They're back, it's been a long time coming as The Maccabees released their last LP all the way back in 2009, yet they certainly haven't been resting on their laurels. Instead they have spent over a year tweaking one of the finest albums of the year in 'Given To The Wild' and it's only January 9th.
We caught up with lead singer Orlando and guitarist Felix on a dreary January evening for a couple of ales and a discussion of inspiration, themes, touring and one of the most devoted and unique fanbases on the planet. They've been tipped for big things this year and with very good reason:
Alright guys happy new year! Did you have a good one and what did you get up to?
Orlando: I had a good one, I was DJing at a friend's place, he's a chef whose place ended up turning into a bit of a party.
Felix: We weren't together as a band though as we basically end up spending the rest of the year together, a little text gets sent out by everyone of course.
Seeing as it's detox january did you make any new years resolutions?
Felix: I need to stop looking at my phone as much, I've got an iPhone and I've inherited this disorder where I end up checking it every five minutes and I don't know why. Do you know what I mean though? I'm very aware of becoming one of those people that's always on their phone so I'm going to try to stop that.
Orlando: I sort of decided really late on new years eve that I was going to give up smoking but that didn't really last very long.
So getting down to business, the album is out there, have you got any plans to celebrate at all?
Orlando: Well last night Sam tried to convince me that we were going to be having a party, but we just seem to have forgotten about it as he hasn't mentioned it today.
Felix: I don't think Sam remembers much of last night though! We always talk about having these kind of parties but they always end up being a sort of impromptu kind of thing. We are really not too good at organising these kinds of things.
Do you have any traditions on the day of release?
Felix: We're quite english about it actually, I think we try to avoid talking about it really!
Are you glad to be back then as it has been quite a while since your last album?
Orlando: I really just want to get on with being on the road really, just get on with playing, touring, get some structure back into our lives. It's not so up in the air anymore as once something comes out you are totally committed to it. There is a sense of no going back to it and for someone like me who is very poor at making decisions half the time it's quite nice to have things just happen because the commitment has been made.
It was the beginning of 2010 when you guys first went into the studio, did you enjoy being able to take your time?
Orlando: It didn't really feel like we were taking our time, every step it felt like we had a really tight deadline and then we'd change them but then the next deadline would be tighter. We filled all our time then all of a sudden it'd be four in the morning, followed by long stretches without seeing anyone. Every step felt like we were up against it to deliver, it's weird how we managed to consistently find things to add to the record for such a long amount of time.
Felix: Because there is five of us in the band everyone has their own say on how the record should sound, everyone puts a lot of input in sometimes, not so much at other times and it scales back and forth a lot. There is a lot of working out and balancing to make sure that everything is in place.
How do you feel about artists such as Rihanna churning out material in under a year?
Felix: Fantastic, that's great for her but we can't do that, we're only as productive as we are and it ain't for a lack of work ethic.
What was it like working with Tim Goldsworthy and Bruno Ellingham (LCD Soundsystem and Massive Attack) on production duties?
Felix: It was great Tim bought down a lot of toys, a lot of gear, a lot of musical equipment, so we used a lot of that and he helped us with a couple of the arrangements. Other than that we feel ownership of the record. There was something that seemed to fit nicely when we went with them, but at the end of the day we are the only ones who know how our record should sound.
Orlando: We were trying to cover bases though really, we were using some bits and pieces that we didn't really feel particularly confident about, we wanted someone who could help us to understand those areas. We realised soon after though that there isn't really a secret to this kind of stuff, you've just got to push it around and if it works it works.
Can you tell us a little about the concept behind the album as at first glance there are clearly some underlying themes demonstrated through the 'Give To The Wild' short film.
Orlando: Lyrically in the past we've delved into trying to understand relationships and things like that, but with this album I didn't feel like writing about that anymore. The only other thing that I feel like I understand, at least in a way I can express in an interview is trying to vocalize the senses of memory, love, life and looking at the world I guess. There are things on the album that I think are very important, like family and love. I don't want to dedicate my time to expressing something unless I can do it with the right level of finesse. I'm not explaining this very well, but somewhere in there there is an answer.
Don't worry it'd ruin it if you could explain everything fully! If you're talking about moving on from certain subjects do you feel you've matured as a band?
Orlando: I don't know about that, the songs just seemed to be the right thing to be writing about, we'd come back from tour and while you're away you don't notice the things going on around you. When you get back people are suddenly having babies and things like that, it's a turning point in people's lives that late 20's age and it hit me kind of hard. I was excited for those around me and fascinated by these people who I'd grown up with who were all of a sudden fathers. I remember I was playing pool with our tech guy when we were on tour in Nottingham and we got this phone call from a mate called George who was bursting to tell us that he was a dad. I just remember thinking that is the craziest thing I've ever heard! For some reason that seemed like a good place to start, it just stuck with me.
Inspiration definitely turns up in strange places, where do you think is the strangest place you've found it?
Felix: Guitar music tends to belong to its own rules a lot of the time so it's quite an interesting thing to use your imagination to look outside that, once you do there's so much to find.
Orlando: What I think is quite interesting is where you hear something, or you know something and you often pinpoint where the actual idea might have come from. When you're writing songs a lot of the time it's hard to say exactly where the inspiration might have come from, but then the other day I was listening to Lisa Stansfield in a pizza restaurant thinking it sounded slightly familiar. I'd never heard of her before but it got me thinking that maybe I should get to know her.
Felix: You must have picked it up along the way somewhere.
You've mentioned the influence of The Stone Roses on the album, how are you feeling about the reunion?
Felix: I think the reunion is great. I wouldn't go to the big Manchester ones or anything like that because it'd be 60,000 people and I think the experience gets a bit lost in those situations. If they played Brixton Academy or any place like that I can imagine it being the most euphoric thing in the world. I've never been in a place where everyone sings Stone Roses songs and I can imagine that'd be a really good place to be. These huge gigs are incredibly un-intimate and it's not going to be the experience you want it to be. The influence of The Stone Roses on the guitar portions of the album is very heavy however, perhaps a little too much!
What I love most about The Stone Roses is their bravado, not ego but they are a muscular band, they really rate themselves but there is something really tender and beautiful about the music that goes way beyond that surface. Those are the elements that I've tried to incorporate into the guitar sections on the album.
You did some intimate tour dates towards the end of last year to preview the new material, how did the fans react to it?
Orlando: It went as well as it could possibly have gone, people genuinely seemed really excited to be able to hear the songs pretty early on. The fans that come to the Maccabees gigs seem really invested in the music and they got off on the fact they were some of the first people to hear it. It felt great as the process of making a record is so stop start that it was such a relief to go out there and just play.
Were there any songs from the album that people reacted to particularly well?
Felix: We got a sense that 'Pelican' was the most immediate song off the record from playing live, about a minute into the song and people would really be going for it. We didn't make the record to be played live of course but 'Pelican' felt like it just had to be the first single after doing that tour.
Orlando: The record was coming back one day, then a week and a bit later we were going on tour to see how people who hadn't had the opportunity to listen to the record would react. When you play something live for the first time it takes on an entirely new element, the interesting thing is to see what changes in reception when you emerge from behind that curtain.
Lana Del Rey will be joining you on stage at Koko on the 30th of January, what's your view on her as she's a bit of an enigma to the industry?
Orlando: I love a few of her songs, Blue Jeans is a really good tune. I'm just a sucker for anyone who does a bit of crooning. As for the whole manufactured thing, it doesn't affect my enjoyment of her music whatsoever, I think it's irrelevant. She's a bit of a mystery but I do actually quite like that, there are no surprises anymore, it's so hard to keep anything a secret these days. There's something to be said for the way she has kept everything under wraps I think it's a really nice thing and it works really well.
Lastly you've been hotly tipped by a lot of publications for 2012, how are you feeling about the year in general?
Felix: It's the first time we've put a record out at the beginning of the year, so it does feel like starting properly, it feels like there is a nice symmetry to it. Also I'm really going to enjoy it, we really appreciate that we get to do this, go round and see the world. We actually wanted to put it out in September but it wasn't quite ready so it's actually been a bit of a happy accident. The record is out there now and we are just happy to get back on the road and do what we do.