Over the last few years, electronic music has found itself in a perpetual state of limbo, often teetering between two different worlds: the club and the stage. Somewhere along the line, Maribou State were caught in the middle, unsure of their place in the musical landscape. But with their debut album, Portraits, Chris Davids and Liam Ivory have finally found their footing.
Toeing the line somewhere between electronic music and live instrumentation, the pair have carved out their own corner of the musical spectrum. Together, Davids and Ivory write and record sonically-rich walls of sound that have a distinct human touch, enlisting the help of friends and labelmates to further their cause. On Portraits, longtime collaborators Holly Walker and Pedestrian lend vocals to the pair’s dynamic, and sometimes challenging creations.
It’s with this knowledge that we decided to ask the duo a few questions about their writing process, their new live setup and the future of electronic music.
Indie Current: Before we dive into the interview, I first want to formally congratulate you both on the release of your debut album, Portraits. How does it feel to have it out there for the world to hear?
Maribou State: Very overwhelming. It’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time, and probably thinking about for longer. The response has completely surpassed our expectations so it’s hard to not feel excited about it all.
IC: Looking back at the album, is there anything you wish you had done differently? Any demos you wish had made the cut?
MS: There were a few, but the ones we care about most are still going to see the light of day, through bonus packages and so forth. There are a lot of things we would have done differently but I feel like those changes are perhaps something best saved for future albums. As this was our debut, the writing and recording process are all part of the album’s history and indeed our attachment to the record.
MS: Well funny enough, Jono’s appearance on “Say More” was hooked up through Counter. As soon as we knew we were working with the label on this LP we approached them about a collab, and thankfully he said ‘yes.’ Who knows what will come out of future projects, but we would definitely be keen to work with some of the other artists on the label.
IC: On the topic of collaborations, I was wondering how you first met Holly Walker?
MS: We were put in touch via our manager. We heard a demo of a song Holly had written that we developed into “Tongue,” one of our earlier releases with Southern Fried. We became good friends after that and didn’t have to think twice about who to work with when it came to starting the album.
IC: In a recent interview with Quip Magazine, you mentioned that you pull inspiration from a number of different areas, including your place of residence. Is there anything in particular about your surroundings that get your “creative juices flowing”?
MS: I think it’s just being able to relax and remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle of the city. It gives us space to think. For us, coming back from tour (undoubtedly sleep deprived) doesn’t leave us in a particularly good frame of mind to write music; living in our small village in Hertfordshire is like our little retreat. We’re isolated and removed from party-temptation.
IC: There’s a lot of talk about your new live setup. When writing Portraits, was it your intention from the beginning to make an album that could be adapted to a live setting?
MS: It was, the intention was hatched way before Portraits in fact. We used to play in a band before we started the Maribou project, so we always had the desire to perform music live. The one thing we didn’t do was worry too much about actually playing live until the LP was finished. We really didn’t want to feel restricted in the studio, worrying about how certain parts would be played or would sound in a live environment. Our stance on the live side of things was to finish the album first, without any concern to how it would translate to the stage, and then learn to play them live after.
IC: In recent years, many artists like yourselves (Bonobo, Caribou) have ditched their turntables and opted for a live band. Do you think this signals a shift in electronic music, or do you think there will always be a place for DJs?
MS: I feel like it’s a natural progression for acts like Bonobo and Caribou to move into a live setting, based on the music that they have written over the years. Using those two as an example, they have so much amazing music and such a vast back catalogue, it wouldn’t feel right to go and see them just DJ other people’s records and a few new bits of their own. You need to experience their music in its most honest state, and to me that’s a live performance. That’s not to say there isn’t still a place for them to DJ, because that’s an experience in its own right.
IC: Lastly, I was wondering if you could tell us a bit about your writing process? How do you typically approach a new song, or, say, a remix?
MS: Each time we start something it’s from a different approach. I think that’s the beauty of working as a duo or in a team, it keeps you on your toes. The usual kind of process though will start with each of us working on separate ideas at home, on journeys to gigs etc. and then we bring those ideas together into the studio to develop further. Sometimes they don’t get used but become the catalyst for us to start something else. It really does just depend on that particular week. We’ve had times where we’ve come into the studio, started completely from scratch and ended up with a final version by the end of the day. Other times we recycle old projects, resample and steal parts from them and end up writing something new.