- Tue, 2008-01-08 09:21
After exploding onto the scene in 2005 The Maccabees have earned themselves the title of one of the hardest working bands around. Since releasing their highly anticipated debut album, Colour It In, The Maccabees have been busying themselves – gigging furiously at festivals and embarking on a Bloc Party tour in the US. Now back on our fair shores, they re-released new single Toothpaste Kisses on January 7 2008.
I Like Music caught up with Hugo from the Maccabees to talk about the single, the video, electrocutions and roadkill, among other things.
I Like Music because.... I just do. I’ve always liked music. It’s just my thing.” Hugo, The Maccabees
ILM: Toothpaste Kisses is out now and a genuinely lovely track it is too. Can you describe the track’s vibe and how it came about?
Hugo: Well, it was the last song we recorded for the album so it was literally in the last two days that we had in the studio. And Orlando was like, ‘I’ve got this thing’ and we put it down and turned it into a song pretty quickly. It was never intended to be a single. It was more a closer to the album and was gonna leave things open in a different way, just to show another side of our music, because the whole album is quite straight, whereas a lot of the new stuff is more going down that road.
But we got such a good response from it and people really like the song, so it seemed to right to have it as the last single off the album as well.
ILM: So it’s kind of like the end of a film before the sequel, like watch this space for the next album?
Hugo: Yeah, something like that. And that’s one of our favourite songs for the band as well.
ILM: The video rocks too. Every time I watch it there’s something new that I notice.
Hugo: That was Orlando’s mate who did that. We got photos of a couple who’d been together for 50 years. We sent out a myspace bulletin until we found someone who was willing to give us all their photos. And they let us do that and it was cool.
ILM: Orlando went to art school and helps design your record covers so has input there and you’ve all had input into creative ideas for your videos. That must be enjoyable?
Hugo: Everything we’ve done we’ve tried to keep completely our own, our own ideas behind everything, in the way we promote ourselves. It’s come naturally; we started it from the beginning doing our own flyers for gigs and that evolved into us being in control of the whole situation and it helps that Orlando’s an illustrator. So we’re trying to keep it like that for as long as we can. We wanted to have creative control over everything we put out so that’s really important to us. It allows us to do things we want rather than say for a video them say, ‘you all stand there and do this and pose like this’ or whatever and getting into situations where we’re doing things we don’t wanna do. Some bands are good at that sort of thing but we’re not.
We’re actually filming another video for Toothpaste Kisses. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that. The original idea for this video, we ended up not doing for some reason, but now that we’re re-releasing the song, we’re making this other video that we were originally going to do for it. It’s hopefully gonna be amazing. It’s made by my and Felix Aunty. She’s a choreographer called Leigh Anderson who does performances and they’ve come up with this idea for the video, so it should be interesting.
ILM: On your album, Colour It In, which track did you enjoy laying down the most?
Hugo: Probably Toothpaste Kisses to be honest. The way we did it. We all sat in a tiny little circle with acoustic guitars and weird sounds and playing through these baby amps, so that was quite nice, the whole vibe of that. The vocals were done, Orlando sat in a cupboard and sang it in a cupboard and it worked really well, so it sounded quite intimate. It was nice to do stuff like that. With the rest of the album it was done in live takes with over dubbing and a lot of the songs we’d demo’d beforehand, so by the time we were doing them, we were getting to the end of our patience with recording them because we’d done them a few times before. Hopefully the next album will be more experimental like with Toothpaste Kisses.
ILM: Are you working on the next album now?
Hugo: Yeah, we’ve got five songs done. It’s just a lot of ideas at the moment. We’ve got three months where we’re going to literally lock ourselves away and get it all out of us.
ILM: You’ve just completed a UK tour after the Bloc Party tour in the US? How were both of those? Any highlights/anecdotes you can share?
Hugo: Well America was pretty interesting as it was our first time for any of us. It’s such an amazing place to tour around, as you’re driving for such a long time in between each place. We killed a deer…
ILM: Oh dear. Excuse the pun…
Hugo: Oh dear. Yeah. [Laughs]. Felix got electrocuted from his microphone on a TV show and it actually threw him to the floor, although it wasn’t live, and they were very apologetic and covered their tracks, because you know what they’re like with suing people over there. And Rob nearly cut his finger off, but cut it open with a bagel knife just before a gig. It’s one of the most common injuries apparently. More people go to hospital with a cut from a bagel than anything else.
ILM: What do you look forward to most about playing live?
Hugo: The whole excitement really. It just gets better and better, the pure fact that we’re playing to more and more people now and the shows are becoming bigger. We have a whole tour crew, so we have a lighting engineer and the lighting is the same every night and the sound, so it’s nice to have that, to have earned that stage of things, to be a proper band where everything is on the ball; rather than just turning up with a guitar at the venue and it being a complete mess and ending up a nightmare. Now we’re in control of the situation. We started a band to play live, that’s why we started, that was the initial reason. We didn’t start to write an album, we started because we wanted to write some songs and play a gig. And that’s probably where we’re most successful I think and it’s really rewarding to have people sing your songs back to you.
ILM: You write top songs with brilliant singalong lyrics, modern classics. Please can you describe the Maccabees music making process? Is it lyrics or melodies first or is it total random?
Hugo: There’s different ways. Some songs come out of Rupert will have a bass line, for example, X-Ray, that song came from Rupert playing over a drum and bass tape and he worked out a bass line and we turned it into X-Ray and the lyrics came last. But for the majority of them Orlando will write a skeleton of it; like a couple of notes from the guitar and he’ll take it to the band and we’ll spend time turning it into a Maccabees song really.
ILM: So it’s quite an organic process?
Hugo: It is yeah. Everyone’s got as much input as each other. Every part is as important as the next part.
ILM: So you’re a proper team then?
Hugo: Yeah, it’s always a joint effort.
ILM: What’s your advice to young people on following their dream career, not necessarily in the music industry but just doing what they want to do career wise?
Hugo: The main thing is persisting. You’ve just got to work hard at things and believe in it. If you really believe in something and you work at it, there’s no reason why you can’t achieve it.
ILM: Also what’s your advice about peer pressure?
Hugo: Just do your own thing really. Don’t get persuaded into doing things you don’t want to do.
ILM: What does the future 2008 hold for the Maccabees?
Hugo: We’ll hopefully finish writing the album my early 2008 and start recording in February and then start touring later in the year for a year or two. But getting the album done at the moment is what we’re focusing on. Anything past that we’re not relying on happening. So we’re working hard on getting the album out as quick as we can.
ILM: Well good luck with that.
Hugo: Thank you very much.