The Reading quartet bare all on Jaco Pistorius, stoner rock, and the true meaning of intonation.
March The Desert are a criminally underrated proposition in the UK stoner/doom/sludge underground. Having been relentlessly ragging the south UK tour circuit since their formation 8 years ago – the band’s vibrant portfolio of riffs and tightly rehearsed performances have seen the Reading quartet reap exactly what they have sown. With the grungey yet psychedelic overtones of latest release Tidal Mind – an entirely self-released venture – the band have seen their profile raised, but are still entirely content playing DIY all dayers and house shows as they are plastered upon the pages of Kerrang!.
In the midst of the crushing winter riffage at Riffmass, we had an in depth discussion with the band about kinship, fake news and intonation.
There’s not much about you guys on the internet, why is that?
Will Fellow-Yates (Drums): We hate journalists, they always twist the truth so we lie to them all the time.
What’s the best lie you’ve ever told to a journalist?
WFY: I’m from Orion.
Would you define your sound as Stoner rock?
WFY: If you’re a stoner and you’re into it that’s cool, it’s just vibrations really, it’s just music.
Alastair Train (Bass): We’re not really pigeonholed, we’ve done a lot of different things across our releases – our music touches on a lot of different areas.
Sam Wells (Vocals): If you’ve ever listened to the first piece of music we ever did, it was way more on the Soylent Green-esque side of the spectrum – we were drinking a lot then, and then we went a bit more down to the zoot end and seven years later we’re here. We don’t really know what we’re doing anymore really, its music.
WFY: That doesn’t matter, we exist, and if you’ve got ears you can hear us
What’s driven you guys to keep going so long?
James Thorne (Guitar): I’d say the necessity and, as Will said, the passion. We’re all friends at the same time, it’s almost as if the basis of it is our friendship. We feel an obligation to one another to keep it going so we can stay friends basically [hahahaha].
WFY: We’re friends first and we enjoy playing it, people seem to enjoy listening to it, so why the fuck would you stop?
How would you define your sound?
WFY: Best sound to come out of a speaker since music.
WFY: Feels good, sounds good, what more is there to it?
SW: We’re pretty hypercritical of each other, so JT writes it and if one of us doesn’t like it, we let JT know.
JT: I tend to write the skeleton of our tunes, Sam will write the lyrics and we hone in from there. As far as the sound goes, we’ve been called psychedelic before, but we don’t really get the psychedelic vibe ourselves, although I do like that type of music.
WFY: I would disagree, I personally think there’s a big psychedelic influence running through our vibe, it’s just a more subtle element.
Alastair Train (Bass): I’d say it depends on the release. Waves On The Moon is a more psychedelic album, we tried to record it in a really specific way.
SW: We recorded that in our bedrooms.
Is there a difference between writing and recording professionally, and doing it on a more amateur basis?
JT: The stuff that was released on the albums was a lot more honed in terms of the songwriting in general. It was a lot more where we should be, like a proper album. I’d say with any release it could be different, anytime. We write for ourselves almost, it’s music we all like and that’s the main thing. If other people like it it’s a bonus.
SW: We were all in a practice room last Sunday and there was a dead moment for about 30 seconds and we just started playing a country song, it actually worked.
AT: When you’re recording an album DIY like, as a group of people and the only people judging you are your bandmates, it’s just a completely different situation, it’s more relaxing. With the latest album, we created more of a psychedelic thing obviously. It was a big learning curve going in to record that album.
Who produced it?
JT: We had a fantastic guy called James Billinge. He basically taught us how to tune our instruments haha. None of us had heard what intonation meant.
What does intonation mean?
SW: I’m not an expert here, but it’s where you play the note fingers and you go twelve fingers and then it should sound the same. Basically, when we were recording, JT’s guitar kept slipping out of tune and we ended up putting bass strings on it, it broke the neck in the end.
WFY: I spoke to a lot of people about the album and a lot of what I heard was that we’re not just playing within the style – stoner and doom rock is kind of a niche market but I feel what we’re playing on Tidal Mind is more accessible to everybody else. Somebody said something about mainstream rock, but yeah, we’re doing something that’s more palatable to a wider audience.
AT: We’re not fully catering to the people that are here tonight, but there are aspects that will cater to them and that will cater to other people who like our music.
SW: I think this comes out of the fact that we all went to school together.
WFY: I didn’t go to school.
SW: There were 120 people in our year, but there were only four people who liked metal. Four guys who just ended up just making a band, and none of us straight up had the same taste but we were all like ‘fuck it, we all like this thing, let’s do it.’
Has being together so long ended up with you guys being stronger?
SW: I’m an only child so these guys are like my brothers.
WFY: When I joined the band they were a solid crew, they know each other far too well. The beauty of it is that in some bands there’s a façade about how you present yourself but you all know each other very well. I’m starting to get to know even better, and do you know what? These guys are really fucking cool in their individual ways. I’ve been completely welcomed into the band.
SW: We bonded over jazz bassists at first.
Who is your favourite Jazz bassist?
WFY: Jaco [Pistorious – yes yes, Ed), of course.
Thanks to the March The Desert crew! Tidal Mind is out now, purchase here.
Words: Richard Lowe