UTG INTERVIEW: The Maine Expose Their Skeletons By Breaking Away From Major Label

The Maine

On June 4, The Maine released their fourth full-length album entitled Forever Halloween. Already receiving quite a response from fans and landing on the Billboard charts, the back-to-basics album will start a new chapter in the band’s career. Produced through traditional means of recording by The Raconteurs’ Brendan Benson, the raw nature of the record is purveyed only better through live performance.

The band is currently on tour in support of the release, taking along A Rocket To The Moon (on their final tour ever), This Century, and Brighten on “The 8123 Tour.”

Luckily, Under The Gun Review was able to catch up with The Maine’s bassist Garrett Nickelson before they performed to a sold-out house in New York City’s Irving Plaza.

Below the jump you can read about the symbolism of the skeleton motif, recording live onto tape and the even band’s tour bus catching on fire.

Forever Halloween just came out. How has the response been so far?

Pretty fucking awesome, man. We’re halfway through this tour and each show, we’re playing four songs, and the kids are louder each time. It’s great.

Why did you guys go with the whole skeleton theme? Was there a reason behind it all?

It’s not supposed to be spooky or anything like that. The whole skeleton thing I think is representing how we did the record and the feeling behind it, kind of skin and bones. Bare-bone kind of thing where it’s super-raw. The album title was something that John was throwing around for a while. We’ve kind-of worn masks in a certain way on different records and what-not. It’s kind of representing that where everyday you’re choosing who you want to be, I guess that Halloween aspect is the mask you’re wearing.

How did it feel to land on the Billboard charts?

Awesome. It’s one of those things that you don’t really expect, especially since we put it out independently, it’s a big thing for us. It’s really awesome we’re really excited.

Why did you guys decide to record through tape rather than using the new age of recording technology?

It was actually all Brendan Benson’s (The Raconteurs) idea, that’s how he does his records. He told us it’s kind of “the only way to do it.” We were a little nervous, but since we’ve done it it’s changed how we look on music. I think it’s something that we’re gonna keep doing. That was all him, but it was awesome.

Was the recording process completely different than the past?

Completely. 180 different. When you’re doing it digital everyone is separate. We also did it live too, which was the biggest thing that was different. It was all five of us playing at the same time. It was definitely way different. Digital you’re separate and you can go edit a million times and you can go and fix the simplest thing. Analog you all have to do it together in one chunk and get it right. I think it made us better musicians. It was cool.

Your new record seems to have a rawer, grittier sound. Were you guys going for that?

I think the raw thing came from the way we recorded. Music-wise I think it was just the next step for us, we weren’t trying to do anything. We weren’t trying to make a more raw or rough sounding record, it’s kind of just what came out. But there are similarities to things we were doing on Pioneer (2011), it’s way different than Can’t Stop Won’t Stop (2008), but each record has been a progression.

Tonight is a sold-out show in New York City. Do you guys still get jitters?

Yeah, man, especially somewhere like here. Our manager always comes out, we always have a lot of friends here, booking agents and stuff. To have it sold-out makes it feel good. It’s just one of those things that, you’re not nervous, but you’re really excited to play.

You guys recently had a tour bus mishap in Chicago. How is the bus doing after the fire?

Eh, it’s alright. I think it’s the most ridiculous thing to ever happen to us on tour. It was so fucked up. I was the one that put the fire out, and it was my bunk. It was a lot of my stuff that got burnt. Well, Pat was sleeping and I walked on the bus and it smelt really weird and I was like, “this isn’t right.” So I woke him up, and I was like, “Fuck, man, this smells really- we need to get off here.” Then we checked all the bunks and mine happened to be the one that had smoke coming out of it. So we put it out, the fire department came, and it was a whole thing.

Have you had any technical difficulties since then?

No, our bus driver is fucking awesome. He stayed up all night, it was a short of a wire, it was an electrical fire that just happened to randomly happen. He spent the whole night finding it and cleaning the bus, it was like we didn’t really know besides having one less bunk, it was like we couldn’t even tell.

Can you tell me about the upcoming tour with Anberlin? Have you played with them before?

We did Soundwave with them. But you know, theres a bunch of bands on that. We didn’t really get to ever hang out with them. We never really hung out with them but I know they’re awesome guys, and I know a few of the guys have been huge fans for a while.

That’s in Europe right?

Yeah, and we go to Australia with them too.

Why did you guys decide to start independently releasing music? Did you dislike being with a major label?

It just kinda happened. You know when someone is saying a bunch of things like, “Oh, we’re gonna push you guys so hard,” you know the record label story. It’s kinda like you get to that point and they just don’t care. It was just kinda like, “Well, fuck you. We don’t want anything to do with you. If you’re not gonna help us we’re gonna do it ourselves.”

It was a whole thing like that, but, you know, we’re a lot happier. We’ve never been a band that is dependent on the label anyway, so even when they were fucking up we were still doing our thing and pushing ourselves, if they weren’t making music videos we were making music videos, paying for a record, they weren’t paying so we paid ourselves. A lot of bands I feel are so dependent on labels, it’s a lot easier to just do it yourself, especially now.

In a press release it said that “These Four Words” was the “most revealing” song that you’d ever written. Can you elaborate on that?

I think that’s probably pretty true. From knowing what was going on with John and the situation he was in, he flat out told what was going on, I don’t think he’s ever really done that before on any of his songs to that extent. I think if you listen to the lyrics you can really tell what he was thinking. I agree.

I feel like The Maine always has a road photographer. Can you tell us about the book you guys put out?

The main person we have out is Dirk Mai, he’s actually kind of the only guy we’ve had out, we’ve actually put out two books with his photography. We put out one a few months ago that’s like 500 pages. It’s since Warped Tour ’09 until a few months ago. It’s fucking huge. He’s still coming out and he does videos and all sorts of stuff for us.

I know playing in New York always means a lot of press. I saw you guys talking to MTV Radio on your Facebook today. Has your schedule been crazy?

We’ve had a few interviews. It’s been pretty busy, like I said we have friends out here so theres been a lot of hanging out. We had a day off yesterday so that helped, too. It’s been a busy day, but it’s nice; better than sitting on the bus bored.

How is the local music scene in Arizona? What was it like to develop a band there?

It’s changed a lot, especially since we’ve started. It’s had different chunks — a few years before we started it was a really big scream scene; bands like Blessthefall, Greeley Estates. There was a really strong fan-base and a lot of people going to shows. About the time we started I feel like it died a little bit, but now, I just moved downtown, and I think it’s coming up again. A lot of cool bands are coming out of there, some cool venues are opening up, I think it’s had a rebirth in a way.

Is there anything special about the 8123 tour?

I think it’s a cool tour for us because all the bands we grew up with, we all started at the same time — it’s like a big family kind of thing. On the tour I feel like you can feel the love for each other, how much we enjoy being on tour together. Maybe we’ll do some covers or something, there’s always something that could happen.

What have you guys not done yet as a band that you would like to?

There are a lot of places we’d like to go. Traveling different places. Somehow we haven’t been to Japan — we’ve been talking about that a lot lately. We’ll go anywhere that we haven’t been. We’ve been talking about trying to make a studio just so we can record whenever the fuck we want. Who knows if that would happen, but that’s a next goal for us.

What can we expect to see from The Maine in the future?

Tour, tour, tour and more music. Recycling it, keep on doing it, hopefully not breaking up!

Written and conducted by: Derek Scancarelli
To see more photos from the show, visit D. SKANK PHOTOGRAPHY.

Derek Scancarelli

Derek Scancarelli is a feature writer, interviewer, videographer, photographer, radio-er and more. In 2015, he received his MA in Journalism in New York City. In addition to Under The Gun Review, Derek has worked with Noisey (VICE), Alternative Press, New Noise Magazine and many more. He also pushes some buttons at SiriusXM.

Comedian Jim Norton once called him a serial killer on national radio. Enjoy the internet with him on Twitter.
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