John Newell, Peter Doherty and Ethan Walden make up Mars and the Massacre, Indiana natives packed up and moved from Indy to LA a few years ago to absorb the local music scene.
NUVO: So you guys are all from Indianapolis originally, correct?
Ethan Walden: Yeah, we were all raised in Indy. Except John, who was in Kokomo.
Peter Doherty: We were all in a band before called the Working Hour. It was this pop rock group. Me and this other guy had been playing for a while, but me and Ethan had known each other from high school. John joined up about 5 or 6 years ago.
Walden: It was kinda funny actually, because I didn't know how to play bass. So Peter and this other guy were like, "Hey, wanna play a show?" And I was like, I guess so. So they let me borrow a bass and I practiced it for a week and played my first show.
John Newell: My first show with the dudes was at the Vogue and I had a week to learn all the material too.
NUVO: So, tell me about the band's choice to move from Indianapolis to LA.
Doherty: It was like mostly a business thing at this point, The Working Hour was gaining a little traction and we were recording with some bigger producers who were all LA based. They kept telling us, you need to come to LA! The scene is really great out here. And at the time, LA just really seemed like the place to be. It still does.
Walden: We were in the middle of recording an album, and the producer we were working with was out in LA, and wait- am I allowed to cuss?
NUVO: Yeah, go for it.
Walden: So yeah, anyways, he was out in LA, so we were like, "Shit we need to get out there."
NUVO: How has LA's local scene affected your style?
Newell: Everyone who comes out here [to LA] seems to be from somewhere else. Everyone is working towards a common goal, so there's more of a tight-knit community that we are a part of. Everyone goes to each other's shows and supports each other. LA has helped us the most because we have been able to find more like minded people to connect with and work together.
NUVO: I've got to ask about the band name.
Doherty: You know, it's not as cool of a story as you think. It was mostly kind of a random thing. The band we were in before was very pop rock kind of stuff, piano based, and to give you an idea of what the music was like, one of our bigger shows was opening for Hansen. It wasn't the aggressive, hard rock we do now. The stuff we were writing was more experimental and spacey and crazy. When we were coming up with the band name, Ethan had the idea to put the word "massacre" in our name. We wanted to distance ourselves from the world of pop.
Walden: At first I wanted it to be something like Kevin and the Massacre, you know, some random name. But then people might get confused, and be like, who's Kevin? And then Mars, because we were watching a lot of Cosmos with Carl Sagan. And our music is spacey too, kind of psychedelic.
Newell: Well they remember it that way, but I remember just being really stoned and thought it sounded cool.
NUVO: And you guys received the award for best live band from LA Weekly.
Newell: It was crazy! The first round, people voted, and we got into the top ten, and people voted more, then we made the top three.
Walden: The last round, which was the round that i felt like we shined in, LA Weekly came out to shows. It was voting at first, but it was cool because they actually came out.
Doherty: I think it definitely validated us in a way. You know how these things go, the contests, it's a voting thing at first. At first, we were just excited that our local fans were voting for us, we didn't even think. Top ten was cool, but then the top three happened and we actually felt like we could win it because we are really proud of our live shows. We think live shows are key.
Newell: It was fucking great! But now it's a little surreal because we're meeting all these people around town who know who our band is. It's cool.
NUVO: Describe your live show for us.
Doherty: It can't just be us playing our songs. It has to be an event. People are taking their time to come see us, and the type of people who come see our shows go to shows all the time. These people really love music. When you see a live show a thousand times, it can get boring, just these guys on stage. So we give it some flair, and make it a show. We bring a sampler onstage and sample sci-fi effects from movies and have transitions from song to song, and themes like space and old B-horror movies. We bring fake blood onstage, we writhe around on the floor, we jump into the crowd. We go nuts.
Walden: That's what we try to do. We want the people to like the music, but we want them to leave and be like... what the hell did I just see? Also when we approach a show, we go by two rules, the age old rules of (1) less talk, more rock, and (2) rock out with our cock out. I believe we always follow those rules when we play.
NUVO: What would you say to an up-and-coming band back in Indy?
Doherty: You know, the best thing you can do is play and play and play and play and play. Especially if you are starting out. It helps you get better at your own music. You need to get out there and let people see you. A lot of young bands think, "Oh I can just go viral." But it's more than that. You need to get out there and let people hear you play. It's not just Indy. There's Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville.. the Midwest is such a great place to play, really. It's a great tight-knit area with lots of cities and lots people who like good music.