Formed in Tempe, Arizona in 2007, The Maine, with John O’Callaghan on vocals, Kennedy Brock on rhythm guitar, Jared Monaco on lead guitar, Patrick Kirch on drums and Garrett Nickelsen on bass, were quickly signed to Fearless Records that same year. A few months later, they released their first full-length, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, in the summer of 2008.
In 2009, The Maine was signed to Warner Music and they embarked on that summer’s Warped Tour, which, until recently, was the last time they played a show in Montreal. In those two years, they released their first major debut, Black & White, in the summer of 2010, followed by their first headlining tour.
When the band’s co-headlining tour with Augustana stopped in Montreal last May, I had a chance to sit down and chat with Pat and Garrett about their latest album, today’s music industry and the crazy adventure they’ve been on these past few years.
CONFRONT: So you’re back in Montreal for the first time in 2 years? How does it feel to be back?
PAT: Feels good!
GARRETT: I think the show’s close to selling out.
PAT: We weren’t really sure what to expect because we hadn’t been here in so long.
GARRETT: Yeah but it’s definitely good to be back, people are coming!
CONFRONT: Yeah you have fans here. There’s already a long lineup outside! And so much has happened since then too! Last time, you had just signed to Warner so how has the two past years been treating you?
PAT: It’s been a crazy roller coaster.
GARRETT: It’s pretty nuts! We have a new record, we made a short film, a book…
PAT: We did our first ever headlining tour which was awesome, we’ve been around the entire world. We’ve really grown a lot as a band.
CONFRONT: And when you look back on it, what’s been the most amazing thing?
PAT: I just think everything. I think just the fact that we were able to put out a second album.
GARRETT: I think that [the fact that] we’re still a band is pretty cool.
PAT: And I think it’s cool that we’ve been able to progress as a band and our fans still come see us play. It’s pretty cool because I think that’s a hard thing for a lot of bands. I would say that our album sounds a lot different from the first one. And the fact that everyone, at least they still pretend like they like the songs.
CONFRONT: I think you guys have a very strong fanbase.
CONFRONT: And like you said, you have grown a lot as a band, what have been the biggest changes in yourself and in the band?
PAT: I think we have more experience with what we’re doing now.
GARRETT: I think we’re all comfortable with it now, which maybe wasn’t the case a few years ago when we first started touring and we first started doing things. I think everyone was not sure how long it was going to last, not that we do now but it was definitely a different state of mind back then. I think we’re a little more comfortable now and we’re not afraid to do things…
PAT: How we actually want to do them.
CONFRONT: And do you ever look back and think: “wow, what have I gotten myself into?”
PAT: No. *laugh* I think we look back and think we’re extremely lucky. I think all the hard work that we did, it’s actually finally paying off, which is cool. And I think we all understand that this is just beginning; this is the start for us.
CONFRONT: And did you ever think you’d make it this far?
PAT: No. *laugh*
GARRETT: We always hoped for it!
PAT: We always hoped for it and I think at the back of our minds, we always knew we were going to do whatever it takes to get to where we are now. But I don’t know if we really thought it would actually happen.
CONFRONT: You gotta be a little optimistic right? And you guys recently came back from Europe recently right?
CONFRONT: That must’ve been crazy!
PAT: It was wild!
GARRETT: It was insane.
CONFRONT: And are the fans any different in the different parts of the world?
PAT: I think they understand that we don’t come as often and they don’t get as many bands, you know? So they’re just really grateful that you’re there.
GARRETT: But it is weird to see the similarities too. You go to the Philippines or Indonesia and you’re still…
PAT: You think the whole country is completely different but then our fans are very similar to the ones we have here.
GARRETT: Yeah, it’s funny.
CONFRONT: And now, let’s talk about your latest album a little? How would you describe the sound evolution from “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop”?
PAT: I just think it was kind of a natural progression for us.
GARRETT: I definitely think it was where we all saw it going, but maybe not everyone else? But they hopefully thought it was decent!
PAT: I just think we’re a lot happier with it now. Even now, at this point, it’s been out for a year and I think it’s cool that I still enjoy playing the songs.
CONFRONT: And what were some of the influences behind it?
GARRETT: Tom Petty, I think was a huge influence.
PAT: I think that especially on “Black & White”. In that two months that we worked on the record, it was a big influence.
CONFRONT: You guys were listening to it a lot?
GARRETT: Yeah and I think there’s definitely a 90’s kind of feel on some of the songs.
PAT: I think more importantly is we got to sit with the other album we did for over a year and a half. And we took what we still enjoyed about what we did and new things that we’ve been looking at. It’s the best of what we think is the best of the first album and we took it hopefully to the next level.
PAT: Yeah! It’s weird, I don’t know. The new record is definitely going to be a lot different.
GARRETT: But something we didn’t even think would ever be in our songs again, like keyboard on some newer songs.
PAT: It’s weird because it’s way different than anything we’ve done but then there’s things about it that kind of remind me of our first record. But it doesn’t sound like the first record at all. *laugh* I think the most important thing is we’re not going backwards at all. That’s not something we’re interested in doing; recreating what we’ve already done in the past. That’s not what it’s going to be at all.
GARRETT: It’s not really any point to doing that.
PAT: It’s always about going to the next step for our band.
CONFRONT: So you’d rather take old elements and reworking them?
GARRETT: Well you figure out what you like about your band. You had time to sit with it and you realize what works live and…
PAT: And it’s something we’re not even thinking about and it just kind of happens because we already kind of know how to do that, the 5 of us.
CONFRONT: Cool! And you guys have been playing a couple of new songs, how has the response been to those?
PAT: I think it’s been great!
GARRETT: One of them is the first song we play in our set so I think people don’t know what’s going on! *laugh* So I think that one kind of goes over people’s heads but the second one has a kind of groove to it and you can kind of move to it. There’s definitely people dancing.
CONFRONT: Oh that’s nice, so people are enjoying it! And you guys are consistently releasing new music despite lowering music sales, why do you chose to do it that way?
PAT: The reason we’re a band is to make songs, you know? And we want people to hear them.
GARRETT: And selling songs now is almost an impossible thing to do.
PAT: And it’s fine! It’s an awesome thing if people want to buy the album or if they want to buy the deluxe book that comes with it, or they get it off the internet for free. If they like it and they listen to it…
GARRETT: We’re just interested in people hearing it and giving us a response if they like it or not.
CONFRONT: I think that’s a great way to look at things.
GARRETT: It’s kind of how you have to look at things now.
PAT: I just think you can wait and go and record songs every 2 years but for us, it’s fun to be in a recording studio.
GARRETT: Sometimes, I think we feel more comfortable in the studio, just us 5 trying to figure out how to make this thing the perfect thing we can put together. I think that comes pretty easy for us. Sometimes, tours can be kind of “what’s going on?”
CONFRONT: A little hectic?
GARRETT: Yeah! *laugh*
CONFRONT: You mentioned the keepsake book and you guys actually have a lot of creative outlets other than music. Where did the ideas behind those come from?
PAT: Well first off, just wanting to find a way to be creative in some way. And also, we understand that our fans are the only reason that we get to do this. So it’s just trying to think of things that they would be interested in. We’re all fans of bands and of music so I think we kind of try to put ourselves in the perspective of a fan and we kind of do what we would like to see.
GARRETT: Yeah and put things out that [we saw] bands we really like do. Like, “This is why I love this band! So let’s try it out!”
PAT: Those extra things that hopefully people appreciate. What we try to do as a band, all the small details add up to a huge thing.
CONFRONT: Well that’s cool because I really think a lot of fans appreciated “This Is Real Life” [a book with journal entries and photos from the band’s Warped Tour run in 2009] because it was an actual look into your lives. Are you planning on doing any more things like that in the future?
PAT: I think it would just have to be the right time for it and we’re not just going to put out another book just to put out another book. It would be if we felt like we needed to get that out. I think at the end of the day, it’s about telling our story. There’s always going to be a new story, we just need to figure out a new way to tell it.
CONFRONT: Well you kind of tell it with your video blogs too. And actually, you guys are very connected to your fans that way with vlogs and Q&As.
PAT: Yeah I think a lot of people think they’re way too cool to be on the internet but it’s what we live now.
GARRETT: Might as well take advantage of it.
CONFRONT: And what do you think of the internet’s impact on the music industry as a whole?
PAT: I think you can reach more people.
GARRETT: It made things a little bit easier for bands like us to get labels to notice us right away or fans across the country to hear about us when 10 years ago, you had to tour that spot a bunch of times for people to keep coming back. And now, you can go somewhere for the first time and bring 100 people or something, that was unheard of a long time ago!
CONFRONT: But then again, now, anybody can start a band so isn’t that adding so much more competition?
GARRETT: Yeah you just have to stand out.
PAT: At the end of the day, all the bull is going to go away at some point, I hope at least! And the people who are doing it for the right reasons will succeed.
GARRETT: There’s always something you’re not going to like that other people do and I think that’s been happening since music’s been made.
PAT: That’s me and a sheep!
GARRETT: Because he likes sleeping!
PAT: Yeah because I like sleeping. And it’s me just because I’m me!
CONFRONT: I see the resemblance with the hair!
GARRETT: It’s the sun because without the sun, there would be no earth. And I’m on the earth.
CONFRONT: That’s a good one, very creative! Thank you!
GARRETT: No problem!
PAT: Enjoy the show!
To learn more about The Maine and stay updated on what’s happening, check out the band’s site : http://wearethemaine.net !