Maryland Station – the band, not the train station – chats with Mark Wincott
Having known one of the members of Maryland Station for a number of years, I’ve been hoping to get an interview with them for a while. And, at last, three members have sat down to answer a few questions for us here at LoveEast Magazine. Drummer Jonathan Brown (JB), acoustic guitarist/keys and producer David Wehinm (DW), and guitarist Charles Shittu (CS).
Thank you for doing this. Tell us a little bit about how you all met and why you chose Maryland Station for the name of the band?
JB: I met Charles at church; he was our first guitarist and played for a concert we had. I didn’t really talk to him, he was a bit of a loser – I know he’s gonna read this. (Grins) Then David’s sister went to my college and she was always trying to introduce me to him because he was a producer. I was like yea yea, producer schmoozer. I started talking to Charles and I didn’t even know that Charles knew David, so eventually David and Charles decided they wanted to make a band and Charles called me down and lo and behold the producer I came to see was actually the same David, small world, and that’s how I got brought into the band.
We’re called Maryland Station because Charles and David are pretty lazy and the draw was between Maryland Station, the chippie or the laundrette.
CS: Well I met David first, it was a bit of an awkward one because I didn’t really like him so much… I had started this open mic show in the café area of Stratford Picturehouse, where I played acoustic guitar with various singers I knew from churches I’ve associated with or from the gospel scene as, at the time, I was playing guitar for gospel events and the like, and when we’d finished the set we’d get a few free tickets to any movie on the day. Great times!
So, during a set, David comes over while I’m doing my thing and starts advising me on my playing and showing me chords and stuff and all I could think was, “Great, thanks! GO AWAY!!” David has great chord knowledge so him coming over on my set was like, “Wow just show me up bro why don’t you!”
When he finally walked off to see his movie, I thought that would be the last I’d see of him but I think we met each other again through a friend called Martin. I’m a bit hazy on the second meeting, the first meeting really stands out.
I met Tega (our bass player) through a mutual friend, Priscilla, who told me she had a friend who needed bass lessons, so I started teaching him for like a month or so. I remember him being a real quiet guy back then – not like now, the man’s a bit wild now!
He picked up real quick and continued to get better after our lessons stopped, so eventually I thought, why not bring him on some gigs to see how he holds up.
Johnboy was the drummer from my last church. I always tell him my first memory of him is him moaning at the choir about skill levels and professionalism and me thinking, “Oh he’s THAT guy in the choir.” We have a good laugh about that.
I played with Tonderai (Mr T) Mbiba, the other bassist, in a gospel group called Gospel Touch that’s still going. Back then, around 2013, it was going by the name D.T.W.G. (Desire to Worship God). A lot of good musicians played in that group, and I liked T’s skill and his vibe as a person, so I took a chance on him to see if he was interested in joining Maryland. I was kind of surprised he said yes, really!
How the name came about is a bit straightforward but funny. David and I were walking, thinking of a name for the band, and the idea to get inspiration for names from shop signs came up. So, we’re walking around looking at restaurants, shops and stores with signs like ‘Chicken Grill Hut’ or ‘Negev’s Off Licence’ and messing with words, taking parts of their title, swapping with other titles. Suddenly I look up at the Maryland train station sign and as soon as I saw it, ‘Maryland Station’, I knew it had a ring to it and I definitely knew that it would be the best one we got that night. So, when I said it, David nodded his head, and after that nothing really better came along. We’ve messed with abbreviations and the like – MSTAT, MSTATBABY, MARYLAND – and I’m sure it’s a bit confusing to anyone watching. I’ve come to the point that whatever anyone is comfortable calling the band, I’m cool with.
DW: Charles and I have known each other for about 10 or 11 years. We met through Tony Blaize, a singer. John and Charles played together at church.
Charles and I formed the band during a conversation at Maryland Station, hence the name.
You guys have toured and worked with artists such as Massive Attack, Azekel, Sway, Inderpaul Sandhu and Anthony Blaize. How did this come about and what was the experience like, what did you learn as a group and personally?
JB: Tony (Blaize) was the first artist I played for with the band, and he was in a previous band called Dave Martin that David and Charles were in. He was going solo and was doing things with Chase and Status, so Charles kinda roped me in saying, “This guy’s gonna be going places, you wanna join?” and I simply said “Ok”.
Tony was the first artist I played for outside of my church, and not playing to a church congregation is different because the people are not there to worship, they’ve come to see you as an artist. So the pressure was a little bit higher, but I learnt to just relax while playing and deal with things going wrong on stage: Tony might want to turn the music around or something might plug out. I really learnt how to flow with issues.
CS: David and I knew Anthony from the band we were previously in called the Dave Martin Movement. It was the band that kind of sealed me and David as work buddies and friends. Anthony was the singer in the band whilst Martin Vito was the lead, but he rapped. The sound was like a mix of Outkast and soul coughing. When the band broke up, Tony wanted to work on his solo career and stayed connected with us as friends and it only seemed logical that we worked together to push Tony’s music. We got connected with Sway through his manager, who took a liking to Tony online, contacted him and then came down to a show. After seeing us, he put Tony on and, soon after, Sway had a BBC 1 XTRA gig lined up to promote his newest release and he took interest in us, probably from Tony’s recommendation and his own manager. Two rehearsals later, we were doing BBC 1 XTRA with him.
Around the same time, Azekel was making a buzz in the underground scene and among music heads we just all tend to know and associate with, depending on the radius. When there were gatherings or small parties or jams, Azekel would tend to be around, so I got to know him personally through them.
By the time Maryland were on the scene, Zeek (Azekel) was working with a few musicians that he did BBC Glastonbury Introducing Stage with, but I guess he didn’t feel that connection he needed with them. So, we reached out to him, like “Yo, we’re here for you bro, we’re ready!” Took a bit of time but we got together with him when the time was right.
By the time we were officially Zeek’s band, he had featured, the year before I think, on Massive Attack’s EP on a track called Ritual Spirit. It’s good that they want the original artists from their tracks to actually perform with them live, so when Massive Attack came to do a European tour, they wanted to take Zeek with them to sing Ritual Spirit. Zeek was always down to perform with them but this time he wanted to support as well, which they were cool with, so next thing you know, we’re on tour with Massive Attack and Young Fathers.
The experience on tour with those guys was mostly good vibes and jokes but, when it came to the work, the A game needed to be brought. We’d watch Young Fathers – guys we just chilled and had good convo with – on soundcheck and they just bring the heat on stage. So without doubt there was a personal feeling of pressure, a need to earn your keep, sharing a stage with these guys, and when it’s your set, the audience want to know, “Ok, why are you here?”, not only that, ‘Why are you here with Massive Attack and Young Fathers? SHOW US!!’
So, you have to bring it, if you get what I mean. After that you can rest. You can spend the night doing whatever you want, or it’s a night of being on the motorway to get to Moscow, to sign in at the hotel, get as much sleep as you can before you need to unload the gear at the venue, ready for the next concert. The concert becomes the centre of gravity and you can do anything you like before or after but be on time for load in and soundcheck. Loved it, even the pressure.
DW: Working with Inderpaul came through Charles. Charles is the glue guy, really good at cultivating relationships. We toured extensively with Azekel during 2017 and 2018, supporting the likes of Banks and Massive Attack.
Will there be a Maryland Station record? If so, who would you like to work with?
JB: Yes, we’re planning on doing a compilation record with all the artists we’ve worked with, hopefully next year. There’s no singer I would like to work with particularly, I just want to work with great vocalists, that’s all.
CS: We throw a lot of ideas to each other and sometimes we’re in different seasons, where we think we wanna be that kind of band that needs a permanent singer. But with the music we create, it would need to be someone special, not just a guy/girl with a great voice but a type of performance attitude and not just a person with the attitude but who also struggles, lives and gets dwarfed by the music. We’re still looking. When that person comes, we’ll know.
Me personally, I like the tone of Syd from The Internets. I got to meet her very briefly on the MA tour and we watched The Internets’ set. There’s also a singer who’s gone into writing nowadays who was with us for backing vocals for Anthony Blaize, and who had just got onto the 2015 Lemar tour, and we did two dates. Her name’s Amira @iamamiramusic. If I fully had my way and things went to plan, we’d be recording with her.
DW: We’ve got a number of plans in the pipeline so it’s not something we’d rule out. We’re very open to working with a variety of people.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play?
JB: Anything and everything by Tamer.
CS: My favourite question but I’ll try to keep it short and sweet because I could go on for days.
I’ve got around seven electric guitars but I play regularly with four of them on a gig: a Blue PRS SE Standard , a cherry burst Gibson Les Paul Traditional, a Red Freshman F335RD (like a ES 335 copy, similar to the one Marty McFly plays on stage at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance), and an Ice Tea Vintage v100 Les Paul copy.
That’s the weapons in battle.
DW: I play a Roland Juno DI, a Fender Telecaster and a Faith Acoustic Guitar.
John is an SPD (Sample pad demo) whizz, a real specialist. He also plays keys and does a lot of programming and sampling.
Who designed the MSTAT logo and would you ever create a MSTAT comic book?
JB: We collectively designed the logo; we decided we wanted to rebrand so we all chipped in and gave our two cents and in the future we will be releasing a comic. We tried it before, but we just weren’t ready. But we’ll be releasing one in the up and coming months, hopefully.
CS: Ok I designed the first one, which was real corny. It was a cartoon train driver holding a bass guitar; it was relevant at the time, as the kind of band we were trying to be at the start was more for hire and possibly doing functions and events such as weddings and so on, but when we decided we wanted to be the best tour band for music artists that we could possibly be, and produce our own music, we knew we had to change it up.
DW: The logo was a design from a logo website, and we all just seemed to agree it works.
When growing up, who were your musical influences?
JB: My musical influence was George “Spanky” McCurdy, the drummer for Tye Tribbet, Lady GaGa, Kanye West and P Diddy. When he wore a white shirt in a video, I wore a white shirt. When he bought Chuck Taylors, I bought Chuck Taylors. When he put his cymbals to the left in a certain way, I did the same. I ate, breathed and slept Spanky. He was an inspiration musically and his life outside of the music also, because I saw a lot of parallels between myself and him in terms of coming from the church and wanting to venture out, but getting a lot of people commenting at the time because it’s secular, so he was an inspiration playing-wise and life-wise as well.
CS: For me the most influential music was the 90s grunge alternative scene. Bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden ruled my music world as a teen. Wish I could have played guitar back then as I do now. In time, my taste has changed. Nu Metal to rap to even jazz and back round again, but the grunge scene had a long reign on me.
DW: Fela Kuti, Tonex, Dr Dre, Quincy Jones…
Favourite guitar riff?
JB: My favourite guitar riff is from a song called These Sides by Anthony Blaize and the riff was played by Aaron Forbes. It was actually played by Charles. (Smiles)
CS: Too many to answer, I couldn’t even break it down to a top five.
DW: Hmmm I’ll leave this for Charles to answer, he’s definitely the riff sort of guy!
What’s your favourite drum beat?
JB: A song called Victory by Tye Tribbet. If you listen to that song, it’s THE drum beat. I think it’s a go-go type beat. It’s my go-to – the guys always make fun of me whenever we’re in soundcheck because I always play that beat, or whenever someone says, “just play something quickly”, to show off, that’s my go-to.
CS: Sorry, same answer as the last.
DW: Anything Tony Allen.
Favourite lyrics in a song?
JB: “Your love is my struggle; I’m fighting a losing battle”. The song was written by a really great singer/songwriter and friend of the band, Amira.
CS: Not sure, but “Thousand suns go down before I forgive, we had to die so that I could live” from Anthony’s Eli’s song is a good one.
What does music mean to you?
JB: Music for me was a spiritual thing until last year, and now it’s become science, so it’s less emotion and more deliberate calculation for me. It’s turned somewhat into cooking; you know, you put in a little bit of this, a little bit of that, you do it every time and you get a perfect cake. You know there’s no guess work in it for me, it’s not so much feeling, more a demonstration.
CS: I know what music doesn’t mean to me. I’m not really into calling music entertainment. I think it’s lazy to say that and shows little appreciation for its worth. Like I’ve said to John, music has pulled me out of a depressive state once before in my life: it can stir love, hate, hope; it can save lives; you can honour God with it; it can change a person’s whole outlook on life. It’s one of God’s gifts to man.
DW: It’s an expression of life, of living.
What’s your best lockdown tip?
JB: Stay busy and exercise, constantly exercise. It keeps your mind fresh, alert and it helps your self-esteem and keeps your body fit.
CS: If you don’t shy from hardship now, you’ll get to enjoy later (apply where you see fit).
DW: Fall in love with who you are and what you want to do.
Who would you recommend for our readers to check out, musically?
JB: Well, obviously, check us out on YouTube: Maryland Station Music. Other artists I’d say you should check out are Azekel, he’s an amazing artist, Tony Blaize, Inderpaul Sandhu. We actually have a project that should be out at the end of this year with him.
Not to be a weirdo I’ll mention someone we haven’t played for before that I like……hmmmm to be fair, I don’t actually listen to new music that much, so I couldn’t really direct you but those artists I’ve given.
CS: I’ve seen David’s answer on this and I like it, MARYLAND STATION. But hands down, if I wasn’t playing for the guy, Azekel would be one of my favourite artists, I love his stuff, check him out second!
DW: There’s this band called Maryland Station…
Favourite venue to play or attend in East London?
JB: My church, because I’ve had a lot of memories there, that’s where I started, that’s where it all developed. That’s literally my favourite space to play in and I’ve played all over the world.
CS: Probably say Troy Bar in Shoreditch to attend.
DW: Victoria Park.
Best place to go for food in East London?
JB: Dixy right outside Charles’s house.
CS: Right now, I’m hooked on Pepe’s Piri Piri.
DW: Greedy Cow, Mile End
If you could describe the band… yourself… your music as a cartoon character, which cartoon character would it be?
JB: I’d say The Hulk because we rock out every song that we do, compliments of Charles. Every song that we do turns into a rock song and a heavy hitting song, heavy handed, no holds barred. It’s not technical, it’s not martial arts, it’s a punch to the face with all your strength. That’s what we’re like as a band. We’re not Hawkeye, you know. We’re not doing any precision licks and runs and stuff. We are just a ball of energy and passion.
CS: The band is Mystique (changing in seasons). I’m Ray Stanz (technically there was a cartoon of the Ghostbusters, and only this character in the context of the band). The music is Dare Devil because, when there’s something out of the box that we know we should do, we don’t fear from it.
DW: Tony Stark
JB: Pretty much the same as you’re hearing right now really, which is Mstat Mondays, our weekly upload of creative musical content. At the moment it’s game music videos.
CS: Full live music arrangements of our own music blasted on social media, and a lot more collaborations with different artists.
DW: You’re gonna need to jump on our socials!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JB: Yes, If, you guys are sick of conventional music, head down to our YouTube channel and check out some of our videos and we’d love to have you guys part of the movement.
CS: Just a shout out to LoveEast Magazine for putting us on there.
DW: East London, support your local touring band!
Mark Wincott is a born and bred East Londoner. A recovering grunger, music gives him peace of mind. He’s a lover of pie mash liquor, likes the smell of rain and has written articles on music, MMA, Pro Wrestling and dealing with anxiety. “I’m unique and different just like everyone else”.
Images courtesy of Maryland Band