The March Violets are an English post-punk band formed in the 1980s in the city of Leeds, incorporating singers of both sexes, drum machine rhythms and echo-laden electric guitar, much in the style of scene mates and fellow Leeds residents The Sisters of Mercy. Seven March Violets singles reached the UK Indie Chart; the Natural History LP also was an indie hit (#3, 1984).
The original band members met while at Leeds University in 1981. Tom Ashton and Laurence "Loz" Elliot played lead and bass guitar, while vocals were handled by both Simon "Detroit" Denbigh and Rosie Garland. Percussion was provided by a drum machine, a feature that a number of bands in the burgeoning Leeds scene had in common. Fellow student Andrew Eldritch, lead singer of The Sisters of Mercy, released the band's debut 7" on his Merciful Release label in 1982. The "Religious As Hell" EP consisted of four tracks that reflected strong punk and garage rock influences in the guitar work, along with contrasting vocals from the two singers. Denbigh's vocal style varied from conversational to harsh yelling, whereas Garland's voice was high-pitched and almost operatic. The band garnered positive reviews for this first release, which was soon followed in 1983 by a second single for Merciful Release. "Grooving in Green" featured a more confident-sounding production, aided by louder drum machine beats, and it received greater positive reaction from the UK national music press.
At this point, the band appeared to fall out of favour with Eldritch, and they established their own Rebirth record label to handle future releases. The "Crow Baby" single shortly followed, and repeated the pattern of good reviews and a good showing in the UK independent record chart. The title track of the next single, "Snake Dance", was arguably the band's creative high point. Additional female vocals were provided by Cleo Murray, and for the two final independent releases, "Walk Into the Sun" and "Deep", Garland was no longer a part of the band. The March Violets shifted towards a more pop-oriented sound, and Denbigh left the band in early February 1985 (he went on to form The Batfish Boys and D-Rok).
An increasingly commercial-sounding March Violets began to receive negative reviews from the music press. The accusations of selling out worsened as the band signed to major label London Records, at which time they added drummer Andy Tolson to the lineup. The subsequent "Turn to the Sky" single was released through London Records, although still bearing the Rebirth imprint. Reviews were disparaging, and despite being featured on the soundtrack to the film Some Kind of Wonderful, the band failed to find a new audience and broke up in 1987.
Following the split, Tom Ashton performed with Hard Rain and long-running goth band Clan of Xymox, while Cleo Murray briefly fronted The Lovecraft in the early 1990s.
Rosie Garland went on to become an acclaimed poet and cabaret performer, performing under the name Rosie Lugosi. She then became the victim of a stalker, with the court case featured as a lead article in the Manchester Evening News.
2007 reformation and subsequent activity:
In October 2007, The March Violets they would play a one-off reunion gig with original members Simon Denbigh, Rosie Garland and Tom Ashton (with Mat Thorpe standing in on bass) on 8 December 2007 in Leeds. Although the show was a resounding success, plans for further shows were put on hold during Rosie Garland's successful fight against throat cancer.
Once Garland was fully recovered, The March Violets restarted their live reformation with a secret warm-up show at Whitby in October 2010. On 13 November 2010, The March Violets played their first London show in 25 years, at the O2 Islington Academy with their new bassist Joanna Moy (previously of Screaming Banshee Aircrew).
Using Pledge Music, in November 2010 the band embarked on a project to make their first proper album (as opposed to the previous compilation albums of their singles and EPs). Over 600 fans pledged support and they raised 196% of the money required. In addition to raising money for the recording of the album, the band provided funds to charity for Friends of the Earth, Cloth Cat, and Macmillan Cancer Support. During the recording of the album, they released several promotional items, including a digital-only promo release of "Tokyo Flow" and a remix of "Dandelion King", as well as a "gigeo" (a combination of a gig in Leeds where they shot the promo video with members of the audience) of "Dandelion King".
In 2012, they did a small live tour that showcased some of the new tracks.
The album Made Glorious was released in April 2013 as a digital download to all fans who had pledged support. It consisted of 16 tracks (making it a double album). The majority were original tracks with some being remixes of tracks from the Trinity and Love Will Kill You EPs. Physical hard copies, T-shirts, an A4 booklet (featuring lyrics, artwork and photos) and posters were distributed to those who had pledged support in June 2013. Pledgers received a special 2CD pack featured 12 additional remixes including two tracks not included on the original album ("Liam Hits Seven" and "Black Heart"). The band also confirmed that a proper commercial release was being considered. The accompanying booklet indicated the band had made a video for "Billion 3" with photos taken from the production shoot, although this video has not yet appeared.
To support the new album, the band performed gigs in October/November 2013 and a short tour in April 2014, including a headlining slot at the Convergence 20 festival in Chicago, the first US appearance of the original lineup. The March Violets have announced a return to the US for a short West Coast tour in June 2014.
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