"When it rains, well it really fucking pours," Martha yell in unison, as the feedback-laden intro of 'Chekhov's Hangnail' gives way, their loyal crowd of Manchester queer punks yelling it back at them twice as loud. It's a moment that seems to sum up the Durham pop-punks perfectly; totally explicit but absolutely necessary in restoring any faith in humanity.

Martha were all still reeling from the EU referendum result as we sat down to speak, but as they did in the show that followed, they did their best to raise spirits. At best, "hashtag Brexit" as JC Cairns called it, rolling his eyes, will inject fear and insecurity into British DIY music. It's an extremely hostile time to be as profoundly anti-status quo as Martha are, with hate crimes on the rise and intolerance - some might say - being supported by 52% of the British public. Resultingly, the sold-out crowd are inevitably subdued but furiously united against hate, which leads to one of the most impassioned sets you'll ever see. Martha's knack of turning the godawful into something wonderful, though, is not recently acquired.

On their new record, Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart, the band channel all the worries and uncertainties that come with an undying need to stay creative, political and punk way into eleven stunning cuts of hook-heavy, totally addictive and unashamedly Northern pop songs. Just like its predecessor, Courting Strong, it's a record that will inevitably manifest; making you fall in love with it time and time again, finding something new every time.

From sexy Grandpas to Brexit and from The Beautiful South to Veganism: Laugh and cry and laugh again with our Conversation With Marth.

I think I have an idea of where this is going (as we walk backstage, Martha have just set up their drumkit, 'I Miss E.U, I'm Lonely' adorns the bassdrum in tape) but in the interest of sticking to the plan... How do you feel about the EU referendum, and how will it affect DIY music?

Nathan Stephens-Griffin: That's a huge question, but the very very short answer is that is seems very bad for a whole host of reasons: political, cultural, social and economical. In terms of DIY music, both parties think that Freedom of Movement is going to be ended, meaning that touring in Europe is going to be something that's much harder to do - pricing out any band that isn't popular enough. It marketises something that was free before. It could be devastating for DIY, I think.

Daniel Ellis: There's also the fact that there are people in the British DIY scene that aren't British who might have to leave.

Nathan Stephens-Griffin: Or they might have to go through arduous VISA processes. It basically creates a hierarchy between citizens that wasn't there before, which I can not see as a good thing. By the time this is online anywhere, the whole thing will probably have changed again, it's changing so rapidly. I can't see any positives whatsoever. I'm pretty terrified, to be honest.

Naomi Griffin: We've all spent the last week very scared.

Nathan Stephens-Griffin: The police have reported today that there has been a 400% increase in racially-aggravated hate crimes. 400%. Not to say that there weren't hate crimes before because there were...

Naomi Griffin: It's legitimized it.

Nathan Stephens-Griffin: Yeah. Somebody said that not everybody that voted Leave was racist, but racists now think that 52% of the population agree with them, so they can say and do stuff that they would have been more self-conscious of before.

Naomi Griffin: Hopefully one way it might affect the DIY scene is that clubs will get a lot more active and look out for these things. I know a lot are already, but it's brought it to people's attention in a very clear way, whereas perhaps before it wasn't.


Do you see yourselves as a political band?

Griffin: Yeah.

JC Cairns: Short answer... yeah! I think in terms of our songs, maybe it's not super obvious. We're not saying like "Fuck the border!" but the politics are there. Beyond the songs, how we try to navigate the scene and the world as a band, we try to call shitty things into question. You know, like how we treat each other at shows and stuff.

Stephens-Griffin: We're all vegan, that's a pretty political thing to do every day. I'd flip the question and say that there's no such thing as an apolitical band. You can either acknowledge politics and try to think about the context of what you're doing, and how what you're doing contributes to existing hierarchies and existing power dynamics or you can ignore it. We certainly have tried to think about the impact of everything we say and do; that's a political act in itself.


To me, it's always felt like the politics are Martha, as opposed to Onsind (Stephens-Griffin and Ellis' other band) are rooted in things like including references to gender-neutral toilets to aid inclusivity, as opposed to straight-up 'protest' songs.

Stephens-Griffin: Yeah. And I think it's a different way of presenting a message. We are not like Onsind at all, deliberately, because sometimes it's nice to write about nice and happy things.

Griffin: And everyday things, too. Not that Onsind doesn't do that, but it's something that Martha does a lot of - everyday politics.

Stephens-Griffin: Yeah, it's political in a different way. If you think about Billy Bragg songs, he's got like the political ones and then the love songs, that's like Onsind and Martha.

Ellis: We could've done it with one band

Griffin: (laughs) shit...

Ellis: We could've done it with one person, like he does.

Cairns: We've fucked it here.


There's this idea that there's a balance to strike between writing politically and writing pop songs, is that an idea you subscribe to?

Ellis: I don't think so.

Stephens-Griffin: I think that the pop is the medium, and the politics is in the lyrics, I guess? And in the actions of how you do it. That's a good question. We do politics but we play pop.

Ellis: At the end of the day I think we love pop.

Stephens-Griffin: Irn Bru, Coke, Ting...

Cairns: You know, we play what we like. I don't mean that in a sort of 'fuck you, we do what we want' way. We love pop music so that's what we want to do.

Ellis: Yeah, I don't think it's necessarily striking a balance, it's not like pop can't be political. We try to write songs as pop-y as possible, and they're going to be political.

Stephens-Griffin: We still listen to very heavy political music, and often there's a paradox and very important stuff is being said but being obscured by the nicheness of the music. Whereas bands like The Housemartins and The Beautiful South actually reach a lot of people, and they're saying quite radical things.

Cairns: Bronski Beat as well. Even the Red Wedge movement, mixing pop and politics is not a new thing. I guess we kind of grew up on that stuff, and so it comes quite naturally.


A lot of the new record seems to be rooted in the idea of growing up and staying punk. How do you physically find the time to play in multiple bands and be able to fund it?

Ellis: (laughs) Barely...

Griffin: We haven't played any shows in a while. It's really, really difficult.

Cairns: I drive other bands as a job, I'm like a cheeky sort of daywalker. I still get to be with punk bands and make a bit of bank, but it's totally fucking me up completely. I'd say we can't (laughs). I'm really struggling to find the balance at the minute. To finish one tour and get in a different headspace for another tour the next day; it's hard but I love it.

Griffin: Yeah, we prioritize it, and that's how we might make it work.

Stephens-Griffin: It does get harder. I think back to when Onsind started, which is coming up to ten years ago, and we were both at uni and had student loans. It was before the apocalypse, and we were so flexible and able to do stuff, it's just not the case now. Even practicing is hard.

Griffin: How do we fund it? We're in loads of debt is how.

Ellis: Onsind funds it at the minute...

Griffin: Hopefully with this tour we can make a little bit.


Other than Durham, do you have any cities you try to prioritise when booking a tour?

Griffin: We always love playing Leeds. Wharf Chambers is amazing, it's run by really cool people. It's an amazing space.

Ellis: I just got dagger eyes from Kieran (Moving North promoter).

Stephens-Griffin: Genuinely we really love playing in Manchester. We love Moving North, genuinely.

Griffin: Brighton's a nice place to play.

Ellis: Scarborough is fucking mint.

Stephens-Griffin: We've got a hook-up in Scarborough that puts us on in an old Working Men's club that's not been decorated since the '70s. It still has a Christmas tree from the '70s.

Cairns: I think the Christmas decorations are up all year, it's just the best.

Stephens-Griffin: Nobody comes.

Cairns: It's cool being from a small town where not much happens, being able to go and get involved with stuff that other freaks are doing in small towns is cool. It's nice, because we know how it is.

Griffin: It's hard because we have a lot of really good friends dotted around the country, so it's always really nice to go and see them, but I'm thinking of all the people that will be like "you didn't say us!" Brighton's sunny, Wharf's class, Manchester's good craic, Scarborough's weird.


You recorded the album in Leeds too, how was that?

Griffin: We did it over two sessions, which was weird. Through trying to find the balance that we spoke of, we recorded the first half in the summer and the second half in the winter of last year; which had its pros and cons. We got to reflect on the first session a lot, but there's something about being in the studio for a long time for the first album was really cool. We love recording with MJ (of Hookworms) because he's absolutely amazing. He's really supportive, really into what we do, and just a great guy that's really good at what he does. We love recording with him and we love Leeds as a city.


Do you find that labelling yourselves as a "vegan, queer, straight-edge" band helps you to connect to people that will get your music a lot easier, maybe through making people who are against those things not wanting to listen to you?

Griffin: We hope so (laughs) good question.

Stephens-Griffin: Good question, like a 'thinning out the ground' thing. Yeah. There are people who are into heavier music that have given Martha a chance because of a flyer that has said "vegan, straight edge" on it. Maybe it has been helpful. I do in general like to not be shy about the fact that I'm vegan, because you do get a lot of hostility about it, and it's important to be like: "I'm not ashamed of this, this is an important part of who I am, but I'm a well-rounded person. I'm not like whatever stereotype there is." Or maybe I am actually. The point is, if I hear that a band is vegan I'm more likely to check them out, maybe that makes me a dick - but I assume there are other people on that wavelength.

Griffin: I think that, when you're into punk and DIY and stuff, a big part of that is being part of what feels like a community. Feeling part of a community is feeling part of something where there are shared ideas and understanding. The more bands that say "we're queer", the more bands feel comfortable saying like "oh, actually we're queer as well."


Do you have a joint favourite song on the new record, or does that vary between you?

Griffin: I do, 'The Awkward Ones', it's the most fun to play and I like it lyrically, too.

Ellis: Mine is 'Awkward Ones' as well, for the same reasons... I cannae play Awkward Ones.

Stephens-Griffin: One thing I will say: I don't know if it's my favourite song on the album but 'Saint. Paul's (Westberg Comprehensive)' is one that we've begged JC to let us use for Martha for a long time.

Cairns: Yeah, it's maybe four years old at least. I tend to be quite shy about my writing a lot of the time, but I went out on a limb and tried it. I think maybe it paid off.

Stephens-Griffin: It definitely has. It's like a little bow on the end of the album, makes you sad.

Cairns: A nice sad bow.


Is there anything in particular you'd like people to take away from listening to the record?

Cairns: Be a punk, don't get a fucking mortgage.

Griffin: No, one day I need a mortgage so that I can open an animal rescue centre, so shut up.

Ellis: I need a mortgage so I don't have to pay may bastard landlord. Landlords, bastards.

Cairns: In the '80s, my Granda' beat the shit out of our landlord.

Griffin: He did, but this is all irrelevant...Ellis: Sexy Grandad?Stephens-Griffins: No, hard Grandad.

Griffin: What do we want people to take away from the album? That's hard. I think we hope that there's some comfort in it for people that are struggling with all of the things that we're talking about on the album.

Ellis: It's alright to be you. That's so general, but you know.

Griffin: This stuff's hard, but it's worth doing.

Stephens-Griffin: Being in your late twenties or early thirties doesn't mean that you don't still feel like a kid.

Griffin: With the album as a whole, I think it'd be 'cling on to who you are even though, as you get older, there's more and more pressure - or that's how we felt anyway - to ditch being political or punk or whatever.' Stick at it, eh?

Ellis: It's basically the musical equivalent of that cat poster...


Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart is out on July 8th.