Mingling folk strains with singalong shoegaze the simple yet surprising songwriting and heavenly harmonies of Marthas and Arthurs debut EP, "Apes In Aeroplanes" have been charming us for weeks. Reclaiming the concept of singing for your supper, the band bring their Myspace to your space in the shape of Dinner Downloads. If you can lure them with your culinary prowess or give a good enough reason they'll come round your house and play to you in return for a good feed. We've been lucky enough to lure the fragrant foursome to Londonist Towers next week so it's only right and proper we ask them a few questions to break the ice and find out if they have any special dietary requirements*. Here's what Tom told us.
Who's in the band and what part of London do you all call home?
Mary lives off Old Street, I live on Hackney Road and Esther (my sister) lives in Stoke Newington, so we're all kind of near each other in the east. Vlad lives in Ukraine, and he's had to go back there after playing with us for the last few months, but we hopefully have a new Arthur called Matt, who lives by Haggerston Park.
What do you sound like and how did you get here?
People say we sound like the Mamas and Papas, or Belle and Sebastian or even a folk ABBA. Mary and I used to play in a very different band with loud guitars and synths and new-fangled things, and we fancied a bit of a change. We spent a bit of time singing around a campfire in a wood in Herefordshire last summer and loved singing harmonies together. That was with an original Arthur called Neil who's gone on to other things.
We've been listening to your new EP (free download!). What did Sally start and how do you get the apes in the aeroplane?
Sally is an ex-girlfriend of mine and we did some recording together with her singing. She has a lovely voice and inspired me to write with female singers and vocal harmonies in mind. The songs flew thick and fast after that so she's the original Martha, the patron saint, the godmother of the band. The apes were already in the aeroplane. They're in them all the time, all year round, and it's been going on for decades.
Whose idea was Dinner Downloads and how have they gone so far?
When we started we didn't just want to play in the same old places, doing the normal gig thing. We did our first public performances in care homes in north London and we played at a couple of parties. The dinner download thing developed from that.
What's your favourite London venue?
Probably Stoke Newington International Airport. you never quite know what you're going to get when you walk through the doors.
What unusual London location would you most like to play a gig at?
Maybe somewhere like St Paul's Cathedral, just for the amazing reverb and the sense of space. We played Islington's Union Chapel and it was quite fantastic having our voices echoing around the hall so maybe playing St Paul's would be even more so. Or we might just get dwarfed in a murky mess.
Have you ever busked... how was it?
We played at the Bury St Edmunds festival in the summer in an organised busking thing throughout the town. We still managed to get moved on though. We're not really a loud, look-at-us band which I think is what you need to be in a noisy outdoors place.
What's your favourite record shop and/or club night in London?
We don't go to night clubs anymore. We bake cakes and darn our socks on Saturday evenings.
When can we see you play live next?
Our next London gig is on 15th December at The Wilmington Arms in Clerkenwell. we're starting our own monthly night next year too.
Tell us your London secrets....
1. Always look up at buildings when you're at traffic lights. There's so much forgotten detail, like the ram's head on a building in the strand, the green man on Threadneedle Street and countless other human and animal figures on buildings dating from when people had time to do these things.
2. Stoke Newington International Airport
3. Shunt, London Bridge Station.
4. Cycling around the deserted city of London on a Sunday and tracing all the thin windy old streets that probably still follow the route of mule-drawn carts from the Roman era.
5. The candle-lit shrine by Camlet Moat in Trent Park**
Download the Apes in Aeroplanes EP for free at http://marthasandarthurs.bandcamp.com/. Watch out for our report of our Dinner Download next week. Now, what to cook?
* No special dietary requirements. Beer and wine are always fine.
**noted. Cue mission.