BBC Radio 1 plays BIMM Manchester alumna Martha Phillips

14 October, 2020

We are really proud of BIMM Manchester alumna Martha Phillips, whose band The Elephant Trees had their latest single, ‘What Did You Do?’, played on BBC Radio 1 by the prestigious Huw Stephens.

Martha Phillips is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter. As well as fronting The Elephant Trees, she has also recently started a brand new record label: Incantation Records. Her label aims to champion and give more recognition to female and queer talent. These communities are creatively thriving, and yet they often don’t get the support and limelight that they deserve.

Since finishing her final year at BIMM Institute Manchester amidst a global pandemic, Martha has been hiding away in the North writing The Elephant Trees’ second EP. Their curious blend of alt-rock, pop, and social consciousness has made for an adventurous development over the few years they’ve been together. Martha’s hard-hitting lyrics, layered atop Sam’s technical guitar, Tom’s quirky beats, and their joint attention to detail, sends the listener on a genre-hopping journey.

We caught up with Martha to see what she’s been up to:

BBC Radio 1… Pretty big deal, that. How did it feel to hear yourself on mainstream radio?

Pretty mental to be honest. We’d found out a couple of days before, and all rang each other like: “Did you see that email? Is it a joke?”. It’s insane because this is the first song where we’d recorded everything from our bedrooms separately – with the pandemic we haven’t been able to see each other and jam, so we’ve never actually played this song together before!

I remember thinking when it was on air: “This is mental, I made this on my laptop, and now it’s on national radio”. It was such a good feeling after what’s been a rough year with Covid. We’re all missing each other and wanting to be back gigging, so this was exactly what we needed to boost spirits.

What’s next for The Elephant Trees?

We’ve nearly finished writing our second EP, and it’s sounding pretty phat so far. We’ll be heading into VADA Studios towards the end of the year to record it, hopefully releasing early next year. Keep your ears peeled.

How has BIMM helped to support and nurture your talent?

One of the biggest lessons I learnt at BIMM was that from the moment you start getting out there – gigging, putting music out, putting the work in – you are working on your career. The only thing between you and progress is you! It’s amazing how much you can do with a laptop and the ability to think outside the box.

How important is it that womxn are fairly represented in the music industry, and how does Incantation Records help to close this disparity gap?

Incredibly so. I can’t believe that even now, in 2020, there are festival lineups with little to no womxn on them. It’s not for lack of talent. There are queens in all genres who are inspiring and innovating, such as Little Simz, St. Vincent, Lianne La Havas, Charli XCX, to name a few. They are all worthy of a headline slot at Reading and Leeds Festival.

Female producers, promoters, managers, engineers in lighting and sound, are all so important to make this industry a safer, more accepting place – but also a cooler and more creative space. Incantation is championing womxn and the LGBTQ+ community because visibility of downtrodden groups is so important in raising the next generation, letting everyone know we are here and that we are bloody brilliant at what we do – this is our space too!


Another huge congratulations to Martha and her band The Elephant Trees. Check out our other student success stories here.

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