Not satisfied with being labeled the next big thing from the U.K., the Maccabees are constantly looking towards the future. While they just finished a North American tour with Bloc Party and will be doing the festival thing in Europe this summer, the band has their sights on a second album.
Hold on there, we just got done enjoying their debut album, Colour It In, with those tightly constructed post-punk songs that gives you that happy feeling in your feet. So for us in the U.S., we'll absorb their freshly released debut album.
Orlando Weeks is the Maccabees lead singer and I talked with him while the band was in Canada with Kele & Co. I would like to welcome him to this space.
How did the band come together?
We all use to meet around at this park called Clapham Commons that was by our house. My brother went to school with Hugo, the guitarist. We got bored playing football around the park so often that we just decided to form a band instead.
Did you know early on what you wanted to sound like?
There was a big learning curve when we were starting out playing instruments. We were just hoping something would sound right. In the beginning we would rehearse in our bedrooms, just trying to keep it quiet. Then when we found a proper rehearsal space, so we could branch out and progress.
What’s that area of London like, the Clapham area?
It’s actually pretty cool. It has a good music scene. It's known for having a big DJ culture. I was not listening to a lot of variety of music, but the boys were massive Dylan fans. Then when we started playing more, we started listening to The Clash.
What’s the songwriting process for you because some of your lyrics are not straight-forward?
The first we do is find the style we’re going for, whether it be a baseline or guitar-part with melody. We don’t actually have a formula. It depends on the song – sometimes the lyrics will come first or comes out of the recording.
Your first single was "X-Ray". Did you make this song as sort of an introduction to the band and your sound?
I suppose so. We didn’t do that many recordings when we released the song. It was just the song that sounded the best. I guess it did represent us at the time. From there, after we started touring with Bloc Party, we were making music that was more intricate and had more of a dance feel.
My favorite song on the album is "Latchmere," which was your second single. It has an interesting structure because it starts out with a harmonica and it has a fun, unusual chorus. Did you play around with the song in order to get to the final product?
Well, it was pretty straight forward. It started out as a song about my friend who couldn’t swim. While we were in the studio, I told the boys that and as it turns out, they all knew about this swim park called Latchmere and the wave machine there. So we made the song about that.
You got some of the best producers working on the album, Stephen Street and Ben Hillier. How did you decide which producer would work on which song?
Ben had us record some songs in a swimming pool. The songs we did with Stephen were more up-tempo and were done in a nice, crisp studio. Then the songs that we recorded with Ben, they were more spirited I suppose. Our approach with him was a little more experimental.
Well, I hope you got the water out of the pool before you recorded.
It’s funny you say that because we recorded it in the middle of the summer in central London and it was unbearably hot. We had to use these dehumidifiers to keep the temperature down. The amount of sweat we produced probably could have filled that swimming pool.
"Toothpaste Kisses" is a slow song among all you’re big rock tracks. Did you want to have a song like that on the album that kind of balances out the rest of the album?
We recorded that track after we had done all our singles. We figured we needed something that was a bracket to whatever we will do on the next album. We actually wanted something on the album that was more optimistic. We also felt we needed a song that hints at the direction we’re going to take musically in the future. While we still love the Strokes and Interpol, we’ve started to listen to different things like Rufus Wainwright and Violent Femmes. So hopefully "Toothpaste Kisses" is a sign of things to come.
How does it make you feel when NME labels you the Best New Band in the U.K.?
It’s very complimentary and we do appreciate it, but then again, that label is given to a band every week. So we take it with a gain of salt.
So did this album turn out how you expected?
Well, I was hoping that by releasing the album, it would give us an opportunity to make a second album. While sonically, it’s a good representation of what’s we’ve done up to that point. For me, I don’t listen to the album any more because I want to concentrate on new material.
You’ve toured a lot with Bloc Party, they treating you okay?
Very well. I think they are going to let us store some of our gear in their trucks now, which would be a big help [laughs].
This first U.S. tour is a baptism by fire for you. You’re playing some pretty big rooms to start out with.
We wouldn’t have it any other way. We treat every gig the same. It’s a treat to play our music to a new audience in every city. People have been enjoying it and know some of the words, so we get a kick out of that. It’s also great to see all of the U.S.
Final question, how does it feel to be part of the liberation movement that won independence for the Jewish people?
We don’t care, we just appreciate that their name is really good [laughs].