Interview: The Marsh Family – Biological Clock

Following up on their first hit from Christmas 2021, The Marsh Family will release an original song in May that tackles the topic of menopause with their characteristic blend of wit and candour. ‘Biological Clock’ is a self-penned track about the family’s new exposure to this rite of female passage, handling a taboo subject with comedy and compassion. The song, which has been approved by The Menopause Charity, tells the story of oncoming symptoms and challenges, describing a rollercoaster of emotions, but it ends on a strident note, with layers of harmony, rich horns, and a thumping bass closing out the track and its message of unity and understanding.

With their distinctive blend of comedy, compassion, and optimism, the Marsh Family soared to international stardom after posting pandemic parody songs that went viral in 2020. The six-member family from Kent, England, is flexible, earthy, and self-sufficient, putting their own distinctive spin on genres ranging from musicals and folk to Motown and funk. The New York Times dubbed them the “Von Trapped” family, and they appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live (2020), the BBC’s Comic Relief show (2021), and spearheaded a Christmas campaign for Prostate Cancer UK in December 2021, with their video “Mack The Knife (Prostate Cancer – Facts of Life)” being shortlisted for the Brand Film Awards in 2022. They contributed money for Save the Children and the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Fund during the epidemic.

The Marsh Family has been on British television shows such as This Morning, BBC Breakfast, GMB, and BBC Morning Live, as well as in publications such as OK! Magazine and foreign programmes such as Democracy Now and The Project. ‘One Day More’ (which had 11 million views on Facebook alone in March 2020), ‘Have the New Jab’ (in favour of the immunisation campaign), and ‘Totally Fixed Where We Are’ are among their most popular viral successes, with their YouTube channel receiving over 15 million views and climbing.

Parents Ben (the lyricist, a history professor, 45) and Danielle Marsh (administration, 44) and their children Alfie (15), Thomas (14), Ella (12), and Tess (12) are all talented vocalists, lyricists, and multi-instrumentalists (10). They’ve been singing together since the youngsters were born in Scotland, and their audience has grown as quickly as their size, with 100,000 YouTube followers in only 18 months and nominations as ‘Creators on the Rise.’ There is no other act like them, and their original sound is emergent as they are – conveying folk-rock tones, combined with the rhythm and harmonic resonance of other family vocal ensembles. They perform every instrument on the song.

“This one was an easy song to pitch to the kids because it’s dancy,” Dad (Ben) remarked of “Biological Clock,” “but it was difficult to get through Mum’s quality control, because it’s not a subject people normally open up about, and at one point we call her a womble.” “The song had to be uplifting and forceful as well as hilarious,” Mum (Danielle) emphasised, “since women are frequently terrified and startled by the changes we all experience, so it was crucial to create the perfect balance.” The ultimate product, which is complemented by a funny movie made in Kent’s sun-dappled woodlands, aims to move the needle on making the menopause visible to those who aren’t experiencing it personally.

Today we had a chance to interview THE MARSH FAMILY about their journey into the music industry and their freshly released single, “Biological Clock.”

We’ve always been into music – Ben learned cello and was in groups as a kid, and Danielle sang loads. And we started singing together when we met at university. When the kids came along it was a natural thing for us to sing and play with them and as they grew, the musical projects became more ambitious. The only thing that changed in March 2020 is that the music made it beyond our friends and family for the first time!

Ben is something of a self-taught multi-instrumentalist and from starting with cello and bass can now get by on guitar, piano, drums, and a bit of banjo. The kids play an assortment of instruments – Alfie plays piano and bass; Thomas plays clarinet and drums; Ella plays the cornet and Tess plays the violin and ukulele. Not everyone can click yet. Danielle complains if she has to do anything but sing, but she occasionally dabbles in a shaker.

If the kids still love it then we hope they will still have a musical outlet (whether together or apart) – while we expect to gradually retreat into gravelly-voiced soul-searching and self-indulgent writing for others! Music has always been a passion, and a practice, not a career as such. But all power to anyone with the courage and ability to make a living (or part of a living) from it!

The tambourine.

Everyone would say their own instrument is the hardest. But they would be lying.

I think we have a unique mix of music, humour and family that keeps us motivated, interested and moving forward. People struggle to compare us to others, and we like that. We are not just ‘growing’ in a pretentious, artistic way, but in a literal physical, hormonal way, which means a song that we can perform this week might be impossible in a month. And that keeps us grounded in the here and now. That and the dogs.

Not taking ourselves seriously enough. And wanting to always make it fun.

We love a myriad of musical genres and musicians and the variety has really shaped our outlook and tastes. There are too many favourites to list but some of the most played artists on long journeys include Queen, Bowie, Muse, Flight of the conchords, Ella Fitzgerald, Led Zeppelin and Elton John.

Having performed more in our pyjamas than any musician in world history. And having made people smile and find hope in tough times.

The rest of our life is filled with school and jobs and sports and friends. And addictive apps on electronic devices. The kids are into cricket and football and most of us are Watford FC fans, which is helpful for learning how to manage disappointment.

Home or news events > long baths > ideas > arguments > alignment > attempt > family dog walks > singalongs/practices > recording.

In terms of parodies, I think our most viral ones were our most authentic ones where we all had fun. They included “One Day More”, “Freedom of Life”, “Totally Fixed Where We Are”, and lately “All of the Prices Have Gone Up”. Performing live on the BBC’s Comic Relief was a high point and I think we nailed it. Proudest moment with original material was playing our first single, a Christmas song, “Bring Us A Candle” a couple of times, as it had that special mix of adrenalin and teamwork.

“Biological Clock” came about after the boys developed a funky riff that they had been playing for a while on bass, guitar, and drums – obsessing about hitting 127 BPM speed. Looking for a topic and lyrics for the melody, we looked to a personal issue for us and the menopause was suggested. It was important to try and find humour without mocking and hopefully aim to make a positive statement about a misunderstood topic that affects everyone directly or indirectly. As with our other songs, it was recorded in our house and then mixed at Skyline Studios. Once completed and mastered we created, recorded and edited the video in our favourite woods.

Peter Gabriel.

Our parents (/grandparents)

I guess we teach one another together, and mostly it’s about finding the time and patience to be receptive. Ben tried to coach the kids through music theory, but from the next room it was like watching a car crash in slow motion. Luckily no one died, and we found out lots of information about music terminology that we will probably never use again. The kids have an amazing range of instrumental and school teachers who help them move forward.

I think there have been times where we’ve had limited time and had to settle for a performance that we could have improved. Sometimes technology has been the problem and sometimes intruding animals. It has all been a learning curve but I think we push ourselves to keep improving – still haven’t figured out how to give a decent performance with hand-held mics (we’re better from stands).

So far we’ve got round this by performing mostly digitally and during a pandemic when our audience is desperate for uplifting content.

Collaboratively. Unless anyone disagrees with my view.

Our living room.

The feeling of performing together and the constant improvements and changes in the kids’ abilities and voices keeps us inspired. Also knowing that people are waiting for our next song, and we are kinda competitive. Hopefully sometime soon what will motivate us will be money.

Chocolate, booze, takeaways, and getting very irritated with the state of the country/world/universe.

We’re always nervous as we don’t want to let one another down or not do our best but our biggest supporters are with us and if the kids can produce a great performance then the adults can’t let nerves affect them!

We have a bigger age range and stylistic range than most, are an actual family group, and can’t dance.

Our previous song “Bring Us A Candle” was very different in tempo and style. It was a Christmas song (though we avoided the usual stereotypes of the tinsel and snow) that spoke to our experiences as we wanted to make a thoughtful and uplifting piece reflective of the last two years stuck with the pandemic. In contrast, “Biological Clock” has much more humour and energy, and a driving bass riff. Put together, it aims to bring a new kind of focus onto a taboo topic (the menopause). It is upbeat, and funny and quirky and epitomises what we do best.

Don’t forget to follow them on Instagram as @marshfamilysongs.

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