With a word like ‘Massacre’ in the title and their Facebook page exclaiming they have ‘Traveled from Mars to fuck your eardrums’ you may think Mars and The Massacre is a hardcore metal band. Wrong. They are surprising, fun, and highly satisfying in a non-genre specific way. Los Angeles based Mars and The Massacre is Badass Band 67.
Mars and the Massacre brought themselves to my attention and after listening to their tunes, I realized it had been quite a long time since I’d heard a really good fun as hell band. Let me explain. There are a multitude of band categories in my world, let me just explain a few here to make my point. There are the bands that are amazing lyrically, that are really insightful and provoke deep thought. There are bands that make amazing music but are boring on stage. There are the bands that are rad both lyrically and performance-wise, the ones that not only are thought provoking but really put on a kickass show. Then there are bands that are fun and zany lyrically as well as performance-wise. All of these categories hold serious weight in my world, none is specifically better than another, just different. One thing they all have in common is they involve amazing musical talent. Mars and the Massacre falls under the last category I described here. They are a combination of The Offspring, Weezer, and The Flaming Lips. The songs that they have readily available for listen on their Facebook page are ‘Four Loko Blues’ and ‘Party Song’. The cool thing about these songs is instrumentally they take you through a variety of genres, their songs seem to build from slow, spacey melodies to full on heavier rock/punk by the end of the track or mixed in between. Both tunes boast catchy hooks and are highly relatable. These are great songs to go out and bounce around to and sing at the top of your lungs with lines like “We’re gonna get fucked up today…” or “I don’t remember what was said, or what was done, but I’ve got proof, its on the back of my hand…”
Mars and the Massacre is comprised of John Newell, Peter Doherty, and Ethan Walden, and these guys are a trio of energetic, fired up badassery. I recently caught their live show and there is no lacking in loudness, energy or fun. They are infectious. I don’t know that any one person was entirely standing still in the crowd. I have to say they also won me over with a cover of the theme song from ‘The Adventures of Pete & Pete’. They are also a bit unusual in a couple of aspects. One being that there is no on stage banter, however, you stay entertained because of their sampler which is spouting all kinds of random hilarious clips between songs. Also, these guys switch instruments for different songs, which is something that many bands don’t seem to attempt, thus another reason to see this guys live.
Recently, I had the please of chatting up Mars and the Massacre so read on to find out about the name, why they want their show to be “loud and overwhelming at times”, and what interesting fictional characters they would be.
When and why did you start playing music?
John- I started because my brother was playing music. My dad and brother both played guitar and I wanted to be cool like them you know? Its actually kind of silly but the song that made me want to play guitar was ‘Hold on Loosely’ by .38 Special.
Ethan- I hope I didn’t steal this from you Peter but for me it was ‘That Thing You Do’, the whole rock star thing.
Peter- Yeah that movie came out when I was at a very impressionable age. But I took up drums because my dad was into music and he had a little home setup with guitars and drum sets and stuff. I would occasionally jam with him. I just picked it up from there, I have been playing in bands since High School.
How did you all meet?
Peter- I knew Ethan through High School. We went to different schools but we played in other high school bands and stuff. We didn’t meet John until a couple of years ago when we were in a previous project. We were trying out guitarists and John came in to try out. We were like ‘Hell yeah!’. Not even a year later we were like, ‘Wanna move to California?’.
So did you all move to California at once?
Ethan- We all did move at once, not literally at once, different modes of transportation but generally at the same time.
Describe the differences between the music scenes in Indiana and LA.
John- It’s a huge difference.
Ethan- We had such a good experience there but we kind of hit the roof as far as bands can go. We were playing cover shows like 3 nights a week and had to try to just squeeze in our originals. Here it’s a lot more open.
John- Yeah, the scene there is if you’re not playing covers then you can’t get into a specific venue unless you’re a national touring band.
Peter- The indie scene there is very small. It does exist, but it’s a very, very small community and it not very well supported. Obviously there is also not the volume of venues that there are here nor the demographics. There is not a lot of interest in music there, everybody is all about sports, racing and farming.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up and who do you listen to now? What has been most influential to you?
Ethan- I grew up with some really good music. One of my dad’s favorite artists is Elvis Costello, so I grew up with a lot of that. When I was in teenage years though, I was all into the Blink 182/Green Day thing. Now, Bowie is pretty awesome.
John- I like a lot of David Bowie too. But my dad raised me on a lot of Led Zeppelin so I got a lot of that. But then my mom like a lot of Al Greene and jazz so I got that too. My brother played bass so I got a lot of funk, Pink Floyd, etc. I think as a songwriter I really like David Bowie and The Beatles.
Peter- I have always grown up around music, my parents are very musically inclined people. I naturally grew up on the stuff they listened to, from The Beatles to Steely Dan to Frank Zappa. In High School I got more into my own stuff. Artists I like most are artists that do the crazy stuff, that are just really bold and make innovative, cool, creative music. Like, I really love The Flaming Lips, they don’t compromise at all and just do the most extreme thing possible. I have a lot of admiration for musicians like that.
Why the name Mars and the Massacre?
Ethan- Because its an original name?
John- Yeah, not like Shits and Sharts.
Ethan- We went through a lot of trial and error…
Peter- We were just trying to find something that fit our kind of music at the time. When we started out we were just playing random stuff and jamming together.
Ethan- Yeah, we would get together and play music that was real spacey, drawn out, post-rock stuff.
Peter- We played a lot of harder rock stuff too, so we wanted something like massacre in the name. It is kind of sinister. Ethan said we should have something and the massacre. Mars kind of stuck.
Describe your show visually and musically for someone who has never been.
Ethan- We try to vary it up. Even though we practice it as a show, we switch instruments so it keeps it fresh.
John- I hope its loud and a little overwhelming at times.
Peter- the main idea behind our live show is that we want to have a show that people walk away remembering.
Ethan- We don’t care if its positive or negative, we want them to just walk away saying ‘I just saw a show that was insane.’
Peter- Yeah so we have the sampler for segue in between songs. We don’t want to be a band that plays a song and then tunes and dicks around then plays another song and then the same thing. We like to have a flow.
John- Personally, I don’t like to talk between songs. We like our segue to be seamless and at least something is going on in between.
Ethan- We are pretty goofy too, some of the samples are goofy and catch you off guard.
How does your creative process typically work?
John- We schedule practices every week where we just practice our show, and then we schedule practices where we just have fun jamming and improvising. Sometimes we have a cool riff or a chord structure that sounds cool and we will just sit and develop it. I think all of our songs have pretty much some like that.
Ethan- Also, since we came from another band we had a lot of songs that were backlogged. I don’t write a lot but Peter had songs that he brought to the process.
Peter- Most of our stuff comes from the jam sessions, with a couple of exceptions that we made on our own and brought to practice. For the most part it’s all be organically formed at practice which I think is pretty cool. In our last project it was all pretty solitary and everyone did their own parts.
John- This is a big departure from our last band which was a pop-rock band. This is a big departure from that. An important factor for us is everybody feeling like they can all contribute.
Ethan- Also, to feel like there are no boundaries. That’s where the whole genre-switching thing comes in.
Biggest challenge for you as a band so far?
Peter- Getting our music recorded.
John- I think we are pretty fortunate that we get along well. We know how to piss each other off and as long as we can remain level headed is key.
Ethan- I think it’s the same as any other band, getting in front of people that give a shit or getting people out to a show that we know would care.
If your band had a slogan what would it be?
John- We have a slogan on our business card. ‘We have traveled from Mars to fuck your eardrums.’
Why should people listen to your music?
John- I like it and I hope somebody else likes it.
Ethan- You know, everybody has those bands where its like, ‘Why do you like them?’ I guess we are trying to be that. You’re gonna come to our show and you’re going to see a punk show, a rock show, a whole spectrum of music. Even when we practice we say ‘let’s play a rock song! Or let’s play a jazz song!’. Its nice to break a genre.
John- They should basically look forward to seeing/hearing something new each time.
Ethan- Even if we wanted to, none of our records could be the same.
Peter- Yeah, our music definitely evolves. If you’re into that kind of thing, you should definitely check us out. I don’t think a year down the road or two years down the road we are gonna be doing the same thing. It will be constantly changing.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Peter- This is wishful thinking, but have it be more stable. In the world of the arts, and being an artist in general, its tough to make a living out of it. Its kind of like the wild west right now, there are good things and bad things about it. The independent community is still thriving and I think it will always thrive because people will always be making music and getting it out to people. Its still just really hard. It’s a lot easier than it used to be but its also a lot harder because things are so different.
John- Really just that artists get their fair cut.
Ethan- I kind of miss the romanticism of getting signed. We will never have that.
Peter- Its almost like people don’t want to get signed anymore, unless you’re getting huge. Its like you’re either a really small indie band or a giant huge band. There is no in between it feels sometimes.
One song you never get tired of.
John- ‘Kaputt’ by Destroyer
Ethan- ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ by The Verve
Peter- That’s tough. Probably something by Elvis Costello.
Best live show you have ever gone to.
Ethan- Easily Lollapalooza, Daft Punk. I always say it was my religious experience and people ask if I was on drugs. I wasn’t, it was just that good that I was like ‘This is insane, I have never seen anything like this.’
Peter- Sigur Ros at Hollywood Forever Cemetary. I was front and center for it. They are so incredible. I have the set list on the wall, proudly displayed.
John- A Parliament show, I was front and center. It was a tiny little voter fest. It was cool because it was a really small crowd and it felt fun.
Favorite things to do not musically related.
John- Disc Golf a lot, video games, hang out outside.
Ethan- I hate the outside. I am a horror fanatic, and movie in general. I could sit inside and watch Netflix all day.
Peter- I am also a pretty avid movie fan. I am obsessed with Japanese culture, everything form Samurai movies to video games/cartoons. That is my other big thing. I am not into a ton of things, I am boring. I like music and Japanese crap.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
John- Baloo from ‘The Jungle Book’, he just hangs out all day.
Ethan- I would be Arnold, from ‘Hey! Arnold’, he had a great childhood and that remote controlled couch.
Peter- Philbert from ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’
What jobs have you worked in the past, or work currently?
John- I worked on a farm shoveling pig shit, restaurants, most recently I worked at a digital agency, now I work Facebook accounts.
Ethan- I worked at a bakery/deli, I did catering, data entry, and now I work at an ad agency.
Peter- I have had very few jobs. I worked at Luna Music- a record store, and since I have been living here I do a lot of extra work for TV and movies.
FIND MARS AND THE MASSACRE HERE: