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Rock & Pop: Marah

Philly Country Boys
Great rock'n' roll needn't be about slashings of guitar or riotous white noise. It does, however, require a hefty dose of attitude and a king-size helping of soul. So it comes as something of a treat to discover that Philadelphia fourpiece Marah have both of these in spades.

Comprising brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko (vocals), bassist Danny Metz and drummer Ronnie Vance, Marah have cottoned on to an intoxicating blend of blues, country-rock and R&B. New album 'Kids In Philly' exudes traces of Springsteen, The Replacements and Steve Earle - the latter of whom was so taken with the quartet he signed them to his E-squared label.

Grab an earful of the fearsomely addictive 'Kids In Philly' and it's easy to see why. KIP is one of those records that it's impossible to tear yourself away from. Harmonica, bells, horns, chimes and xylophone blends alongside the staple guitar, banjos, bass and drums, while street sounds and party noises serve to add to a record which reverberates with vitality, a record which sounds so alive and 'now' while at the same time sounding increasingly like tomorrow. Though with the whole platter clocking in at just 37 minutes long, that repeat button is in for one heavy ride...

Marah made their UK debut last year supporting Steve Earle. This week they return to London for their first headline show at the Borderline. LondonNet caught up with singer Dave Bielanko.

When did you arrive?
We arrived some time yesterday then proceeded to spin out of control into the Click here for info on the rock 'n' roll institution that is the Columbia Hotel, LondonLondon nightlife. But luckily we're staying at The Columbia so we brought a whole bunch of people back here.

Ah the rock 'n' roll hotel.
Rock and roll it is!

What've you seen of London since you arrived - other than bars, that is!
Yesterday we went to a coffee shop and sat with the newly pronounced town crier and had a laugh with him for a couple of hours. Then we checked out Trafalgar Square to see the buildings (pause)'s mainly the inside of bars though, I have to be honest!

You first came to London last year supporting Steve Earle, what were your first impressions of the city?
When we rolled in here the first time, our tour manager was from London and he hyped it up pretty big. We met some fantastic people though. I can see us trying to skirt around visas and live here at some point. London is one of the three greatest cities in the world.

What are the other two?
Philly and New York!

What do you think of Londoners?
They're very charming. London is very laid back in a way that the East Coast is very uptight. London is an intelligent city. It's a beautiful place and full of real people - two things that are hard to put together, but here it works.

Are you veggie or meat eater? Heard about the foot and mouth problem? Have you eaten any meat over here?
I don't eat too much. I'm on this one meal a day program and generally it's salad so I don't have to worry about the foot and mouth thing. This last year of touring has kind of destroyed my appetite!

You've come to London in a week of protests - strikes and of course the May Day march. What's your view on globalisation?
I'm in the wrong business to talk about it. Do you mean gloabal chains? Well if there's a Star bucks downstairs, I'm going to it. I'm just a consumer. I'm the little guy here.

Have you been to any other European cities? We did a whole European tour and took in Sweden, Belgium Holland and Germany. I really like Stockholm and I like the museums in Belgium. Germany, I found to be a little cold for my liking…and the food, ugh! …. all we ate were kebabs every day.

You're playing the Borderline, a small venue with an illustrious history (Jeff Buckley, Counting Crows REM played there). Do you prefer small intimate venues?
It's our first time playing there. Right now I prefer not to support anyone else, but to be in a nightclub place and play our own show and that's what we're doing tonight. That is my preference right now. Of course if we could fill up the Shepherds Bush I'd go there. When we supported Steve Earle it was great, we were playing 26 minutes a night. It was very little work and talking and drinking. We likened it to a vacation where a very rich man would spend a lot of money on us!

What about tonight?
I hear it's a bit socially unacceptable to play for two hours in a place like the Borderline, so we'll probably play for an hour and fifteen minutes.

What can we expect from a Marah show?
We almost cancelled these shows because my voice is a bit shredded. But we've worked hard to get this ready and we wanted to do it so bad, so it should be an extremely spirited performance. Yeah, there'll be plenty of banter. We don't look at our shoes and play our songs and leave! We brought in the rhythm section of this band called the Three Four Tens to back us up tonight. With these guys coming on board to help us there's a great brotherhood feeling to it. It's gonna be soulful and cool.

Pub Rock Feature - Can pub rock survive in London?
Bella Union
- We talk to former Cocteau twin Simon Raymonde about his London-based record label... click here

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