We've known Martin King for a long time; first as the Niall to Oscar Key Sung's Harry in their Oscar + Martin duo, and later as one quarter of The Harpoons. In all those years we didn't see much of Martin solo, beyond a couple too-brief EPs. It's a damn shame, because despite what he'd have you believe, he's a very good musician. This year, though, Martin's decided to give the solo thing a proper crack, and I think I speak for us all when I say: It's about bloody time.
Martin's just released his very first solo music video, "The Way We Crush" , and he makes a wonderful leading man. He came by our office last week and we made him watch his own music video, which I think is considered low-tier torture in some jurisdictions. We fell down the YouTube rabbithole and watched a bunch of other clips, and reflected on why Martin's taken so long to do his own thing. Music is our life, let's live it.
Here we are Martin, on my homepage. Somewhat embarrassing. What would be in your YouTube 'recommended for you' tab?
Well I have a group chat with The Harpoons that's filled with like, video shitposting, so probably that sort of thing. 'Post-browncardigan' videos of like, really long bongs. Artisanal bongs.
Okay, let's watch The Way We Crush. How many music have you made?
This is my first solo one. But I've made heaps of non-me ones. A guy called Luke Stephenson directed this, he's usually a still photographer.
You look very Trainspotting here.
Yeah, maybe a bit "To The Moon And Back", by Savage Garden. That was actually my brief: "Can I please do Savage Garden?" Luke was like, "We can talk about that. Or try something else." But I got a little bit of that in there. I'm like, 50% amazed at what he's done, I think it's so beautiful, and 50% like, just so embarrassed about all my facial expressions. The brow furrowing is involuntary. I did have a stylist, Tom Llewellyn, but I guess he didn't pick up on it.
Martin, this is very good song.
I can't tell anymore. I've listened to it way too many times.
Definitely. It's like, 160BPM so it's the worst song to try and dance to, or even head nod too. I don't know why I did that.
I like the glasses you wear. They're a bit steampunk.
That's all Tom's doing. He spray painted almost everything white. Hopefully it's somewhere on the line between steam and cyberpunk: not too steamy.
Do you think you're better at production, or on the vox?
I don't think I'm particularly good at either, but hopefully I can fool people by nailing a couple things here and there. I sound so stupid if I sing loud. I'd really like to be writing rude, hectic tracks, but I kinda have to sing really quiet. I can't get away with covering bad lyrics up with intensity.
Have you heard Selena Gomez' new song? She's someone that can't really belt it out, but has a nice voice when she's singing quiet.
Yeah, I've definitely seen some live sets that she struggles with, but I love her anyway. I fucking love her song "The Heart Wants What it Wants", but I haven't heard the new one yet.
Let's listen to it. I really like it.
It's cute, but I kinda hate it. Sorry.
Maybe I'm not ready for the funk. It sounds like an ad! For like, a car rental place.
Who's your favourite of the Disney alums?
I once wrote a song about Vanessa Hudgens.
She has an amazing song called "Sneaker Night."
Really? Can we hear it next? I haven't heard it.
She's kinda child star-ish, right?
Definitely. I think you're gonna hate this song too.
I really like heinous interior of her bedroom. Is this recent?
Oh! I thought she just put this out, so I was kinda surprised by the style choices, but also a bit like, "Okay, I can see it, maybe I need to incorporate this into my next video." I actually think this is where things might go, aesthetically. I saw some art the other day that had a 'Brunswick Street Mosaic in the Mid-2000s' vibe to it, and I thought, it might be time for this to come back. You know? Fibreglass furniture that looks like congealed snot, I think that's coming back. The fedora she's wearing? That's definitely coming back.
Help me see why.
People are gonna be like "Fuck the m'lady shit, this is funny." And they're gonna start wearing them, and eventually we're going to forget why we didn't wear them, and they're gonna be in stores everywhere.
Fashionable people do love to wear ugly things for the sake of being contrary.
Fedoras are the new Crocs.
Do you care about fashion?
Yeah, but not more than anyone else who cares about fashion does. I try and look cool.
Where do you work?
I work at a picture framers in Richmond. But I might be about to be replaced by a robot. Although, I think the robots still need a human to put the bits of frames into them to do my current job. So who knows, I might just have a different job.
What's it like being an 'old head' in Melbourne?
It's weirdly fine. Like, The Harpoons has been playing together for nine years. We've almost been three different bands under the same name, doing totally different music. We'd always break up for a while and end up feeling like, "Oh, I kinda got sick of not being in a band with you guys." They're all still here too, it's a strange time capsule. It feels like a bubble, but that could just be because I don't go see much music anymore.
I don't know, maybe just because it's painful, you know, there's a lot of good bands. Maybe it's just living it Footscray. I really fluctuate. I do love live music, but sometime I never wanna see a gig or play in a band ever again. The Harpoons will do Karaoke sets for a while, like "Ugh, none of that 'live instrument' stuff." After awhile you're like, "this sucks," and you wanna be a proper rock band again.
How many solo shows have you played with this material?
Heaps, but I kinda haven't really settled on a full arrangement yet. Sometimes I play with a mate of mine, Juliette, and she's a really incredible singer. We have some lounge tracks, almost like Maddison Avenue vibes, so my other songs feel somewhat confused in the context of those tracks. I need to work out how to be a lounge act and a sort of post-drum-and-bass, emo act.
Do you wanna create 'an Immersive Musical Experience' at your shows?
I used to. I had a couple of good shows like that, but lately I just want to do café-style sets: sit in the corner and have nobody look at me. Keep it very low key. Trying to bring energy to an 'immersive experience' is hard because any number of small things can not be going very well. If there's not many people in the audience or you just suck that day, it really feels like weird karaoke. The bar for it to work well is really high.
So maybe you just do open mic nights from now on.
Yeah, maybe even bring an acoustic guitar out.
What's made you keep on making music for this many years?
I think I'm just obsessed. I'm addicted to music. Music's my life. I get a lot of 2AM text messages from Jack who's in The Harpoons just being like "I love you, I love music. Music's our life, let's live it." Maybe that's why I keep doing it.
Wow. Why did you play in bands for so long? Why is now the solo moment?
I think confidence is a factor, I'm scared most of the time. It's also just heaps more fun to make music with other people. There's much more self loathing involved in making solo music, and much more other-person-loathing in bands. I think that's healthier because you can actually get work through it with the other person, then ultimately make better music because of it. Self loathing is just like, "I hate myself and my music is bad." Then again, sometimes you think you're a genius. I did this remix for Oscar Key Sung two years ago and that was one of those moments I thought, "This is fucking genius." And it kind of is genius, but it's also a bit weird.
Should we listen to it?
You can. The first bit's really good, and the second bit I thought was really good but it turns out to be a bit much.
This is the good bit.
What, the first couple seconds?
I like the vocal processing here. Christopher Marsh commented 'your music makes me horny.'
Yeah, this bit good, but I kinda fucked it up at the drop. It sort of promises more than it delivers.
Have you noticed the enormous EDM drop has disappeared from the top 40 landscape? It's all about the absence of the drop: you empty the song out.
Yeah, the anti-drop. I'm obsessed. Do you mean like, the Martin Garrix "Animals" drop? Because that song is amazing. It promises so much, then the actual drop is only like, three instruments. And somehow it's still so huge.
This is very fresh.
It's a bit 2013. The video is so hilariously B-Grade too. Man, this is a really big moment.
I think a good example of anti-drop pop is " Bon Appetit ". The chorus is thinner than the verses, which kinda defies all conventional pop wisdom. It's so empty.
Fuck yeah. I love "Bon Appetit". I feel like people got to a point where they couldn't return to normal endorphin levels after listening to music because there were just so many drops. And they couldn't really make the drops any harder. I'm still trying to work out how to do the empty drop. "Swish Swish" wasn't as good as "Bon Appetit" , but the Nicki bit worked. I love Nicki Minaj. She is the greatest rapper alive.
I mean, there might be some better rappers.
Who? There aren't! Nobody's as consistent. I don't think she has a ghostwriter, she writes her own lyrics. "Truffle Butter" is one of my favourite songs, that and "Trini Dem Girls". She just keeps getting better! I also really like that hectic heartbreaking opener, All Things Go. I listen to it a lot when I'm making frames, crying behind my dust mask in a room full of power tools.
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