As a seasoned musician, multi-instrumentalist and accomplished performer, Melbourne’s Nicholas Martyn has lent his complex drumming wizardry to some of Melbourne’s most beloved acts. In 2014, the prolific songwriter, producer, vocalist and sole performer began creating his own unique blend of genre-defying percussive explorations under Las Mar. Releasing an EP and an LP in his first two years and staying relatively quiet ever since Las Mar is finally back with new music and thrilled to present his latest psychedelic art-pop trip, ‘Weekend Repair’ today, taken from his forthcoming album to be released later in 2020.
Hey Nick, congratulations on your new track ‘Weekend Repair’, what’s this song all about and what inspired you to write it?
Thanks! It’s good to put some new music out into the world, waiting for “a better time” didn’t really pay off.
Like a lot of my songs, “Weekend Repair” just started as a sound, a beat. I didn’t know it was going to be a song, really, just another studio adventure. But a melody started to emerge and with it this feeling of urgency, a desire to talk about what was on my mind at the time and, in many ways, still is – integrity. About how you hold on when the boat is rocked or what emerges when the boat gets capsized. Whether you stay the course personally speaking, despite the costs, because it means something to you, or break down and rebuild – it’s about doing what we must to thrive and survive in a world that never stops changing.
Lyrically it’s sort of vague though. I often write in images, like vignettes, not clear narratives. That’s just what I like to do – show pieces of something instead of telling a story in a more “beginning-middle-end” sense.
You’ve always had a truly DIY approach to Las Mar, with the entire process from writing, recording, performing and producing done entirely yourself. Can you talk us through the process of making ‘Weekend Repair’? What instruments were used, how long has the process taken from conception to completion?
Yeah well it’s a satisfying process, but a bloody long one sometimes! I wear many caps creatively speaking, but at my core I’m a drummer. I started, as I often do, with a challenge to myself – in this case playing a tricky mixture of drums and congas all at once just to see if I could! After that it was just building on top, trying different instruments. Strong bass lines or bass presence is a key thing for me, it’s what makes me move. Instrumentally speaking this track is far less bonkers than a lot of what I make – it’s just bass, drums, keys and guitar – like a rock band (but with congas). Refining the vocal melody and writing the lyrics were the most challenging parts. Vocals really make or break a song and there are so many variables in a vocal performance beyond just pitch and timing – the quirks, idiosyncrasies, even mishaps create a personality that emerges from a song. They make the emotions appear in a way. How you deliver each syllable can change the whole character of that illusion – the illusion that someone is talking directly to you.
As to how long it took me to make, I won’t tell you – that part’s a secret!
You’ve performed and toured with some huge names in Australian music including Gotye, D.D Dumbo, Matt Corby, Nai Palm, Husky, Barney McAll and more. Has playing with these musicians shaped the music you make as Las Mar at all?
If I’m being honest, I’d say not really. I’ve always had a desire to do things in a certain way, to create the puzzle pieces, that I’ve never quite seen in any other artist (and I’ve worked with plenty). What I am grateful for is that many of these artists have pushed me – mostly to refine certain aspects of my drumming and to experiment with technology. So in that sense you could say they’ve shaped me. A lot of great artists I’ve worked with have their own approach to composing, a strong will and a commitment to unique aesthetic principles – these are things I admire and I hold dear when it comes to creating music for Las Mar, never settling for less. I’ve wanted to funnel my wide range of influences into odd-ball creations for a long time, and it took me a while to get around to it because I was committed to life as a session muso, making lots of different styles of music under the banner of other people. But finally I get to do both which is nice, and a healthy change for me personally!
You’ve toured all over the world with the many projects you’ve been involved with. What do you miss most about touring and performing, and do you have any plans for upcoming live performances of any sort in the interim?
I miss airports! Kidding…..I miss the travel a lot though, seeing new places, eating novel food, smelling new smells. I miss getting on stage and being part of a great performance that transports a room full of people to that “someplace else”. I miss being part of a group of people that inspires, or at least entertains, people on a regular basis. And I do sorta miss hotel rooms though…not kidding!
I’m going to perform a live set for Live At The Grove that will be live on Youtube on July 23rd, the day after “Weekend Repair” comes out. That’s about as live as you can get for now, at least in Melbourne.
What was the last gig you went to see (not perform) before restrictions were in place?
For memory (it was a while ago now) it was a humble Tuesday night at Make It Up Club at Bar Open in Fitzroy. They have all sorts of weird and wonderful improvised music happening there, you truly never know what you’re in for. I recall a performance that blended Guzheng (Chinese harp), percussion and bass clarinet that was pretty far out. I loved it. Aviva Endean led the group and she’s an avant-garde music champion, among other great things.
And finally, what’s the first thing you’ll be doing once restrictions finally ease and life returns to some sort of normalcy?
I’m going to submerge myself in the lovely, but very icy, waters down by the Great Ocean Road. After that I’ll book some shows, hopefully a nation-wide tour, at least the East Coast. I had to cancel one back in March so I’m keen to show people what I do when the chance arises.
Wrap your ears around Las Mar’s new single ‘Weekend Repair’ below and be sure to tune in to Live at The Grove’s Youtube Channel at 6pm Thursday 23 July for a special live performance!