The Maine have had a long career behind them, and it’s one that shows no signs of slowing down. This year they had the honour of being asked to play Download Festival, where we caught them for a quick chat about celebrating ten years since their debut album, revisiting and loving old tracks, embracing pop music and recoridng a new album in October. Read our full interview with frontman John O’Callaghan and bassist Garrett Nickelsen below.
MOSH: Historically, Download has been about some of the more heavier bands – how do you feel about playing it this weekend? Do you think you fit right in?
JO: We’ve noticed!
GN: We’re pretty much like wizards, so I think we’ll fit right in with everyone.
MOSH: Your debut album Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is ten years old – how does it feel reflecting back when you think of all the things you’ve accomplished?
JO: We’ve done a lot. Actually last night we looked at our original Instagram post, and that’s not even an indication of how long we’ve been a band. What’s really wild is that we have been a band for so long and we’ve toured and known so many bands that aren’t doing it anymore and we’re just really fortunate that that isn’t the case for us and that we’re able to still do it.
GN: Also the fact that we can play a show like this.
JO: And we’re just now getting asked to play things like Rock am Ring and this. That’s pretty special to us.
MOSH: Yeah, one might say you guys are one of the older bands around.
JO: Yeah, I’m about to be 30 but I don’t give a shit, it makes me feel good. All of my friends are now adults, accountants, or deciding what they’re going to get from the grocery store. We’re really fortunate, to be honest.
MOSH: I would like to assume that something will be done to commemorate this milestone?
GN: We’re figuring it out.
JO: We are, and we will be announcing it soonish. We’ll certainly to something special. We were reluctant for a litle while because we felt like it would date us.
MOSH: Do you think there was a lot of pressure to do something for it?
GN: I mean for us, it wasn’t. I think a lot of people who do it, they kind of need to do it. As shitty as that sounds, but to be honest we’re having the two best records that we’ve had. People are coming out more than they ever had, so the reason we wanted to was for the people who have been around for ten years and they’re still here. It’s not that we hate that record or anything, but it is moreso for them than it is for us.
MOSH: As you said, it has been a long time that you guys have been a band. What do you do to try keep your set fresh?
GN: It’s tough, but playing new stuff helps that a lot. We always try to do something different with it. We’re lucky enough that a lot of people go to multiple shows on a tour, so we try to switch it up as much as we can. This most recent tour, we made sure that we played a different song every night. It can be difficult.
MOSH: What are some of your favourite tracks to play live, in terms of tracks you’re able to experiment a bit more with?
JO: I think we try to do that with every song as we continue to evolve, or at least as we continue to age.
GN: I mean, we must have done at least like nine versions of ‘Into Your Arms’ throughout every tour.
JO: We recently started with ‘Everything I Ask For’, and it now feels like something we could do. Maybe not, but it’s more in the zone of where we are now.
GN: It’s not too different though – when some bands do it, they try to make it more chill or whatever. We still want it to be fun and groovy, or maybe even more groovy than the original record. It’s thinking about not totally destroying the song, but making it so it feels a little more fun for us.
MOSH: I actually recently saw you guys and you referred to yourselves as a pop band. Do you feel like in the scene there’s always been a certain stigma around some of the more poppier bands?
JO: I think not just in our scene, but in general. Everyone is trying to be something else, even us, we were reluctant to accept the fact but the older you get, the more I understand. Why would you be ashamed of what you enjoy? We’re still going to try to be a rock band and we’re still going to be punk rock in how DIY everything is and the fact that we don’t do that our peers do. It’s pop music though, everyone else is pop. If you listen to Guns N Roses, that’s a pop song because you know the chorus by the second time you hear it. To me, that is the definition of pop. It was popular music so there’s an arrangement to it, there’s a verse, there’s a chorus, it’s simple. The thing that gets me still is the fact that we were ever called pop punk.
GN: That’s one thing I don’t understand!
JO: There is a clear sound when you think of pop punk, you hear like a breakdown, and we’ve never had that. Maybe we went half time in ‘Count ‘Em One, Two, Three’ and that was it. I think it was more not knowing how to define it, and not just for us. There were so many bands, and there still are, that there isn’t necessarily a label for it so it’s just dismissed as pop punk or “Warped Tour band”. Well yeah, we play the Warped Tour, but we’re also here? We’ve also played shitty lodges when we started, we’re not a fuckin retirement band though. We played casino gigs, but we’re not a casino band. At least not yet, but we will be!
GN: I can’t wait.
MOSH: You guys are releasing an acoustic album this month – can you tell us a little more about the idea behind it?
JO: So it’s two songs from every record we’ve ever done. Initially the idea started as B-side but I felt like because of the timing, we would have to put too much effort towards it. Not that we didn’t put effort towards the acoustic stuff, but at least for me I would have to put a lot of effort into writing new lyrics and maybe getting rid of ideas that I want to express right now before getting around to doing another record. It’s something we always wanted to do, we did a thing called Imaginary Numbers which was a batch of brand new songs, but we felt that around the nostalgia of ten years, we wanted to do something special. It was cool for us because we got to revisit songs that we have not thought about in probably eight, nine, ten years.
GN: There were a couple songs we realised that weren’t that bad? It’s songs that sort of get skewed with time and you listen to it and it wasn’t that bad.
JO: I think back to that pop stigma, it rubbed off on us at some point. Fuck off self!
MOSH: Correct me if I’m wrong but you recorded the album in the 8123 studio, which you just recently set up. What encouraged you to do something like that? Is it just for you guys to record at this point?
GN: I mean we’ve had some other people, but it’s just been friendly and they were in it for like a day or so. It’s something that we’ve talked about since Black and White, because we’re always working and doing stuff. Having a place where we could all just meet up and think about this band is a great. You know a lot of the time what ends up happening is we just talk about what the hell we’re doing. It’s just nice to have a spot now where we can all meet up, and no one is working out of his garage. It’s like going to a job without feeling like you’re going to a job.
MOSH: From what I hear, you will also be releasing a new album pretty soon. Have you started writing?
JO: Yeah, but we haven’t really started to think of it in terms of all of us. It’s moreso just whatever we can throw out and anything that sticks against the walls. It’s going to be recorded in October, one way or the other.
GN: If we have the songs or not!
JO: It’s a weird phase right now, a weird area to be where we’re balancing what we think we want to do and how far we could take it and still have people care.
GN: It’s definitely more pressure than we’ve felt in a little bit, just because things have gone so well in the past couple of years. We don’t want to do the same exact thing because we know how to do that really well, but what can we do that feels fresh and exciting but doesn’t lose any of the feeling that we have right now? Hopefully it’ll turn out as something even better than we could even think of doing.
MOSH: You have done so much in your career in terms or releases, or your own festival and all of that. Is there still anything you would like to accomplish?
JO: I mean of course, but I don’t know what it is yet. There’s no complacency. Sometimes it’s such a one track mind when you get into this world and see everyone else is doing the exact same thing that we’re doing right now. It’s hard to break that mode of thinking that we’re a band, because we’re not only a band. What else are we? I don’t know, and that’s why we always try something else. We’ve been so fortunate that we’ve been able to be whoever we wanted to be and people still in whatever capacity have cared. I think just continuing to be whatever we feel on whatever day we wake up, I think that’s the goal.