Interview: Oliver Marson discusses his latest single ‘To The Nines’

With an idiosyncratic approach to creativity, London-based Oliver Marson navigates through a range of genres, deftly defying any preconceptions the listener may have. Balancing experimentalism within pop sensibilities, shiver-inducing vocals are intertwined with reverb-heavy guitars and retro synth tones. GIGsoup caught up with Oliver to discuss his latest euphoric slice of art-pop ‘To the Nines’.

Hey Oliver, how are you? How have you been making the most of lockdown?

Hi, Good! A little bit jaded as I stayed up till 5 am trying to finish a demo last night, which kind of leads me onto your next question. Mostly, I’ve been writing songs and recording demos. I’ve also streamed myself doing a couple of covers from my favourite bands like Nick Cave, the Psychedelic Furs and Roxy Music. Thankfully, I have been isolating with my girlfriend, which has been a lot of fun too. She is a filmmaker and photographer herself, so we’ve done some photography and also shot a music video for one of my other tracks ‘Time for Love’ in my living room. 

You’ve recently released your new single ‘To the Nines’ which navigates through a range of genres. Can you tell us the story behind the track?

The song has David Lynch inspired lyrics about the murder of a fashion model, which I guess stems from my interest in dark, irrational forms of thinking, in this case toxic male thinking. I’ve had conversations in pubs with people who have argued that women should be careful of what they wear when they’re out, which is a horrible way of thinking and inspired the song. So, the song ends up exploring the idea that someone would murder for this reason. 

What was the musical-making process like for ‘To the Nines’?

It’s one of the fondest memories I have of writing a song. I took the song into a studio  with just a couple of chords and a vague idea of what I wanted the song to be. In the end it was very natural. I had different chord variations and lots of ideas and that lent itself to being able to experiment and have lots of different sounds stemming from different eras flowing from one another. 

What can you tell us about the accompanying visuals for ‘To The Nines’?

For the To the Nines video, me and stephanie were inspired a bit by meme culture – we simply wanted to make as many memes as possible within the video, because its fun and why not? In the video, I am dressed as all sorts of characters (a cardinal, a woman and french legionnare) simply because the song is called ‘to the nines’. Me wearing the dress was very spontaneous too, Stephanie literally just took the dress from one of her uni friends appartment and we used it briefly for the green screen shots. It was very fun.  For the style, we wanted to make something quite lo-fi and spontaenous in keeping with the song – most importantly it had to be fun. If people know me well, they know that I like to dress up and also don’t take myself too seriously. My music in general doesn’t take itself too seriously, its tongue in cheek and in a way its quite liberating to approach music like this. It supposed to bring a smile to people’s faces. So, the tacky aesthetic was done on purpose because the song itself is kind of tacky and vulgar, but in a fun way if that makes sense. 

Very cool. Can you tell us a little bit about the production process when making the video?

We filmed it our selves in several locations near my house also with a green screen. It’s all completely improvised and not planned, which feels a lot more natural than forking out a load of money on a music video that has a story, and everyone looks and feels very serious. The important thing is to be yourself. 

Your sound is extremely distinctive from others in the industry. Who are your musical influences? 

I’d say my influences are pretty broad, so it’s difficult to know where to start. I like musicians that tell a story and are a bit provocative in their approach. This can range from modern artists like Danny Brown all the way back to artists from the past like Frank Zappa and Serge Gainsbourg. In terms of sound, Johnny Marr was my primary inspiration for my guitar playing. I love electronic music too, like Aphex Twin. But I guess I’m more entranced by classic 80s synth sounds. What is really interesting to me is when artists blend different styles to make something quite unique in the way that Roxy Music did and artists like Ariel Pink are doing today. 

Given the current circumstances, how has the pandemic affected the way that you work as an artist? 

Aside from not being able to rehearse for shows, it hasn’t changed the way I work too much because I mainly write on my own. These days I record demos in my study and then will take it to a studio or to a band to rehearse. In some ways, it has actually stimulated the way I work, I have collaborated with a very talented Italian musician who lives in Tennessee called Aurelio Capello on a song called ‘Sixth Sense’. We just record and share stuff to each other via logic. 

Can you remember the first album that you purchased?

The first album I ever bought was Absolution by Muse when I was about 10. At that age, me and my sister used to spend most of our time watching music videos on Kerrang and MTV completely in awe of bands like Nirvana, Muse and Metallica. 

What are your hopes for the rest of the year? 

I think the most important would be for the number of deaths to decrease and for things to go back to normal. I guess the hope for myself would be to be able to get gigging around the UK with the band I have set up. I also wish just to be able to watch a football game in the pub with my mates again. But, it is way more important that everyone sees this situation through, to not be selfish and to take things as they come.