The musical project of Marty Longstaff of Sunderland, U.K., The Lake Poets is hauntingly dark and intriguing. Identifying his music as “northern melancholia,” Marty, who drew his stage name from a group of Romantic poets, writes pain-filled music as a way to help his listeners move past the more depressing times of life.
There is something indeed very northern and winter-feeling in Marty’s simple but powerful music. He uses repetition to emphasize key ideas running through his songs and makes captivating remarks through his choice of musical tones, vocal style, and lyrical themes.
You won’t regret giving The Lake Poets a listen—though you may want to grab a blanket and a cup of tea before you do.
Emily Cardé: You define your style of music as “northern melancholia.” What do you mean by that?
Marty Longstaff: My songs are often sad, and they often deal with uncomfortable and dark subject matter. I also have an element of folk storytelling to my writing and that largely deals with issues that are interesting and real to me such as post-industrial decline, accent and dialect pride, as well as cultural isolation vs. the struggle to maintain a regional identity. A little cheery picture of a northern town.
Ethan Weitz: What inspired you to start writing and performing music?
Marty: I love writing and playing, and after a tough time for my family I decided to vent my frustrations, fears, sorrows, and hopes via song. I’ve always sang, for as long as I can remember. My childhood home was filled with music and song, so it’s all very natural to me.
Emily: The term “Lake Poets” identifies a group of romantic poets including William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Was that what inspired the name of your band, and if so, how have those poets influenced your creativity and songwriting?
Marty: I read a critical analysis of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Robert Southey’s major works at university and simply thought the book’s title would make a cool band name. I’m not strictly a Romantic writer in the established sense—I tend to write more from a social realism perspective—but I do subscribe to their love of the outdoors and sense of awe drawn from the relative insignificance of man to nature. It certainly helps paint a picture of my output.
Emily: ‘Black and Blue’ is a heartbreaking and intense song. Can you tell us a little about that song and the story behind its creation?
Marty: I worked as a teacher for a time, and the lyrics of that song relate to a little girl in my class who wouldn’t interact with me or the other children around her. It was troubling me, until one day she came up to me and gave me a huge hug. I felt wonderful, until a split second later when she showed me a huge purple bruise on her hip, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “My dad did it.” Her deadpan and resigned manner knocked the wind out of me, and made me very angry, upset, and tremendously frustrated because I felt helpless concerning her welfare. The song was my way of coming to terms with such evils.
Ethan: Your music is intensely personal and emotionally evocative. How do you approach writing music and what does your music mean to you?
Marty: I tend to write for my own projects only when I feel strongly about something. My songs are a way to deal with my surroundings and things I have experienced. It’s the best way I’ve found of keeping sane. A byproduct of my writing is that I get to share experiences and make connections with like-minded people, many of whom have become good friends [of mine].
Emily: What is the most rewarding aspect of writing music and sharing it with the world?
Marty: The most rewarding aspect of sharing work is knowing you’re not alone. Life is very confusing and strange, and we all experience it very differently, despite our relative similarities. When someone comes up to me and tells me that one of my songs stopped them in their tracks, or made their day, or even just made them think, I feel like I’ve done something positive and worthwhile.
She showed me a huge purple bruise on her hip, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “My dad did it.”
Ethan: What are some of the hardest things you’ve faced as a musician?
Marty: I’m my own worst enemy. I’m critical of my own work to a fault, and I’m often guilty of taking things slightly too seriously when in retrospect I should have enjoyed a show or experience a little more, or been more open to a situation. That’s just how I am and I’m working on it.
Emily: How do you hope your music will influence other people?
Marty: I’d like people to listen to my work and realise that by having the courage to express yourself and by working hard, you can get yourself out of a bad situation in life. Making music can give you a rewarding and experience-filled life, and no one should be scared to [let] go of it or let anyone stop them from leading the creative life they want.
Emily: Just for kicks: What is your favorite season, and does that have any effect on your music writing?
Marty: If it’s not completely obvious already, my favourite season is autumn, with winter a close second. I get to stay in, read, write, not get too hot and bothered, and enjoy seeing the change in nature. I do like spring as it fills me with hope, but summer can get [lost].
Emily: Do you have any new music in the works?
Marty: I’m currently working on a new EP, and an album for 2017. The two are quite disparate, but still in keeping with the feel of my first releases. I’m looking forward to sharing them soon.
To learn more about The Lake Poets, visit www.thelakepoets.com.