Mosh Pit Report: You guys have been a band for quite a long time. The new album is the fifth full length so maybe the three things you've realized you must bring with you while on tour? Maybe for America in particular since I know this is your first US festival appearance.
Paul Smith: Yeah! Don't forget your tooth brush. That's pretty straight down the line. If I forgot my suits, then I'm in trouble because that's part of my performance. Is to get in some sort of heightened version of myself. Just so I can go in front of thousands of people and dance around like an idiot. So don't forget your suits. They travel in a separate bag so they don't get creased. Thirdly, for America, leave enough room in your bag. So bring a big bag for records. Especially if you're from England because in America, the scene is really good and I go around looking for secondhand vinyl finds. Yeah a big bag is essential!
MPR: Then how was the set? I know you played pretty early in the day. I think you were second after Magic Man. Obviously huge crowd; they've been here all day. How was the show? How do you think it went?
PS: Well, I think it went pretty well considering we're still kind of a folk band in the US. Some people like us who really like us intensely, passionately but a lot of people might know the name or they might know one or two songs off the new record. They might know nothing. So the goal is to go out and play to a bunch of people who may never even have heard of the band. It's a great opportunity to just spread the word and play your music to them. Hopefully they'll enjoy the show. It's only a half hour so we want to put on the best show possible. Have people remember the band and get some of our records and have the music as part of their life. If not, it was just fun to go out there and be surrounded by all the different architecture. It was really cool to have this sort of looming up city hall. This big concrete building then you've got all the older ones as well on the other side. It's a big mish mash of all different types of architecture. It's quite inspirational to me. It felt like we were in a kind of weird valley in this metropolis.
MPR: Then I know being a British act clearly not from here it's kind of hard for when you're first getting started to hit it big right away. For example, the 1975 blew up right away but like Two Door, Frank(Turner) toured for years here before anyone really took them seriously. Maybe advice to bands, you have toured in the US, who are doing their first tour ever in America? Since it's so much harder. You can be huge in the UK and come here and do a first tour where maybe ten people come out.
PS: I would say don't have too many expectations. That's kind of my biggest piece from day one. Like when we started. Play to as many people as you possibly can. Push your music into different places. Have a good time with your mates. Don't think "Yeah we're going to break in America". It's kind of a ridiculous thing that bands come over here and think it's going to happen straight away. Just enjoy the road and if you're in the back of a car with a trailer on the back for six or seven hours, make sure that you use that time wisely. Write, read a book. Make sure you're fully stocked. Give each other space. I think that was a bit of a struggle for us. We're a tight unit really. I remember the first time we toured in a van. Back of the car across America just thinking oh there's a lot of tension going on here. Everything from off the stage, back in the car, you're still kind of sweaty and arguing. Like why did that break or whatever. You've got to give each other time and space because there isn't any personal space all the time. So there's this kind of unwritten rule basically that's don't annoy each other. Just know when somebody else needs a bit of time to themselves. When they don't want to talk and they just want to read their book. Then other times obviously it's time for having a right laugh and cranking up the tunes on the stereo and everybody enjoying it but then there are times where people kind of go into their own little bubble. It's nice to kind of have that contrast between the two. Obviously if everybody is partying all the time it's going to be wearing. Especially if it's one person that doesn't want to do it. Then the other thing is people just having their headphones on and tapping on their phones. That's also too extreme. It's too much of a kind of isolating context. Those sorts of things. It's just about time and space and finding a way of working it out in a confined area with each other.
MPR: Then I wanted to ask, I know "Too Much Information" has dropped in the UK. Has it fully dropped in the states yet?
PS: Yeah! Just the other week we came into Seattle. Did a little West Coast thing. Now we're over on the east coast. So physically now you can get "Too Much Information". Again, it's a bit information knowing for us that people in America can get it that are super hardcore because they're asking us why can't I download this on iTunes in America? But now you can. It's thoroughly available.
MPR: Thoroughly available! Then how do you think it's been going over? Being the fifth album for the band.
PS: It's been going well. I think we took a little bit of a risk. I mean making music is all about taking risks. If somebody listens to it, that's out of my control. I work hard on the music. I work hard on stage to get music to people and to be in the moment of all the songs. Outside of that, it's tough to get a grip on what people think. All you can do is try to pay your dues and feel like you've done something worth while. I feel like the first couple tracks that we brought in were more electronic and I remember some of our friends even saying, "are you sure you're going to put that one out first?" People were like won't your fans be a little freaked out by it and I just said "Well if they've stuck with us this far, they won't be too freaked out by it." The synths have been a big part of us since " A Certain Trigger", our first album. I think we've just been building on it. It's kind of gotten to a point where we're now pushing it to extremes and moving further then we ever did from album to album. On the other hand, if you've never heard it, it's a move that will maybe allow people to go woah, what’s this on the radio? Like oh I didn't know they sounded like this and so that's cool for us. I feel like that kind of worked and yes it's not kind of like a big immense great thing because we've never been that kind of band. Sometimes people play on the radio. You're the hot property for a while then it goes away a bit. As long as you've got that kind of path where people are willing to listen. Word of mouth about that you're kind of doing something different each time. Then I think that's a pretty good situation to be in. Especially in Europe, we can play to fairly big audiences then come over here and play to small venues. It's cool because it's how we started. It feels very familiar every time that we do it. Having the eye contact with people down in front is great. Then you come to something like Boston Calling. It's a sea of people and they're all screaming at the top of their lungs. It's great. It's kind of the best of both worlds. I think the new album has kind of opened the book again. Each time we just try and open it up a little more because people pigeon hole you a lot of the time and that's only natural. We all do it. You always want to try and be able to say well it sounds a bit like this and it sounds a bit like that. Anyway, it feels like we're always kind of trying to move away from where we started and all the people who are around us in bands. We didn't feel like we had anything in common with those bands so you always just say right, let's keep moving on. Moving away from that point. Moving into different areas which is kind of what we did.
MPR: Then I wanted to ask. You were talking about how you kind of took risks with this album. Tried something new. So maybe for you, how did the songwriting process change? Did it change or was it just you kind of went the same steady routine that you always follow. Is it one person, more collective?
PS: I would say it's partly the same routine. Even on our first couple records, we thought should I really be writing this song? Should I really be working? It's hard to get out of that mentality but I now have got it kind of in a bit more of a routine when I'm home. I've got a computer set up in the next room. I just put very simple demo's into my garageband on my computer and send them off to the other guys. Same with any of the other band members. If they've got a song, they'll send me the music and I'll sort of tinker with lyrics and the melody. Send it back and forth and sometimes it works really quickly. Which is kind of the beauty of Maximo Park. When it does, you feel like you're walking on air. Like "Brain Cells" off the new album is a good example. Duncan sent me this kind of electronic track and I was writing a lot in the middle of the night and I had written kind of this nocturnally beat ridden song and it seemed to fit and he's the guitar player so he was kind of trying new things out. Like working with this mini boom or whatever he has this analog set that he had just got. It's just kind of little things you know like not playing your normal instrument or doing something on a piano or just trying different sounds and beats and thinking of them in a slightly different way. Which is what we do with each record I think is try a few different things out in the process but then I think the difference on is on this record are more sonic differences. We’re still a pop band. We still have structures and all the conventional things but we try and mess around with it. Bend it to our way of thinking and make something that still has got the hooky-ness. Something when we came together was just a natural thing that we did. You don't want to lose that thing that is good about you but you can change the sound of it. Sometimes on this record, when we recorded, we did it ourselves without a producer which was the first time we had ever done that and we did it in the northeast of England where we live so it was a bit more relaxed. You can kind of say oh well let's try no guitars on this, see what happens and then you've got a couple of weeks to reflect on it and go oh yeah that was cool. Let's leave it. Where if you were in the studio and you think well maybe I'll put another guitar in there, I'll do another vocal, I'll do this, all that. I think it's a very reflective record in that respect. There's a lot of space in it which is quite different. All of our other stuff is jam packed with stuff. It's nice because we can always play those songs and we can always have one of those, or three, however many we choose on a record but you've also got this new kind of arsenal of weapons that you want to display to the world. You want to kind of give people that fresh thing that you've just come up with. We made the decision, it's ourselves. Going into it, I was a little concerned about it because there were five of us in a studio all with different opinions. Sometimes having a producer is great because they can just kind of step back a bit and be the objective voice. Which we didn't have this time but I think we've kind of developed a bit more of an objective voice within the band and you can kind of go "oh yeah that's not working. No worries, we'll just throw it out". You don't get too pressured at moments with every idea we've had. Hammered away at it on some songs and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but I think this one is probably a more confident record because we can say yeah, we've done that. I can sing softer on this record because I've done a solo record. It gives you the confidence when you know that you've done it and you know that it works. To then do it on the next album that you work on. You can take it somewhere new. There's a lot of falsetto on this record up front where I just did it in the background so far. Then nobody else sings falsetto on stage until this record. Live, we've built on things like that. So it's little tiny increments and yes to other people, it's really synthy. You can kind of pull from different points in our catalog now and they can all go into this new mix. We don't feel like we've really thrown the baby out of the band.
MPR: Then to end it off, what is coming up for you guys? Are you going to be back in the US pretty soon or are you going to wait it out a little bit?
PS: I hope so! Well, it's always difficult for us on a very boring financial level. It cost a lot of money and we don't make any money when we come here. We get the money from the shows and it goes back into the visas, the flights, etcetera, etcetera. That's the day to day everyday reality of it. We were talking to the guys from our record company last night and said should we come back over? What's the plan? So maybe in the fall we can try and get out just for a few shows. Especially somewhere like Boston. We played half an hour today. I'd love to come back and play a lot more of the new record and do a lot more of the old stuff in a sweaty small venue and get people's appetites biting. Obviously we're proud of our new record and we want people to dig it so you want to come back as many times as you can. It's something that's on our mind and if we can make it work financially, we'll definitely come back. Otherwise we've got a lot of UK festivals, European festivals. All sorts. All around the world but yeah we've broken our drought of American festivals. It was a pleasure today to get out there and do something that we've done many times in Europe and in Japan or wherever we've been. It's always been cool to play a festival. To big audiences but we've just never managed to do it here. Obviously in the US, festivals are such a big thing and growing by the year. I think we've proven today that what we're doing in Europe can translate well over here. So yeah a few more of those. Just keep working on new music all the time. Work with your friends. Just keep making things and being creative is the goal!