The Maccabees

maccabeesFans of guitar bands reading the British music press have become accustomed to hearing more about dire straits than even the most ardent Mark Knopflerfan. But they’ll also have noted this month that the Maccabees’ third album, Given To The Wild, has been picking up rave reviews everywhere from the NME to the Times  (the latter called it “a thoughtful, spiritual record of musical innovation… the Maccabees’ renaissance album”). The much-anticipated follow up to 2007’s debut Colour It In and 2009’s Wall Of Arms, recorded under the watchful eye of DFA producer Tim Goldsworthy, is the sound of the Brighton-basedband growing up and getting on. “We wanted to make a record that works as a record, rather than just an accurate snapshot of our live performances,” explains singer Orlando Weeks. “We’d have days where we’d be saying: “Hang on, how are we going to afford a string section?” but we decided to just worry about how we’d play it live later. Now we’re worrying about it!” GQ.com met Orlando [Pictured above, centre] and guitarist Felix White [Far left] in a quiet pub in central London to discuss being starstruck by David Attenborough, failing to get inside the Twiglets factory and the influence of The Old Grey Whistle Test.

Which lyric are you most proud of writing?
Orlando Weeks: I can’t really stand “Latchmere” anymore [about the swimming pool at Latchmere Leisure Centre], but I still think: “I came out of the changing room and absolutely nothing had changed” is quite a funny thing to have got in to a song. It’s not a great lyric, but it just tickles me.

What’s the most important item on your rider?
OW: Our rider is pretty boring, but our tour manager is really great at finding us things to do on tour if we have a day off. We were in Leicester the other day and he tried his absolute best to get us a tour of the Twiglets factory. That’s what you want from a tour manager! He took the time to phone up Twiglets and try and get us in there, but sadly he couldn’t do it.
Felix White: We love little local things like that. He took us go-karting, but I was terrified of it.
OW: I hope that at no point in my life I stop enjoying a day out.

What do people get wrong about The Maccabees?
FW: It can be difficult reading sometimes that you sound like this or that band. It’s also difficult to read about something you’ve put your life into summed up in two sentences.

Can you recommend a good book?
OW: Papillon by Henri Charrière. It was made into a film with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. I’m not normally the guy who says “The film’s not as good”, but the book is amazing. It’s the story of a man who is kind of a shady Parisian and is rightly or wrongly accused of murder – he’s shipped out to be imprisoned in the French colonies. It’s about his survival and his eventual… well, I don’t want to give the story away. Maybe he gets away, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he does some handmade tattoos, maybe he doesn’t. There’s some good stuff in there.
FW: Years and years ago I read The Outsider by Albert Camus, and it really stuck with me. It really captures something about the human condition. It’s amazing to be inside someone’s head like that. It rings true, and when you finish the book you feel strangely hollow.

What music do you love that would surprise people?
FW: I think we all love a lot of music that doesn’t sound like The Maccabees. I love buying compilations like The Afrosound of Colombia which I don’t have to listen to in a “work” way, I can just enjoy the music.
OW: I love the Sinéad O’Connor version of “Nothing Compares 2 U”.  I allow myself just one, solitary tear.

What was the best record in your parents’ collection?
OW: My favourite was The Beatles Live At The BBC which my mum had on tape. We either had that or The Best Of Bob Marley on in the car.
FW: My mum and dad love Bob Dylan and people like Loudon Wainwright, and the White Album is still my favourite album ever. It’s funny, because there was something about Britpop that pulled generations together because it referenced the Sixties and Seventies. I would love it and my dad would love it as well. I think there’s something more beautiful in that than music which rebelled against older generations. My dad likes our records, I think. When I said that we were going to work with Tim Goldsworthy he said: “Oh yeah, Massive Attack! I like all that crossover stuff.” I was like, “Fucking hell, Dad! Exactly!”

Can you recommend a good DVD?
OW: We pretty much started the band around The Old Grey Whistle Test DVD.  I love XTC telling you to “Pop your Acid spangles in now”.
FW: Hugo [Felix’s brother and guitarist] and I love the riff from Tom Petty’s “American Girl” on that DVD. It’s awesome. “Roxette” by Dr Feelgood is absolutely amazing as well.

What advice would you give your younger self?
FW: I always thought there was some secret or trick to being in a band, but when you get to our stage you realise it’s just persistence and trying not to let your imagination get too bogged down. That’s the advice I’d give.
OW: Would you appear [like a vision] in the clouds?
FW: [Laughs, adopts booming mystic voice] “Be persistent, young Felix!”

Which albums are you looking forward to hearing in 2012?
FW: I’d love to hear some new stuff from Jamie T. Also, La Shark are putting out a record this year and they’re awesome.
OW: I’m looking forward to the record from a guy called Casually Here.

When was the last time you were starstruck?
FW: I was at a record label party recently when Andy Bell from Oasis walked in. I used to love Oasis and ten years ago I met him and had a photo with him. When I saw him something from my childhood just came back and my stomach jumped. I had a brief chat with him and he was lovely. You wouldn’t necessarily be starstruck meeting people you respect now, but it’s funny how those pop stars from when you were young always have that effect.
OW: I went to a book-signing by David Attenborough recently and I was pretty starstruck. I don’t get awestruck that much, more often it’s just accidently thinking you know people because you recognise them off the telly. We played at a thing called “T4 On The Beach” and everyone from Channel 4 was there. You keep thinking you know people, then realising it’s actually O.B. from Hollyoaks.

Originally published by British GQ.

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