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Spotlight: Martian Moves

Olivia Polito Pons takes a look behind the effortlessly cool Oxford-based DJ collective and party starters, Martian Moves.

If you’re at all in tune with Oxford’s nightlife scene, I’m sure you’ve heard of “intergalactic boogie service” Martian Moves – but who are they, and what are they here to do? I spoke with three of the four-man group of St Peter’s and LMH undergrads (Michael Donlon, Louis Bryan, Will Vanhinsbergh and Luca Burgess) to find out more as they approach their 1-year anniversary.  

How did you get started as a group? 

As I ask this question, Louis arrives to the call with a massively swollen eye from a bug bite he’d got at a rave the night before, much to the others’ amusement. 

Michael: “In Hilary of our first year we [he and Louis] went to the open music night that the OU Electronic Music Society runs with open decks for people who want to go and play some tunes and learn to DJ. And that’s when we met Luca, who was also really passionate and interested in music. We all went to Glamorous after that – we were just talking about it all night. Eventually we were like ‘we should just all do it together!’ and went back to Louis’ room to brainstorm what we want to do and what to call it – which was more difficult than you’d think.”

Image Credit: Coco Cottam.

How would you describe your brand image and what you’re trying to do as MM? 

Michael: “Luca is the one with the creative vision, he’s the one who creates the distinctive artwork. Our brand image is strong because we can release loads of posters, stickers, flyers and stuff – they are all a bit different but all in our own style.”  

Will: “Definitely fun and silly are the two main words – like not taking electronic music too seriously. So it’s accessible for people who aren’t really into it and there are good tunes – but also so people who are interested in electronic music can get behind it as well.” 

Louis: “Dance floor focused – not necessarily standing on a big stage, but being part of the crowd. The focus has been on the dancing and people having a good time. We had our first few events in the Bully front room which worked because it’s quite an intimate space – you’re basically in a bar with everyone else.” 

Michael: “And all those events have been free which is a big thing for us – even though we now do ticketed events, we still try and do the free ones to try and get people down on a weekday and have a boogie.”  

What do you think your impact’s been on Oxford nightlife? 

Michael: “We’re definitely walking in the footsteps of a lot of really good nights that have come before us. Spice Lounge was a massive influence and a massive help to us – they really took us under their wing when we got to uni. And there’s also Goodness which came from Oxford a while ago now. So we’re trying to keep that legacy. I don’t think people currently in our year realise how good Oxford can be – there’s some really good electronic music here. Between COVID and the people who did it [Spice Lounge and Goodness] graduating, it’s kind of died off. So hopefully people come to our nights and realise you can do it – especially first years, like ‘oh I’m gonna go do this with like a group of my mates’. Student-led nights are important, and hopefully more people will want to take part and end up really interested.”

How does it work as a business model? 

Michael: “We’ve always gone into it going ‘this isn’t something we’re going to make loads of money from’ especially in Oxford – if you do something like this in Leeds or Bristol, there’s definitely scope to make quite a bit of money off student life. But for us, as long as we’re not losing money, we don’t really mind. You kind of have to have faith in people turning up basically – especially in the current club climate, people don’t want to buy tickets before the night, they just want to buy on the door.”

Will: “The one year [party] is the most we will have spent on DJs – but we’re really excited for them – and if we don’t make a loss, we’re chilling in our eyes. We don’t really pay ourselves; the money just gets put back into the next night – God, it feels like slave labour for a while. We’re just promoters really, but then with ball bookings we’re the act as well – but really, we see the DJs we book as the proper artists.” 

What’s coming up? 

Will: “Our 1-year party is on 6th of June – it’s not been officially released yet but we’ve put a lot of work into it. We’ve tried to book some really cool DJs, so it should be really good. It will be our first time in the Bully backroom – we’re going back to the club where we first started, but on a bigger scale.” 

Louis: “Look out for some stickers around Oxford with a phone number. If you ring that phone number, it will tell you in an alien voice about the night.” 

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