Leeds festival: Headliners Marsicans live down the road

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Jake Haseldine

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Marsicans are James (second left), Oli, Rob and Cale

Most bands wait a lifetime for a crowning homecoming gig.

That moment of collective pride and joy, celebrating your genius while consolidating your status as local heroes.

Indie newcomers Marsicans, however, are about to experience it for the second time this summer and, remarkably, all before they’ve even put out an album.

The fast-rising guitar stars supported Leeds rock royalty Kaiser Chiefs at the city’s Elland Road football stadium in June and will this weekend headline the BBC Music Introducing Stage at Reading + Leeds festivals.

“It’s pretty special to be headlining the stage there because it was the first festival we all went to growing up and we’ve been so many years it’s kind of our home festival,” says frontman James Newbigging.

The singer/guitarist admits he’s been practicing his best rock ‘n’ roll “foot on the monitor” pose for the latest big occasion. “It’s what the audience wants and deserves,” he jokes, and he’d know having been in that very crowd himself before.

“The first year I went it was the Arctic Monkeys and then Kings of Leon. I think I was 15 at the time but it was just the best thing. I remember the Friday just me and my mates waiting down the front all day, getting drunk. It was a very, very fun day.”

Catch the wind

Marsicans hail from Colton, a district of east Leeds within earshot of the festival’s Bramham Park site where apparently “you can make out what song is being played if the wind carries in the right direction”. That could well come in handy if and when their guest-list inevitably overflows.

“My mum and dad might not bother going,” laughs Newbigging. “They might just wait at home and sit in the garden, it will be a lot more relaxing way to listen to it.”

The four-piece pinpoint their sound as being located where “upbeat indie meets dirty pop” and their Leeds Fest’ set will draw largely on their catchy collection of early singles, including the infectious double threat of The Vaccines/Maccabees-esque Your Eyes and Little Things.

As well as being selected by BBC DJ Abbie McCarthy to headline her Good Karma Club UK tour this year, the band also supported indie icons Foals in the rock ‘n’ roll city of Hamburg, with Newbigging stopping off en route to get his picture taken next to the John Lennon statue. Then it was back in the van to head home to warm up the gathered crowds at the Leeds United ground he went to as a kid, for Ricky Wilson’s band.

“It was a bit of a whirlwind of a week,” he admits.

“It was so surreal, but so fun. You’re on stage in the stadium going ‘what is going on?!’

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Getty Images

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Official Marsicans fans Kaiser Chiefs

“I remember when they [Kaiser Chiefs] played it a few years ago and I really wanted to go but I couldn’t afford it. So this time is it was like ‘Oh, we’re playing, so that’s fine.'”

At the rate they are going, the band could soon find themselves catapulted to the level of fame that afforded Wilson to sideline as a judge on The Voice. The frontman already has the aesthetics figured out should the show’s producers call in need of another Leeds rocker.

“We’re all going to get different coloured chairs,” he explains, “Mine will be yellow… and make sure I’ve got a very, very fast swing round.”

The lads are currently “92%” into recording their debut album and are now just “adding some nice soothing layers” a la The Beach Boys.

The album, which they say you’ll be able to hear in the coming months, apparently borrows from influences as varied as their old pal Lennon’s band The Beatles, house music and heavy metal.

The bulk of it was recorded during a nine-day stint on a farm together at the famous Rockfield studios in Wales, where another famous Northern outfit, Oasis, recorded (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? – the fifth biggest-selling album in UK pop history.

Feeling supersonic

To get themselves in the mood for creating similar musical magic, they watched the Oasis documentary Supersonic on the first night, which features a chaotic scene involving the Gallagher brothers, Bonehead and a fire extinguisher being let off in the same room they were sat in.

Newbigging admits his band are a little more chilled in their approach than their cross-Pennine musical forefathers.

“We’re all pretty tame,” he confesses. “I did knock my bedside table lamp on the first night but it was purely an accident.

“I just pulled the duvet off a bit too passionately.

“Man, that sounds a bit weird!”

By the time main stage headliners The 1975 strut out on stage on Saturday night, James and co will hope to have secured a memorable second home soil victory, leaving them free to chase teenage kicks again right through the Leeds night.

“There’s only the [First Direct] Arena left to tick off then,” declares their leader, plotting the next mission.

“So we’ll have to do that pretty soon”

Marsicans headline the BBC Music Introducing Stage at Reading Festival on Friday 23 August and Leeds on the Saturday,

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