Artist Inspires The Maccabees Song Spit It Out
The Maccabees' song 'Marks To Prove It' pays homage to Elephant and Castle and local artist Susan Hillier, highlighting overlooked cultural artifacts.
When The Maccabees crafted their album Marks To Prove It, they did so with a deep connection to Elephant and Castle in mind. Not only was their studio located there, but much of the album's material served as a tribute to London.
The music video for 'Spit it Out' was filmed in Elephant and Castle, showcasing glimpses of the 53 bus and local street art as the band performed a track from their fourth and final album. Lead singer Orlando Weeks emphasized that it was more than "just a roundabout". While paying homage to south London, 'Spit it Out' also paid tribute to the poignant work of Susan Hillier.
The lyrics "And we get to guessing games / Where no one knows their names" reflect the feeling of urban life and a sense of not belonging, and were directly inspired by Hillier's Monument, which explores similar themes. The piece features 41 photographs of memorial plaques Hillier had encountered in Postman's Park. Weeks explained, "It was her discovery in a London park of a neglected Victorian monument. All these plaques were a celebration of people who had died trying to save a loved one or a stranger in a heroic [way]."
Hillier's consistent theme of utilizing long-forgotten objects is evident in her work, which she refers to as "cultural artefacts". Before recognizing the significance of the plaques, she was struck by how easily people ignored the small acts that led to their creation, paralleling The Maccabees' argument that Elephant and Castle is equally overlooked.
As she documented them for a piece, she observed that only her camera made people notice them. "There were people sitting on park benches in front of them eating their lunches, who turned round over their shoulders to look, as if for the first time, at what I was photographing," she recalled. "And when they had seen the plaques, they said things like 'Oh! Isn't it sad? Isn't it dreadful?' But what struck me was that they had sat in front of these perfectly visible objects for years and years, and the objects had been, literally, invisible."
Weeks was deeply moved by her work, describing it as "an extraordinary thing". In the 'Spit it Out' video, director Joseph Connor highlighted the local individuality by focusing on the footpaths under the roundabout, which were adorned with "the most stunning, colorful and odd mural paintings". As regeneration plans were made, similar artworks were disregarded because there was no space left for them.
"Replacing them will no doubt be more functional, but will it be as fun, as unique, as characterful?" Connor questioned. This sentiment seems to shape the video and the song, both celebrating the local artwork and mourning a time when it was considered an important community feature.