Somewhere in the cramped bowels of TAB, we managed to snag a few precious minutes with three-fifths of The Maine before they exploded on stage to a rabid sold-out crowd of their first ever Singaporean show. We covered a lot of ground, delving deep into the interpretations of Forever Halloween, their entrance to the European Warped Tour and finally getting a chance to pick John O’Callaghan’s brain for a bit, right off his band mates’ mouths. Also, was a stunt double involved in his seemingly athletic leap of a two-storey building? Find out in this exclusive interview below!
What inspired the change in style from the first album to Forever Halloween?
Jared Monaco: I don’t think there was a change... I’m just joking.
Kennedy Brock: I think there were a lot of inspirations. I don’t think we did anything on purpose. I think we just kept listening to new music and absorbing it and so on... Eventually it started to reflect on our writing, so it wasn’t a conscious maneuver and as far as the outfits go, we just changed our clothes.
John isn’t here but do you feel that his voice has dropped (over the years)?
K: I think we just kinda found the right range for him. When we first started writing songs, we were writing all over the board.
J: Plus he’s actually singing now. I mean back in the day, some of the stuff you might hear on those albums were definitely products of manipulation. Especially if you listen to the harmonies, some of that stuff was literally done by a robot, they pitch shift your voice and put in a machine, making it sound like so.
Garrett Nickelsen: I feel like that’s kind of the norm now, so when people hear the actual singer not being fixed, they get confused.
J: It’s lower but it’s real.
Forever Halloweenwas recorded live and put to tape and I think that’s really impressive. A band which immediately comes to mind that recently did the same thing is of course, the Foo Fighters on but not many of your peers have dared to go down that route yet. While this approach definitely kind of honed your raw sound, what were the challenges faced, seeing that while it led to a great album, there were probably certain limitations to this process?
J: There were definitely limitations. Part of it, it’s real!
K: A lot of times in the past, we’d go into the studio and we wouldn’t have things completely figured out yet and we would just kinda craft the song on the spot. We didn’t have that option this time. What we recorded was what it was gonna be. We did overdubs but drums, bass, two guitars and vocals were all recorded at the same time. So there’s not really a lot of room for error but if you do err, it’s kinda cool because you have those subtle nuances and whatnot. It definitely took away the ability to go in and perfect everything, but I think if you look at that as a limitation, you’re looking at it wrong.
The Love & Drugs video just came out so I checked it out and together, what was the song and video meant to portray?
K: For the song, John can really speak more for what the lyrics pertain to. But I think for the video, I don’t think there isn’t really much hidden meaning in it and I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. Jared was noticing that people were looking way too into it and trying to see something that was..
J: I don’t think that’s a bad thing! I just think whatever you take from it, just take from it and like, if you wanna make whatever big influence or music talk about it, go ahead, it’s fun to that. Like, treat it however you want to.
K: Yeah, same with music! It’s the same thing like you always make your own kind of what-you-think-it’s-about and then you picture that in your head. With the video, we laid it out a little more and like, “This is what we were thinking!” but if people wanna make some crazy interpretation, it’s up to you.
J: I think for us it’s more important how our fans think of a song. I mean it’s important for us to have an opinion on it or feel a certain way about it, you know, it wouldn’t get made otherwise. But we really like the fact that our fans connect their own personal meanings to the songs.
You just got off tour with Anberlin and William Beckett. Any embarrassing or memorable stories?
K: It was really awesome; I mean we knew William beforehand but we just met Anberlin so it was really cool getting to meet all those guys.
G: We haven’t hung out with William for five years or something.
K: For me it was really awesome, I got to sing with William on a song, he was asking me to sing some harmonies with him and that was really cool for me.
J: And for us it was just getting to know the Anberlin guys because we’re about to do basically the rest of the year touring with them. It was kinda like breaking the ice and getting to know each other so we didn’t get to that point when things were getting really crazy but the next time we come back we’ll have more stories for you.
What has been the biggest challenge for you or the group?
G: I mean the whole Pioneer record was a beast of its own. It definitely was a challenge but we really got to learn how much we can fight as humans to do what we want and it was a cool experience just for ourselves. Like, down the road of our lives, that’s a cool story to have: we fought a big company and we won, that was a challenge!
J: Getting off a major label is no easy task so…
K: I think figuring out how to record and release the record; and do everything on our own has been a big challenge but it’s been rewarding as well.
The concept of Forever Halloween can be interpreted that people tend to wear masks and hence they conceal themselves or pretend to be someone they’re not. Are you guys simply making a commentary and stating a fact or are you more for being advocators in the sense that you’re telling your listeners hey, you should be true to yourselves? Because sometimes we do alter ourselves unconsciously to adapt to our surroundings.
J: Yeah I mean… Yes, you said it!
G: I think no matter what you do, there’s always going to be some kind of mask you put on, there’s always people that’re influencing you and whatnot and maybe y’know, that’s life.
J: Situational. You have a mask for different situations like you watch a rock band on stage; nobody walks down the street looking like that.
G: Or even sound check, we’re not like rocking out in sound check, we’re goofing off and not playing good and you get on stage and it just clicks.
J: But I think it’s important that you own all those masks and you’re not trying to be something that you’re not. That’s kind of the bottom line. And for our band, finding that it was a challenge in its own: Finding who you are as a band so it’s like a salute to our identity as a band too.
G: But it is nice to try things on every once in a while, you know? Just mess with it a little bit and if it’s not you, you’ll quickly realize it. [LAUGHS]
Do y’all have any songs you’re addicted too right now?
G: Paul McCartney’s record, his whole record, Ram, is awesome! But a song, Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up In Blue - I seem to have to listen to that song every day. It’s so good.
K: I’ve been listening to Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run a lot, that song.
J: I’m listening to a singer-songwriter named Gregory Alan Isokov, he has a song called The Stable Song, it’s really good, I listen to that a lot. That Haim band is really cool. Don’t Save Me I think? It’s a great song. We’re kind of all over the board.
K: That’s a lot of songs.
G: Music’s cool…
What have been your strong influences to continue performing?
J: Especially lately, we’ve had the privilege to be out on the road with some really awesome bands and watching certain bands has given us insights on how we can be become better as a live performing band. We toured with a band called Augustana and they kind of blew us away with their musicianship, so that was kind of a kick in the butt to pull off our set even better live. So I think it’s that drive to always have a better show and give our fans an experience, a unique experience every time.
G: Yeah, the big goal we learnt is not to do the same thing every night like, it’s kind of cheating. I mean for some people like Lady Gaga, people like that, I’m sure it works really well but for us I feel like people can smell if it’s not true and if you’ve said the same thing every night. We try to avoid that as much as possible and keep it fresh. John always says crazy shit.
J: Yes, nothing we can do about that, there’s no stopping that.
The Maine is returning to the Warped Tour this November but in Europe this time. How different do you think this tour will differ from your stints on the American leg and what are you guys most looking forward to about it?
G: Temperature-wise it’s going to be completely different.
K: I think it’s going to be interesting, we’ve been a part of the normal Warped Tour over in the States but I don’t know how it’s gonna go as far as a weekend, festival setup like that.
J: It seems more like a European festival to me. I feel like it’s still gonna be Warped Tour so similar bands but I think the vibe of it is gonna little bit more, kinda like Reading and Leeds. We haven’t been able to really get into the festival circuit over there so for us, it’s kind of a nice foot in the door.
K: Really excited to go to all the places the Warped Tour is stopping at.
G: Like Switzerland?
K: And Austria, we’ve never been to some of these places so it’s really awesome.
What criteria do you have for The Maine to have “made it”?
J: I mean I don’t know if we’ve made it... That’s quite relative.
G: If my 16 year old self was sitting here, then like for sure I feel like we would. We’re in Singapore, we would never even thought that we would be able to do that. As you grow, you make more goals for yourself and you wanna do more and I don’t think there is that criteria.
K: I think being able to still be in a band for us is awesome, that is an achievement in itself and we’re happy to do everything we can to keep that alive.
J: When we started this band I don’t know if any of us thought we would make it outside of Arizona, let alone the country and tour around the world. There’ve been milestones along the way but the international stuff is really what drives it home. The fact that we can go around the world to play shows is really cool.
Fans have also been going on about how you guys now possess a more mature sound but lyrically have you ever worried about seeming too jaded or bitter with the likes of Happy or Birthday in Los Angeles in mind?
K: I don’t think we’re worried about sounding jaded.
J: We’ve always talked about how the goal as a songwriter is to give enough of yourself away but not too much and finding that sweet spot. And that’s all on John, because lyrically we don’t write anything, it’s mainly all John. But what I have noticed is that on this recent album he’s gone inwards with how he’s writing.
G: Stories that like, we were there kind of seeing it happen. On all the other records, I never really know what he’s talking about. There’re certain people that I know he’s talking about on this record. For me, listening to the record the whole time, it’s really unique and cool to actually see the inside of his head and he’s really letting himself out there. I don’t think he’s jaded or anything like that, he’s just being that honest and not being so vague that everyone can understand. This is an actual story of what happened.
So it’s more personal I guess?
TM: Yeah, definitely.
Speaking of John did he really jump from the second floor into the swimming pool (in the Love & Drugs video)?
J: Oh he did. That was like the big moment because he had only one shot to do it cos he was gonna be all wet and it was kinda cold out. We were all standing inside; we didn’t know when it going to happen and we had to be quiet because they were filming. You just see him drop after looking out of this doorway and he comes flying down into the pool. That part was really fun to watch and I’m glad it wasn’t me. John always seem to get doused in liquid in the music videos.