Peel festival which was in a bowling alley in London and we played the Dent music festival. It was just this massive campsite." Mark details how the band for him is "about the community, we all come together, eat together and sometimes it's hard to get the practice started! For me it's about community." Niv details how they used to gig quite extensively last year, "but now we have decided to take a bit of a back seat and recording, working on the sound rather than just going out there and playing live." Mark is an obvious fan of the recording process, but states how new it is to all of them and so ultimately a learning curve.
Taking all of this knowledge I wanted to know what they would advise other bands who had just started out. Mark says the best thing to do is "be original and copy of the best." Niv adds her thoughts to the mix saying that "it's kind of important to feel really excited about a song. Sometimes I just get up and really want to play a song because I'm really excited about it and then you get the whole band in and you write the song. If you leave it too long you can lose that excitement." Mark, in contrast, spends quite a lot of time working on the intricate details of the song, but the two make a winning combination which is then added by everyone else in the band.
The band are now moving at quite a fast space, with their debut video out, soon to have an EP launched followed by their album. Mark tells me of their future plan to "set up a label and release this with Dance to the Radio and then on vinyl. We're just trying to put a little flag in the sand and then hopefully we'd love to tour." Niv informs me of "people in France who are quite interested in our stuff and so it would be nice to know what people think of our stuff outside the UK. We have been quite limited to Leeds, which is great, but I think that we must have played every venue in Leeds." However they will be playing at Nation of Shopkeepers as part of Live at Leeds and they are hoping to try some new things with projections. Niv tells me that this is something they aspire to do, by getting a bit more performance-based. "We keep trying to get visuals in and asking people if we can use projectors. You kind of need visuals to create a story. It's great when you can hear a song and really feel the lyrics of it."
As the band are very Leeds-based I wanted to know their impressions of the music scene and so Niv explained how, from her perspective, "it's quite interesting and diverse in a way and limiting in its own way. Once you've played everywhere and people kind of know what you're like you can't get any better or any worse. You feel as though you're at a level and everything's just the same, nothing changes. For something to change we just need to put it out there." Mark reinforces "we need to spread our wings."
The band obviously believe in diversity and are keen to explore different sounds, merging Asian and Western trends with Hindi and English vocals singing over a wide mix of tunes. Niv tells me that at times often she is singing completely the opposite in Hindi to what Mark is singing in English, making the concept even more interesting. Their approach to this is quite different from some bands and so I wanted them to tell me how they perceived their music to be. Mark describes Charming Lady as being "very different from the other four, the other four are quite orchestral, one is quite gypsy." Niv adds "there's one that's kind of punky, one that's quite orchestral, it's quite a schizophrenic album if you ask me." It's clear why the band work so well because they have Niv's vibrant energy alongside Mark's calm thoughtful processes. Add this to everyone else and they make a good example of how working together can create great things.
I was keen to find out where their influences stemmed from so Mark explores how they draw inspiration from different corners of the world. "We've been looking at a lot of Bollywood stuff from the 40s, black and white, it's so insane the composition and the arrangement." Niv follows with "the structure is interesting, most songs go verse, chorus, verse, chorus and we really try not to do that, but not in a way where we can't have a chorus and a verse but juts put something else in. If you listen to Bollywood songs they almost never have this combination." Mark explains "it's hard to follow in your head, it's like a journey. It's really exciting especially coming from the UK." Niv then adds how she used to listen to Bollywood in the 90s when she was growing up; "it's so bad that it's easy to pick out the good bits. Little bit of stealing, creating your own and mashing it up. Don't they say there's only so many songs that have been written?"
Maggie8 are playing Live at Leeds in Nation of Shopkeepers and also in early April in TJ's in Woodhouse. They are definitely a band to make time for as their mix of cultures and relaxed look at the world makes a difference from some of the indie bands around at the moment. As they are so diverse Mark is right to point out that you may not like everything, but the variation and ability to combine the East and West does make them something to be treasured. On top of this, if you are a Smiths fan then you should definitely check out their latest single Charming Lady.