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Mass appeal

After starting out in a pub basement, Massaoke are winning fans across the world with their inclusive performances of some of the greatest songs ever written

16 May, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Massaoke are set to play this year’s Glastonbury festival

THEY hail from Camden Town – and are setting the world alight.

They are the one and only Massaoke, a fearless five-piece who strut out in front of a crowd, shove the lyrics of the greatest songs ever written on a big screen, and then blast them out with their crowd joining in at the top of their voices.

Massaoke – made up of Mat, Mark, Neil, Rye and Ethan – have taken their brand of audience-freak-out-session to shows across the country, from Twickenham Stadium for the Rugby World Cup final, to the Edinburgh Fringe (via the York Rise Street Party) and all over the world to places such as Australia, Greece, Portugal and the US.

They are heading to Glastonbury this year, playing on the Williams Green Stage on the Thursday – so Grooves caught up with them to hear more…

So, where did the Massaoke world domination idea come from?

Drummer Mat: “We started in the basement of a pub down near Russell Square back in 2011 and followed that with semi-regular shows.

“We’ve been properly Massaoke since our VJ Ethan McClean (The Man On the Screen) joined four years ago and since then it’s been a whirlwind. We’d previously played at some festivals like T in the Park and Camp Bestival, but it was Glastonbury in 2015 when we really felt like we were onto something. We’d filled the Williams Green tent to the rafters with, we’re told, as many people outside trying to get in as were in the tent itself.”

Mark: “Picking the perfect set is harder that one might think. Songs that go down well at a Massaoke band show are usually not the same as the songs a regular party band might choose. We have to make sure that the songs are really well known – the verses as well as the choruses.

“We think about the sort of audience we’re likely to be playing to, and what might go down well with that demographic. We’re still learning – it can often be surprising.”

Do you have a jam and think, what about this one?

Neil: “There are many songs that we’re trying to work into our sets, but we know that we couldn’t get away with the whole song. We might get away with a verse and chorus, so we’re constantly creating new medleys, mash-ups and megamixes to get these big moments in. Just as that second verse of Money for Nothing that you can’t remember is about to kick in, we’ll hit you with a Franz Ferdinand riff and we’re into a different song.”

Any pet hates in the set?

Mark: “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing. I do not have the time of my life playing this.”

What are your festival dos and don’ts?

Neil: “Do take lots of layers of clothing and waterproof stuff – this is Britain. Don’t, like one unnamed member of Massaoke, take a load of Immodium on the first day of Glastonbury because you don’t fancy the toilets. I will leave the results of that up to CNJ readers’ imaginations…”

Where do you buy your stage wear? Who is the nattiest dresser?

Mark: “Well we can’t give away all our secrets but if you’re expecting to find a sequinned item in a north London charity shop, our guitarist Neil has beat you there.”

And can you describe the feeling of having 10,000 people sing along with you?

Mark: “Massaoke is a shared experience. There are times when what we’re doing seems to transcend the simple situation of a band playing and an audience singing along. You can feel something in the air and it’s magical. It’s hard to describe in words, but everyone there know they’re part of something special in that moment, singing the same tune.

“It’s unifying and life-affirming at a time when everything seems to be focused on our differences, rather than what we have in common.”


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