Interview: Madonnatron

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Madonnatron are one of the most exciting new bands around at the moment. They specialise in their own unique brand of (in their own words) ‘psychedelic witch prog’. Although they haven’t released that much online, what they have got on is completely exhilarating. ‘Sangue Neuf’ combines the intensity of label-mates Taman Shud with a bassline that could have come off Hex Enduction Hour. There are swirling chanted vocals and a sinister, simple, pounding drum beat – the song will stick in your craw, I encourage you to listen immediately. Ahead of playing Green Man festival in late August, we caught up with them to talk about whore complexes, their new album, and colourful attempts at bribery outside festival gates…

Let’s start by talking about festivals in general, have you played many of them? Or is this a relatively new thing for you guys?

We supported The Moonlandingz on their UK tour last autumn and then went around the country with the Trashmouth Records tour so it’s been great to be able to play in lots of places other than London so far.

We are playing a modest handful of festivals this summer and are very much looking forwards to Green Man festival in August. Personally, the novelty of being given a ticket, as opposed to desperate and colourful attempts at bribery outside the gate, is something of a thrill – best not to disclose some of the tactics previously employed…

How important have Trashmouth been in your development? And how did this partnership come about?

Very important. On our first ever gig we opened for Meatraffle, who were recording with Trashmouth at that time. We were pretty awful but we kept on playing, often at the Windmill, so we’ve always been surrounded by people gravitating around Trashmouth in one way or another.

Luke and Liam say that they understood we had something from the very early gigs. I’m not sure what they mean, you will have to ask them.

Having the support of people like them, who are pro in what they do, led us to keep playing when things weren’t going well. And I’m glad we did!

You’re part of the South London scene based around The Windmill, along with bands like Shame, the Fat Whites, Goat Girl and others, what have been the benefits of such a tight-knit group?

We shiver slightly at the word scene – we always think that as soon as any creative ripples are collectively pronounced “scene” then it’s kind of over instantaneously. We wouldn’t say we are a tight-knit group either, though we know the bands you mentioned, and play and hangout in the same venues and some of them are our good friends.

The reason why so many new bands are coming out of the so called “South London scene” is that good things are more likely to happen when there are good conditions, above all a community that allows and supports these things to flourish. Places like the Windmill are important for the survival of live music and are crucial avenues for new bands so that they can be heard and are able to put stuff out there without necessarily having to bring a minimum number of people through the door. Equally Trashmouth Records and labels with a similar ethos have really played a huge part in making sure some of the bands formerly mentioned have had the opportunity to record and develop their sound. We were lucky enough to meet people who trusted us and gave us space when things were pretty raw.

One of the best things about it all though are the genuine and loyal people who, even if they don’t play themselves, will come out to support the bands they love. And it is real love and faith. They really get it and give an awful lot of energy which I think permeates into people’s music and their live shows.

In some ways, it feels like a wonky, sprawling and emotionally disturbed family but one who loves each other really and understands each other’s weirdnesses.

I completely get what you mean about the word scene, it’s a bit of a hackneyed phrase, but have there been any downsides to being around this ‘wonky’ family?

Yeah, of course. At the end of the day, you end up meeting the same people over and over and even if you don’t know them directly, one of your friends does. In a way, it’s like being in a small village. And like in small villages, there might be people talking about you whom you might never have even heard of!

How did the name come about?

Musically maybe it was meant to represent a mixture of the glib and the formidable, but it’s also a kind of ironic hybrid of the Madonna/whore complex that appears to inhibit so many. It’s kind of – ‘what if things are really not what they are meant to be? And so fucking what?’

What are your plans for the rest of the year, and what have you got in the pipeline?

We’ve got our first single and a video coming out in the next few weeks which will coincide with our slot at the Great Escape festival in May. Marc Riley has invited us back up to Salford to do a second live session on his show so we’ll be doing that on the 6th June. Our debut LP is coming out on 30th June via Trashmouth Records/Domino, and amidst trying to keep a roof over our heads and trying not to despair about politics, we are currently in the process of writing songs for a second record. Would be good to be able to tour the album if circumstances allow.

What can we expect from the new material? Is it different to stuff you’ve put out, is it going down the same route as your past stuff. If you could describe the album in three words, what would they be?

The album in 3 words? Psychedelic. Witch. Prog.

The new material has definitely still got the ironic aspect going. We are not the kind of people who like to write love songs, that’s for sure. Our sound is not set in stone, we are not one of those garage or punk bands that spend the whole time doing the same 3 chords and play for people who have listened to the same few bands all their lives, so I cannot tell you what the next album will sound like at this point. What we have so far it’s pretty fresh.

Do you have any long-term goals as a band? Certain places to play, albums, tours etc?

Playing at Austin Psych Fest would be cool. We have been riding a certain wave quite successfully so far so it would be good to just see how it all unfolds. We had a good time touring last year so more of that is appealing. A tour with the Caveman (Nick Cave)??!

Will you be touring the new album?

Maybe in the latter part of this year if we are lucky.

Have there been any moments at a gig, or because of a track you wrote, or a reaction to a song, where you’ve thought ‘There’s something in this, we’ve got something special’, in other words, have there been any real turning points, so to speak?

The moment our friends no longer avoided eye contact after a gig- that’s when I knew we had something…

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