Indie-rockers The Maccabees have been through a war, and they’ve got the ‘Marks to Prove It’ (see what we did there?). After three years of hard work writing and recording, they were finally able to release their stonking brand new album in July this year.
The band released their debut single at the end of 2005 and by 2007 The Maccabees had released their debut album ‘Colour It In’. The album was well received which lead to tours with Bloc Party and a sold out show at London’s Roundhouse. Their second album would prove to be even better; ‘Wall of Arms’ charted at #13 in the album charts. ‘Love You Better’ was the incredibly catchy and light-hearted first single from the album which was soon succeeded by ‘Can You Give It’. The album was once again closed off with a famous London show, this time at Brixton Academy. The band continued the trend of exponential improvement with ‘Given to the Wild’ which managed to reach #4 in the album chart and was later certified gold in the UK. Throughout their career The Maccabees have been championed by a number of DJs from BBC Radio 1 as one of the greatest bands around. Singles ‘Pelican’ and ‘Feel to Follow’ both continued to shape the band’s distinctive sound, and to please their rapidly increasing fan base.
It was at this point that the band began to face turbulence. In 2013 it was announced that the band were working on a new album that would be released at the start of 2014. By the time 2014 rolled around The Maccabees had finished two songs and had not found their feet with the album. The band did not know quite what the next record would sound like, or how it would come to fruition. Then, all of a sudden, everything changed. In May 2015 the band announced that their fourth album ‘Marks to Prove It’ would be released on 31 July featuring eleven brand new songs, including the single that shares its name with the album. The album topped the UK charts and saw the band receive great critical acclaim. This, alongside a summer of triumphant festival performances including Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds has left The Maccabees standing tall as one of the hottest bands in the country right now. Of course, this is only going to grow more with their upcoming UK tour this November. We got the chance to chat to guitarist Felix White about ‘Marks to Prove it’ and everything going on in their world at the moment…
So, ‘Marks to Prove It’ is finally out, it was a long time coming…how does it feel to have it out there?
It feels great. It couldn’t have gone much better I don’t think; couldn’t have been received with more open arms than it has. To be honest it’s a relief because it took a long time and now we’re in celebrating mode by playing it live so it’s a good place to be at the moment for us.
What caused the delay?
It’s always hard for us making records but it took a while cos we were working on it almost immediately from coming back off tour but we kind of realised a year into that process that we hadn’t really worked out what we wanted it to be or didn’t know how to get there or what we were trying to achieve. Sometimes you have to get right down in there in order to come out the other side and we definitely did that. It didn’t come together until we wrote ‘Spit It Out’ and from there we had a sort of sense of what the framework of the album was.
Do you feel particularly bonded with this album because of the trials around getting to this point?
I think you always feel desperately bonded to it and then you learn to kind of disown them a little bit in order to protect yourself so it’s kind of odd. You never really know what you think of your album really until a few years later, which is probably true of most music. You kind of need that space to work out exactly what it is but at the moment I do feel really, genuinely very proud of it and I feel like it’s a unique little thing that sums our band up in the way that we haven’t managed before. And the fact that we did it all ourselves from the start to the end in our own studio is a source of pride.
It’s been very well received so far, did you expect this reaction to it?
You never know do you? We didn’t expect anything. I think we were so confused by the end of making the record haha. We’d been locked away for so long I think we were just relieved to have it done more than anything. I think it’s an interesting record. It’s quite different to what the singles are, it’s a more down tempo record than the singles suggest so there was a little bit of a worry that it wasn’t going to translate but I think it has.
When releasing the album, you said that ‘These new songs are a reminder of why we started the band’ what did you mean by that?
Because we’ve been in the band for 13 years now, of course there are moments where you question what the reasons for doing it are and if you all feel about it in the same way you used to and that kind of thing and there are those magic, dynamic moments where it comes together and you realise that there’s some kind of specific chemistry or a happy accident about the group that makes it bigger than everyone in it and that’s really cool when that works. I suppose songs like ‘Kamakura’ or the last sonic of ‘Dawn Chorus’ when those little accidents happen in the studio it does feel like vindication because most people that have been in bands for 10 years or have done anything that involves working with people in close quarters for that long will tell you there’s a lot of diplomacy involved.
You’ve had an incredibly busy summer, has there been any particular highlight?
All the festivals tend to blur into one another because there’s 3 every weekend and it’s normally the same bills and you’re just travelling in between them and all you can see is stages put up in fields wherever you are in the world. We played with Foals a lot, which was great. We’ve known Foals for a long time but we’ve never actually played with them so that was really good to spend 4 or 5 festivals with them.
You’re heading out on a UK tour to support ‘Marks to Prove it’, what can fans expect from the show?
Well the live show is pretty much a best of the last 4 albums but what will be different about this tour coming up is that we’re going to try and achieve some of the things off the new record. So there’s going to be some brass and maybe some more singers, some percussion and we’re going to try and do some of the slightly more leftfield things on the new album, live. We haven’t done that up till now so I’m looking forward to trying out some of the things that are slightly less direct. They should really translate well, particularly in venues like the Guildhall. Some of the music from the album will really fit into spaces like that that are built for a full band sound.
You’re involved in Cassette Store Day this year, how did that come about and what does it entail?
To be honest it entails nothing for me haha, someone said ‘do you wanna put a tape out?’ and we said ‘yeah alright’ haha. I really like the idea of putting a cassette out because we’ve got boxes of tapes from when we were little because that’s how we used to buy music but The Maccabees have never put one out so why not? And the cover looks really good on it on the black cassette but I didn’t make them or anything so I can’t take too much credit haha.
You’ve also been working on a feature documentary ‘Elephant Days’. Tell me a bit about that…
Yeah, it’s being screened at the London Film Festival next month which is really amazing. We are so touched to be involved in that. We made it during the course of the record and it explains some of the principals behind the album in a much better way than I could in an interview really. It takes 6 or 7 different stories from in the area where we were making the album. So it’s us, the basketball team down the road; the tailor opposite; a Charlie Chaplin impersonator; guerrilla gardeners; a spiritual healing pop church and it’s trying to get across that there’s loads of things happening in that little area and everyone is trying to make something. It’s quite a subtle film and I think a pretty touching film and pretty honest as well. I’m glad we stuck our necks out and did it because it’s really going to frame the making of the record and also the area. It’s a snapshot in time, which is nice.
Catch them live 24 November @ O2 Guildhall
Words: Liam Fleming