Maribou State walk us through their live show ahead of Splendour and sideshows
The UK electronic duo will be touring their 2018 album Kingdoms In Colour around the country this July.
Header photo by Sam Neil.
Despite their debut album Portraits coming out back in 2015, the last twelve months or so have been somewhat transformative - defining, maybe - for English two-piece Maribou State. On their 2018 second album Kingdoms In Colour, the beat-makers blossomed into front-runners of that unique, UK-inspired house sound, bringing on board guest collaborators - Khruangbin, Holly Walker, North Downs - for a versatile ten-track release that sees them tackle many sounds and styles, each joined by a refined slickness that is distinctively Maribou State. "Uniting with Houston-based trio Khruangbin for the occasion, Feel Good is somehow nostalgic yet forward thinking, bringing classical house sounds into the future with their own Midas touch," we said on the duo earlier last year, spotlighting the Khruangbin feature in particular, before spotlighting how they unite "glitchy vocal chopping with a chiming house production, blending organic and synthetic instrumentation in a way that very little are doing right now."
With a new album under their belt, their live show has transformed too, something we got the chance to briefly talk to them about in an interview last year. "The set up is pretty hybrid, with a bunch of synths and samplers shared between three of us, as well as a more conventional set up of drums, bass and guitar," they said, reflecting on how the band has grown from a two-piece to a full, touring group. "The live show is something we’re constantly looking to build on, so as our presence grows then so will the amount of members, kit, production etc. much to the dismay of our manager, Adam, who is in charge of the budgets."
We'll be getting a taste of the new and improved live show as Maribou State head to Australia for Splendour in the Grass this July, with sideshows at the Sydney Opera House (!!) and Melbourne's Forum Theatre in the days before. Anticipating their arrival and celebrating the success of their most recent record - joined by a full remix album including DJ Tennis, HAAi, Maceo Plex and more, we caught up with the pair once again to talk about their live show, and got a nice tease of what to expect in the process. Dive into it all below while you revisit the record:
Hey guys! We actually interviewed you about Kingdoms In Colour already; but saying as the album has been out for quite a while now, let’s revisit it. It’s been around eight months or so since it came out, looking back, how do you feel about the record and the reception to it now?
The reception has completely bowled us over. The creation of Kingdoms In Colour (KIC) was very challenging and almost broke the pair of us. So there was a real sense of relief when it was finished and an even greater feeling of pride once we started to see the reaction to it.
What has gone into translating the album into a live setting?
The main step towards adding material from K.I.C. into the live set was adding another player into the band, now making it a five-piece. We’ve always been hell-bent on keeping our live show as ‘live’ as possible so it just seemed like a logical step to bring in another multi-instrumentalist to help make that possible. The other differing factor from the Portraits live tour is adding new kit, utilising bits that we used on the second record, new synths, pedals etc.
You have a really large-scale live show for an electronic act, which still feels quite against the norm nowadays – especially when DJing (or touring just a two-piece) is so much cheaper and easier to travel with. Is there a particular reason why you choose to tour such a big stage despite the problems that might come with it?
There are many sides to this decision. You’re completely correct that costs are through the roof and logistically moving all that kit is a nightmare, but none of that can challenge the feeling of playing your music live with a full band at your side. It’s mostly for us the personal challenge and enjoyment we get from it. Both Chris & I, plus the other members of our band; Holly, Jonjo & Jonny, all grew up playing in bands throughout our youth. It’s an incredibly important part of our musical journey and as such feels the most accurate way for us all to express the music and ourselves in a live setting. It’s not to say that we don’t enjoy DJing, it’s just two separate things for us.
The other important factor comes from a sonic standpoint. Using live instrumentation not only reflects the sound of the records well but also allows us to manipulate and grow the set in a way that gives our music the energy and dynamism needed to play on bigger stages. Obviously, this aspect has only become apparent in more recent times once the crowds slowly grew in size.
What gear and members go into making a Maribou State live show?
Jonny our drummer has an acoustic kit with added triggers, electronic kick pedal and sample pads. It’s paramount for us to have this mix of acoustic and electronic to best reflect our sound.
Jonjo plays the bass guitar, bass synth (Moog), congas, percussion and triggers samples.
Chris plays the guitar, he has a stage piano plus a Prophet 06 for synth bits. He plays some percussion and also triggers samples.
I play keys mainly, with a Prophet 08 and MS20 in my station. I do some percussion and trigger samples as well. My side of the setup is also controlling the laptop rig and drum machine. The majority of our live file is midi based, sending program changes, Clock Sync and some difficult arpeggiated parts to the instruments, it sends metronomes and cues to people, it runs Time Code for our visuals and has some basic track stuff running, mostly textural stuff or parts that are not possible to recreate live, for example the main vocal in Feel Good.
Holly tours with us full time as the lead vocalist and where possible, we also bring in other guests.
The full live show, which can only really be pulled off on much larger stages, is all of the above with an added String quartet, headed up by Matt Kelly who helped arrange the strings on K.I.C., as well as an eight-piece Choir. We call them the Choir from the Shire due to the fact that it’s basically eight of our pals from home who featured on K.I.C. in parts.
... and how does it work? What are you doing up there that people in the crowd perhaps wouldn’t realise/couldn’t see?
There isn’t much to misinterpret really, I guess people without any technical knowledge would maybe not be clued up to who’s triggering which sample, or which synth sound is coming from which side of the stage but essentially playing the show in the way we do means that each one of us is frantically switching between multiple instruments during each song and visually I guess it translates that it’s a show where the vast majority of what you’re hearing is being played live, which of course is the intention!
This is your first time touring in Australia for quite a long while, since 2015, I believe. Is there anything in particular you’re excited about this time around?
We’ve always loved touring Australia, we love the country and the people in so many ways so we’re excited to bring the rest of the band over, for them to experience it for themselves. Due to the mind-blowing costs of actually flying a band over to the other side of the world we’ve only ever toured Australia as DJs, so mostly we’re excited to finally show people our live show. Also, it can’t be ignored what an iconic venue the Sydney Opera House is and we’re beyond thrilled to be given the honour of playing there
July 17 - Sydney Opera House, Sydney
July 18 - The Forum Theatre, Melbourne
July 19 - 21 - Splendour In The Grass, Byron Bay
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