Live at CMJ: The Maccabees

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photo by Doron Gild

review and interview by Miriam Lamey
photos by Doron Gild

London natives, The Maccabees, play high-energy rocking tunes that possess a sweeter, sensitive edge and mix driving guitar riffs with occasionally desperate vocals. This band is definitely intense, but allows an easy humor to shine through their introspective tunes. Band members Orlando Weeks (vocals), Hugo White (guitar), Felix White (guitar), Rupert Jarvis (bass) and Robert Thomas came together in 2003, and chose their name after flicking through the Bible and discovering the story of the Jewish tribe, The Maccabees, who rebelled against Greek rule. However, the band aren’t religious in the slightest, and rather the name represents their energy and choice to buck convention. Currently, the band are based out of Brighton and they released their captivating debut release, Colour It In at the beginning of 2007. The Maccabees toured America earlier this year and play their CMJ set at the Bowery Ballroom this evening. Today’s performance at the Gibson Studio included the jumpy, almost raunchy “X-Ray” and the more mellow “Toothpaste Kisses” which was recently released as a single in the UK.

Despite a pretty painful finger injury, Felix admirably made it through the set, even though he was bent double in pain between songs. After The Maccabees’ performance, Felix went straight to the hospital to get checked out so he could play this evening’s show. The rest of the band sat down to speak about their recent tour, musical inspiration and their future plans.

Miriam: You just finished a UK tour, how did that go?

Orlando: Amazing, brilliant. We played to like 3,000 people in London. It was a massive deal for us to have that many people at a show.

Rupert: It took us like twelve days to say goodbye to that album and that was the last tour we did for the album in the UK.

Miriam: How do you feel American audiences differ from the UK?

Hugo: A bit less trendy.

Rupert: In England everyone has a certain type of dress when they come to a gig. Whereas in America we play a block party and there will be a forty year old there in a cap. It is a bit more natural.

Orlando: I find that it is a lot easier to talk in between songs in America.

Rupert: Just cause everyone loves the accents.

Orlando: In England people just think I am a bit of a…wait, can I swear?

Mariam: Yeah.

Orlando: They think I am a dick so…I mean obviously not terrible amounts because they keep coming out to shows. I imagine I sound a lot more polite.

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Miriam: So you said that this was the last tour for that album, so have you started working on the new one yet?

Orlando: As soon as we get back from here we are going to disappear and go write and finish the next one and hopefully have it out by April.

Miriam: What are you thinking about, do you have any ideas for this one?

Rupert: We’ve got three or four songs we started playing on the last tour. We still have a lot left to do.

Orlando: As long as it’s better, that’s all we want.

Mariam: What do you mean get better?

Orlando: If it’s not better then we really shouldn’t be doing it. If it’s not an improvement from the last one then there’s no point carrying on.

Miriam: How are you going to change sound?

Orlando: Well I think we are more competent musicians now. Obviously, we are all still learning. We were very much the novice when we started doing this. When we started writing they were the first songs we’d ever written sort of thing. Now we are more capable and I think we are going to be able to, I don’t know, it is hard to explain. We’ve been listening to loads of new music recently, Roy Orbison and Rich Hollaway and these kinds of crooners.

Mariam: So you are going to go all mellow on the next album?

Orlando: And then we’re gonna listen to the Pixies loads.

Mariam: Right. Laughter.

Orlando: We are just going to keep getting new ideas out there and keep working on it, that doesn’t make any sense at all does it.

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Miriam: On the last album a lot of your lyrics dealt with growing up in England, your background, how does your background influence your music?

Orlando: The thing about lyrics it’s more just that I don’t feel like I can write about something I am not an authority about. I am trying to be an authority at politics but the things I am an authority about are my family and the people I love. I feel like these are the things I am justified to write about. I think that’s the thing is just trying to write about things that I feel like I can back up. I wish I could make incredible political statements but I just don’t feel like I am able yet. I am reading a bit of ‘In the land of the Unicorn’ right now which is really trying and maybe a bit of George Orwell and then I’ll be ready.

Mariam: Yeah, some 1984.

Miriam: So why did you make a decision to have authority over all the creative aspects of your album. You make music first and foremost, but why did you want that kind of further control?

Hugo: It might be that Orlando being an artist.

Rupert: I think more than anything we always wanted it to be our own. Straight from the beginning when we were recording novice demos and doing the artwork and putting it in packs and handing it out to our mates. Just keeping it real and making sure we have control over how our image is.

Orlando: We are so bad at being photographed or being in videos and all of that. It is not where we are comfortable. So if it is our control and our decision than we can have photographs and videos where we don’t really have to be in. Have our single be something that isn’t just a photograph of us on the cover, it is more of a get out clause.
Hugo: We can hide behind our instruments.

Mariam: It’s funny I didn’t really know what you looked like really well, so you did a good job. (Laughter) It’s not a bad thing.

Miriam: What are some other new artists you are listening to right now?

Robert: I just got the new National album and we are going to see them in England.

Orlando: Jaime T from England.

Rupert: Tall Taxis, a really young band in from London. Haven’t got a record deal yet, but are very talented.

Miriam: How do you feel you fit into the music scene over there, or if you don’t why don’t you, is that a conscious choice?

Orlando: At the same time i don’t really think it is our place. We aren’t bothered either way. At the end of the day we are going to write songs,and play for people, and do drawings and make videos, that kinda thing and everything else will happen around it. If it doesn’t, then it’s not our fault.

Rupert: Try not to worry about that kinda of stuff.

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One Comment

  1. London Tours
    Posted December 30, 2008 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Saw these guys at the Astoria in London and they were really good! Great debut album guys!

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