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Concert Review and Q&A: The Maine

Gracious, fun-loving and straddling that fine line in-between over-talkative and awkwardly mute, The Maine worked their magic with ease. They played their hearts out, shared their honest perspective, and let a fan to come up and sing on stage, making it a personalized show. Fans respond to artists who give every city their all, and I think that having that quality makes The Maine a band who will continue to have fans line up 10 hours before the venue doors open.

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By Melissa Spady (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: June 19, 2013

I’ve been on many adventures in Vancouver, but this was my first time at the Rio Theatre. I expected the Rio would share the same “theatre-like” qualities of the Vogue but boy, I was wrong. 

Red carpet, velvet ropes and curtains, gold accents, popcorn machines and properly staggered seats – this was a legitimate theatre. 

Outside, the fans lined up. Those at the front of the line were decked out in neon shirts that read in their own girlish hand, “Tour 8123” (the management team). Through eavesdropping I learned there there had allegedly been people waiting outside since 9 a.m.. I don’t know how much was exaggerated, but I smiled at the thought. I love people who are as passionate about hearing music as musicians are about playing it. 

Interview time finally rolled around. I grew up on music, and have dreamed about speaking one-on-one with musicians for a long time. I had a mix of butterflies and Mexican jumping beans tumbling inside my stomach. Earlier I made a pact with myself to remember to breathe, lest I vomit all over my first interviewees. Lucky for me The Maine’s drummer Pat Kirch and vocalist John O’Callaghan, were charming, genuine and comforting; they gave me a Kinder Surprise egg when I mentioned I was nervous. 

Is this your first time in Vancouver?

JO: It is not. I believe it’s our third time. We played here on the [Vans] Warped Tour, and then we were here last year, with Arkells.

So I don’t have to apologize for the weather, you know what it’s like.

JO: [laughs] No! It’s kinda like Seattle.

We are basically duplicates. Let’s start at the beginning. Tell me the story about how you guys started the band. Were you musicians before or did you start together?

PK: Me and Garret [the bass player] were in bands together for a little bit. As people got older … they didn’t want to be in a band anymore, and my older brother heard John singing at a party, and told him that he should be in a band with me. John gave me a call, came over the next day and we started.

JO: A couple months later, we wanted to go out on the road and tour, and the two guitar players who were originally in the band didn’t feel the same way, so then we got Kennedy and Jared … It’s been a process.

PK: That’s kind of when the band actually “started.”

I was reading on your website that Forever Halloween is your fourth full-length album, but what I found most interesting about it is that no computer editing techniques were used.

JO: Correct.

And that you [John] described it as having an “older, wiser, intimidatingly glowing woman in the room,” which I think is a really great metaphor, but could you tell me a little bit about what the process was like literally? If there is no editing, do you just have to play from start to finish in one take?

[In unison]: More or less.

JO: We didn’t start at song one and play until song 12, but …

PK: We’d pick a song, and work it out and then keep on performing until we got the take that we thought was “the one.” And for us that was so completely different than what we’ve done in every single way. It almost felt like you had to learn how to record albums again, from the start. Which for us, I think was great. I feel like sometimes you learn too much about how things work, [and] maybe that’s a bad thing. You have to just go with it, and be okay with things.

I’ve been listening to the album for the last few days, and it does have a more genuine sound than some other bands where you can tell it’s very edited … which isn’t always a bad thing but I do really appreciate that honesty you hear in one take.

JO: For us, too, we really appreciated it because it’s a direct reflection of our abilities. We weren’t allowed to go and sing like Celine Dion or play guitar like whoever – I think what it did for us was it reignited our passion for what we do and gave us a fresh perspective on making albums and making music.

You’ve made two albums with a record label, and two independently. What would you say are the pros and the cons of doing it the way you are now?

PK: Pros are definitely that we get to make the album that we want to make, and there isn’t anybody but us who gets to say what the album is. We have 100 per cent [control], we can record with whoever we want, wherever we want, within our means.

JO: That’s probably the con. We don’t have a ton of money.

PK: I think you learn to make it work though, and I think sometimes constraints can end up being a good thing.

I wanted to ask about the album Forever Halloween. It’s an interesting title. What inspired you to choose that song as the title track?

JO: More or less it’s about the misconception that what your clothing looks like is a projection of who you are. I think we’re very susceptible to falling under the assumption that material things dictate what we’re doing, and who we are as people. I think that the way it correlates with the process is [that] there wasn’t any gimmick behind what we were doing. All we did was record music. We made music that we could make as a band, and I think that reflects the title because I’m not saying that we know who we are as people, I think that’s an ongoing process – but I know we’re not projections of other people. So I think it’s harmonious with the process we went through making the record, having it be analog, and the earnest representation of what our band is capable of.

Do you guys have a favourite track?

JO: We’re still diving into it live,  but as far as a favourite track, I like “Sad Songs.”

Which is ironically one of the more upbeat songs on the album.

JO: Yeah! It’s my response to a taxi-cab driver I had in Newcastle who told me a sad story of him losing the only girl he ever loved to an arranged marriage, and it’s sort of me telling him that he’ll find another true love.

Awww! You guys have a lot of projects under your belt, like the documentary Anthem for a Dying Breed and the photography book Roads. What does the future hold for The Maine?

PK: All that kind of stuff comes as something happens that we really want to capture, or a message that we want to convey. We get inspired to do something and then we do it.

JO: I think spontaneity is important because we get to do all of this on our own – we get to do whatever we want.

PK: And you know you put so much thought and planning into a record and tour, so the little things we get to do on the side … We like to think of an idea and then go do it. We don’t know what we’re doing in a year from now.

Finally, did you know you have a line around the corner?

JO: Did not know that. That’s awesome! It means we’re doing something right.

Perched at the back of the theatre, I waited patiently for the show to begin. 

Taking the stage first was guitarist/vocalist of Brighten, Justin Richards, borrowing two members from This Century for his performance. Richards crooned his way into the hearts of the female audience members with comfortable and easy acoustic folk jams that made me liken him to a male T-Swift. Despite the short set, Brighten left a distinctly dreamy impression on the audience. 

This Century came out second and woke us up with their clap-a-long pop-punk love anthems. They wooed us with their jerky pop rock and harmony-infused vocals, but their pretty-boy-band-esque energy stood out the most. They were in to it, and those who weren’t bound by a drum-set made sure to visit each side of the stage. If I were 16 again, I would’ve fallen under their deliciously catchy spell.

Next up, Massachusetts alt-pop-rockers A Rocket to the Moon, used their self-deprecating sense of humour to change up the pace. With a subtle touch of folk/country to their boyish sha-la-la melodies, ARTTM rocked the bad boy looks and had the crowd singing along to almost their entire set list. 

After a short delay to organize the stage, headliners The Maine made their entrance. If the theatre seemed crammed before, it was now overloaded with energy.  Gracious, fun-loving and straddling that fine line in-between over-talkative and awkwardly mute, The Maine worked their magic with ease. They played their hearts out, shared their honest perspective, and let a fan to come up and sing on stage, making it a personalized show.  Fans respond to artists who give every city their all, and I think that having that quality makes The Maine a band who will continue to have fans line up 10 hours before the venue doors open. 

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