They’re Greek. They’re girls. They’ve achieved cult status in 21st century synthpop circles. Their latest release, ‘Inhale’, is sure to take them to greater heights. Meet Marsheaux 

Currently in the throes of political, social and economic upheaval, Greece may seem an unlikely place to have forged Marsheaux, one of the brightest and most consistently brilliant synthpop acts of recent years. The band was formed by Marianthi Melitsi, the statuesque one with the long dark hair, and Sophie Sarigiannidou, the slightly smaller one with short fair hair, in 2001. The name Marsheaux is a phonetic mash-up of the girls’ first names.

Marianthi and Sophie are both originally from Thessaloniki, a bustling harbour port in northern Greece. Although they vaguely knew each other when they were growing up, from hanging around similar places with a shared group of friends, fate intervened when they moved to Athens around the same time and, as is often the case, the two formed a band in the most unlikely of circumstances. Marsheaux emerged from the girls teasing some friends that they could form a band that was better than theirs. 

“The whole thing began as a joke,” Sophie insists. “We didn’t even take it seriously ourselves until the second album.”

Marsheaux’s music, a glorious distillation of acts like OMD, Client and Ladytron, first came to prominence with a cover version of Gershon Kingsley’s iconic instrumental ‘Popcorn’. Signing to Undo Records and licensed to EMI Greece, the pair released their debut album, ‘E-Bay Queen’, a mixture of covers and original songs, in 2004. Their subsequent LPs, ‘Peekaboo’ (2006) and ‘Lumineux Noir’ (2009), further consolidated their growing reputation, and they have just released their hotly-anticipated fourth album, ‘Inhale’. While a slight departure from their previous work, it delivers yet another solid collection of melodic electronic pop songs.

“Inhale is not so dark as ‘Lumineux’… if you could describe our sound as dark, of course,” explains Sophie with a smile. “We always want to develop with every album. ‘Inhale’ was the first song we recorded and we thought it would make a good title for the album as a whole.” 

“We’re also thinking of doing an ‘Exhale’ album, featuring the same songs but different arrangements,” adds Marianthi.

“Maybe working with different producers on each track,” continues Sophie. “It’s just an idea at this stage, though.”

The Marsheaux sound is fundamentally upbeat and optimistic, even if there is an occasional darkness lurking around the edges, and that optimism is at odds with the current economic gloom enveloping Greece. In the end, it proved impossible for the band to ignore what was going on around them, but they also felt it didn’t necessarily need to be reflected in their music.

“We tried to keep the misery of what’s happening out of the studio, but the crisis has affected 90 per cent of the ordinary people in Greece,” explains Marianthi sadly. “Nothing is the same as it was 10 years ago.” Sophie rationalises the situation as a distinction between the real world and art. “The crisis has affected our lives a lot, but we haven’t put that into the songs,” she says. “For us, music is a kind of escape, a way to decompress.”

The girls insist that while many of their songs tend to be about relationships, they aren’t meant to be autobiographical. “Relationships are a common theme for almost all artists,” concedes Marianthi. “It isn’t the subject that interests us the most, but it is easier to write about things you feel and deal with every day.”

“When we write, our focus is on the melody,” says Sophie. “The lyrics come after and it feels – and comes out – more natural to write love songs. With ‘Inhale’, we didn’t change the way we approach our writing, but we spent more time experimenting and working on each song than we did in the past.”

Within those love songs, there seems to be a lot of yearning for something or someone you can’t have. Marsheaux also seem to often write lyrics about two people growing apart. Marianthi chuckles at this suggestion.

“Now that you mention this, they do appear autobiographical,” she says. 

“We aren’t conscious of this when we’re writing,” says Sophie. “But that’s how love can be, isn’t it? Some songs are related to real experiences and some aren’t. Sometimes you think, ‘I’m going to make this a love song’, and it comes out as a break-up song. We don’t think of them as standard pop songs, though. Pop is what we are, not what we’re thinking.”

Marsheaux are planning an extensive tour to support the release of ‘Inhale’, with dates in the UK, Germany, France and Sweden. For the first time, they’re also hoping to perform some shows in the US. 

“We always rework the songs quite radically when we play them live,” notes Marianthi. “I think some of the live versions of songs like ‘Dream Of The Disco’ [from ‘Peekaboo’] or ‘Summer’ [from ‘Lumineux Noir’] are actually better than the recorded versions.”

And like all acts who play live, Marsheaux have exposed themselves to the vagaries of taking their show on the road. 

“There is always something that goes wrong when we play,’ sighs Marianthi. “So that means we are always nervous. In Treffen, which is a market town in Austria, the power went out and we had to sing an entire song acapella. Thank God the audience were singing along, which meant they still enjoyed it. Then when we were touring with Client in Germany, we got lost on our way to Hamburg and ended up at a submarine base somewhere. We were stopped by the military because we’d wound up at the border.”

Marsheaux retain an obvious delight in discovering new electronic music, both past and present. “Last week, we discovered White Door’s ‘Windows’ album from 1981,” enthuses Sophie. “It’s a brilliant snapshot of the new romantic scene. We also discovered The CLAPS debut album, ‘Wreck’, from 2011. We haven’t stopped listening to that since we found it. We’re big fans!”

So now the band have their own growing following, it begs the question what do Marsheaux make of their own fans? 

“Oh, they are all so very different,” says Marianthi thoughtfully. “From hardcore Goths to people who love 80s music to J-pop fanatics.”

“They’re very supportive,” adds Sophie sweetly. “When they get in touch with us, they say how our music has helped them through difficulties and how a song has marked a moment in their lives. Something like that makes everything so rewarding and keeps us going. We look at this as a blessing.”


Greece Is The Word

Mikro

Mikro formed in 1998 and made their recording debut with ‘The End Of The World’ the following year. Their most recent album, ‘Download’, and its sister album, ‘Upload’, were released in 2009. Frontman Nikos Bitzenis (as NIKONN) released a solo album, ‘Poladroid’, in 2006 and has since forged a reputation as a remixer with reworkings of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’ and Apparat’s ‘Song Of Los’.

Saint Louis

Saint Louis is Ilias Koutromanos. He began DJing at the age of 16 in the small town of Karpenisi and moved to Athens to study music technology, with the intention of producing his own electronic dance music from his home studio. His ‘Stressor’ album was released in 2012.

Sad Disco

Formed in 2009 by Dim Bin and Theod Kopoul, Sad Disco base their electronic indie/disco sound around the likes of Cut Copy, LCD Soundsystem and Daft Punk. The duo recently released their debut double A-side single, ‘Hurts’/‘Honestly’. 

Liebe 

Liebe are an electronic duo from Thessaloniki, formed in 2009 by Dimos Zachariadis and George Begas. Their first album, ‘Club Royal’, was released in 2010. They’ve also remixed electronic legends Soft Cell and the Pet Shop Boys. Liebe’s most recent album, ‘Somewhere In Time’, came out last year.

Tareq 

Liebe are an electronic duo from Thessaloniki, formed in 2009 by Dimos Zachariadis and George Begas. Their first album, ‘Club Royal’, was released in 2010. They’ve also remixed electronic legends Soft Cell and the Pet Shop Boys. Liebe’s most recent album, ‘Somewhere In Time’, came out last year.

‘Inhale’ is out on Undo Records

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