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The Maccabees - Interview

Posted by xxrosannaxx on Sun, 17 May 2009.

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Before his band’s gig at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms, just two days after the release of their brand new album “Wall of Arms”, we chat to The Maccabees’ lead singer about why home is where the heart is, why the band was simply “an exercise in exercising lethargy”, and why pre-gig nerves are like a bad bout of spots...

Rosanna: How does it feel to be back on the road again?

Orlando: Actually, I think it’s the best I’ve felt about touring for ages, because, I think it’s a combination of playing new songs, which means I feel a bit nervous again before each thing, and also, I’ve been doing quite a lot of work outside of The Maccabees, so I’ve been trying to do some illustration work and stuff, so that I’ve got things to do in the evening that don’t make me feel like I’m just wasting my time, like going out every night and whatever, so just trying to stay busy... it’s working out real good, I’ve got a bit more of a routine now and it’s nice.

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Charlie: Your new album has just been released, with its darker, more mature style- it’s definitely a step on from the more playful “Colour it in”- what were you reasons and inspirations for this change in style?

Orlando: It mean wasn’t really a conscious effort to do that and I appreciate what you’re saying about it being a slightly darker sound, but lyrically I think that it’s more optimistic than the last one and I think that hopefully, maybe with a couple of listens that you’ll hear more of that as opposed to the darker thing but I dunno... does that answer your question?

Charlie: So it just sort of happened?

Orlando: Yeah, it wasn’t like we sat down and said “Right, we need to be moody and just ‘cause our wardrobe’s gonna be a bit blacker this time so we need songs that match” and stuff like that, it was just like, I still write about, lyrically anyway, about things that make sense for me to talk about, like my family and my friends and things that happen to them or to me and stuff... and I think in life sometimes bad things happen and they’re not the best things and sometimes good things happen and both ways it’s important to try and catalogue them, but I don’t really see song writing as a means of catharsis... I never write songs to try and get it off my chest because if that’s what I was doing then it would kind of be like, why would you do that to then feel like you have to sing about it every night? So it’s more just trying to catalogue events and give them the gravitas that they deserve, like if it’s an important event in your life or in the life of someone you care about then I think that it’s a nice thing to do.

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Charlie: We really like the album, but are you as a group happy with the outcome?

Orlando: Yeah I think everyone’s really chuffed actually- it’s the best we could have done for where we’re at, as musicians and as boys in the band.

Charlie: When you released your first single in November 2005, did you ever think that you’d become as successful as you are today?

Orlando: I didn’t think I’d still be in a band actually (laughs)... honestly when we started this it was just more or less to try and prove that we could do something other than just spending the weekends sat watching telly... it was really just an exercise in exercising lethargy, trying not just be another sat on the sofa somewhere, and like, going out and doing something off our own backs. I’ve never looked that far ahead and still never look very far ahead.

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Rosanna: There’s quite a lot of unsigned talent out there- a lot of bands doing the whole “indie-pop” type thing- how do you think that, like you, they can stand out and be different to other bands... what advice would you give?

Orlando: I dunno if I can give advice... all we did was just rehearse as often as we could, and not be ashamed to try out songs in front of people, ‘cause some of them are gonna be crap and some of them will not be and out of ten, one of them is a keeper... but, I’m not in a position to give advice.

Rosanna: Where do you find to be more motivational to live- London or Brighton?

Orlando: I find living near people I love, and they all seem to be in London at the moment, so, it’s a massive cliché and that but home is kind of where the heart is and so where they go I go, ‘cause they’re my people.

Charlie: Did you always want to have a career in music from an early age or did you sort of grow into it?

Orlando: No, I never even thought about music ‘til I was about 19... I think I only bought about three albums before I was 19- I never really listened to much music, just ‘cause the only thing I ever knew of music, my Dad just listens to classical music and I’m still, I’m hoping that at some point in my life I’m gonna like wine, and I still don’t like wine- I figure they kind of go hand in hand, one day you’ll start liking wine and classical music. My mum just had one Bob Marley tape and one Beatles BBC collection tape and that was kind of all I knew of music, that and the classical stuff that came before and after “Question Time”...that was a car journey...and then Felix was a friend of my brothers and came on holiday with our family and lent me Revolver I think it was and then I started listening to that, and then he just kind of kept pushing me into things and a friend of my mum lent me some Rolling Stones and some Madness and I’d slowly start piecing together stuff and I think that’s now what I like, is that from listening to Animal Collective and things like that I’ve traced that (at which point Orlando starts to illustrate a web of musical influences on the table in front of him) and you find these common grounds. There’s a composer called Steve Wright who’s this new composer and he’s kind of, if you listen to that then you kind of hear these little strains of Foals and Animal Collective and TV on the Radio and these little glimpses of other things, and then if you do that the tree starts growing bigger and then somehow you get to Bowie and from Bowie you get Iggy Pop and you get Lou Reed... that’s the most exciting time, for me was when I was like 19-23, starting to understand the landscape of how things were... and I’m still miles away from knowing as much as I wanna know, and that’s probably the exciting thing. The downside is that being in a band you start listening to music in a different way- in a way like you’re trying to learn from it, which can be quite demoralising in a way, ‘cause you wanna just listen to something and take it on its merits rather than trying to understand it... everything is a double edged sword I suppose- it’s all pros and cons.

Charlie: Are there any bands that you would really like the chance to play with?

Orlando: The thing is, all the bands I’d really wanna play with, I’d be so nervous doing it that I wouldn’t enjoy any of it, so I’d rather just go and SEE bands that I love.

James: Do you actually still get nervous before gigs and stuff?

Orlando: Yeah, like the thing is it’s not so often now... it’s more when it happens, it’s like with spots. I don’t get spots often now but when I do, they’re bastards.

James: What do you do to calm down before then?

Orlando: I quite often just go for walks, and I try and do something really mundane and repetitive, like, people think it might be OCD or something, but I’ll find a plastic cup and I’ll take each little bit into tiny little squares and then make a little pile and then try and make something else out of the pile... just things that are completely brainless- it works for me... then for the last five minutes I get back involved.

Rosanna: Are you looking forward to playing Reading and Leeds this summer?

Orlando: Definitely- Leeds and Reading’s always been really good for us. And, I can’t remember where I’ve heard the line up, but I know it’s amazing so...

Rosanna: It is really good- I’m going too...

Orlando: You’re going?

Rosanna: Yeah, all my friends really like you, so we’ll come and see you.

Orlando: Ah, amazing. Have you been before?

Rosanna: No, first time.

Orlando: Ah, you’ll love it, you’ll love it.

James: I bet you’ve been before then, quite a few times?

Orlando: Yeah, I think we’ve played Leeds and Reading twice now, so this will be the third time.

Rosanna: Do you prefer big festival type gigs or are you more into the smaller, intimate ones like this?

Orlando: Well, I like festivals because you get to see a load of stuff, and because of my lack of organisation I never know who’s playing, but it always turns out that there’s someone that I’ve always wanted to see or haven’t seen for years... and now that we’ve been doing it for a few years, there’s always bands that we know that we haven’t seen for a while, ‘cause they’ve been touring and we’ve been touring, so you end up bumping into old friends and stuff... but then with this you’re touring and you’re doing stuff everyday and like I was saying, once you find a routine that suits you, it’s really kind of rewarding and if you have a bad one one night, then the next night you can feel like you can compensate... but with festivals, if you mess it up, it’s a year before you can... or you might not even get asked back if you did it so bad.

Rosanna: So after this tour and festivals this summer, what can fans expect from you afterwards?

Orlando: That’s the thing; I try not to look that far ahead. I know that when this tour finishes we’re organising a colliery band to do a cover of one of the songs as a B side- a sort of indie dance floor type cover, we’re remixing it... and we’re organising the filming of a video- we’re gonna try and document the Gloucester Cheese Roll Race, where people chase after a cheese, and I think we’ll try and do more of that, like find these quirky British traditions that exist and these eccentricities that exist in our country and then maybe put together an E.P. around that.

Thanks very much to Orlando for being such a lovely guy to chat to, and also to Holly from Chuff Media, and George the band’s tour manager.


By Rosanna Pound-Woods and Charlie Cooper