Interview with The Maccabees’ Felix backstage at Birmingham Academy

01The Maccabees waltzed into town this month to continue their tour for their second album, ‘Wall of Arms’. I managed to get 5 minutes to talk to lead guitarist Felix about the band’s past, future and how they have progressed, and then see the gig itself. Sitting backstage, Felix shredded the concerns that the band were as rusty as the staircase we were sitting on.

Part 1: The Return

Felix, you’ve been off the scene for 2 years now, how does it feel to be back?

‘I think the nicest thing is that it’s gone really well, we haven’t toured for a long time, and we forget what it’s like. You have that nervous feeling that people have forgotten about you because we have spent so much time writing the second record. The gigs have just been wonderful, and it’s renewed our enthusiasm for it.’

The common opinion for ‘Wall Of Arms’ is that it is a lot deeper and more melancholic than ‘Colour It In’, was this a conscious decision?

‘No, we don’t make conscious decisions about how the record’s going to sound, it just kind of works like that. We’ve grown up a bit, listened to more records and pushed ourselves a bit harder. We didn’t sit down and say, “It’s very important that we sound mature on this record.” It’s a more natural thing than that.’

Have you got a favourite song for the album?

‘I think ‘No Kind Words’ is the first song that we wrote for the record, and it set the bench mark really. I really like that, I’m proud of that. It made us realise that we can do more than one thing. Bag of Bones, the last song, I really like, Hugo and I worked really hard on that, it eventually became a really cool way to waltz out of a record.’

How easily did the new songs come to you, was it harder than ‘Colour It In’?

‘Not easily at all. Really hard. The thing about writing a good record is that is that it is really f***ing hard, otherwise anyone could do it, but it was a testing year. There’s that sophomore syndrome, we’re in our early 20’s, we’ve only made one album, and if we are a band that’s worth doing it, we need to make the step up. It’s fine to have a difficult second record, but f***ing come on, you can’t be lazy about it.’

Part 2: The Past

You’ve definitely progressed since the early days of ‘Happy Slap’ and ‘Picnic Song’, but do you miss the days of being less renowned and less refined?

‘I can’t even remember those days, it was so long ago and a complete shambles to be honest with you. It was quite nice being a bit more naïve, but this is kind of where we always wanted to get to. It was part of a learning curve. All of it, even up until now, everything has got the Maccabees spirit in it, for better or for worse.’

You’ve had a new drummer in the past year, has it been an easy transition bringing Sam Doyle in as a replacement for Robert?

‘It’s something that had to happen in the end, we’re still really good friends with Robert, maybe he’ll come and play with us another time. Sam fitted in really well actually. We were trying to work with a drum machine, but we couldn’t get the f***ing thing working, so we got Sam in because we all knew him really well. He’s a great drummer, and it’s great to have someone enthusiastic about playing the drums. He’s added his own thing to it, because it’s a much more muscular rather than nimble sounding record, and those dynamics came about from writing with Sam and making that work. It’s helped in a way.’

He had big boots to fill, listening to X-ray, Robert did a pretty good job there. You’re not ruling out him coming back then?

‘Robert’s an absolutely fantastic drummer, and it’s quite a personal thing so it’s difficult to go into it, but no, we are definitely not ruling out Rob coming back.’

This question is for the obsessive fans out there. On listening closely to one of your singles, Toothpaste Kisses, do you light and then blow out a match at the beginning of the song?

‘Yeah, that was Hugo’s big idea, he decided that it should be a match being lit and then when it drops, you blow it out. That’s a little bit dangerous, bands doing things like lighting matches on records, sounds a bit pretentious doesn’t it? It had the effect of old vinyl crackling, its quite a nice bit.’

It’s a nice added touch, you don’t do that live do you?

‘No, health and safety!’

Part 3: The Future

Let’s talk about the future, are there any venues you’re looking forward to playing at this year?

‘In October we’ve got another big tour, we’ve got Brixton academy, which is kind of the dream. If people want to come and see us and are as enthusiastic as they normally are then we’ll play for anyone. There seems to be a really good spirit to the shows that only comes from the people who come and watch it.’

You haven’t really confirmed at as many festivals yet as many had hoped, are there any more announcements still to come from you?

‘Well we’re doing Reading and Leeds, Glastonbury, T in the Park and Oxegen, and European festivals and the Isle of Wight as well. Not all of that has been announced yet, but we’ll be doing them.’

Thanks very much Felix, great to talk to you, good luck with tonight and the rest of your tour.

‘ Thanks.’

The gig itself furthered the feeling that they were back, with a more intense and experienced sound, but still full of the modest charm that enticed their first fans.

The set list was made up of an even mixture of new and old, slow and fast, happy and sad. The night epitomised the new album, whilst still having time for the archetypal tracks from their debut release. From the new and dark ‘No Kind Words’, to the joyous classic ‘First Love’, the band showed that despite their progression, they still have the youth and rebellion that their fans love.

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2 Responses to “Interview with The Maccabees’ Felix backstage at Birmingham Academy”

  1. […] it this way, they supported the Maccabees when I saw them in May, and they left myself and my photographer, a miss D. Gregory, utterly […]

  2. […] changed however when I heard the rework The Maccabees did of their brilliant song, No Kind Words with Roots Manuva. The song is called Empty Vessels and […]

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