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Getting To Know: Joseph Marcus

Joseph Marcus is set to release his new single ‘Round 2’, the fourth single from his upcoming EP, ‘Crush’. Speaking about the new track, Joseph Marcus explains: “There’s something comforting about the familiarity of someone you’ve been with in the past. But simultaneously, there’s something enticing about the danger of revisiting something you had with someone after being done with it. It could go horribly wrong, but at the same time who knows, could it go well?

Round 2 is about that moment before you decide to hook up with an ex, where you’re over-romanticising the past and weighing up the pros and cons of what you’re probably about to end up doing anyway. We interviewed him ahead of the release:

1. "Round 2" explores the complex emotions of revisiting a past relationship, balancing comfort and danger. Can you delve deeper into the inspiration behind the track and how the production, particularly the funfair atmosphere, enhances the storytelling?

“Round 2” was inspired by me going out and bumping into someone I previously had a fling with. We had this very flirty energy between us despite a lot of time passing since we’d last seen each other. Hooking up with an ex is kind of social taboo, and if it ended badly it probably should be. It’s so easy to romanticise the past and only remember the good without the bad. I’m always very adamant about using production as a tool to further enhance the storytelling in a song, and this was no different. The idea to emulate the atmosphere at a funfair really stemmed from that wonky detuned sample you hear through the whole song. I thought it sounded a lot like a jingle you might hear in the queue for a fairground ride. Flourish (co-producer) messed with some clap samples to make them stutter across the beat like crackling fireworks. I think everything about a funfair is so nostalgia-inducing; the chaos of clashing music from different rides, the intense lights, the fireworks. It fit perfectly for the vibe of this song about a different kind of romantic nostalgia. Also, fairgrounds were such a classic backdrop for music videos in the 00’s, and I definitely imagined that as part of what a video would look like for this song while making it.

2. Collaborating with producer Flourish, you've crafted a unique sound for "Round 2," drawing inspiration from Imogen Heap and Frou Frou. Can you share more about the collaborative process and how specific elements from those influences shaped the sonic landscape of the song?

Flourish and I have similar reference points musically, but there are probably as many areas where our influences divert as they overlap, so pulling from our own webs of influence means collaborating comes very easily. In the case of “Round 2,” I had written most of the song before I brought an initial demo idea to him, and we workshopped expanding on a lot of the existing elements. Because of the theme of the track, I wanted the production to pull influence from the music that makes me nostalgic. The intertwining of organic and synthesised elements in music is something I learned to love when I was a child in the 00’s, obsessing over albums like Frou Frou’s “Details” or Imogen Heap’s “Speak for Yourself”. In “Round 2,” there are synth-heavy elements like the stuttering square samples in the pre-chorus, or the whiny distorted lead in the bridge. But these are enveloped by raw elements like the dreamy string swells dotted throughout the structure.

3. The upcoming EP, 'Crush,' follows your 2021 release, 'In This Room Alone.' How has your sound evolved from the previous EP, and what thematic elements can listeners expect to explore throughout 'Crush'?

For “In This Room Alone,” I wanted to create a cohesive project with its own sonic world, but entirely on my own. I set out to think more freely about what I was making, focussing less on hooks and leaning more towards darker themes and ambient textures. Once that project was finished, I knew I wanted to go in a completely different direction. “Crush” is me diving into my love of Pop music. In terms of sound, it was still as important to me as ever to have an emphasis on storytelling through the production as well as the songwriting, but on “Crush” it’s more playful and fun. There are moments that take inspiration from UK Garage, Liquid DnB, Jersey Club, Afrobeats and Pop R&B. Also, it was a welcome return to collaboration and working with friends like Flourish, Mattu and Benwa on these songs has been so much more fun. Thematically, I noticed I was writing a lot about the bad habits I fell into when I was attracted to someone, whether the lyrics were self-aware or not! So, that is what “Crush” as an EP is about: the stupid, out-of-character things we do when we have an attraction to someone.

4. With a voice reminiscent of 00's R&B, your music combines catchy Pop songwriting with contemporary electronic production and influences from R&B and Art Pop. How do you navigate this fusion of genres, and what do you believe sets your sound apart in the current music landscape?

I find genre is useful retrospectively, to find interesting connections in music and obviously also to find community. But with my own music, thinking too much about genre when I’m creating can become restrictive. I actually think genre is becoming less and less relevant as artists become more exploratory in the way they create, but I enjoy the “Pop” label because it’s totally open ended and can kind of mean anything really. R&B dominated Pop music when I was growing up, but at other times it was Rock or EDM. There is a lot of overlap to be found between genres through the Pop sphere, and it’s important to remember many of these genres have the same roots. I see music as an interconnected universe, which might be why drawing from different areas and finding ways to mould them together comes naturally to me.

Currently I feel like there’s a lot of focus on simplicity and minimalism in music, and it’s definitely cool to strip things back sometimes. But I think my commitment to detailed production and a sort of maximalist approach to Pop music is what sets me apart. I grew up loving explosive all-or-nothing Pop masterpieces from pop megastars like Britney Spears and Beyoncé. Simplicity is cute and has its place, but detail and layering is what I find most exciting in music, and that’s what I aim to deliver through my songs.

5. You've had significant success with previous releases, including features on Spotify playlists and radio support from BBC Music Introducing and Amazing Radio. How have these achievements influenced your approach to creating music, and what role do platforms like Spotify and radio play in reaching your audience?

Spotify has been great for getting my music out to wider audiences. It’s always exciting to get that notification telling you your track has been added to an editorial playlist. A lot of people tell me I’m always popping up in their algorithmic playlists. However, when I started putting stuff out I was often thinking too much about whether a song would be ‘playlistable’ or ‘appeal to algorithms’. Now I’m very much of the opinion that that is detrimental to the creative process. I think having a creative vision and finding what you want to say through your music is ultimately the aim, or at least a big part of my aim. Streams are great but the connection won’t be there if there’s no vision people can relate to. I do love the feature on Spotify where you can see the personal playlists people have added your songs to, that is genuinely cute.

Radio support has always been amazing, I’ve had support from the hosts of BBC Music Introducing Berkshire (my local show) since I started putting music up online in 2015. The support from radio still feels special, it never gets old to tune in and hear your hard work played out across the airwaves. I’ve gotten opportunities and met collaborators through both Spotify playlisting and radioplay, so they are as much networking tools as they are a way of getting your songs heard by potential fans.

6. Having worked with established producers like SG Lewis and Phairo, and having supported artists like Tom Walker and James Vickery in live shows, your trajectory in the music industry is impressive. How have these collaborations and experiences shaped your artistic journey, and what can fans anticipate in terms of your future projects or collaborations?

My last project “In This Room Alone” involved very minimal collaboration, since I wrote and produced it all myself. Although I think I learnt a huge amount doing that, there really is nothing like working alongside someone else. There’s always something you can learn from another musician, whether it’s a writing technique, production tip or even just a good habit. Having sessions with the writers and producers I’ve worked with over the years has always been invaluable, even the ones where we didn’t come up with something that made it to the finished stage. On my EP “Crush” I’ve worked with Flourish, Mattu and Benwa; all extremely talented producers who have each taught me a lot from seeing how they flip a sample, up to how they work a track from start to finish. Benwa was the originator of my previous single “Summerboy,” and he consistently produces beats that pique interest through his brilliant sound choices. Mattu and I have been good friends for years now and he has always impressed me with how quickly he can tune into what an artist wants while simultaneously always injecting his signature into a track. He was the one who took the original demo of “So Much Worse” and elevated it into a Liquid DnB-inspired bopiana. Finally, Flourish is an excellent producer, and lending his keen ear for detail and polish has pulled “Crush” together to be exactly what I wanted it to be. We’ve got one more single from the EP to give, which I’m so excited to put out because it’s atrociously good. But we’re already working on my follow up to “Crush,” which I hope will involve even more collaboration.


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