“The reaction we get in the UK is really empowering” An Interview with John O’Callaghan, The Maine

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The Maine, a band from Tempe, Arizona. A band you probably haven’t heard of. A band I urge you to get involved with and listen to. I had a chat with the extremely charismatic frontman John O’Callaghan before their show at the Camden Electric Ballroom back in September. He seemed to have all the time in the world for my questions as we squeezed into a box sized room for the interview.

Briefly describe how you guys started out as a band.

Pat and Garrett had been in bands before and everybody had kind of messed around with the local music scene, I wasn’t in a band but I was a huge supporter of my friends. Pat and Garet kind of disintergrated and I opted to try out for them and played a couple songs and they ended up liking it. We went out on the road for that first summer and that’s when Jared and Kennedy joined.

How do you feel you have progressed as a band over the years? 

I’m not really sure to be honest, I’d like to think it’s just a natural evolution. Nothing that we do, especially now adays, is forced. The real progression is an internal one, our passion for music has grown really strong and the songs are in the foreground and that’s the only thing that matters at this point. If you’ve followed us, if anyone has, they would understand that everything around the music has remained the same. We put out things all the time, we’re really interactive with people that follow us. I think that’s the way that we’ll continue to do things and not change too much, if you start veering and thinking that you can do whatever, whenever, that’s when you make mistakes and slip up. 

Moving on to the tour, how has it been so far?

It’s been really incredible. It’s been a lot of fun. We started out in Italy and Spain and we hadn’t seen them before so it was really awesome to be able to at least show up and have more than 20 kids be there. Then we went to France, Germany and Holland and then came here so we’ve been busy. The reaction we’ve been recieving here in the UK has been really really awesome, it’s all very empowering stuff. It definitly makes me look forward to the future and look forward to writing more songs.

Speaking about the UK crowds, how do you feel they differ from the ones in the US?

I think some cities are more passionate with more energy, some are more reserved. But I really think the only difference is just culture by culture, the love for music is a worldy thing.

What is your favourite thing about touring in the UK? Or the favourite thing about the UK in general?

I dunno, that’s a good question! I think it’s always an adventure, it’s always something different. Just because it’s so radically different from where we’re from, not just the people, but the weather. It’s a good break, a wlecomed thing. But it’s gonna be good to go back home, we start another tour and that will be the last ‘hoorah!’, the last run through the Pioneer cycle. I can’t really pinpoint anything, I really like the English breakfast! I’m a huge fan of breakfast. So that’ll be my favourite thing for now.

Do you have a favourite place to tour in the world?

I don’t know. I really like Australia, it was really cool there. But again, that’s a good question. We’ve been so many places, I guess nowhere really is head and shoulders above the rest, I really am a huge fan of history and architecture so being over here is awesome for that stuff. Being from Arizona, we’ve only been a state for a hundred years so there’s a vast difference between that and over here. But then again, I like being at home, I like touring there so I have no bias, I like it all.

You’ve toured with a lot of bands over the years, I saw you with All Time Low back in February, you were amazing. Do you have a favourite band to tour with?

Ah thanks! We have made a lot of good friends, I don’t think there’s a favourite band to tour with, I’d like to think we could get to a point when we can play with whoever and it doesnt matter. We’ve been doing a  lot of not so normal tours in the states, we’ve been touring with a bunch of different bands, like the Arkells [the support act], they’re from Canada. 

How do you choose your support bands? Is that your choice?

Yeah, when we go on a headlining run, we choose. The way we’ve been running it, it’s kind of silly to bring somebody out if you don’t like their music, we’ve got to be fans. And two, it’s good to expand and tour with other different sounds and different types of music, at least different types of bands. We don’t have a favourite but we’ve made so many good friends that it’s hard to pick one. 

You’ve recently released a deluxe version of your Pioneer album [Pioneer and The Good Love]? What made you decide to release it again with all the extra tracks on it? It’s like two albums in a sense because you get so many new tracks. 

Over here we decided to do it because we didn’t get a chance to properly release it the first time. In December when we released it we had been doing it on our own, so we didn’t have the money to be able to press a bunch of copies because there is a whole other aspect of things. People think that if you’re just making an album you can get it printed and people will sell it in their stores, it’s not that way. You gotta be able to prove that people are going to enjoy it and are gonna want to buy it. We didn’t want to call it a a deluxe edition because we’ve seen it done in the past and it’s a ploy that, in my opinion, record labels use to make more money. We had so many songs recorded that we figured we don’t want to use them in the future because who knows what we’re gonna write in the next couple of months but they were already in the bag so we figured we might as well release it. 

How has Pioneer and The Good Love been recieved?

To be honest I dont really know! It’s so hard, when I come over here I dont give a shit about anything, I turn my devices off, relatively disconnected from everything and it feels really good. Really just trying to be in the moment over here so I don’t know! 

How do you choose your set list for shows?

Well we’ve been running things relatively the same on this whole, what we dub, The Pioneer World Tour, we wanted to deliver the same experience all over. In the future, when we go back home, we are essentially creating a master list of songs and then each night depending on how we feel we’re gonna just pick from that list. We’ve found out over the past couple of years that a lot of people will go to more than one show, over here it’s kind of unfortunate because you get kids that have gone to lots of shows so they hear the same songs every night. But that’s a goal of ours we’d like to add things to old songs and play a huge array of material. 

Do you have any crowd favourites?

Being on record labels the focus goes on one single. For this album we really tried to make it a point to spread the attention all over the board.

Yeah, I have multiple favourite tracks on that album, it’s not just the one. 

That’s awesome! We were just proud of the whole thing as an entity. What’s really awesome to see is that people sing along to a lot of the new stuff. But obviously, ‘Into Your Arms’ people like that one.

Can you briefly describe the writing process behind Pioneer? What were your inspirations at the time? 

I always have stuff before that I bring it to the table. And then when we come together that’s when we really write them. But we had about three or four weeks at a farm in Arizona where we could just write and not think about anything else, it was pretty far away from civilisation so it was a good way to clear your mind. Inspiration I guess comes from all over, but there was something cool and very vibey about where we were and I think all that provided a good platform for the healthy work environment. We wrote so many songs that in my opinion are all over the board, like all over the spectrum of whatever I think about, so I’m gonna try in the near future to focus in a little bit more and divulge a little bit more of myself than what I have done in the past, so we’ll see how that works. 

Finally, what are your plans for the future?

Future plans… I guess we don’t like the plan too far ahead. Just how volatile and fragile everything is. What’s set in stone is that we’re going back on tour in the states for 6 weeks, it ends at the end of November, and then December 1st we’re going to get back in a room together and write and hopefully by January be in a studio and recording. I mean , that’s the plan but you know, plans change, there’s a lot of uncertainty because we’re not signed. We like to hope that we can keep continuing to run it that way and make albums on our own that we wanna make.

The Maine’s latest album Pioneer and The Good Love is out now.

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I’m Megan Downing, an English Literature graduate from University of Southampton. I am the Music, Arts and Culture Editor for The National Student. I am the Membership and Communications Officer for the Student Publication Association, I write about music for 7BitArcade, and contribute regularly to The Culture Trip. I have a passion for live music and this is where I began in student journalism. Reviewing a gig or festival is still where my heart lies four years on. I will be starting at MTV as a News Intern in June 2015. One thing you should know about me is that I have an unhealthy obsession with Kevin Spacey.

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