The Maccabees Interview
It’s been 11 years since the indie scene was lit up by the Maccabees, the new-prog come indie pop five piece from London. Still going strong, they’re now into their fourth album and are touring just as much as ever. We chat to guitarist Felix White about the new album, touring in the US and playing the festival circuit this summer.
Marks To Prove It is your fourth album, how does it compare to your previous work?
There are a number of things I could say really, I know everyone always says this but I genuinely think it’s our best record yet. There are still elements of everything we’ve done in the past but this album is definitely more connected to place, and where it was recorded at our studio in Elephant and Castle.
So, if you could sum the album up in 3 words, what would they be?
Ermm.. just three words?! Defintely ‘Elephant And Castle’. That’s where it’s from and where it’s recorded. It’s embedded in that community, there are lyrical touchpoints from that area and it’s just full of those people’s stories.
Any favourite tracks?
My personal favourite is the last song ‘Dawn Chorus’ because after working for so long on the album it was the last thing we did. We were concerned with every microscopic detail for all the other tracks but ‘Dawn Chorus’ felt a lot freer. We recorded and finished it in a few hours and it was really refreshing.
The album artwork is really unique, can you tell me a bit about it? Why did you choose that photo?
It’s a photograph of the Faraday Memorial, which is just round the corner from our studio. It was actually taken in the sixties I think by David Busfield and we just stumbled across it online. We picked it because it captures a transient moment in an urban place. It symbolises the album and ties it to Elephant and Castle. The photograph shows something every day that is often overlooked but it shows it in a beautiful way and we thought that really connected with the album.
It’s been quite a while since your last album ‘Given To The Wild’ in 2012, what have you been up to?
We’ve just been working on Marks To Prove It, it took a really long time to make! I did a little EP in 2013 with I Am Kloot, Florence Welch and Jack Penate called Cosmo that was totally collaborative, and that was great. Other than that we’ve just been working on the album, it was really hard going for about a year and just took a long time to do. It’s a lot more hands on than our other records because it was produced by my brother Hugo alongside Laurie Latham and Matthew Clyde. We were a lot more involved in the entire process.
What is your writing/recording process like? Where does the inspiration come from?
For this record especially the inspiration came from Elephant and Castle. It was really exciting to be making a record like this because the last album was a lot more conceptual and abstract. We wanted to feel like “a band” playing in “a room” again. There’s a lot more piano on this album.
It’s been 10 years since your debut single ‘X-Ray’, how would you say the band has changed in the past decade?
I think the band has changed a lot to be honest! I mean, it’s been a long time, I was 20 then and now I’m 30, it’s a big difference. I think we make a lot of different records now to what we did at first, that’s the biggest change. We still play the old stuff obviously, it has that sentimental quality about it but we are in a different place now I think, we’re different people.
Do you find it difficult if you want to go in a different direction, maintaining that balance between what you as a band want to do and what people want to hear you play?
I think all our stuff is different, nothing sounds the same as something else we’ve done. It’s all about being brave and keeping yourself happy. If you are happy what you are doing I think the fans are happy.
You’ve been on tour in the US, what is tour life like our there? Any favourite venues or memorable gigs?
You’re just in a bus, rattling around, it gets quite repetitive. It’s like Groundhog Day because everywhere starts to look the same, but we just love it. We played at Coney Island and that was a really great venue. It sounds really tourist-y but this time around we got to visit Niagara Falls. We’ve been to Niagara before and played there but we’ve never visited the falls before, so that was pretty amazing to see. I think one of my most memorable moments from this tour was swimming in the ocean at Virginia Beach at 6am. We were leaving at 7 so I got up really early to do it, I didn’t want to miss out. I was knackered from the gig the night before but it was something that I just had to do.
For anybody that hasn’t seen you live, what can they expect from your shows?
The thing about our gigs is that they are always really positive. It feels like we’re playing in a collective with the crowd. We treat every gig we play with joy, that’s our dynamic and I think that really sets us apart.
Any crazy tour stories?
This US tour was really crazy actually there were always sports and stuff going on backstage. There were always balls flying everywhere and people would bring in basketball nets. We were touring with a band from the US and we were trying to teach them cricket and they would teach us basketball. Sometimes it was drunken cricket and basketball though!
You are back at Glasto this year after a six year break, what is your favourite thing about playing there?
It was magic the last time we played. It’s just Glastonbury isn’t it? Just to be there and be a part of something is the best feeling. It’s the heritage and the history of it. You never know who is going to be on the line up either and that’s always exciting. You know the crowd there just want to listen to music, they aren’t always there to see someone specific and that’s a good thing.
Are there any other acts you want to see while you are there?
Yeah, I’d love to see Patti Smith and I Am Kloot. There are probably a hundred million more acts I want to catch but I just can’t remember the line-up now!
You are also playing Reading and Leeds this Summer, how does that compare to Glastonbury?
It’s not really a competition between Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds is it? There’s always more competition between Reading and Leeds themselves! We always get committed crowds at Reading and Leeds, it feels like our festival really, so that’s a good feeling. There’s that North/South divide though isn’t there, they say the Southern bands always do better at Reading and the Northern bands always do better at Leeds.
So do you prefer the crowds at Reading then, since you are from London?
No I think Leeds is always awesome. But there is that territorial quality. I think that whenever we play a gig up North, the crowd are always chanting “YORKSHIRE, YORKSHIRE” and it sounds so much like “You’re shit, you’re shit!” [laughs] so we had to get our heads’ round that!
Marks To Prove It will be release July 31. For more, head to www.themaccabees.co.uk.