A multi-instrumental singer-songwriter, blossoming slightly later than most hype stories and living on a narrow-boat, writing and mediating as he flows around the canals of the capital...
It's a biography waiting to happen, isn't it?
Well, we have the first edition for you.
Luke Marzec may have just appeared on the radar, but he's been a long time coming.
In his first ever face-to-face interview, the often-elusive musician discusses his early years, upcoming records, and how he is absorbing the ever-growing buzz around his unique sound and lifestyle.
How have you been?
Busy. I've been writing a lot. I've been spending half my time renovating my boat and half my time writing.
It's been a nice little summer project, I get to think about my songs while I do it and I feel a lot more prepared when I enter the studio. It's a nice meditation.
Why do you live on a narrow-boat?
Well, you can quote this in jest, if you like: I didn't choose the narrow-boat life, it chose me. It seriously did though, my best friend owned it and a few springs ago I moved him with him, and then he left to work in Africa, so now I live in it, been on my own in there for a year now. I love it. I can sit in silence and play Solitaire.
When I looked into it, there was quite a bit of work to do to the boat. It was rotting, so that’s why I’ve been working on it over the summer.
Please forgive me if I babble... I haven't done this before. I'm not sure how this'll go
What are you working on musically?
A full album, I think. I need to think about how to place it all together. I'll probably do that at the end: whether I release singles or whether I want it to be one bigger thing remains to be seen. But yeah, I have a lot of material which will be finished soon and I think it'll be an album.
Have you had a creative burst recently, or are you constantly writing?
Yeah it’s all recent. I purposely didn't write for a little while, I just had a bank of smaller, fresher ideas. Then a couple of months ago I went back through these archives and found a lot of nice fetal-state ideas, which I liked and became excited about again.
Do you have a process?
I think when I do it best, I make a beat and record myself improvising on top of it. I'll sing for 45 minutes at a time, and then I listen back until I find a section I like, whether it is a melody, or a lyric. Often I then do a long take based on that idea and then work on it as a song. I just decided to rid myself from intention, because it stops things from happening.
When I started I just didn't know how to use the software, which is why the music is so simplistic
Are you excited by the new tracks?
I like them, yeah. I know they're like, a bit more fun. What was really nice was when I showed them to my managers, we were all just smiling and swaying, I really liked that. Often my music is a bit more intense, I liked it not being so intense for once. I played some of the newer music to my grandma and my mum, at Christmas, and my little old Polish grandma was dancing. That was a really nice memory.
Where do you write from?
Mainly my studio. I have a permanent space in south London which I share with two people. I write and record there, then I'll listen to things back on my boat. A sort of write drunk, edit sober thing. There's a piano on the boat that I will play casually, sometimes that stuff turns into songs.
Now you're a bit more known, is your recording process getting more elaborate?
I dedicated more time to learning how to produce songs, but I ended up over-complicating it for myself, and then my manager and I decided to bring it back to basics. Now, I just distill the most important ideas from my songs, so it is still pretty simplistic. Right now I'm really stripping it back, might even have a few songs with just voice or just instruments in.
I think that's why I'm taking time now too, making sure I'm getting to know the songs more. I've never done it like this before... last autumn I wrote 20 tracks in two months or something, which gave us a lot of material to work with this year. But now it’s been maybe six months of having some ideas, and another two months until I've finished these three songs. The album should then be done a month or two later, when I've pieced everything together.
You get a lot of engagement on YouTube. How involved in the videos have you been?
I wasn't really involved in the first one, I listened to the pitch and let them sort it. The others I've had a more active role in, I sat down with the director Harry Lindley and made sure we didn’t just tell the story the song tells, I didn’t want it repeating itself. So I help us to take an idea from the idea behind the song itself, which brings two worlds together, even if they shouldn't be related. It gives the audience a bigger space. And like the music we'll just record for the whole day and take a small amount of that to go towards the video each day.
You must have a lot of patience with it?
I think I need to be. Sometimes it does frustrate me, you often want to skip through the recordings and do other less useful things, but ideally I listen to it with a notepad, writing down the things I like, and I might listen back to the bits I like. That's the best way to do it.
How old were you when you first wrote something?
What do you mean by first?
Up to you!
The first thing I wrote was a Christmas carol in year 5, for a school concert. I wrote the organ part on a piano and both vocal lines, my mate Freddie sang the other one. I'll try and dig that out one day.
What did you do after you left school?
I studied Philosophy at the University of York. How about you? Sorry… I find it really weird having a one-way-stream.
English, in Nottingham. Why Philosophy?
My mate and I just got into chatting about Marx and stuff when were 18, and ended up on this whole 'we must go to university and grow our minds' kind of thing, so we did Philosophy. We had a whole fucking way to live life mapped out, which we of course never followed.
Were you brought up artistically?
I guess so. My dad was in set design, and then industrial theater - designing really big events: after-award-show ceremonies, that kinda thing. Basically in the late nineties, companies were splashing hundreds of thousands on big AGMs and they'd pay someone like my dad to build them a beautiful party.
My mum was from communist Poland, Gdansk, so she never had the chance to be artsy, but would have. She'd sit in on my lessons and pick things up quickly. She had a work-hard mentality, and was the main pusher in music.
Did you get into trouble in school?
Yeah. [Laughs.] I was a clever arse, yeah.
How old are you now, 26?
More or less. No. I'm a few years older, but you don't have to put my age in. In my twenties.
Also how will you do this… you gotta make a story out of it, right? Taking lots of stuff and finding the things you like? Kinda like what I do.
You're getting more acclaim now, how famous do you want to be?
I mean, selling out Wembley Arena would be great. But what I really want to do is sell out nice concert halls of 400-500 people, and to play good festivals around the world. I wouldn't really want the whole happy thing, though I'm sure it'd be fun. If I can continue to make music and have enough people enjoy it, I’m good. I don't want too much.
The happy thing?
Well, actually, nowadays I’m learning I want to be happy as well as successful. I didn't think it was allowed before. I thought you just had to go and do well. But I guess you can do both. Like I don't want to work with my idols or anything, anymore, I’d like to work with friends, or alone. I found in the past that I had to compromise with musicians and (especially) producers too much: making my own decisions has been far more important and I feel better for it. I miss playing Jazz though, I'm sitting on the idea of doing a residency in south for 12 weeks or something, maybe in the new year, without making much of a deal about it.
People should listen to my records with headphones on, alone, in silence, not doing anything but laying there
Where do you live?
Well I move a lot, being on a boat. Right now I live in Tottenham Marshes; gonna go back down to Hackney and then Ladbroke Grove soon, they're the parts I like: there's a lot of greenery around there. I don't like Hoxton or Haggerston, the state is all around you; I like to look out on a field.
And I guess you needn't earn so much to live on a boat?
Nah, not really. I do teach piano for extra money. I think I will want to get a job at a deli after the album is done though, part-time, just because I'll get bored and I like working those places. I like hosting... giving people their usual and caring about what you do and that. When I worked in a pizza place it was well nice.
Is there a day where the music really clicked for you?
I'm not good at specific things, it's all just a constant. Maybe watching the Vinyl be produced was a really special moment, watching my first self-produced record be made. But I dunno when it clicked really. I’ve always been around it in different ways.
You did work with Fred Perry Subculture. Are you into fashion?
Nah. [laughs and gestures to his outfit, a mix of overcoat and ankle socks.] I was just taking what I could get at that point, it was fun though.
How much do you consider your image? you rarely have your face visible in photos/videos...
Good spot, I rarely do. I think it's because I didn't really know what my image was. I've been making music forever, but I haven’t been thinking about my image long at all. I didn't want to look back at my early videos and think I looked like a bloody idiot. I think about it more now, so maybe my face will start to show more..
Where's the optimal place for people to listen to your music?
At home in the dark. But, come see my live, it's entirely different live, a whole other experience.
And where will you be in five years?
Hell, I should get one of those plans together shouldn’t I. Let’s see… I’ll be on the way back from America, going back to an even nicer boat, if whatever woman I have is cool with a boat... a nice boat. Yeah, just touring really.
How was your first face-to-face interview?
I found it good, I felt a bit awkward at times with the one way thing… but good, thanks!