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“The start of us realising what it’s about” : The Line of Best Fit speaks to The Maccabees

“The start of us realising what it’s about” : The Line of Best Fit speaks to The Maccabees

11 January 2012, 10:00

Five years ago, in 2007, young indie upstarts The Maccabees released their debut album, Colour It In, into a world where digital downloads were just being included in the charts and MySpace was the social network du jour. Now, in 2012, with much savvier heads on their shoulders, they’re poised to release their third album, Given to the Wild, into an entirely different music landscape. For his fourth phone interview of the day, I chat to a surprisingly chirpy Hugo White, guitarist, who reveals that their third album has most certainly put the band through the wringer, but has squeezed them out somewhere close to the shape they want to be.

The album began and ended on home turf. As Hugo says: “A year and a half ago we managed to get ourselves a studio that’s totally our own space, in London. So we found a place that is our home. That’s where we wrote a lot of the record.”

After this, they took their ideas up to Rockfield Studios in Wales, laying down the tracks in just three weeks back in May. But after returning to London, the band found themselves struck by a lengthy bout of tweaking, modifying, and re-working. “It was the way it had to be. Initially we thought we’d do it in three weeks for some reason. But it ended up taking four or five months,” says Hugo.

But before Given to the Wild, is, er, given to the wild, Hugo reflects on exactly the kind of jungle it’s going in to, from a time where Woolworths still existed and the CD reigned supreme.

“There wasn’t any of that online stuff. Albums didn’t necessarily leak, and people didn’t download as much, illegally, it was different in that sense. I mean, our first singles came out on CD, and the latest one is download only. That way, it’s very different. The way people don’t go to independent record stores to buy music, I think that’s quite a sad thing.”

“For record companies to make money on bands, when over half the records that they sell are illegally downloaded, whereas 15, 20 years ago, every one that had the record had paid for it.

And whilst Hugo says that the industry’s state of play remains something that the band’s music remains removed from, there’s no denying the impact of it on the way they work. On The Maccabees second album Wall of Arms, they worked with one of Britain’s most prolific and important choreographers, Lea Anderson. Who, incidentally, happens to be Hugo and vocalist/guitarist Felix’s aunt. After the recent round of cuts, Anderson’s dance companies The Cholmondeleys and The Featherstonehaughs, are two places the axe has fallen. “Yeah, that’s pretty crazy,” says Hugo. “The funding has been cut from that sort of stuff. It is quite a big deal and I guess that reflects in the industry as well.”

However, Hugo has high hopes for one band in particular this year, the ‘pretty mental’ La Shark. Hugo says: “Musically they’re incredibly interesting, and everything about them is. So I hope things work out for them next year.”

Although The Maccabees won’t be taking any inspiration from La Shark when it comes to their upcoming tour. Taking a more slightly subtle approach, they’ve been working with lighting designer wunderkind Ed Warren, who’s illuminated The Strokes and Interpol amongst others.Hugo discusses their subtle stage show: “It’s going to be a bigger production. It’s more just about setting the scene and the environment.”

This tour sees them take in the dizzying heights of various O2 Academies, nationwide. Selling out 4000 capacity venues came as a bit of a wake-up call, says Hugo:

“We did a run in October playing 15 shows in the UK of 400-capacity venues. And back then, some places sold real quick, and other places were a lot slower on the uptake, and so we thought back then ‘shit, we’ve got a lot of work to do’. But the fact that these bigger shows are selling out, it’s just great.”

And as for the next five years? It seems The Maccabees have only just begun, and are determined to keep plugging away despite the ever-changing climate. Hugo reflects: “It’s a weird thing to think about. I definitely think after this, we want to get straightaway on another record. I remember being asked that when we started the band and we’d say we want to make five records, and it’s weird to think we’re more than halfway there.”

He continues: “There’s more records in us for sure. This feels like this is the start of us really, the start of us realising what it’s about, and how to get the best out of ourselves, musically. It’s definitely taken that long to get to this point. Not to say anything bad about our previous records, they both have their own place and that’s where we were at that stage. But with this record, we’re really getting to grips with it now, and it’s really working.”

The Maccabees are certainly not a band shying away from change and progress, and if anything they’ve been spurred on by it. Unpretentious yet quietly confident, they look in good stead for the next half decade.

Given To The Wild is available now through Fiction.

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