Counter Records electronic duo also reveal the highs and lows of Berlin clubbing
gigwise intern
08:51 3rd June 2015

Following in the footsteps of Bonobo and Caribou, thanks to their new live setup Maribou State are one of this summer's most enticing electronica acts.

When Gigwise catches up with the pair they are in a hotel room in Berlin still on a high from experiencing the city's legendary Spreepark. "The abandoned theme park? That was amazing" says Liam Ivory, as we're joined by his bandmate Chris Davids. Two self-confessed "music making, tea drinking boys from the shire" the pair have just released their soulful and thoughtful debut LP Portraits that should see them finally ditch the 'downbeat Disclosure' tag. To mark the release of the album they discussed with Gigwise their admiration of James Blake, terrible DJ gigs and how exactly you can get into legendary Berlin nightclub Berghain. 

Describe your earliest clubbing experiences.
Liam: The first kind of experience I remember was Chris' birthday when we all got a minibus together and went up to Fabric. Only half of us got in - I ended up going to a place across the road called Fluid, which was some sort of weird Japanese bar and saw a DJ called Colin Dale. That was the first taste of house music that kind of inspired me.

As a frequent collaborator, what does Pedestrian [aka Jack Sibley] bring to the party?
Liam: Firstly... vocals! That's the main thing. Jack's really good at writing lyrics. Also as a producer he's incredible.
Chris: I'd say he's really really talented: he can spend about two hours on a high hat. [laughs] He puts the work in he makes us stay in the studio a lot longer than we would do normally. He doesn't give up.
Lim: The first time we all met we worked on a bootleg together. It was the first time we'd ever been in the studio longer than ten hours. We were in there for 16 hours, finished the track the same night. We woke up the next morning and were like 'Wow.'
Chris: That's a regular occurrence for him. That's how he works. He definitely brings endurance to the table.

Which live dance act do you think is really impressive?
Liam: Bonobo: we missed the Alexandra Palace gig but we seen them a few times before that and he's always been ridiculously impressive. I saw Jungle a couple of times over the summer and they've got an insanely tight band. Caribou's live show's amazing as well: we saw that at Bestival.
Chris: James Blake is just ridiculous. We saw him at Glastonbury last year and that was easily one of the highlights of the year. Absolutely incredible. He's a massive source of inspiration for us in making music.

What advice would you have for those going to Glastonbury?
Liam: Go to Shangri-La and be prepared to lose your mind. The stone circle is just nuts, particularly when the sun comes through the dragon's mouth on the last night. You don't really get that at other festivals where you can just make a fire, sit around in a massive space where you can chill and everyone can bring their own music or whatever.
Chris: The Beat Hotel is pretty cool and well worth checking out. The Rabbit Hole is weird. There's so much there it's insane. Try and move around and experience how varied the festival can be.
Liam: Both years we've been there, we've gone from being with a really big group to being really small group. Every year when there's been a big group of us it's just gone to shit. Just because you spend so much time chasing people round and trying to get everyone to go somewhere and it doesn't work out. If there's just a few of you, you'll see so much more. For such a big place, it's important.

What drew you to signing to Counter Records?
Liam: The main thing is the roster they have and Counter being attached to Ninja Tune, so the roster they have as well. That's one of the main reasons why initially we wanted to work with them because we were so impressed by all the acts that they were already releasing on the label. Since signing to them one of the main selling points and the good feeling we get is the guys who actually work at the label: how supportive and forward thinking they are in what we're doing. They are so in tune with what we want as well. There's very little friction moving forward with them.

Can you describe your biggest DJ fail?
Chris: One time we were playing out in France in the Alps. Me and him were playing, together with Jack. I decided to go out into the crowd and have a listen to how it was sounding and a bit of a dance around. I ended up going out into the crowd and there was a rubber beach ball that I threw back. I threw it and it managed to land right on the main line so completely cut out the set.
Liam: Chris should also mention that he was off his face at that point. Just for fun he kept deciding just to jog the mixer and mess with the CDJs: he was just on a different planet that night. Another one is Chris kicking over a beer onto the power board and cutting the whole PA for at least ten minutes. We were playing in Albuquerque in America. It was a complete accident - I kicked the glass off the stage, it landed on the power boards and everything cut out. They couldn't get it back on for a while. No one knew it was us which was really lucky - we just looked perplexed 'What's going on?'
Chris: We had this little prank we were doing with one of our friends where we took his USB and replaced the samples on the tracks with different swearwords. He got us back when we were at Open'er festival in Amsterdam and the first track we played - which I think was a Caribou track - he'd cut out the vocal sample and replaced it with him shouting "MARIBOU STATE ARE A BUNCH OF BALLBAGS". The first track we had had that blaring out with loads of reverb on it. Everyone got down and liked that.

Have you received any strange gifts from fans?
Liam: We get strange compliments. Chris got "I love your music. I love your trainers more." I guess it's a compliment.

When were you last starstruck?
Chris: We played the Social club once and Liam's a massive fan of Justice. Gaspard was there watching us play. We didn't actually meet him but it was a good thing to know when we'd finished playing that he'd come down had watched a set. I don't think he came down to see us but he was getting into it.
Liam: I guess when we met Norman Cook as well, when we were signed to his label. The first couple of times when we had chats and stuff: at the time I remember being well chuffed.

What small festival would you recommend?
Liam: Gottwood up in Hollyhead in the North of Wales. We had a lot of fun there when we played: just a really really good festival. Definitely worth checking out. The guy who runs it, it's set in the grounds of his house. He's got a lake that's in his back garden and a really nice wooded area. They've got two really cool stages.
Chris: The vibe's amazing and it's really secluded. You're surrounded by water as it's on a little island. The views are amazing and it's real small capacity which makes it even better. He's set a limit of not extending it so over the course of the weekend you meet a lot of people and you bump into the same people. It's a really well run festival by a really nice guy. it's hard to go wrong.

Which band do you still really hope one day to see live?
Liam: Fleetwood Mac are a band we've always wanted to see - and we'll hopefully see them at the Isle of wight festival. When we first started going to festivals they were the band that all of our friends would put on Rumours when we went back to the tent - so it's really nostalgic to being 17 again. Just fun sunny music.
Chris: And then The Strokes - we managed to get tickets to the Hyde Park show. I saw Julian Casablancas a few years ago and he played some Strokes tracks. My favourite track? 'What Ever happened.'

Who would love to remix?
Liam: There's actually a guy called Nick Hakim who I'd really like to remix. Although saying that I don't know if we'd do it justice. All the acts we really really like we wouldn't want to touch! Although it would be interesting to have all the parts to see how they put it together. There's a band we've started listening since we've been out in Berlin called Unknown Mortal Orchestra: literally completely fallen in love with all of their stuff. going to go and see them next Tuesday at Berghain. Which is a bit random.

Is Berghain as impossible to get into as we've read?
Chris. We've tried three times. Liam's got in once. Me and Jack haven't got in at all. You really need to be able to speak German and look as gay as possible.
Liam: I changed into skintight leather trousers and went in with someone who spoke German - and even then it wasn't a breeze. They stop and ask you questions.
Chris: Berlin's got two sides to its clubbing: it's got that really serious side (Tresor and Berghain where people listen to techno and take it seriously) but there's also more the hippie side where they've got clubs - one called Sisyphos  - and one that used to be called Kater Holzig. It's so varied. A crazy experience. We went to one on Sunday and it's got a little pond area and there was a soul band playing and interesting it had three different rooms playing different types of techno. It's got converted ambulances you can sit in: it's like being at a festival. Which is perfectly up our street.

What's the strangest thing you've ever seen from the DJ booth?
Chris: We were playing at Strawberry Fields. There was loads of twisted people there and a lot of acid floating around. There was one guy dressed up in a kimono, with loads of weird facepaint on - he had this little puppet of a skeleton that he could make dance perfectly in time with the music. It's the most eerie looking thing.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
Liam: Something that rings true with us, especially during our trip in Berlin, is to never see something as a failure. We were told about the Japanese art of Kintsugi, where broken pots are fixed with molten gold. So instead of making something as good as new, you can in fact make something that was even better than it was before.

Portraits is out now (Counter Records).