Swiss electro-pop duo, Martin Brothers, are striking visually as well as musically…
We caught up with the beat making brothers to talk current projects, past influences and everything in between.
Bridge: Tell us in your own words who you are…
MB: We are the Martin Brothers, an electro-pop duo from Switzerland. Our music has strong 80s influences, cause bands such as Alphaville, The Human League, A-ha etc. from this era and their synth sounds always inspired us. We are brothers Oliver and Niki and music was always a great passion for us from an early age on. While our father introduced us to Queen, Dire Straits and many more, bands like the The Prodigy, Utah Saints an so on were added later in our teenage years. We remember very vividly how we recorded our own little radio shows with the tape recorder, or played playback something to our parents as kids. While the tennis racket served as guitar and the vacuum cleaner tube as microphone stand, later these elements have been replaced with real synth and guitars. Actually there was a time, we owned up to 6 or 7 huge classic synth such as Roland Juno 60, Casio CZ 5000 or Yamaha DX7 an so on. When we formed our first band, initially our third brother was planned to play the bass, but unfortunately we could not convince him to join the band and learn the instrument. Niki already played a bit guitar and wanted Oliver to play the drums, but instead Oliver started with playing the synth, cause he was a fan of Depeche Mode.
In terms of style, the large sunglasses “shields” are obviously particularly striking. However, we came across these by chance when we were looking for 80s glasses on the Internet. These glasses are a lot bigger than those that we have initially chosen, but in the end we decided on this model. Looking for more copies, we found what we were looking for in Los Angeles on Venice Beach, one of our favourite places. If you’re looking for something unusual, you’ve come to the right place. Our clothes are always coordinated, sometimes all in black, sometimes in red suits or with a Hawaiian shirts … a touch of the 80s is always there and no compromises are made. Our music is probably best characterized by the wide variety of synthesizer sounds and melodic driven pop parts. The drums are usually very electronic and regardless of whether a song is fast or slow, kick and snare are usually quite punchy. It’s just the way we make music. Our live shows sparkle with lot of lights, “neon” is the appropriate keyword. In general, there is a lot of emphasis on the visual, be it music videos, live performances or photos, this is an important part for us and always a lot of fun.
Bridge: Of course you’ve always known each other (laughs) but how long have you been making music together?
MB: We have already made our own parties and dj-sets in our youth together, but the real thing started after Niki came back from the UK 2007, where he was working for a year. The island just has something very inspiring, the music history and the significance of music that gave him the final kick to start off with playing guitar and everything. When he came back he had made a drawing with all three brothers on stage and their sister as singer. However, he knew that most probably only Oliver would be crazy enough to turn this into something serious, which luckily was the case. But first we had to buy and learn all the instruments etc., which obviously took some time.
Bridge: I think many of our readers can agree with you, that the UK is incredibly inspiring!
You talked about your style a little bit earlier. It is obviously extremely unique…iconic even! What’s the story behind it?
MB: Thanks a lot for the compliment! Actually it took quite a while until we found our ow unique look, but at the end it was a mix of coincidence and having a certain feeling of what we wanted. In our very first band we have formed, we already we wearing suits, black leather jackets etc., but the glasses “shields” came by accident.
Bridge: I think I speak for you fans when I say we are very thankful for that accident!
I’m curious, creatively speaking, how did you navigate the shutdown during the pandemic?
MB: The pandemic didn’t stop us in making music or releasing new songs. But like for the most of us, the pandemic forced us to exist primarily in a digital world and to be honest, we didn’t really find a way to interact more personal with our fans. However, we really hope the pandemic is over very soon and really looking forward to play live shows again.
Bridge: I think I’m still recovering from the deep dive into the digital world in order to stay connected during that time!
Staying in the creativity vein, what does your creative process look like when you develop a song?
MB: In the beginning we often made songs together. So one of us would sit behind the guitar or synthesizer and the other one would give feedback and switch sounds. We remember sometimes, especially with the analog synthesizer going through sound banks and adjusting them for hours and hours. It was literally one of us sitting there playing the part over and over again and the other one, after pushing buttons felt a million times, hey… that’s the sound we were looking for! Now it’s more individual, one of us comes up with a beat or a whole composition and the other one later adds some elements, changes perhaps some parts or gives feedback. Since day one we work with Ableton live. This was actually because we had to bring one of our synth to an electrician in our own village to change the voltage from US standard to European standard, and this guy, now a good friend of us happens to be an Ableton instructor. How are the odds! And for those who wanna know what comes first, beat or chords, well this really depends on the mood. Sometimes we have something in our head or hear something that inspires us and we start off with a simple chord progression. Sometimes we just know, that we want to make a midi beat first with a certain tempo and groove. There are time it works out exactly how we were planing it and sometimes you hit a wrong key on your synth and there you go, this is a starting point for a brand new idea. Giorgio Moroder once said, you have to make at least ten songs, until you might get lucky and have one really good one that sticks in peoples head. We can only say, this is often true, at least for us.
Bridge: I have to ask, and I promise I’m not looking for any juicy drama (laughs) but are there ever any conflict between the two of you while you are making music?
MB: We would be lying if we said that it’s always a piece of cake and happy times. Especially in the beginning we had quite some arguments of what eg. will work and what not. Now we are much more focused and know what we want. With a clear vision and goal in mind, there is usually not enough time for arguments.
Bridge: What projects are you currently working on?
MB: Well, there is one big project and that’s our new album to be coming out this summer! We are more than half way there and getting closer to finalizing the whole thing. Another big project will be to develop our live performance. Of course there is or dj-set we can play in clubs, but we are planning actually some live shows with vocals, but we can’t say a lot about it right now and also have to wait a bit more, until restrictions cause of the pandemic get lifted. We are also planning some fun merchandise and hope to have them ready soon.
Bridge: But when will we get a new Martins Brothers song!?
MB: You will get about 8-10 new Martin Brothers song with our album this summer. Let’s hope we can wrap it up asap! Eventually there will be a pre-single even sooner, but we haven’t made a decisions about that yet.
Bridge: What advice do you have for young artists in your genre?
MB: This is a good question. It’s definitely important to set a clear goal and visualised it. Write down, what you want to achieve in 5 years. Then write down more in detail what comes next in eg. 1 month, 6 month a year and so on. Probably most important is, to create a clear picture of what you as an artist shall look like, sound like etc. Having in mind that you want to make good party music or rather sad songs isn’t enough. Build a real concept around you as an artist and take time to really think about it. But careful, don’t overthink everything, sometimes really good ideas come from doing something and and react on what worked and what not. However, the most important thing is to be authentic. Make what you like and not what you think people might like. Get inspired by other artists, but find your own way to present yourself. Also, having some role models can be very helpful. One of our role models still is Arnold Schwarzenegger. From him we learned a lot of good quotes such as “You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pocket” or “Don’t listen to the naysayers”. One of the best quotes we heard someone saying was “Don’t be with people who are negative, be with people who say to you, this can work, this has worked and this will work for you!”… so surround yourself with interesting and positiv people and stay away from the ones with a negative attitude.
Bridge: Don’t mind me just over here writing my vision!
We really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. I just have one more question because we like to judge a little!…If you had to pick one song to be the soundtrack of your lives, what would it be?
MB: Really can’t answer this question, there are to many songs out there that are phenomenal! But we can say, that the song The Final Countdown from Europe really is a song from our childhood, that was somehow out of this world. And the cool thing about it is, that the song has been recorded in our home village at the famous Swiss studio called “Powerplay”. It’s kind of crazy when you think about, we were kids or just born and about a half- mile away they recorded this iconic synth part “do do doooo doo, do do do do doooo” (smiles)
Bridge: That is so cool! And not something any other of our artists have been able to say. It was obviously fate for the Martin Brothers!
Is there anything else you’d like Bridge Magazine readers to know?
MB: We just hope we had at least a few interesting things to say, so have fun reading it and enjoy life and especially music to the fullest!
Follow the Martin Brothers on social media and check out their tunes below. Stay tuned for their new album dropping this summer!