Write, rehearse, tour, repeat

It’s been almost two whole years since the Maccabees released their debut album, Colour It In, but the band are finally back on tour in support of its long awaited follow up, Wall of Arms, due to be released on May 4. In the exotic land of the Kasbah, where a selection of fruit means a pineapple and a coconut, Caitlin Allen actually does a serious interview with bassist Rupert Jarvis.

_How does it feel to be back on the road again?_

It feels great. We had such a good gig last night and it made us realise what we miss when we’re not touring. It’s a great feeling to be doing something different every day, rather than just being in the studio every day writing songs or rehearsing.

_So you prefer touring to recording?_

Yes, I do. The recording process is different though, and it’s great in itself. But we’re all different. Orlando is more up for writing songs and spending time doing stuff like that, but personally I definitely prefer the live shows. (Orlando confirms this a little later on, explaining that two years of touring ‘would be hell’ for him. He also expresses a burning desire to go on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.)

_It’s been almost two years since the first album was released. Orlando sings on the title track of the Filthy Dukes’ album Nonsense in the Dark, released this month, have the rest of you been branching out as well– side projects and the like?_

To be honest, no, not really. I brought myself a MacBook, I’ve got Logic and I’ve been trying to write some dance tunes, processed beats and things like that. There are no side bands, but Felix was playing with Jack Peñate at a few of the festivals last summer. They’re quite good friends. It was something to do for Felix and I think Jack really wanted him to play.

_So what else have you been doing in that time?_

The majority of the writing time we were doing 5 days a week, 4 or 5 hours a day, just trying to struggle through it and get something written. We took quite a few weeks off when we couldn’t face each other anymore and things had gotten a bit much. It does feel like we’ve been completely out of the loop for a year and half now. We did one tour about a year ago playing just a few of the new songs, but the majority of the set was still old stuff so it wasn’t that different from the previous tour. We just played a few venues to get back into it, but there have been a lot of boring times recently.

_The new album, Wall of Arms, is due to be release in May, how would you say it’s a development from your debut?_

I picked up the bass for the first time when I joined the band, and a few of our songs are still from that time so I look back on them as being naive, which is good, it kind of lends itself to the feel of that album. We were just there to play good music. Whereas with this one we felt as if we’d matured and were pushing ourselves with the songs that we were writing. Musically the main difference is that Orlando now plays guitar, and he’s playing accordion on the new record too. And we’ve all got slightly better at playing our instruments.

_The first album does have a refreshing sort of newness and naivety about it, but it’s definitely something you couldn’t keep doing to the end of your days._

A couple of the early songs, like ‘Latchmere’, they start to grate on you a bit when you’re just rehearsing. I enjoy playing the new songs. With the last ones, you get a bit bored of them and you think you could’ve done better, but having said that, I’m still happy with what we had on the first record.

_‘No Kind Words’ was released as a free download last month. How did you decide to do that? Wasn’t it hard to give away your work for nothing?_

Not really, because ‘No Kind Words’ was one of the first songs we wrote for the record and it’s so different from the rest of the tracks. We wanted to release it but we knew it wasn’t really a chart eligible record. We just wanted to put it out there because it’s one of our favourite songs. We love it so much that, for us, the fact that people can go and download it is actually good. I don’t think that we felt cheated, or felt the need to sell it to make money. It basically came about from deciding what the first single was going to be, and then realising that we couldn’t release ‘No Kind Words’ as a single later on – it just wouldn’t work because it’s that much different. But it’s perfect to get people back into listening to us, and as a free download I think it did really well. It served its purpose.

_Continuing with the idea of downloading, what’s your stance on it in general? Can you see CDs eventually becoming obsolete?_

Well it’s inevitable, isn’t it? It pisses me off that people can just go and download your album (for free) but the majority of people I know do it, I do it. If I download something and I really like it though, I will go out and buy the record. I think it’s inevitable that downloading gets bigger, but I think they’re going to have to come up with a better way of policing it so that the artists do see some profit, because it constitutes stealing a band’s career. For a lot of the bands around today who didn’t get a second record deal, it’s partly because they didn’t sell enough of their first album, and that’s because of the internet. There needs to be a better way of governing it.

Another thing that upsets me is when people download just one or two tracks from an album because, for me, an album is a work of art in itself, and the tracks are there and in that particular order for a reason.

It’s a journey, isn’t it? We spent god knows how many hours trying to work out the sequencing of the record, trying to get every track in the right place. Some tracks get left off because it’s just not right. But then you can go on iTunes and download just the single or maybe two tracks, which ruins that idea of the album as a unit. I disagree with iTunes in general, they’re just reaping their profits and the bands themselves see hardly anything from it. They’re one of the biggest companies in the world and they don’t give back to bands at all.

_Time for a couple of quick fire questions! What’s your favourite album of all time ever?_

I’ve really gotten into AC/DC in the past year, as you can see from the t-shirt, so I’d have to say Back in Black. It’s a record I could listen to over and over again and still love it every time.

(At this point guitarist Felix wanders in and gives his answer: “There are three – Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan, The White Album by The Beatles, and London Calling by The Clash. Oh, and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy. Those are my Top 4.” Exit Felix.)

_What are you listening to at the moment?_

A lot of AC/DC. I’ve also started to listen again to all the things that we were into when we started out, so bands like The Strokes. It’s so great to rediscover stuff. And a lot of drum and bass tapes as well. My housemate works for Hospital Records and I used to be really into that. It’s good to have fresh knowledge about the scene.

_And finally, are there any up-and-coming new bands you suggest we check out?_

Yes – a band from Brighton, who are amazing, called The Lyre Birds. They’re kind of doing the Interpol/Editors thing with synths and really strong bass lines and drum beats, but then dark vocals. So I’d say keep an eye on them. I think they’re going to be really big.


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