The Maccabees talk to Laura Hulley about going global, festivals and support acts.
The Maccabees found their name by flicking through the bible and picking out a random word. Now, with their second album, Wall Of Arms, just released on Fiction Records, they have found a sound which will take them out of the self-perpetuating indie sphere in which they cut their teeth.
You’ve probably been aware of ‘Latchmere’ and ‘Precious Time’ for a while now, having been dancefloor staples in the indie world. Their latest offering, ‘Love You Better’, is a worthy follow up which has been plugged massively by various Radio 1 DJs. This has unleashed their music on a new, wider, audience (with, perhaps, a shorter attention span) and is proving to their detractors that it is possible to do the second album better than the first. With a sound reminiscent of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible (and they here share the same producer, Markus Dravs), and yet bursting with the full force of originality, Wall Of Arms is a manifesto of heartfelt, atmospheric pop songs, full of surprises, track after track. Winning new fans whilst pleasing the old is no mean feat, and this record is an exceptional demonstration of how to do both, and to do it well.
To warm up, whilst promoting Wall Of Arms the band are currently embarking on an epic European tour. I caught up with the man behind the vocals, Orlando Weeks, as the band dropped into Yorkshire to play mini-festival Live At Leeds.
Their musical ethos is simple: “To make music we’re all proud of”. They’ve been around for a while, but finally seem to be getting the sort of mainstream attention they deserve. So, what has changed, musically? “It feels like we’ve been going uphill slowly since starting. I don’t think anything has changed other than we’re getting better”. It depends, I suppose, on the steepness of the hill – ‘going global’ has been the downfall of many an ascending band. But the boys seem utterly unconcerned: ‘Going global’ and ‘indie-ness’ aren’t terms that keep us awake at night! We wouldn’t have assumed our stuff would have got played so much, but to be honest I haven’t heard it [‘Love You Better’] once on the radio so I’m yet to be convinced that people aren’t just winding us up.”
This is no wind up: the media attention is very real, and only due to increase with the impending success Wall Of Arms will no doubt bring. So what are the main differences, progressions and changes from its predecessor, Colour It In? “It’s a better record. It was purposefully written as an album that worked as one entity rather than just being a ‘bunch of songs’. There’s more going on and hopefully it’s the kind of record you can keep finding things in the more you listen to it. I think it has retained the spirit of the first one though.” If this ‘spirit’ is one of distinctively dance floor friendly tunes, then it certainly is in keeping with Colour It In.
Summer means only one thing for bands: trudging, ankle deep in mud, to the far corners of the country to play to rain soaked happy campers. Festivals are, for many music fans, the highlight of the year, and The Maccabees will be providing plenty of opportunities to get down and dirty in a field somewhere near you: “We’re doing Reading, Leeds, Glastonbury, T in the Park, Oxygen and some European ones. We’d really love to play in Japan, which is somewhere we haven’t been yet.”
So why is this the time to start listening to The Maccabees? I wonder what they feel makes them different. The reply is somewhat ambivalent: “The best music is there to be found rather than being shoved in your face.” Quite. So where are they going next? “We’re going back to London tomorrow and then touring for what seems like forever. But we’re in good shape, so far, and enjoying it.”
On a final, rather courteous note, they give a heads up to Mumford and Sons, their support act: “They’re well good. You should definitely check them out”. Unassuming, and not overtly concerned with critical opinion, The Maccabees have everything going for them. With ‘Love You Better’ currently hovering at 34 in the charts, and Wall of Arms charting at the time of going to press, it seems difficult to measure their success by numbers. The progression from Colour It In to Wall of Arms has shown a band capable of growth, in both the studio and on the live circuit, and a driving force centred within themselves and their fans, not their surrounds. What hope for the future, and what a refreshing change.