Marseille Figs is an experimental pop band from London. With roots in the improvised music and performance art communities, they have been a fixture of the London underground music scene since their formation in 1999, with audiences centred mainly in London and Berlin. Their music is an aggregate of honky tonk, free jazz, American folk music, psychedelic music, pop and punk, which incorporates fast, high energy country-based dance music, melodic ballads and expansive structured improvisations. Their membership includes or has included members of Cinematic Orchestra, the Eddie Prévost Trio, and the Pogues.
Their line-up consists of Tom Chant (saxophones, bass clarinet, keyboards), songwriter J. Maizlish Mole (guitars, ukeleles and vocals), and Dorian McFarland (accordions, mouth harps, flugelhorn, trombone and vocals). Between October 1999 and June 2003, they were joined by Darryl Hunt (bass guitar, electric guitar, vocals and percussion).
Marseille Figs were formed in early 1999, while Maizlish and McFarland were studying together under Stuart Brisley at the Slade School of Art in London. Through mutual friend, Marcia Farquhar, they met saxophonist Tom Chant, who had been performing in various improvised music ensembles centred around the London Musicians Collective. Beginning from a position of relative inability, and with an interest in finding "a common ground between the 'amateurism' of avant-garde music, folk music and punk", the Figs have developed a somewhat idiosyncratic style of composition, arrangement and performance, while maintaining an accessible, song-based approach. Before their first public performance they drafted in the Pogues' bassist Darryl Hunt, who filled out their line-up for the ensuing two and a half years.
Beginning in 2000, the Figs have been based in separate cities, with Maizlish moving to New York City at the end of 1999 and to Berlin in early 2002. Since 2006 they have been based in London (McFarland), Barcelona (Chant) and Berlin (Maizlish). Partly as a result of this, they have come to be known for performing irregularly and in unconventional venues, often at events which they have themselves organized.
The son of Scratch Orchestra composers Michael Chant and Carole Finer, Chant is a ubiquitous figure in the UK avant and improvised music community, and also performs with the Cinematic Orchestra, the Eddie Prévost Trio, and numerous other small and large ensembles. Maizlish and McFarland are both practicing visual artists, with Maizlish contributing the majority of the band's graphic material.
They have self-released two limited edition CDs: Resonance FM 9 September 2002 and Boum Boum Constant (New Demos &c. 2005). Their first official release, The Dirty Canon, was produced by Jem Finer, DM Bob and Brian O'Shaughness, and released on their label Figs of London in 2007, through Cargo Records.