The Maine Honors 10 Years With ‘Most Important Record’ Yet: Interview
The Maine’s latest, proudest record is anything but mainstream.
On the cusp of their 10 year bandiversary, the Arizonian quintet—comprised of Kennedy Brock, John O’Callaghan, Jared Monaco, Garrett Nickelsen and Pat Kirch—have cultivated a peerless sound on their sixth studio album, Lovely, Little, Lonely, a record vibrating with notes of solidarity and nostalgic melodies.
Over twelve, restless tracks, The Maine’s first and only indie venture substantiates that there is, in fact, escape in jettisoning old frameworks for the scary unknown that is experimental territory. There is safety—freedom, even—in exploring those undiscovered trajectories, a collateral effect that becomes the leitmotif of their newest record.
Even so, a band’s success is not made without its cheerleaders—or in this case, the MAINEiacs. In January 2017, the boys made a pop rock pit stop in Phoenix to celebrate their decade-long tenure and the supporters who championed them along the way by headlining their own 8123 Fest, which had over 3,000 fans in attendance.
In addition to allowing us to hear Lovely, Little, Lonely, we spoke to The Maine just ahead of the album's release. Check out our chat below to learn more about the group’s thoughts on their anniversary, and why this album is their "most important record yet."
You guys are celebrating your 10 year anniversary as a band this year. How does that feel? Has anything changed or remained the same since you all first started?
Oh man, it feels like it hasn’t been that long. Which is, I think, a really good thing that things continue to be fun and can feel fresh. It feels like the new record is the most important record that we’ve made. I think it’s our best record. So I think, in that kind of sense, it's the same that it’s always been: we’re just making records and going on tour. And hopefully getting better at doing that every time that we do.
You recently played the 8123 Festival in your native Phoenix, Arizona. How was that, being in your old stomping grounds and celebrating with the fans who started with you?
It was crazy. That was our biggest headlining show that we’ve done in North America. So yeah, it was awesome. It was cool to be home and have our family and friends there to see it. And to have all the bands that we’ve been on tour with and became good friends with over the past decade there, too. Yeah, we are always so busy. That was the one day that we took a second to appreciate the things that we’ve been able to accomplish.
How has the reception been from fans who have listened to some of your new material so far? Has the response been positive?
Oh yeah, it’s been great. This headlining tour that we’re doing right now, it’s the first time that we’ve been performing the songs. Just hearing the people sing songs off the record before this and our most recent record way louder than any of the older songs is kind of insane. It just feels good to go out there and have people respond this way, to what we're doing.
Absolutely. After 10 years in the game, having dedicated fans is everything, right?
Yeah, I think that’s kind of the thing for us. We’re not on the radio. We’re not on the cover of magazines. We just have this core audience that continues to grow and grow. So many bands that came out at the same time as us just get caught, where people are only interested in the first couple of albums. And for some reason, for us, our audience has been so awesome. They just go along with us for the ride. We make a completely different record every time and they're up for it.
Speaking of new records, what was the inspiration behind the name of the new album, Lovely, Little, Lonely?
As far as the name, I kind of like to let people pick their own interpretation of all of the words and everything. Just 'cause when I listen to music, that’s kind of how I always like to do it. As far as what makes this record different and the vision for it, I think we really have a set plan where we wanted to make a record that—from song one to twelve—it just never ended. So all of the songs kind of go into the next one. It’s meant to be listened to in full, which is the first time we’ve ever made a record like that. And I think when you hear the record, by the time you get to the end of it, there is a tone and a mood that we set that is kind of uneasy but happy at the same time. We just had that goal to make a more ambitious album from the last one. There are a lot of extra things that we've never been able to do on a record before.
In comparison to American Candy (2015), it seems like with this new record there's still that sort of sentimental tone. From songs like "Am I Pretty?" and "(Un)Lost" on the last record, you can definitely hear that same moody tenderness on this album. Especially on songs like "Taxi" and "I Only Wanna Talk To You." Do you think those same emotions are translated on this record? Or was there a divergence?
Yeah, I think this record is probably closest to American Candy than we've ever done as far as making two albums in a row. I feel like [Lovely, Little, Lonely] is definitely the next one in that order. Whereas in the past, we haven't gone forward; we've gone backward or to the side or something. This is more like a logical next album for The Maine. So yeah, I think we just expanded on what we did on [American Candy].
I think with this record too, from what I can hear—or this could just be coherent with alternative rock music—there are more uplifting songs on this album. I think what alternative rock does is it gives introspection but also makes the listening experience really therapeutic. Were there any songs on Lovely, Little, Lonely that felt cathartic in this way?
Yeah, I mean, honestly the record was pretty challenging to make because the expectation that we put on ourselves this time compared to any other one was just so big. We didn't let any songs pass through unless we felt it was exactly perfect, so it was just draining. So to hear the record done, and to hear how it came out...there was this sense of there being a light at the end of the tunnel. And I think that kind of comes through on the record: any time it gets a little dark, there's still a little sense of a hope in the sound.
Exactly. There's a good balance, and I think that's what makes this a great record. Obviously, there's an audience that you’re trying to tend to with the angsty sound but there's also that uplifting spirit that's encouraging, too. And just talking about the record itself, I guess one of the biggest things I'm always curious about is the writing process. From another interview, you guys spoke about the "incubation process" behind Lovely, Little, Lonely, can you tell us a little more about that?
Generally, John [O'Callaghan], our singer, does most of the writing on just an acoustic guitar and recording a note in a song. This time, he really took a bunch more time to actually map out how things were going to sound as he was doing the writing. So this was the first time we had a demo idea for the album that actually sounded like a completed song. So I think that really caused us to have a better beginning point to go off of. As opposed to having to guess what he was thinking in his head while he was playing chords on a guitar and singing—you can actually hear it. Like he always says, "The songs begin at one point and then they end in a completely different way." But I feel like by doing the writing like that, I think it allowed us to take things to just a different place than we ever have. Which is why there's a song on the record that's a minute and a half long. There are some things we did that we wouldn't have done if we hadn't gone about it in this way.
I think those little intermissions play into making Lovely, Little, Lonely more cohesive. It brings your sound together as a unit and I think that was a really smart move, especially for your sixth album.
Yeah, it's one of those things that's like, "How many times can you just make a 10 or 12-song record?"—which is just catchy songs throughout the whole thing. So I think we learned a lot about what we enjoy in other records and in our records, and we took that and just forgot what we did before, and forgot what the rules are for making a record and just did something that was completely different for us.
Going more into the record, were there any hidden gems behind some of the songs, maybe those that meant more than others? I mean, they're all equally importantly, obviously, but were there songs that get you especially excited to perform for your fans?
"Black Butterflies." That song was the hardest to make and probably the hardest song that we ever had to make. It took so many different forms and it just didn't ever feel right until we hit on it, which is what you'll hear on the album. I think that song could really set the tone for where we could go next just because of how much work it took and how happy we were with the result. In the past, any songs that felt like a challenge, you kind of don't enjoy as much as the ones that come quick and feels like just a rush of inspiration. This one, we just knew there was something about it that was special, so we just kept working at it. I think it kind of led us to hit on something that I think is the most important song on the record.
Thank you for giving us a chance to speak and listen to your new record. Is there anything else you'd like to add for our readers over at PopCrush?
Give the record a shot if you have the time, and listen to it as a whole. I think that's the best way to experience it.
April 8 — San Diego, CA — House of Blues
April 9 — Anaheim, CA — House of Blues
April 11 — Tucson, AZ — 191 Toole
April 13 — Dallas, TX — Gas Monkey Bar N Grill
April 14 — Austin, TX — Emo's
April 15 — Houston, TX — Warehouse Live
April 18 — St. Petersburg, FL — State Theatre