The UK’s maestros of all that is catchy, Maxïmo Park will be returning to the US for their first tour since 2007 in support of their upcoming album “The National Health.”
Since taking the world by storm in 2005 with their critically acclaimed opus ‘A Certain Trigger’, followed by ‘Our Earthly Pleasures’ (2007) and ‘Quicken the Heart’ (2009) and selling over two million records world wide to date, Newcastle’s mavens of jittery, slick pop will be embarking on a US trek of select cities this fall in support of their upcoming brainchild ‘The National Health’, a joint venture between the band’s own Daylighting Records label and brand new North American label Straight To The Sun, a part of the Musebox Label Group.
Ahead of the Tour, WithGuitars asked non-stop writer Jamie Gambino to find out more from the band’s lead singer Paul Smith, after all it’s been a while
You are onto your fourth album, how do you manage to maintain such levels of creativity and what are Maximo Park’s plans for longevity?
I’m glad to say songwriting comes very naturally to us, but even in times when we found it a bit harder to gel together, there’s a determination to get things right and a continual desire to be creative. We take the songs pretty seriously, but I think it helps to be a long-term band if you remember that pop music is fun and each time you make a record you try to please yourself instead of an imagined audience. My philosophy is: we made our first record in isolation and people still liked it, so let’s try to create that environment each time we come to make an album.
On working with renowned producer Gil Norton – His enthusiasm and keen ear for arrangement meant that we could be comfortable in the studio at a crucial stage in our lifespan. We know what he’s capable of and vice versa. His rigorous approach to pre-production meant that we were super-confident when we arrived in Bath to record the tracks. This meant we felt free to push the sound in the studio since the nuts and bolts of the songs were already tightly assembled!
You have said The National Health is about taking back control during this global recession, how do the songs reflect the issue?
It’s easy to feel helpless when you look at global events that are out of our control, so taking control of your own life and personal problems can give you a sense of empowerment that you can sometimes lack. The song ‘Waves Of Fear’ sums that up: “What a world this is, but we don’t know what to do with it. Transform yourself. It won’t take long to get over it”. It then goes on to say we can only make progress if we work together and defy our natural sense of apathy.
You have just signed with Straight To The Sun in the US and are releasing your latest album as a joint venture with your own Daylighting label, how did that come about and how does this work with you also being on V2?
We really wanted to have a stand-alone label in the US so that they can put a lot of work and love into letting everyone know about our music. We waited to see if anyone would be interested in releasing The National Health and I’m glad to say STTS came through for us. Our label was named after a song by Life Without Buildings and we hope to reach more people by freshening things up and having a new label with new impetus.
You are touring The National Health in the States the first time you have toured a record in America for 5 years, why such a gap?
We wanted to come and play the songs from Quicken The Heart, but we had some family issues to deal with and being that far away from home for that amount of time felt impossible, so we had to cancel a tour. Some people had already bought tickets for shows and that was unfortunate, so we’d like to come back and show people what they were missing and pay them back with the best possible performance!
Paul you released a solo record in 2010 ‘Margins’ do you have plans to follow that up, and how important is it for you to have an extra outlet for creativity outside of the group?
Well, I write a lot of songs that don’t fit with the band and I also like to play the guitar so I would say there’ll be other albums to come in the future. It’s very important to try and fulfil your own creative ambitions otherwise you get frustrated, which, in our case, would have ramifications for the work we do in the band. As it stands, we can all be happy since we’re able to pursue other musical outlets in parallel to Maximo Park’s music. We all like quite disparate styles of music so it makes sense to follow our individual paths sometimes and if we think something is worthy of release then we’ll try to put it out.
Your promo videos are always so inventive, how much input do you have with the visual aspect of your promotion?
We have complete control of all creative aspects to the band! Having said that, we’re not video directors and you have to delegate certain tasks to others who have the requisite skills to make something that equates to your desired level of quality. We generally give out a brief to directors we like and ask them to interpret it in their own way, then we choose the idea that fits with our vague vision. The same applies to our album artwork where we work closely with graphic designers (including my brother Barry Smith who did the layout for the last two albums and my solo record) and, in the case of The National Health, a great illustrator called Eoin Ryan, who we approached after I saw his work in a magazine.
You have gone back to working with legendary producer Gil Norton, what is it you specifically like about working with him?
His enthusiasm and keen ear for arrangement meant that we could be comfortable in the studio at a crucial stage in our lifespan. We know what he’s capable of and vice versa. His rigorous approach to pre-production meant that we were super-confident when we arrived in Bath to record the tracks. This meant we felt free to push the sound in the studio since the nuts and bolts of the songs were already tightly assembled! He’s a lovely guy, too, which helps!
It feels that many of the bands that emerged around the same time as you have ran out of steam. Who do you feel are your current contemporaries?
Oh, I have no idea about this sort of thing because it feels like we were boxed-in with a load of bands with whom we had little or nothing in common. I think we’ve always stood alone, doing our own thing, not aloof but somehow apart. The current bands I feel an affinity, like fellow north-easterners Field Music, probably wouldn’t take kindly to me aligning our band with theirs (oops, too late)!
You are soon to tour the US and the UK, will the live shows differ and if so how?
They will be the same in one respect: we put everything we have into every single show, emotionally and physically in my case! It’s up to the audience as to how the shows differ, but we’ll be playing pretty small rooms, which means there’ll be an intensity to the shows that we’ve experienced and enjoyed before, hopefully.
And finally, Paul I’ve heard that you have your stage trousers made to enable you to jump into the splits, is this true and if so how many wardrobe malfunctions did you have before opting for tailor made clothing?!
One wardrobe malfunction is enough! The trousers just couldn’t cope with my moves! I hope I don’t get banned from any US states…
MAXIMO PARK TOUR DATES:
9-10: Middle East Downstairs – Boston, MA
9-12: World Café Live Downstairs – Philadelphia, PA
9-13: Webster Hall – New York, NY
9-15: U Street Music Hall – Washington, DC
9-17 Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
9-20 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA
9-21 El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
What The Press Are Saying
“Maxïmo Park live at the crossroads of Joy Division, Franz Ferdinand and early Joe Jackson…”
– Rolling Stone
“They don’t dance around the point or pause to consider how to set themselves in the coolest light, they just go “Well, we’re in a massive global recession, the government’s stripping back public services, everything’s terrible. Let’s write an angry album called ‘The National Health’.” Brilliant.”
“…jaunty, precise power pop with punk’s antipathies, exuding a tentative cool.”