UTG INTERVIEW: The Maine Discuss ‘American Candy,’ Recording In Joshua Tree

the maine

Arizona alt-rock five-piece The Maine recently wrapped up the US leg of their ‘American Candy’ tour with Real Friends, Knuckle Puck, and The Technicolors.

Under The Gun had the pleasure of sitting down with lead singer, John O’Callaghan, and lead guitarist, Jared Monaco, in New York City before their show. Here they discuss the reception of their new record, American Candy, a month after its release, closing up Forever Halloween‘s cycle, the fans’ reaction to the mixed tour lineup, and a lot more. Follow us below to check out our very enjoyable conversation.

UTG: Again, thanks for having me!

John O’Callaghan: Absolutely.

Jared Monaco: Yeah, thank you for having us.

UTG: We kind of touched on this earlier, but on the record, how’s tour going so far?

JO: It’s going really well! On the record.

JM: On the record, it’s going well. Off the record, it’s going great! [laughs]

JO: Everybody is getting along so that’s a good thing. The shows have been great. We’ve been out for…four…weeks? Like eleven more shows or something like that.

JM: Yeah, that sounds about right.

UTG: This is sort of the halfway mark?

JO: A little further than that. I don’t know. Particulars, particulars. [laughs]

JM: Let’s say two thirds.

JO: Everyone’s been really great. Everybody seems to be stoked.

UTG: I was gonna ask about that next. This is definitely a different mix in the bill for you guys. The Technicolors are with 8123, but Real Friends and Knuckle Puck are very, very pop-punk. How’s the crowd been receiving it?

JO: Their crowds are so awesome. Like, crazy! Very nutty.

UTG: Yeah, I bet! Lots of flying, sweaty boys.

JO: Yeah, but the room is eating off of the energy and it’s cool.

JM: And our fans would come up to us sometimes and be like, “It’s really scary!” [laughs] It’s fun, though. We’re getting to play to their fans and they’re getting to play to ours, so it’s been working out.

UTG: The last time you guys were here was…?

JO: Like, late October/November.

JM: It was cool. We’ve never really done something like that where we play shows to wrap up a record cycle like that. It was cool for our own mindset to get into writing mode and transition into the next phase which was writing the new record.

UTG: I actually caught half that show, but I had to run out and cover Gerard Way’s show a few blocks up.

JO: Oh, we heard about that!

UTG: But then as I was walking out you played “We All Roll Along” and I was like, “Welp. Screw Gerard Way! He can wait,” and stayed for that song.

All: [laughs]

JO: That’s so awesome.

UTG: Let’s talk about your new record. Congratulations on American Candy! It’s fantastic. I hope you guys are aware of how well the reception has been. How was it like going back to recording digitally? (Side note: The band’s last record, Forever Halloween, was recorded on tape with The Raconteurs’s Brendan Benson)

JO: I think we took a lot of the stuff from Brendan. More so an attitude and a focused mindset. When he was looking at our songs for FH and critiquing them, I specifically remember him saying to trim the fat.

JM: He’s like, “Guys, this song has two different choruses in it.” Like, we would do that. We would write songs that are five and a half minutes long and if it wasn’t for him, it wouldn’t be as concise. He helped us keep it to the point and get rid of the unnecessary stuff. We retained a lot of that and we had it mapped out well going into the studio this time. And for us, recording digitally, usually you can kind of just figure things out on the spot. We didn’t leave too much up to chance.

JO: The structure and arrangement was all pretty much set in stone, but the spontaneity really came in for guitars and stuff.

UTG: It didn’t take a while.

JM: About four months.

JO: Yeah. A month to actually record. We wrote together for a month and before that I was also writing by myself.

the maine american

UTG: A lot of people noticed how different it was from Forever Halloween. Was there a particular driving force behind the contrast between how FH was a lot “darker” and how much lighter AC is?

JO: I think a lot of it derives from the concern that was being expressed to me. Not only from my constituents, but also from my family. I don’t know. I didn’t think I was in that negative of a headspace before, but maybe I was.

JM: I hung out with him a lot and I didn’t really think he was. It’s sort of a weird thing where there’s a difference between the way you feel, the way you express, and the way you capture that.

JO: Maybe what we really learned is to better present the material. Some of the songs on American Candy are more real than any of the other shits we’ve taken. [laughs] But I think it’s important that we’ve been very vocal from the start that we wanted to make an uplifting record. We wanted to make something better than anything we’ve put out. Felt better. Not better as in, better songs, but we’re continuusly pushing outselves on that front.

JM: And even in a live setting it’s way more fun to do that. Our catalog is huge.

JO: I was just informed that we have 89 songs.

JM: So when you get to that point where you have 90 songs and the first few records are all kind of upbeat and Forever Halloween was maybe not as much so, where it’s more of a journey of songs as opposed to like a destination…

JO: That’s the big difference, too. FH is a roller coaster. A very long process to get from one to twelve. Whereas this one is one to ten and it kind of just flows.

JM: And it was on purpose, too! We were keeping in mind the whole “trim the fat” aspect.

JO: And the fact that we live in 2015 and music is digested tremendously differently.

UTG: Yeah, you need a lot less things for people to keep their attention fixed.

JM: Definitely.

UTG: On to a bit more specific things, American Candy has this recurring theme of the general “sweetness.” Like we have candy and soda and sugar, was that just a coincidence in terms of writing?

JM: “Diet Soda Society” and “American Candy” are pretty similar because in “Soda,” I’m touching on two sides of the brain and I talk about why we’re here and what we’re doing, and then contrasting that with the opposite, which is just “shut up and enjoy it.” I guess that perspective is shared in both, but I don’t think it necessarily coincides with the whole album. I think that just ended up making its way into a bunch of tunes. Sonically, they all marry pretty well with each other.

UTG: Was there a particular reason you decided on that as the title?

JM: We had the title pretty far out. I remember John saying it to us a while back on the bus during tour before we even began writing.

JO: And that’s one of the first times I’ve done that. I told everybody what I wanted to name it early. But I’d already known what kind of record I wanted to make and getting everybody on board with that seemed easier. We could see an end goal even with no material.

JM: It was exciting to hear John say that was where he wanted to go, especially after our last album. It was like, “Where do we go? Am I ready to strap myself into that emotional machine and have it be this raw emotional thing…or are we gonna make something like American Candy where we just wanted to write the best thing possible.” I’m glad it went [the latter] way and it made the process fun.

UTG: “English Girls” was the first track you put out. I thought it was a great move on your part because everyone started buzzing about it. Why’d you guys pick that?

JO: I’ve been saying that it’s the perfect ambassador to the album. It’s the perfect representative to that specific sonic vibe that we were going for. It was executed closest to where we wanted to be and it just made sense that it was what everyone heard first.

UTG: How do you guys feel that a bunch of people compare it to Third Eye Blind?

JM: I think that’s so awesome!

JO: It’s very cool because that’s what we were going for. [laughs]

JM: That’s a band we look up to and I grew up on them. I’ll tell you what, we’ve been compared to much worse.

All: [laugh]

JO: Having chopped up rhythmic guitars, that’s all what 3EB was.

JM: That’s totally an homage to what they’ve done in the past. We weren’t trying to bite anyone’s style, but it definitely creeps in to what we like to hear. It has a groove, too, and we just wanting something with a groove. That band is exceptionally good at that groove.

UTG: They put out a new song today.

JO: It’s out today?!

UTG: Well, tomorrow. It got out on Rdio today.

JM: I haven’t heard it yet.

JO: That’s so exciting.

UTG: What do you guys feel was the most memorable moment recording American Candy?

JO: The house we were in.

JM: The whole vibe was so cool. We were isolated in the desert in Joshua Tree. We were in this beautiful dome house on the side of the mountain. There were coyotes at night time! There were bunnies.

UTG: Was that scary at all? Or is it a common Arizona thing?

JM: It would’ve been scary but we had a balcony that went up the top and nothing could get to it. So we had our own little safe area to look at them.

JO: It was really awesome.

UTG: I saw a couple shots of it and there was a pool!

JM: Yeah! We thought we were gonna do drums inside the big dome, but it sounded pretty bad, so we did it in the room with the pool. It sounded great. For whatever reason, having water in the room made a cool effect.

JO: The character of the place itself is what stood out.

UTG: So I guess we could wrap this up! I like to ask this last because it catches folks off guard. For you individually, if there was anyone in the world, dead or alive/famous or otherwise, that could listen to your record, who would it be and what would you tell them?

JM/JO: Wow. Oh, man. [laughs]

[long pause]

JO: Maybe Renee Descartes… [laughs] The father of modern philosophy.

JM: Okay! Wow! [laughs] That’s a big name.

JO: Just because. I wouldn’t play him our music. I would just want to sit there and hang out. Ask him so many questions.

JM: I was gonna say Michael Jordan but I don’t know why…

JO: He’s a good one.

JM: Just because it would be really interesting. I know he probably wouldn’t like it. It would just be really funny to see and hear his reaction.

JO: He probably would love it.

JM: He might! I don’t know.

JO: I know he would.

JM: We actually wrote the whole album for Michael Jordan.

All: [laugh]

Interview written and conducted by Dana Reandelar
Feature photo by Dirk Mai

American Candy was released on April 7 via their independent label, 81twentythree. You can grab yourself a copy here.

Dana Reandelar

If not hunched over her desk writing about music, Dana can be found binge-watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls or condensing long rants to 140 characters. She also writes for Idobi Radio, and is an Off The Record podcast contributor.
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.