Photos: Steven Landles
Martha proved themselves as leaders in the UK DIY scene with their debut album Courting Strong in 2014. This year, they’re back with a follow-up — and are intent on staying punk.
Courting Strong looked back on growing up as the weirdos and the outsiders, building communities of likeminded individuals and recalling playground romances. According to drummer Nathan Stephens-Griffin, while Courting Strong looked back on the formative years of the band members’ lives, follow-up Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart, released on 8th July, concerns staying true in an adult world.
“If the first album was about punks growing up, this one is about grown-ups who have stayed punk. The thread that runs through all the songs is trying to stay creative and stay artistic and stay passionate, whether that’s in music or art or activism,” he says. “One thing we’ve experienced in the lifespan of the band is increasing pressure and difficulty in being able to do this, just from having lives and from getting older. I’m 30 now, and it’s just not as easy to ditch everything and go on tour. The album’s about that desire and that necessity to stay involved, continue creating and keep doing the things you like, while not letting mental illness or jobs or growing up — ‘’life obstacles’ — stop you from doing it.”
“If the first album was about punks growing up, this one is about grown ups who have stayed punk”
The whole of Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart runs with this theme and maintains the same soul throughout, despite all four members writing the songs largely autobiographically. Guitarist JC puts this down to the band growing together hand in hand, and drawing from the same pool of experiences:
“We all write the songs, but are so close and have so many shared experiences that there are always going to be things we all touch on at a specific time of writing… We were largely all on the same page throughout,” he explains. “We also just hang out all the time so discussions on lyrical themes and ideas for the album come up all the time by accident, so these shared ideas are in our heads even if we’re writing on our own.”
Courting Strong gave the band a whole host of new followers, both inside and out of the DIY scene, but they feel the only pressure felt in the run-up to LP number two was self-imposed, as guitarist Daniel Ellis explains. “We always want to make the best album possible and there were things we knew we still wanted to do after the first album, things we didn’t quite manage. The main sense of expectation on this album came from ourselves and trying to achieve everything we felt was left to do.”
Bassist Naomi Stephens also cites the feeling, common in every music fan, of a disappointing second album and how the band were determined not to release a follow-up that didn’t stand up. “It’s always labelled as either too similar or too different from the first one,” she sighs.
Most of the checklist — an actual bullet-point list that Nathan drew up at the beginning of writing sessions for Blisters… — was achieved on the album, with a few little footnotes ready to be completed on album three. ‘A harmonised guitar solo’ was ticked off; ‘starting a song with a chorus’ is still to come.
The band originally intended to release Blisters… at the start of the year, but the new July release date sits perfectly with the band, who see it as a summer album, just one with a twist. “I think it’s an album to listen to on a sunny summer bike ride, but when you’re a bit sad,” says JC. “It’s got a lot of big, bright moments, but still makes sense when you feel a little depressed.” Nathan gives it its tagline: “perfect power-pop, underpinned by grotty awkwardness”.
The album’s tales – of plucking up the courage to ask someone on a date at a supermarket, or watching Countdown at home on a sick day from work – are as relatable and quietly punching as those on Courting Strong, and show the struggles of staying true to yourself and your ideals as an adult to be as difficult as the ones while growing up as the weirdo. The results are worth it though, and Martha document the process perfectly.
Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart is out on 8th July via Fortuna POP, with the band heading to Bristol’s Exchange on 23rd. Check out ‘Goldman’s Detective Agency’ below: