Our household has been talking up the latest release from Maximo Park since it hit the streets in the UK; suffice it to say, we love it. When I got word that they’d be open to talking with Popblerd, I cracked open a bottle of wine and stared at the blinking cursor for a while. What could I ask these delightful artists, who have brought me album after album of quality music and multiple live shows that have set my heart ablaze, that hasn’t already been asked before? After a number of refills, frantic typing, and getting lost in a YouTube rabbit hole of live performances, tour diaries, and bootlegs, I came to some sort of conclusion.
We’re lucky enough that frontman Paul Smith is a gentleman and a good sport; he talked with Popblerd about producers, choreography, and what US fans can expect when Maximo hits the East Coast this Fall for their first tour Stateside in five years.
Popblerd: Maximo Park recorded Our Earthly Pleasures in the UK with Gil Norton for a 2007 release. Five years and album recorded with Nick Launay in the US later, you’re back with Gil recording in Wales for The National Health. You’ve said previously that Gil is a perfectionist and a master arranger; what was it like working with him after a number of years “away”?
Paul: It was a perfect fit! After three albums of trying different styles and techniques, we wanted to build on what we’d achieved with those releases and Gil allowed us to feel very confident about the material before we got in the studio thanks to his fastidious approach. He’s a very easy-going man, too, with tons of enthusiasm to complement his ear for arrangement.
Popblerd: Who can be held accountable for the truly brilliant and terrifying dance moves in the “Hips and Lips” video? Should I direct my admiration/horror solely at Thomas Turgoose, or was there a choreographer on hand? (Let’s be real: There were definitely some Paul Smith-inspired hand movements in there.)
Paul: There was an on-set choreographer, but Thomas was definitely rather loose in his execution of the dance steps! Loose but enthusiastic! I think he’d been watching some of our videos, too…. I should’ve patented my moves!
Popblerd: In the opener of The National Health, you ask “Do I really need to give an introduction?” It’s been five years since you’ve been to the States, so it’s somewhat a reintroduction to the live crowds here. What would you want someone who’s never been to a Maximo Park show to know about your live performances?
Paul: When it comes to the US, I think the answer to my own rhetorical question is “Yes, I do need to give an introduction”! So, here goes: We make music to make people feel truly alive. When we play a concert, it doesn’t matter how big or small the audience is, we give 100 percent every time because the songs are about our lives and are fueled by emotion. Our music is ultra-catchy and melodic, but when we play live we’re looking for an intensity and raw edge that will help us forge a connection with the audience.
Popblerd: Do you find songs evolve from the studio versions when you perform them on the road? Does the audience or their reactions influence your interpretation over time?
Paul: The songs do evolve a little, which will interest the hardcore audience members who know every note, but the songs have been so tightly composed that a marked deviation risks unbalancing the song. We just try to get into the spirit of the song and get it across in the right way. Sometimes, if the audience is going mental, then we can’t help but ramp things up. Conversely, if the audience doesn’t appear into it, I’ll be trying even harder to convince them of a song’s worth!
Popblerd: How has the band changed and remained the same from when the five of you got together?
Paul: We haven’t changed much as people (I don’t think!), but our musical influences are always evolving, which makes it a bit tougher to agree on musical direction with each record. However, once we decide on which songs will make up each album we still feel a very strong bond and chemistry that is reflected in the recordings and performances. Tom and Lukas don’t live in Newcastle any more, so that’s made us change our working methods, but that’s life!
The National Health is available for download on iTunes and Amazon, and at MaximoPark.com. They even have a great bundle pack that includes a signed CD, digital download, and a ticket to an upcoming US tour date! Maximo Park will be hitting the US for the first time in five years this September – check out their tour schedule here and make it so, kids and kittens. bostonregina will be at the show at the Middle East solo, because Jesse is going to see Bob Mould kill it at the Paradise; hit her up on Twitter if you fancy a gin ‘n’ tonic and pogo’ing like a bastard up front while (in)appropriately crying with happiness.