Hugo White of the Maccabees
When you pick up your iPod and scroll through to The Maccabees, you’d be forgiven for thinking that your prick-of-a-brother has been messing with your artist names again.
It's clearly quite a leap from the upbeat indie skip-a-thon of Colour It In to the atmosphere-soaking surge of Given To The Wild, but it's equally clear that a consistent musical character propelled this leap. In the latest album from The Maccabees, the five guys from South London have managed to pool their collective resource of charmingly sincere spunk, resulting in an album that is both enlivening and arresting.
The difference in style from Colour It In to their second album, Wall of Arms, was noted across the musical blogisphere. The shift was often attributed to the contribution of the album's producer, Mark Dravs, who had worked on Arcade Fire's Neon Bible and The Suburbs, and while the reception of Wall of Arms was warm and appreciative, comparisons to the Fire were not uncommon.
Always looking to extend their talents and keen to take control of all aspects of Given To The Wild, The Maccabees stretched their learning muscles and took on the responsibility of producing most of the album themselves.
Says guitar player and backing vocalist Hugo White: "Well, when we started the band, none of us really played instruments, or at least we hadn't for very long, so even that was fairly new to us. Now we've been able to take hold of the production side of it, and that's been a big thing for us. It's changed how we write the music. With this record, instead of standing in a room with the instruments we spent time apart and recorded it on computers, and sent each other stuff, and built it up that way.”
Fans have been patient in waiting for Given To The Wild, and Australian audiences have been even more patient, given that The Maccabees have never before made the haul to the global south. But beyond people actually waiting for things in a very literal sense, patience and stylistic cohesion were key components of the album and the music itself.
"There are really slow in-depth moments that really allow for the big explosive moments to be more powerful, and that was part of us learning about having patience. And we also really just wanted to create something beautiful to us... One of the main things for us was to create a mood and a feeling that ran through the record and that it all felt like a glaze, so if someone was listening to the record they would know that it's that one, as opposed to the others."
The boys finished up writing the album last Euro summer, and then took a further five months to record and wrap the whole project. They've since taken a break from "the arguments" of writing together as a band. But that certainly doesn't mean they've been relaxing during the day, and playing the odd gig at night. These are some busy blokes, each with a finger in a side project somewhere.
"I think everyone's building towards things. Fe [Felix] is putting together a record with all guests in to sing on it. And Orlando has just done an illustrated book with a soundtrack, which is quite interesting. And I'm doing quite a lot of production. It's nice to do something new, outside of the band. We spend so much time doing stuff with the band - like, our whole lives - so it's nice to do something that's a bit more like play time."
The upcoming Groovin' The Moo festival and accompanying sideshows will be the first opportunity the band has had to show off their live show to an Australian audience, and they seem genuinely excited. It would be wrong not to suggest that some part of this excitement stems from the opportunity to escape the miserable weather in London, but a greater part of Hugo's enthusiasm comes from the opportunity to see some live Australian talent.
"We don't know that many Australian bands... you don't get all that many Australian bands in England. But we're looking forward to the Groovin' The Moo festival because we'll get to see a lot of Australian bands, and I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing some different music that I wouldn't usually get a chance to hear."
So, what do we have to look forward to once they get their bums off the plane? Given the band's documented appreciation of Interpol, there was some concern that we would be subject to the kind of cool live performance that Interpol are known for. But it seems that on a spectrum from an Interpol-album-loyalty set to a Mars Volta-improv-jam-fest, The Maccabees are a happy medium.
"The songs are played differently to on the record as they're adapted to play live. Especially the old songs - they're all a different thing now, they've become things that aren't the songs we've recorded six years ago. And hopefully they're passionate and energetic, which is what we do. We all believe in the songs, so when you get your chance to play them to people you've really got to put it across in that moment."
GROOVIN' THE MOO TOUR DATES:
Saturday 5 May - Prince of Wales Showground, Bendigo
Sunday 6 May - Murray Sports Complex, Townsville
Saturday 12 May - Maitland Showground, Maitland
Sunday 13 May - The Meadows, University of Canberra, Canberra
Saturday 19 May - Hay Park, Bunbury
THE MACCABEES SIDESHOW DATES:
Wednesday 9 May - The Hi-Fi, Brisbane
Thursday 10 May - Metro Theatre, Sydney
Wednesday 16 May - The Hi-Fi, Melbourne
Friday 18 May - The Capital, Perth
WORDS: Lauren Bertacchini