After a two year absence, The Maccabees have returned to woo the nation with their new studio effort. It shouldn't prove difficult; Given To The Wild is an absolute gem of an album, full to the brim with lush melodies hewn from tumbling guitars, soaring vocals and shimmering synth-textures.
We cornered guitarist Felix White to tell us all about the new record and the band's plans for the next twelve months; see what he had to say below!
Congratulations on Given To The Wild – it’s great! For the benefit of those yet to hear it, can you explain what they can expect from it sonically and what your key musical influences were this time round?
Thank you very much. Sonically, it’s by far the furthest we’ve gone on a record. We had a lot more control over the production of this record and that helped bring out more of the eccentricities and character in the sound that we hadn’t been able to previously. In terms of influences, there are so many between us and we don’t tend to share a common influence so it would be misleading to name one.
Can you tell us about the writing and recording process for the album please?
In total, it took two years to write the record. We wanted to write in a different way to how we’d done it before and we’d all learnt more about recording music, so we spent the first few months away from the rehearsal room, forming more fully-realised ideas individually and in pairs. They were effectively being produced as they were being written so the process all seems to have blurred into one. The actual recording was happening until the last day of mixing, so it was pretty full-on throughout the two years of writing.
Lyrically, would you say there’s a cohesive theme tying the tracks together? And what was the inspiration behind the title?
Yeah, there does feel like there’s a consistent theme running through the record, though I can’t say whether that’s intentional. The title was one of the early ideas that only felt right once the record had been finished. It was the first lyric on the album and, with perspective, it felt like the best way to sum up the record; it documents a shift and has a certain mystery to it.
Given To The Wild was produced by DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy. What attracted you to work with him and what do you think he brought to the album, sonically?
We liked the idea of working with Tim because he was from a different world of music to us and we hoped he would be able to help realise some ideas that we weren’t 100% confident we knew how to achieve. He had a lot of toys and that was probably his biggest influence on the sound of the record. Though, having edited all of the tracks and kept a lot of the demo sounds we preferred, we still feel we can claim ownership of the album.
If you had to pick out the key track on the album for you, which would it be and why?
It changes quite a lot as we feel close to a lot of these songs. The album closer, "Grew Up At Midnight", is probably an important one because the album really needed a fitting finale to make it feel properly rounded as a listening experience in its entirety. And that last minute of the song couldn’t have worked anywhere else but as the last moment on the album.
Sonically, there was a big progression from your first to your second record, and on Given To The Wild there’s been a shift again. Is it just a case of your sound evolving naturally over time or do you purposely set out to challenge yourselves with each release? And how important is innovation in music to you generally?
I think it’s just a case of learning more and trying to stay imaginative. It’s important to us that we keep doing new things; whether they’re innovative to music as a whole is another thing. Some bands find a sound and do it very well but, for as long as The Maccabees are making music, we won’t allow ourselves to make the same album twice.
Three albums into your career, has writing music become easier or more difficult? And how do you feel you’re maturing as songwriters?
Everyone has gained much more individual confidence and, given the fact we’ve always worked as democratically as possible, that’s meant the arguments have become more impassioned as everyone has stronger opinions. But that’s meant when things do work for everyone, there must be something in it.
So, apart from your album, whose should we be looking out for in 2012? And what was your favourite album of 2011?
Having been out of the public eye for a fair while, what are you most and least looking forward to about returning to the spotlight?!
I’m looking forward to playing shows again; having just done a few, I realised how much I’d missed it. I’m least looking forward to waking up in car parks for three months in buses with no air-conditioning, stinking. But having been away from touring for so long, even that sounds romantic!
Finally, what’s been the highlight of your career so far, and what are your hopes professionally for 2012?
I hope the highlights are to come this year! Hand on heart, I just really hope we can enjoy being in The Maccabees this year and appreciate still being our own bosses!