Indie Interview Series: Saint Mars

Saint Mars– the UK alt-rock powerhouse– has been taking the indie music scene by storm ever since their explosive 2017 debut with the critically acclaimed “Ocean Blues” EP. The band is the brainchild of highly revered singer/keyboardist Marc Darcange and features an impressive roster of contributing musicians such as Angelo Bruschini (guitars – Massive Attack ; Blue Aeroplanes) and Jason X (bass, keyboards, vocals – Transposer).

Listen to the full EP here: 

Shortly after the band’s inception, Saint Mars began work on a highly ambitious concept album that focuses on the true story of a 13 year-old boy’s tragic experience as a result of sustained bullying. When searching for a singer that could add authenticity to their newly released Single “Somewhere Somebody” Marc Darcange specifically chose to work with 13-year old Tryzdin Grubbs. After the band began working with Tryzdin, Marc was surprised to learn that the young singer himself was also a victim of intense bullying– adding even more emotional depth to the track. You can read our full review of the new EP here.

Check out the official video for “Somewhere Somebody” here:

This concept is one that resonates particularly loud amoung our current youth and within our culture. Bullying can have a devestating effect on our children’s physical and emotional well-being, ofetn leavng victims with serious short-term and long-term pyschological damage. If left unchecked and untreated, the effects of bullying can lead to physical injury, social problems, emotional problems, and even death.Countless research studies show that anyone involved with bullying—those who bully others, those who are bullied, and those who bully and are bullied—are at increased risk for depression. Needless to say, anything that increases awareness towards this nefarious issue is iundoubtably a positive and constructive pusuit. For this reason– in addition to learning more about stellar music– we wanted to get a more intimate view into what drives Saint Mars and what we can expect from the band going forward. The band was kind enough to take our questions.

Thank you for taking the time to answer some of our questions. I think we can all appreciate a good band name origin story. What is the significance of the name “Saint Mars”?

Marc Darcange: pretty weird story…in the very first stages, the band was called… ” We Make Storm !” It was supposed to sound really heavy. ” Broken Prophecy “, on the first EP, was in fact a song from that era…then came ” Ocean Blues “…and the band really changed its sound, becoming more intimate, deeper and emotional. And I felt the need to find another name…At that time I was reading for my five-year old daughter a French comics series called ” Max & Lilli “, written by Dominique de Saint-Mars (whom I actually met !). I felt the name ” Saint-Mars ” was perfect, because it reflected a kind of double nature and was totally bilingual (the words are the same in French and English and actually have the same meaning). Angelo liked it so we finally chose that name. Later, when we were designing the CD cover for the first EP, someone unintentionally omitted the ” – ” between the two words… ” Saint-Mars ” became ” Saint Mars “. And I felt it looked much better that way.

That’s a really heartwarming backstory. Can you go into a little more detail about the band’s inception ? What inspired you to pursue this new outlet ? How has the band evolved ?

Marc Darcange: I founded the band with two musicians with whom I had worked on another project. As already told, we were supposed to sound heavy… But what followed decided otherwise…From ” Ocean Blues “, my music became more intimate and I felt the need to collaborate with people from different horizons than mine. I got introduced to Angelo Bruschini by a friend. Angelo listened to the first demo of “Ocean Blues” and wrote me something like ” Mate, sounds interesting. Come on, give me the files, I’ll smash some guitars onto it “…The guitarist of Massive Attack…I couldn’t believe it.

This is how the band really started. Then I met another UK resident, Jason X, from Wales, on Facebook. I really liked his own music and he liked mine…so we started collaborating on ” Ocean Blues ” and he’s stayed a close partner until now. And then I had the chance to meet a Californian songwriter called Britt Warner, who co-wrote the lyrics of ” Ocean Blues ” and ” Boys Never Cry “. And this is how we have been working until today, remotely, by internet, since we all live in different locations. The band is a product of the internet generation !

How did the band get introduced to Tryzdin Grubbs ?

Marc Darcange: That was my idea…or at least this is how I saw things at first.

Since I was writing an concept album about bullying, I felt the need to find a young singer who could give credibility to the album. That young singer was supposed to play the boy bullied by his classmates. He was meant to cross the whole album by singing some words here and there…I couldn’t find such a singer where I lived. So I started to search over the internet, mainly on Youtube. And the first one I found was a 11-year old boy with a weird name, Tryzdin, singing ” Hello ” by Adele.

At that time I wasn’t into that Adele stuff at all, but despite of this, Tryzdin caught my attention. Then I watched another video of him singing another Adele’s song, ” The One and Lonely “. The quality of the video wasn’t very good, the sound was terrible but when I was watching that video, something happened; I don’t know exactly what, but Tryzdin triggered something in me and I felt that he was the only one I would ever need. All other singers I was watching afterwards seemed lifeless and uninteresting in comparison.

After a couple of attempts, I managed to get in touch with his mother. I sent her one of the tracks for which I wanted Tryzdin to sing some words of the chorus (” I Am the Sea “)…he loved it and his mother told me he wanted to sing the whole song ! This was certainly not my plan. But I flew to Columbus in October 2017 to record him. And I came back with about six full songs done ! To this day, we’ve made more than ten songs together, among them ” Somewhere Somebody “, the first song specially written for him with Britt Warner. The song was written before I actually met him, which is surprising because it totally reflects who he is. One would say it could only have been written by him or someone who really knew him…That is one of the great mysteries of my encounter with Tryzdin.

Your upcoming concept album is based on a true story, can you please discuss this ?

Marc Darcange: Yes, it was not a long time after ” Ocean Blues “…I saw a documentary about a young boy bullied in France whose life ended tragically at the age of 13. It was really overwhelming, specially his father’s testimony. I remember his name: Matteo. It had a huge impact on me. I felt the need to write about that story, make an album out of it. I think it is one of the good things of music and art in general, to be able to turn something so tragic into something deep and emotional.

Having Tryzdin being a kind of spokesman for this bullied boy and all other similar victims is hugely symbolic: not so long after we started working together, I learned that he was a victim of intense bullying himself. And he was of the same age!

Do you see this concept evolving beyond one album? Could you see Saint Mars becoming a vehicle for social activism/awareness? Are there any other important issues that you’d like to explore artistically in the future?

Jason: I think that as a band, the human psyche is very much something we’re interested in. Interactions between us, the good we do, the bad and the ugly. Theres a lot going on with humanity at the moment, technology, politics, spirituality, theres a paradigm shift and thats definitely something that we would like to explore as a band, definitely.

Marc Darcange: I’ve always wanted to go beyond music. We want to spread a message, raise awareness. Both Jason and me are fond of science fiction and esoteric theories about humanity. We’re already making songs for a next album: it will be about the state of the human kind and technology: has technology made us better ? Are we really intelligent creatures when you consider we’re consciously destroying our living conditions ? No other species have ever done this…So are we just a disease or a virus… ?

As for Tryzdin…I’ve never told him but from the beginning, I’ve felt he had a mission and a message to spread. He’s unlike any other teenager I’ve met. He’s got a real social awareness. Somehow he’s becoming a kind of anti-bullying symbol, but that’s only part of the story. In my opinion, his generation will face the most difficult challenge any generation of humans has ever had: change or die. I think the world will  desperately need people like him in the forthcoming decades. 

Wow, that adds enormous power and integrity to the underlying concept. Tryzdin, can you discuss any personal experiences that helped fuel your performance specifically on “Somewhere Somebody”?

Tryzdin: My own bullying experience ! I have been bullied for the longest time. I get bullied because I sing and because I don’t play sports and I am not like other boys of my age. One experience that helped fuel the song was in 6th grade, I was told that nobody loves me and nobody cares about me. So that’s how I relate to the line ” Somewhere, somebody loves me for what I am not what I should be “.

Tryzdin, what advice can you give to other struggling kids/teens ?

Tryzdin: I would say to them: ” Just stay positive and keep being you. Because there are going to be people who are going to hate you and be jealous but just know that I love you for who you are and I don’t want you to change “.

Tryzdin, how has working with the band affected your everyday life? How has it affected the way you perform? How have your peers reacted to the Single ?

Tryzdin: It has affected my everyday life because now when I go to places, people ask where they can buy the single and where they can listen to it. Also my peers and fellow friends reacted great to the song and they said that it helped them through some of their hard times.

Can you share any funny, exciting, or interesting experiences that you have shared as a band ?

Marc Darcange: Oh well…this has yet to come !

Seriously, the most time I spent with a band member is with Tryzdin, during my two stays in Columbus, and I could certainly write a book about my experiences ! To tell the truth, Tryzdin is actually not a band member, rather a special guest, but that difference tends to vanish more and more with time…

Tryzdin has some strange habits, for example going out with socks and plastic sandals, even in Winter…I remember when we were invited to a club in Columbus one night. It was a day off recording, so Tryzdin asked me to take him to a trampoline park. He had to wear special orange socks for this and kept them when we left the park. Later in that club, Tryzdin had a chance to sing with a live band for the first time…it was quite an event and I shot a video…When I watched the video, I noticed he was still wearing those orange socks along with his usual plastic sandals ! It looked really odd, but that’s Tryzdin, really…he never does anything like others and that’s what I really like in him. Even when singing he’s in his own league and cannot be compared to anyone. He’s not a pop idol stereotype !

That was initially what was so appealing about Saint Mars. Each of you appear to be so relatable and down-to-earth. Can you discuss the importance of being yourself in a musical context and how it affects your overall connection to your audience?

Angelo: As I have said before no borders no ego…Yes, we all live in different countries but modern technology means I can communicate with the other guys any time (except when Tryzdin is in bed!). Honestly when you do not have to prove anything you can be yourself and hope that the other guys like what you are doing; if not, change it. 

As for the audience, ask Tryzdin… he has poured his heart into this project.

Tryzdin: Being yourself is always key because if you wanna be in this industry you dont wanna be like another artist in the industry. That’s why when people say I sound like a certain singer, I tell them that I sound like me.

Marc Darcange: For me, Tryzdin is already in his own league. He’s not a pop idol stereotype. I would even say that his way of singing can be unsettling, specially given his age, because he’s so spontaneous and doesn’t hold back his emotions. The only one I would compare him to is Björk, not because he sounds like her (I don’t think he even knows her !) but because like Björk, he’s able to deliver that raw emotion and create his own universe.

As for being down to earth, yes…I’ve never seen Angelo showing off, advertising or posting about the fact he plays with Massive Attack. I don’t think he’s into that VIP state of mind at all. I know when he is on tour with them only because of all the horrible jokes he makes in hotels, but that’s it ! Jason has the same state of mind and so do I, I guess, because people often ask me why I never talk about what I’m doing with Saint Mars, outside a circle of close friends…Most of my neighbors ignore what I’m doing at all and that’s a good thing. As for Tryzdin, I remember, when I was in Columbus, something truly struck me: we used to go to a music shop where he would try some keyboards and sing. And within a minute or two, he was having an audience, people smiling, watching him, shooting videos, talking to him…He also used to sing all the time next to me in the car when I was driving, for no particular reason, just because he loves to sing for people. As a matter of fact, he’s never told me he wanted to make it big or become a star, I mean not a single time ! When the “Somewhere Somebody ” single got released in April, he just wrote me to say how thankful and happy he was…Those kind of feedbacks really come first in my book.Angelo and him are very similar: their talent speaks for themselves so they don’t feel the need to talk much about it !

But I don’t think staying true to what you are is really favored in the industry at all…I remember one year ago, I had a talk with a manager of a record label in Sweden. He told me something like “I think your music is great but I can’t hear anything like you do on the radio “….but really, what would you want to sound like any other band on the radio ??? I see so many music videos with the same old cliches: girls, cars, luxury goods, five-star hotels, etc….This has become so predictable. But what is the true message they want to bring to people ? This kind of conformism somehow puzzles me. 

As Robert Smith once sang in « Jumping Someone Else’s Train “: « If you walk in the crowd, you won’t leave any trace “. Just be you: you can’t be wrong !

And it’s even more relevant now with Tryzdin, because it’s so unusual to have such a young singer in an adult rock band context. It was really innovative but risky at the same time. After all, people might have been put off by the fact he was still a child…like “Hey guys, what are you doing now ??? Children’s music or nursery rhymes ? C’mon, you’re not serious ! “. I even feared my band mates’ reaction… But I really left my heart speak and didn’t care too much about those reactions and the fuss I would be creating for some. 

But to be honest, there’s nothing really confortable always staying in your confort zone. I constantly have this quote from Paulo Coelho in mind: “Don’t wait. Time goes faster than you think “.

The musical chemistry between Tryzdin and yourself is truly remarkable. Is this kind of intuition a common experience when forming a new band, or is collaborating more often an arduous experience?

Tryzdin: I believe that it isn’t common when forming a new band. I was quite surprised when I heard Cedric (Marc Darcange) didn’t know I was bullied when we first met. It tells me that things happen for a reason.

Angelo: Tryzdin is very natural so it was easy to form the sounds around him, and hope the audience likes it, also this song’s message is very close to his heart.

Marc Darcange: I can honestly say it’s different from my past experiences, because I’ve never lived such a musical chemistry before. But again, the music we make is different: for me, “Ocean Blues ” has acted like an epiphany: for the first time, I was just writing the music that truly reflected who I was…and not long after, Angelo showed up…then Jason… then Tryzdin: with him, it was as if “Ocean Blues ” finally came to life and the character I had created for the song manifested in flesh and bones…Sounds a bit like a modern fairytale, right ?  But I have this strange feeling the song has been written for him and he’s been there from the beginning.

Can you describe the band’s sound ? Influences ?

Angelo Bruschini: That’s an interesting question, the core of the band lives in different locations (Switzerland, Wales, US…), I am in England (Bristol) and I believe its mixed in America, so it’s multicultural song by song. I never know what is next or where it is going. This is the modern age where you don’t go in a studio and record together, we all have our own studios and talk through modern media. In a way I like working at home, I can be naked, in my dressing gown, up at three in the morning with an idea in my head that won’t go away, then press a button and send it half way across the world, So to describe the bands sound is ‘no borders, no egos’, I like that.

Marc Darcange: For me, the band’s sound is connected with what we are living and the interactions we have together. I was deeply influenced by the Shoegaze movement at a certain point and so was Jason X, so we definitely have a lot in common. I also have an interest in ancient and baroque music, hence the baroque influence that has been noticed in the press in songs like ” Boys Never Cry “. That said, my influence comes from the other band members. I’ve learned a lot by working with Angelo and Jason. I’ve also learned a lot by working with Tryzdin. He certainly has an influence on me and on the way I create music. Something like ” Somewhere Somebody ” would have never been written without him.

Tryzdin: My Main influences as a singer are Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Prince, and Adele.



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