For: The Parklife Weekender/The Independent Online
Having scaled the album charts with last year’s album ‘Given To The Wild’ and toured globally (including their first headline tour of the USA), The Maccabees have returned to the studio for 2013. With a steady growth from indie poppers to genuine arena contenders, anticipation’s high for the band’s next step, with rumours hinting at the first tracks from LP 4 gaining a release before the year is out.
Parklife caught up with Felix White for a chat about the post-tour lull, and what’s driving them as they head back into the studio.
How are things?
Fantastic! We’re in the studio every day really, working on the record. It’s all good man.
You’ve got a little gap in your touring haven’t you? Is studio time your main thing at the moment?
More than anything it’s sleeping and hanging out with friends, doing relatively mundane things for a while that seem like the most exciting thing in the world. But we’re alright, we don’t need too much normal life.
Your last stretch of touring was out in America a month or two back, your first headline tour out there. How was that?
America’s such a huge place and we should have gone out there before but we had a couple of deals that fell through at totally the wrong moment in the past so it hasn’t quite come together enough in America. It’s a sort of bipolar experience because you’ll go to New York and there’s thousands of people but then you go somewhere else and you’ll be playing small club shows. You have to localize the experience when you’re doing tours and I think that’s the stage we’ve got to as a band, where you could be playing any type of gig from a small club show to a big one. You just learn to enjoy playing and I think that’s the best lesson you can learn with music, really.
That’s the big difference between playing in the UK, where you can be at the same level venue for every date on the tour, and playing in the US where any date that isn’t on the east or west coast is going to be a fair bit smaller.
Exactly right. There aren’t many places we haven’t played anymore so playing those first Maccabees dates in those places, in a way it was really nice to do it with three albums. Being able to do it really properly. It’s your introduction to people from Texas, or wherever, and it’s an important moment of getting to know people and weigh each other up. It was nice to do it this way rather than ten years ago, going around England when we could hardly play.
How far into the studio period are you? Are you making decent headway in terms of the next album or is it still very early days?
We’re recording the first two songs for it at the end of the month and we’re making it ourselves, we’re going to have a go at doing that. There’s a lot of stuff near completion, so kind of worryingly it’s going quite well! Whereas in the past, we’ve been worrying about it and managed to pull it out of the bag, this time it feels really good so I’m just going to go with it.
You managed around the time of the last album that instead of writing it all together, you’d go away and write stuff separately and then share your progress with each other. Is that the way you’re doing things with this one or are you intending to develop your approach in a different direction?
I think that it’s a combination. We learned how to do that last time but it was almost a year away from going into the studio. We did a lot of that stuff while we were touring. Having played and been on tour for a year and a half or whatever, you get in your head that you want to be writing songs that work in those situations. You know, what three songs would be amazing to have. So it’s coming from a bit more of a direct perspective as a band than it did last time, I think. As a result, I think it’ll be a more direct record. I definitely think it’ll be more exciting.
From a production point of view, will you still be working with a producer in the studio?
No, we’ve learned how to do it ourselves. We took quite a lot of it back and re-recorded it ourselves, on the last record, a real crash course on making a record. It’s our fourth record and I think we’ve kind of grown up enough to police ourselves. Plus we have our own studio now and the logistics of painting a studio and getting all the gear has been quite an enjoyable thing. We can do it ourselves.
It must make a difference to the creation of a record, having your own space to write and record in.
Logistically, not having to move gear in and out… Here now is our home, really. You can come and go whenever you want. It’s very important.
Four albums in, is it still a challenge?
Oh, yeah. You never want to make the second album. Every time it’s different and you’re not sure whether you can do it, because you’ve never achieved anything like that before. I think we all feel a lot more confident than we did before, and able to achieve things. One of the really beautiful things about how it’s fortunately panned out for us is that the world has slowly opened up to us, gradually. It’s a really good feeling to earn that slowly and be in a position where I wouldn’t say we feel accomplished but we’ve got an understanding of self and how we do things and how to make the best of things and how we’re pushing things forward. So I think we’re more assured, yeah.
Musically, has there been anything that’s been keeping you excited recently?
We’ve bought a lot of new records this year. I’m quite into getting new music. I like the new Flaming Lips record a lot. It’s called The Terror. It’s dark, man. It’s really good. It’s kind of a disconcerting record. It really puts you on edge but it’s really great, really beautiful melodies. I like British Sea Power’s new album. I’m quite enjoying going down [Soho record store] Sister Rays and just buying records that have just come out on vinyl. That feels like more of an exciting thing at the moment than delving into back catalogues from the 70s or whatever.
In the next few weeks you’ll be heading back out on the road but for festival season rather than headline tour dates. How does it feel to be getting back out for big festivals?
Well it was supposed to be a year off but then we got ten or so festivals, so for a year off we’re going to be quite busy! But it feels great – Latitude’s going to be great, Isle of Wight’s going to be great, Parklife’s obviously going to be amazing. It’s going to be good to get out of the house. Plus we’ll be playing a couple of new songs as well, so these will be good places to play them first.
I’ve got mates who have been to Parklife before and have said they’re really glad we’re on the bill, so it should be a good time. I’m sure we’ll enjoy it!