Everyone has nightmares.
Everyone has those nights where they lie awake staring at the ceiling, trying as hard as they can not to fall asleep. Everyone has those moments where the house is so quiet and the room is so dark, they can’t be completely sure they’re awake at all. Everyone has the corners of the room they try not to look at when the lights go out, and the things they try not to imagine hovering just out of reach in the darkness.
That’s what “Spiders” reminds me of.
Inspired by real events, Martha Hill took the true story of a stray bat invading her kitchen and twisted it into something far more sinister. What if bats did flock through your windows, only for your flatmates to come home and see nothing at all? What if you could see the spiders crawling over your reflection in the mirror, but your friends all insisted you looked fine?
Which such dark themes, you’d think that “Spiders” would be a dark song, but it’s not. It’s uneasy for sure, swirling with uncomfortable and catastrophic imagery, but more than anything else it’s subtle. Martha’s vocals are relaxed, almost apathetic in the face of the terrors she’s describing, which only adds to the uneasy feeling that madness is easier to get used to than we might think.
The horror in “Spiders” isn’t supernatural or otherworldly – it’s downright mundane.
The upside of such a bleak outlook is that it makes negative emotions, no matter how overwhelming they may seem, feel manageable. The whole track, from the layered harmonies to the slow build of the bridge to the constant companion of the bass, emanates a resigned kind of calm. The vocals are cool and self-assured even as Martha is singing about picking the legs off of the spiders, and you can’t help but be confident right along with her.
After all, if she can make such a terrifying situation seem almost trendy by force of will alone, then you can survive anything.
It goes without saying that this track is perfect late-night listening, but what that means, in particular, is up to you. Stylishly minimalist rooftop party in the city? Check. Twilight walk through your local haunted woods or barren moor? Check. A lullaby to stop you from thinking about what may or may not be hiding under your bed? Check.
Whatever you use it for, this is a song guaranteed to stay with you for long after you stop listening, and the easy to sink into rhythm means you won’t stop listening for a long time either. It’s the kind of song that blurs into one long reverie after a few repeats, making it the perfect companion for whatever late night escapades you might have planned.
How did you get into writing songs?
I can’t remember really, it was just something we did. When I was about 14, I and my two best mates would hang out after school and sing each other songs we wrote. I was also in a few shit emo bands at that time as well (mostly playing the drums though).
What did your time travelling as a street music teach you about music and songwriting?
You end up meeting lots of people and having weird collaborations. Like trying to jam along with unreal jazz musicians in Spain, or going to open mic nights in Dublin and collaborating with Irish rappers. I reckon the weirdest one was in Gran Canaria when I met a guy that lived in a cave and made his own didgeridoos.
What’s your goal when you set out to write a song?
I don’t think I have one. The song comes first, then I decide what to do with it. I have tons of songs that will never be played to anybody else because they’re either rubbish or just too self-indulgent.
Is that selfish or unselfish?
Both. Songwriting is well known for being therapeutic. But the moment you take it to the band to arrange it, the song becomes something for somebody else.
How would you describe your style?
Not shit pop. haha.
Have you known your style since the beginning, or was it a process to find it?
The style of most musicians is constantly evolving. Every sound that goes in my ears has the ability to change my style slightly.
What’s your favourite song of all time and what makes it good?
That’s impossible! In terms of production, I’d say Toxic by Brittany Spears though. Actually, in terms of everything, that song is class!
Advice for aspiring songwriters?
Just do it. Be self-critical, be experimental, steal cleverly.
Where do you start when writing a song?
It all comes together. One line just pops into my head and then the rest follows.
How do you write a melody?
I don’t, they just appear!
How about lyrics?
The first couple of lines write themselves. I like to try and stay metaphorical as much as possible. I also use rhymezone to help me if it’s not happening immediately – that just gives me the odd word that would fit and I work ideas around it.
Which comes easiest to you, and which do you think is most important?
For my music they’re equally important. It depends what you’re trying to achieve. I love catchy melodies, but I mostly love hard-hitting lyrics that make you think or feel.
How autobiographical do you consider your work?
Incredibly! I’m a giant narcissist.
Do you write more about specific situations or general themes?
I’d say it’s more about moods. Most of my songs are snapshots of a specific mood in a specific time. They’re not truthful in a general sense. Like, that’s what I felt right there and then, but I probably don’t feel that anymore.
How important is production to you?
Hugely important. There’s nothing more irritating than a great tune ruined by terrible production!
What part of Spiders was written first?
“Spiders” was one of those rare ones that just blurt out of me all in one go, like musical vomit.
What story were you trying to tell with Spiders?
It’s really based around feelings of disconnection and loneliness.
There’s some spooky imagery in the song, where did that come from & what does it represent?
The “spiders” imagery is one I use a lot. I’ve always suffered with eczema, and when I was a baby I used to have nightmares about spiders crawling all over me. The bat imagery was real! A bat broke into my house and when my housemate came home she didn’t believe me – I thought “oh god I’ve actually lost it” haha.
What do you want listeners to take away from the song?
Whatever they want! Music is in the ear of the beholder or something.. If you find it catchy or emotive or weird or shit, I don’t mind, it’s not up to me!
Do you have a favourite part?
I’m proud of the verses, I like the way they flow. Also there’s this subtle reverb-y click just before the chorus properly kicks in which I love.
What was your aim with the production?
This was my first track, so I really wanted to push it to see what I could achieve if I went full hog! Before this, it was mostly me and an acoustic guitar, so I really went all out. I wanted to achieve something new that also felt familiar. Like, you can get down with it but it’s still a wee bit weird.
What’s next for you in terms of music and/or touring?
I have a bunch of festivals coming up! L Fest, Chilli Fest, Solfest, Girls to the Front.. Got a few wee things in the pipeline in terms of releases and tours as well, so keep an eye out!