An Interview with Maybeshewill: “Originality Counts For a Lot”

Maybe you know Maybshewill, maybe you don’t. Put you definitely will once you’ve had a sit down and treated yourself to a listen of 2014’s impeccable Fair Youth, a real sign of progression from the Leicester quintet. I promise that play on maybes will be the last you’ll see in this article.

No matter what device I’ve been using, whether it’s a chunky original iPod or a smartphone, and despite the number of terrible media players I’ve had to put up with over the years (looking at you, Winamp), I have always had a Maybshewill album in my library. From their already classic first release Not For Want of Trying through to their 2011 effort I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone, the post-rock demigods are always welcome. If you’re yet to experience them, get yourself to Spotify, invest in a pair of headphones and just shut yourself off with some beautiful noise.

To my delight, I found my invitation for an interview with the band accepted as I talked to founding member Robin to discuss piracy, long absences and a feathered Arabella.

Maybeshewill audience
Image via Mathematical Musicians on Flickr

Hi guys, how are you?
Hello! A little chilly, but good thanks.

I’ve just finished my first listen of last year’s Fair Youth and I have to say I’m impressed. What kind of ethos did you approach the album with?
Thank you. We wanted to make a record that was more outwardly positive and dreamy than a lot of our earlier material, in part inspired by the long periods of travelling we did over the last few years of touring the previous record, and the weird mental states of abstraction that come as a result of that. Lots of parts were written for brass, strings and other acoustic instruments that none of us can play, for which we enlisted the help of several very talented friends of ours. The general idea was to expand on the sonic palette of the standard guitar/bass/drums setup and create something with a larger ensemble of players and sounds, but with a continued emphasis on the programmed elements of our music. So, it’s simultaneously a more organic and more electronic record than anything we’ve done before.

There’s definitely a sense of you holding back on the guitars more. Is this something you made a conscious decision to do?
Yeah, to an extent. It really came from a growing feeling of disinterest with ‘heavy’ guitar music – after three albums of utilising distorted power chords pretty heavily it felt more like a crutch than anything original or creative. So we set ourselves a challenge to try to work the guitars into the songs in other ways, with the aid of some studio trickery. A lot of the guitars on the record aren’t played conventionally, they’re chopped, looped or pitch-shifted to create extra textural layers in the mix. There’s also a much wider range of tones than we’ve had in the past – we spent a long time in the studio creating interesting sounds from a pooled collection of guitars, amps and effects pedals.

Now that you’ve had time to reflect on it, how do you feel about the leak? Has it enhanced the reputation of the album or possibly damaged it?
We were fully prepared for it to happen – it’s been the case with every one of our albums so far, so we’ve become (begrudgingly) accustomed to it. What was so frustrating this time was that, for some unknown reason, whoever leaked it decided to mislabel and re-order the tracks so that the flow of the record was totally disrupted and made absolutely no sense. Given that we’d spent ages getting the order and pace just right, this was massively frustrating for us. A handful of online reviews were even written from the leaked copy, which is a totally unfair representation of the record, and it continues to annoy me that the mislabelled tracks are still floating around on the internet despite our best efforts to police them.

Where do you think post-rock sits in the finely-balanced music industry at the minute?
I think the majority of bands who could be grouped under that banner generally operate outside of the mainstream music industry, although some of the sonic trademarks of the genre have seeped into the music of bigger artists who do. There are still thriving localised scenes for ‘post-‘ bands though, and the popularity of festivals like ArcTanGent in Bristol and Strange Forms in Leeds is testament to that. Post-rock seems to have been embraced somewhat by the movie industry – there is a continuing trend over the last few years of using dynamic/climactic instrumental bands to soundtrack trailers and key scenes in films, and I think this is an area that many musicians are looking towards to gain new listeners.

If you had to trade it all in tomorrow, what would you be doing instead?
We’re all really passionate about music, to the extent that most members of the band already work in the sector in various capacities – be it recording, engineering, booking or tour managing bands. So I think that if the band folded tomorrow then we’d probably still have a hand in the workings of the industry in one form or another.

Photo by David Wilson Clarke
Photo by David Wilson Clarke

You’ve worked with plenty of different labels in your relatively young careers. Is it something to be expected when you start a band?
Not really. When we first started we had no expectations about signing a record deal or anything, we just wrote some music in our bedrooms and put the resulting mp3s online. Then when we started playing live we burned CD-R copies of our first EP with some handmade artwork and sold it at local shows. I think we put the ‘Robot Needs Home’ name on it just to give it a bit of kudos or something, ha, but there weren’t any plans to run it as a label at that point. We were then approached by Tim Waterfield and his label Field Records to contribute a track to a series of split 7″s he was doing and he ended up putting out the first two albums. Each label we’ve subsequently worked with has been able to offer us a little more assistance with regards to getting our music out to new audiences, so it’s always just been a logical step from one to the next.

Are there any ideas for a follow-up album? You going to make us wait for another three years?
Ha, it’s not something we’ve really considered yet. Although we’re taking some time off at the moment we’re still concentrating on the touring cycle for this album for the time being. There are plans for later in the year to hit some territories that we weren’t able to get to in 2014, so we’re just going to see how that goes first.

If you had to give any advice to a band who are just starting out, what would you say?
First and foremost, write some good music. Seriously. There are too many bands out there who have, to coin a long-standing Maybeshewill phrase, “all the gear, but no idea”. Originality counts for a lot. After that, learning about recording/production, designing artwork, creating a social media presence, etc. – there are plenty of resources freely available online for these things. If you’re going to play live, practice until you know your songs inside out and you’re totally confident in your performance. Put on your own shows if needs be and speak to bands in other towns to arrange show swaps. Rather than waiting for labels or management companies to come along and do things for you, you can get surprisingly far by undertaking these duties yourself. Good luck!

And finally, if you had a pet vulture that was particularly cultured, what would you name it?
If she was a band pet I suppose we’d have to call her Arabella, really.

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