The Maccabees / Felix White
Vox interview: Aug 2011
When The Maccabees released their second album Wall of Arms in 2009, they won the praise of critics on both sides of the Atlantic. Produced by Markus Dravs, who worked on Arcade Fires Neon Bible, they showcased a much darker and evolved sound than their debut offering Colour It In. The collection of atmospheric pop songs proved their staying power as one of the most talented British indie bands around.
This year they are busy putting the final touches to their eargerly awaited third album, which is due for release in January 2012. Guitarist Felix White describes it as; “a lot more patient than anything we’ve done before, a little more assured.”
Vox caught up with Felix, just ahead of their gig at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms, to find out how the new album development is going, plans for the next year and how Vox fits in to all of this.
Vox: When did you start playing guitar and why?
FW: I started playing guitar when I was sixteen I think. It was mostly to do with wanting to be in Oasis. I had become totally wrapped up in them and was especially attracted to the way they preached that anything was possible. It empowered me to believe it was achievable to even just play guitar and that musicianship didn’t need to be academic. Since then I’ve strayed pretty far from Oasis records as influence but I will forever be grateful to them for opening my eyes to it.
Vox: Which guitarists or other artists inspire you?
FW: Once we started The Maccabees, when I was seveteenish, I started to really love the way certain members would contribute to groups like Mick Jones, George Harrison, Ronnie Lane and Graham Coxon. They felt like they gave their respective groups real dimensions and that was a big deal to me at the time. Most recently though I’ve been really getting into Scott Walker’s ‘Tilt’ and ‘Drift’ and things like David Bowie ‘Low’ and Kate Bush ‘Hounds of Love’, which couldn’t be further from a band aesthetic and have taught us to be braver and more playful with the music we’ll make.
Vox: How is the new album coming along and what direction have you taken with it and what inspired you to take the direction that you have?
FW: Good thank you. It’s about to get mixed.
It’s the first record where we’ve really considered how it will be sonically at an early stage. To try to ensure that we didn’t get too tied to familiar techniques we spent the first six months or so writing separately to each other or in twos through Logic and sending things back and forth. As a result the songs have been built up and triggered by instrumental pieces of music, which is the opposite to how we would have normally done it.
We used to write in the room altogether, maybe Orlando would have a song or chord progression or we would just work up from guitar parts me and Hugo had. This one has seen us individually having a little more ownership of music before the band have added to it and it has ended up being quite a happy collaboration in terms of the content on the record.
Vox: When you played the Main Stage at the Reading & Leeds festival 2010 you debuted a new song “Forever I’ve Known”. Does this give some indication for the sound of the new album?
FW: It does to an extent as it is a lot more patient than anything we’ve done before, a little more assured. It’s also an indication in that it houses a Time Out of Mind-esque feel and the heaviest thing we’ve ever recorded in the same song. They’re both things that are quite new to us.
Vox: How do you feel your sound has changed/developed over the years?
FW: I think it is continuing to develop all the time. We started as a live band that would try to cram as many ideas as we could into two minute songs, play them as fast as we could and be limited by what we could actually play and achieve in that setting. I think since then, which was before the first record was made, we’ve been trying to find something that feels honest and true to us and works alongside some of our favourite records as recorded music and we’re starting to get there.
Vox: Are you working with producer Markus Dravs again on this record?
FW: No, we’ve made the record with Tim Goldsworthy and Bruno Ellingham.
Vox: Will you be touring the new album later in the year?
FW: Yes I’m pretty sure a tour will be announced soon, though the record won’t be out until January.
Vox: The live shows from ‘Wall of arms’ had five star reviews from the likes of The Guardian. Will the new shows still incorporate the brass section and the added keyboard sounds that helped add to the atmosphere at the ‘Wall of Arm’ gigs?
FW: We will be changing parts of the live show from Wall of Arms but there will definitely be added textures to help match the record.
Vox: What’s the most memorable gig you’ve ever played and why?
FW: There have been many but probably the biggest one for me is Brixton Academy because that was the place we said we could retire happy if we headlined when we were younger.
Vox: Yourself and Orlando are currently both using the AC30C2X.
How did that come about?
FW: A couple of years ago my amp broke just before we were going on stage. The band we were playing with lent me their AC30 as an emergency and I loved it. By the time we’d finished touring I knew that I would like to start writing and recording with it and have been using it since for live as well.
Vox: What do you think using the AC30C2X has brought to the new album and which of the new songs does it work best on?
FW: It’s been pretty well suited for a lot of the songs, especially live. Orlando uses it for the reverb channel so he doesn’t have to run any pedals through it and I find that the cleaner sound has a good character to build upon through the pedal board.
Vox You’ve recently been trying out the 77 series Vox guitar. What did you think of the guitar?
FW: It has a really nice trebly quality to it and we used it for a few parts that needed to have a more identifiable space on the record.
Vox: What’s next for The Maccabees?
FW: The record is out in January. Can’t wait to be playing properly again and for people to know it.