“MFM play so the rest of us don't get arrested for arson.”
— Lester Bangs, Creem Magazine
Martyrs for Mayhem
"If you took grunge rock, wrongfully imprisoned it for 20 years, and then tried to release it into modern society, it would sound like Martyrs for Mayhem." ~ James, vocals, lead guitar, MFM
Martyrs for Mayhem are making hard rock alternative music like no one else in the San Diego scene. They've cracked the code of blending grunge, punk, and metal into a brilliant mix that is both aggressively energetic, yet consumable and catchy at the same time. Their strength lies in their wide range of sounds that captivate listeners across multiple genres, weaving hypnotic spells of emotionally-soothing psychedelia while still possessing the potential for visceral attitude on command. Formed in 2018 by three members who all excel at their instruments and songwriting, MFM wield weapons-grade edginess like a white-hot blade of sound that will not be denied.
"Be honest," laughs MFM lead singer and guitarist James Doyle. "Isn't there a part of you that just wants to burn it all to the ground? Not that you ever would. But still." And that basically sums up MFM's sardonic, venom-spitting nature in one question. Further, it's one of the central theses behind the brand of rudely aggressive cyberpunk grunge-of-the-millennium that James and band mates Nathan Eazer (drums) and Mitch Fedie (bass) have unleashed onto the SoCal music scene.
And, yet, there's a unique flavor to it all. Take a listen to their angst-ridden anthems like "Killer Bees," "Napalm," or the aptly-titled "Misanthrope," and ask yourself if there isn't something wildly different about the nihilistic nightmare-show concocted by James & Co. that's setting them worlds apart from their peers. It's captivating. It's exhilarating. It's strangely satisfying. And it all seems to fit.
Since MFM's formation in 2018, everything about them has echoed the trends of today's culture as they've savagely rebelled against them at the same time. The three met on Craigslist, in spite of the fact that James had been playing at open mics in the area for 2 whole years - singing the very songs that would eventually make up a solid portion of MFM's catalogue. They commanded an immediate presence on those same stages when the full band came together. Yet, they kept their sets short - focusing on the open mics until they had carefully-crafted their sound and performances to their extraordinarily high standards - and only played 1 full-length set in all of 2018 - in Spring Valley, no less, teasing their SD county fan base to a fever pitch.
Meanwhile, the brilliance of their brand and image was coming together, too. James, their media manager and graphic design artist, has a striking eye for visual content, and one look at MFM's Instagram account shows that the band themselves are quite photogenic. They're also very well-engaged with fans on Facebook, often taking time to promote other artists they interact with in the SD scene. And, yet, they openly detest social media and all platforms therein and loathe the very idea of having to use them at all.
The three of them work quite respectable careers - ones most of us would be rather content with. And, yet, they feel the need to slip into the SoCal underworld at night and wreak havoc on its stages, like hooded vandals waiting for the trains to roar by so no one hears the spray cans.
Even the music itself is strangely schizophrenic. It ranges from fast-tempo manic overdrive thrillers like "Napalm" to dreamy, lullaby soothers like "Cheapskate" and "Ricochet." And, sometimes, it whips through MFM's whimsical range of sounds all in one song.
Simply put, MFM are a walking contradiction. And they don't seem to care. They seem to celebrate it like a badge of honor. Their logo - perfectly suited - is a crass-looking hyena, cynically laughing his face off like he's enjoying some sick joke while the rest of us simply don't get it.
But we do get it. We feel the same way, actually. We all know there's something wrong with modern culture. Something deeply saddening, frustrating, and soul-crushing that makes us wish we could tear it apart and wake up from this new-age techno dream we're slowly suffocating in.
The haunting intensity to James' lyrics in songs like "Paint the Roses" illustrate it perfectly:
"Nobody knows why I'm suddenly quiet.
Nobody knows how to say my name.
Nobody knows what I'm hiding
And why I'm dying on the inside
Dying from the inside out."
MFM's listeners can easily relate to the same 21st century feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and the need to cover up and pretend to be something else rather than reveal their vulnerabilities and true selves. And then that hook:
"Now I know
I do it better when I'm on my own
But my twin and my clone
Are getting sick of pulling jobs alone
Dressed up as me."
We're abruptly reminded of just how close we are to wanting to join the "forever bored" girl on MFM's tank tops, grab a baseball bat of our own, and go out on the town for a night of mischief-making. Maybe after that, we'll just drive the whole thing off the nearest cliff and sing the chorus to "Hamfist" on the way down.
But what, then, is the point? If the whole thing is just a reflection of our own dark fantasies and intrigues, was there ever any real depth to it at all? And what makes MFM special enough to give voice to it where others fell short?
In April, 2017, after a year of drifting aimlessly in the SD scene, James penned the lusciously-rich anthem-ballad "Dynamo" and performed it to a mesmerized full-house crowd at the Pig 'n' Whistle on Hollywood Blvd. "The response was like nothing I'd ever experienced," says James. "People were coming up to me saying it perfectly described their family lives and their frustrations. That's when I knew what the real message of our music was. It's not just that the world is screwed up and frightening. Everyone knows that. It's that we hear you, we're there for you, and you're not alone."
And that's how MFM connect. That's the point of it all. In essence, there's a little Martyrs in all of us - that little voice inside telling you as you peer out across the vastness of cyberspace and into that seemingly unforgiving void of emptiness, shallowness, bitterness, and jealousy that it's all wrong. That it should be broken down, bit by bit. And, that, sadly, it can't be.
That's why MFM exist. They get it.
So, by all means, let them do what they do. You can't just burn it all to the ground, but they can - at least onstage and in their art. Let James, Nathan, and Mitch pour their souls into their music so that you don't have to get arrested and tried for arson. Let them be Martyrs for Mayhem.
Currently, MFM are playing more shows in the San Diego area and are looking to branch out to other cities and produce an EP in the coming months.
Their very first show in the San Diego club circuit is March 5th, 2019, at Winston's in Ocean Beach at 9pm. Be sure to catch this show and follow them on Facebook and Instagram to hear about more shows and new content this year!