"Who exactly is Maruja?" Amidst the vibrant rhythms and lively echoes of Manchester City Centre, a dynamic aura of creativity and innovation surrounds us. We find ourselves immersed in a setting where artistic expression knows no bounds. It’s here that we’re fortunate to meet three-quarters of Maruja, a post-punk sensation that has seamlessly woven slick saxophone melodies into their distinct sound, cultivating an electrifying amalgamation of psychedelic jazz and the raw, unfiltered energy of punk.
In the midst of this animated cityscape, Jacob, the mastermind behind the compelling drum beats; Matthew, the conjurer of those hypnotic bass lines; and Harry, the voice and strings that breathe life into their songs, join us. Each artist contributes a unique element, shaping Maruja’s identity, a band that doesn’t just play music but crafts auditory experiences that linger, echoing in the minds and souls of their audience.
As we settle into our conversation, surrounded by the city’s architectural elegance and the distant hum of urban life, anticipation dances in the air. We’re not just here to understand Maruja’s eclectic blend of genres or the journey that has brought them to the pinnacle of Manchester’s music scene. No, we’re diving deep, aiming to unravel the essence of their artistic spirit, the inspirations that fuel their creativity, and the visions that propel them towards an exciting, yet unwritten future. Join us as we step into the enigmatic world of Maruja, a band that is not just heard, but profoundly felt.
A: So the first question I actually wanted to ask was, how come the name Maruja what was the inception behind that?
H: It's a really boring story. I was in Spain walking past a beaten down shop with the sign hanging off which said Maruja. At that moment, I was looking for a band name, it's really as simple as that. It wasn't like I knew the meaning behind the sign.
A: At that point, were you guys all in a band together and were you making music?
H: Me and Matt were in together but it has changed in the past8 years, in that time we got Joe though but have had this four piece for 3/4 years now.
A: You guys are happy playing together yeah?
M: absolutely, we are all on the same page, which is what you need when you have a band for sure.
A: Your music has a really unique blend of Post Punk, Psychedelic Rock, and Jazz. How has this developed over time to make your sound what we hear today?
M: Well, I say it's been quite a long journey. At the beginining we played very much in the style of Red Hot Chili Peppers with other musical elements layered on top - we were like this for about 4 years and then we saw Joe play. We were just like, "You know what, why don't we use a saxophone", we wanted to use something different to make our sound more interesting. Then that's when Joe came in, and our sound has developed to sound more jazzy. We started to write more "commercial" music, but we found that didn't reflect our identity, the music we create now is more impov based. More aggressive and punk. We want to spiral down the rabbit hole, so to speak.
A: So you start off with the music and then you bring in lyrics on top of that just based off what you're feeling in the in the time?
H: Exactly, we will normally lay out the basis for the track first , and then layer the instuments on top of each other one at a time. We work with whatever feels natural and what fits the beat... I could use rap, spoken word or singing but it has to fit the rythm and emotion. As a vocalist, I feel like you need to be quite adaptable to give what's right for the track, Jacob normally comes in with some real hard drum patterns so you need the vocals to become more melodic and harmonic to bring the track together. I like to paint a picture and when it comes to the lyrics, it's more about things that have affected me personally, from my perspective, things that have affected people around me, or cultural issues that I don't agree with. Desolate but optimistic at the same time.
A: Are there specific or recurring themes throughout your music?
J: The period of 2019 - 2022 really affected us all, the UK was going through Brexit and COVID and that created a lot of distrust in our government. Governments are meant to be looking after the communities and young people and instead they created a lot of negativity which affected how we saw the world around us. There was just anger in the air and we have put that emotion into the music, me on the drums but also in the vocals too.
H: We will normally have a conversation with each other to chat about how each us feel all the time especially through this tumultuous period - for us all collectively. There has been a lot of loss and difficulties but we're really open with our emotions. We try and support each other. Then we'll then go and jam with these emotions and put that into our music.
A: You are all a fraternity! Tell me a little bit about your single that came out May this year - "Zeitgeist"
M: Zeitgeist is a certain feeling during a specific time period - for example we could say Woodstock was the Zeitgeist of the 60s due to its revolutionary air. This single represents (from what we have already discussed) this specific time period. The track is very anxious, intense and quite emotive, and I feel like that is quite reflective of the time that we live in. Everything that's been going on in history. It is three minutes of relentless fury is an escape from all this craziness and I believe a lot of people can relate to this feeling.
A: So it is safe to say that this is something we can see from your future releases too? Angst and rebellion?
J: The next body of work has been created from 2021 to current, and it's been mostly about mental health and mental illness. Unfortunately we've got a lot of friends that are dealing with quite serious and troubling issues... there is a lot of anxiety about and we are all living with that emotion.
M: let's say that you'll be very happy the next body of work We are giving out listeners a deep and personal perspective now with the music, there's some like stunningly beautiful songs but also nails on the chalkboard kind of tunes - you need that balance. We have a new single coming out on Friday 13th October too, so keep pinned!
A: I'm really excited! I recently saw a video of you performing at Low Four Studio here in Manchester last year, and from that I have come to the conclusion that your music is truly meant to be performed. Is there something that takes over you when on stage or do you go in with a certain idea of how you will perform?
H: Yeah, definitely something that takes over. Yes. It's like having a fucking exorcism. On stage, the most beautiful part to me is to be vulnerable in front of people and to be confident in being like that. People are looking for an experience and when you go to do a live performance you have to be inspired. So with all that in mind, we owe to the audience, the people, our fans that raw vulnerability. I've literally almost passed out so many times on stage. Me and Jacob absolutely dripping in sweat ~ ha! We go absolutely crazy because that's what we are reflecting in our music. It is just a reflection of our passion.
A: What do you get out of performing live - personally?
M: We enjoy nothing more than to be able to like look at the audience, in their eyes, and let them know that this is a performance and it's ok to go wild.
J: Now we're actually more confident with the music we do. We know that we can kill it live and play sold out shows. We just want to do bigger and bigger shows each time to be honest, it feels like that's the natural place we should be.
A: On that note how was playing Manchester Psych Fest?
M: Oh it was amazing! ,We love playing Manchester because you know all our fans will be there and they are the best honestly. Yeah, there was sweat within the first song then a mosh pit...
H: ...We had this ritualistic, kicked up makeup on our faces and we took our time walking on stage and really staring out the crowd - Stupidly dramatic. Then, within a minute, everyone's throwing themselves at each other for 45 minutes.
A: When's the next time you are playing?
M: Here in Manchester on Thursday 12th October actually - BBC Introducing event at Band On The Wall - Free.
H: Thursday at 6pm. It will be as amazing as we have described to you!
A: Where else do you guys want to play - anywhere in particular
J: Brazil - as we have a lot of listeners out there but also loads of festivals in Europe like Primevera in Spain or Meadows In The Mountains in Bulgaria - that would be awesome. We'd love to play any cool looking festival.
A: Let's talk about musical influences. So you guys mentioned Red Hot Chilli Peppers right at the start, but do you take inspiration from other musical genres or artists?
M: We listen to all kind of genres like covers of jazz and classical pieces. It doesn't really matter as long as we kind of feel something we'll enjoy. All of those influences end up coming out in our music, we also listen to a lot of electronic dance music so that also comes out. We also love to incorporate a cinematic kind of soundscape, especially with the saxophone... and when the drums come in it's very post rock in nature. We love dynamic vocal jazz pieces, specifically, like the works of Pharaoh Sanders but also like to make long, drawn our and expansive soundscapes which is very similar to post rock. We continually build upon the sound and you could say it is similar to what you hear with Explosions in the Sky or even Swans. So yes, we take pride in our sound and thank the musicians which inspire us to create more music.
A: That's a very poetic ending, thank you so much for sitting down with us, its been a really wonderful chat to get to know Maruja. I will deffo be seeing you in a gig soon - Manchester 12th at Band On The Wall - and will look out for your single Friday 13th October.
MA: Thank you, and we will see you there, to everyone reading.
As we part ways, the anticipation of Maruja’s unfolding journey is almost tangible, an unspoken promise of transcendental melodies yet to be born and stages yet to be graced. The city, with its vibrant hues and echoing melodies, stands as both witness and canvas to their evolving artistry. Maruja is not just a name to remember; it's an experience, a movement, a dance between the chaotic and the harmonious, echoing the ever-evolving narrative of music’s timeless journey.