Interview: The Maccabees

Rob GarrattBrighton-based indie quartet The Maccabees are going to outlive the 1980's revivalist trend, are thrilled to be playing the UEA and are definitely still atheists, or so guitarist Felix White tells ROB GARRATT.Further listening: The MaccabeesRob Garratt

Brighton-based indie quartet The Maccabees are going to outlive the 1980's revivalist trend, are thrilled to be playing the UEA and are definitely still atheists, or so guitarist Felix White tells ROB GARRATT.

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The Maccabees emerged from South London to national attention in 2005 before releasing their lolly-pop debut Colour In It two-years later.

Now relocated to Brighton, the five-piece follow up Wall of Arms, released this May, was a darker, more mature work. The darkness was foreshadowed when drummer Robert Dylan Thomas was admitted to rehab in 2008.

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But 2009 has been good to Biblically-named Maccabees, who have just completed 'career-defining' sets at Leads and Reading and are embarking on their biggest tour ever.

t This is your third tour this year?

It feels like we've been on tour the whole year. You make a record and then you tour it. We're going round Europe and the world a bit more this time. I think the first time you just go round England and you end up doing Nottingham four times a month - we've done that ground work in England now, but we're really looking forward to coming back.

t The album represented a change of direction - was that something you sat down and talked about or did it just happen?

I'd be playing it safe if I said we didn't sit down and talk - we did say it's going to be a proper record, we wanted to separated ourselves from being a jingly, jangly guitar band.

t So it was a reaction against the first album?

We were a bit restless of the songs on it, we realised we could do better. The second is a change fro the first but it still sounds like us. It's a definitive progression - we're 24 and we're still learning, it wouldn't be worth trying if we ran out of ideas.

t And how did the striking cover image come about?

We were keen to make a record cover that was comparative with the kind of thing you would find on a Talking Heads or Kraftwerk record, one a proper art-rock band would make. Orlando [Weeks, lead singer] brought in a picture by Boo Ritson and said 'this is perfect' and we all just said yes. After she heard the music she said she'd been looking for a musical home for her art work.

t There is a more cohesive feel to the whole album package this time.

We wanted everything we want to say in one aesthetic product. We started off writing songs to play to mates in clubs that ended up being on the album.

t All the tracks on the album are more-or-less bang on three minutes - was that a plan or chance?

I've no idea why all the songs last three minutes.

t What was it likes working with Bjork and Coldplay producer Markus Draves?

He's wonderful. We were really excited about these songs but he did add an extra dimension, put it in a different world. You get close to people when you work together for three or four weeks consecutively. It's a proper great experience

t In the title track you sing 'There's no god above me' - was this a deliberate rebuttal to everyone who thought you were a Christian band because of the name?

The name was completely accidental, we just decided were going to be called The Maccabees. It's just sheer chance that lyric, but we are all atheists. It's a nice way of accidently making sure people don't think we're a religious group.

t Let's talk about drummer's - are we ever likely to see Robert again?

It's very difficult to say. It's been beneficial for everybody for him to sort his head out. Sam Doyle is a good friend of ours who we knew from before.

t You've been associated with the wave of 80s-revialists, how will the band evolve to outgrow that?

I'm not particularly bothered by any of that. I don't think our record sounded particularly 1980s. There's a trend at the moment for bands putting synth over all their records - that's not particularly exciting. I'm not into it. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have done it well, but we never intended to be bracketed in that. There's only a few bands from the 80s that we listen to.

t There will be bands who either sink or swim from that trend, what will The Macabees do to stay afloat?

You never know which direction we're going in, you never feel safe. You don't know how long you're going to exist for. It's nice that we've kind of grown out of nothing. People have stuck with us and some people see things that attract them to us. We're trying to do things in the right way, the honest way. I hope we're a band who survive, keep making good records and keep going.

t Are you looking forward to playing Norwich?

We've had some great gigs at a little church community place - Norwich Arts Centre that's right - that's fantastic, and we played the Waterfront there. We can always rely on people in Norwich to make great shows. When we were on our first package tour we played the UEA with other bands and I remember us saying 'wouldn't it be amazing to headline here?' - this is a real landmark to being this. We thought if we could headline here, we could do anything.

t The Maccabees play UEA on October 2.

Further listening: The Maccabees