The Mariner’s Children


Written by Francis Lonergan
Photos and illustrations by Paul Bridgewater
15 Monday 15th November 2010
The Mariner’s Children are the latest band to stamp their mark firmly on London’s bustling folk scene, gaining far more than an appreciative nod from their peers. Their debut EP New Moore Island (out through Broken Sound) has only just hit the shelves yet already they’re receiving love from the likes of NME and The Guardian, and finding themselves compared to an ‘alt-folk Arcade Fire’. High praise indeed for a band that only settled on their final line-up a few months back. Their dark tales and intense sounds are providing a natural progression in a genre that seems more prevalent than ever. This is a band that’s pushing things forward. Don’t Panic caught up with Benedict Rubinstein to find out how it all got to this...
The Mariner's Children comprise of an epic seven piece including players from Peggy Sue, Sons of Noel & Adrian, Alessi's Ark, and Laura Marling's bands. How did this line-up come about?
Well 75% of those connections are from one man and that’s Marcus (Hamblett) our bassist who’s a stupidly talented and busy musician – he plays for all of the above apart from Peggy Sue, though he has played with them too. Us and Emma Gatrill (also from Sons) all went to Uni together, so that’s how those links were forged. The other Peggy Sue connection came from us being friends with Katy, Olly and Rosa, and when we wanted to expand and bring in a new violinist and cellist (Becca Mears and Emma Kraemer) I asked Katy very politely if we could nick their string section, and fortunately she said yes.
The sound you've crafted seemed to begin with you and Dan Matthews (guitar), how did it all start?
Dan and I lived together in Brighton and spent a lot of time talking about music. We both got quite into Pentangle and were both got a bit obsessed by the more interlocky [sic] Jansch and Renbourn parts. The initial idea was to wed that with something more abrasive and rowdy.
As more players came into the fold, did it bring about a change to the way that songs were written?
Yeah it definitely did or has. I think it’s more collaborative now, though I’m sure I’m still pretty annoying and interfering (not sure how much I can change that really). 
Beyond the folk influences, what other sounds keep you and the rest of The Mariner's Children happy?
I’ve been listening to Angels of Light and Akron/Family a lot. And Smog but I suppose he’s pretty folky in a way – mind you I suppose all the above are pretty folky in a way. Plastic Ono Band, the first John Lennon solo album a lot too, which is really good, really raw and harrowing. I really like the Twin Shadow album too. Fela Kuti and John Coltrane, Ole in particular – Dan’s keeps on talking about a Love Supreme and Felix is a jazz drummer so I’m sure he’s been listening to something along that line too. Marcus loves Ornette Coleman a lot too.
Do any of these loves find their way into the music?
Sort of, I wouldn’t say we’ve found a way of meshing all those influences together by any means – not sure that would even be a good thing. But everything finds a way in in some capacity.
The lyrics in your songs read like stories, in the first person but perhaps suggesting a character in a different time and place. Do books or film have an influence on the way you write? 
Yeah I suppose they do but not in a direct ‘I’m gonna adapt this film/book into a song’ way. It’s more that anything you read that gets to you digs it’s way into your unconscious. So when I write a song I’m sure it filters out in some way.
All five songs were recorded in a converted church, what was that like?
Great. Pretty cold in there despite the fact it was summer, but really good. It wasn’t as church-like as the words ‘converted church’ would lead you to believe – it never felt like we were recording our EP on the set of a Meatloaf video – but it was really cool and still had amazing acoustics.
You often find artists have a preference towards playing live or recording, is there a particular love or hate there?
I love both. I’d like to record more really. It can be incredibly stressful and when we did our EP we had a pretty limited budget and therefore pretty significant time restraints so there were times when it was a bit of a rush and that isn’t fun. But when you really have space to be creative the whole process can be more rewarding than anything else I’ve ever done. Playing live can be really exhilarating too though, and I really enjoy playing with the people in my band as they’re all pretty fucking good at what they do.
The title of the EP itself is a nod to a possibly little-known story, why New Moore Island? 
Well the story if you want me to tell it is… It was this uninhabitable Island that Bangladesh and India both claimed Sovereignty over, and were both very bitter about. And then earlier this year it sank under the sea but though it doesn’t exist anymore there’s still conflict about it. It’s the boiled blood, slightly absurd anger or logic in the story that made me want to name the EP after it. That irrationality is what a lot of the songs on the EP are about or stem from.  
You've just finished your first UK tour with label-mates Tristram, how was it?
It was great, they’re brilliant and really good people. Though touring England in November is very cold.
New Moore Island is out now via Broken Sound

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