Words and Interview by Nic Angeles | Photos by Joel H. Garcia
This exclusive story and interview was first published in PULP Magazine Issue No. 202 (November – December 2019).
The Maine’s message in their latest album is clear as day, and it’s everything we need to hear: YOU ARE OK. It’s a message that resonated powerfully on September 14, 2019 at the New Frontier Theater as The Maine played their newest songs to a crowd that was more than eager to catch the band in their most meaningful era yet.
Opening the show with “Slip The Noose,” the same way You Are OK starts out, a surge of emotion and comfort immediately washed over the crowd with the band appearing on stage, one by one, in their white dress shirts: John O’ Callaghan on vocals, birthday boy Kennedy Brock and Jared Monaco on guitars, Garrett Nickelsen on bass, and Pat Kirch on drums (plus the evening’s opening act Adam Simons, aka Wanderer, as a sixth member playing keys and guitar). It felt like we were seeing our best friends again after so long.
The anthemic opener had everyone in the theater singing their lungs out so early in the night—a great start to a show that proved to be the most special one that The Maine have ever played here, mostly with songs from You Are OK, of course, Lovely Little Lonely (2017), American Candy (2015), and Pioneer (2011). Arguably, these are the best albums to come from the Arizona band, which made it such a great set that showcased only the best of The Maine. It was particularly exciting to hear the new songs live, and finally experiencing first hand the energy of “Numb Without You” and “My Best Habit,” or the warmth and comfort of “Broken Parts.”
Of course, there were still some pretty special moments that threw it back to the very beginning of our relationship with this band. We all still screamed “8123 MEANS EVERYTHING TO ME!” during “We All Roll Along,” and perhaps the highlight of highlights was when the band tried to more or less grant the crowd’s request for “Saving Grace,” a song that a lot of fans have been asking them to play in the many shows that they’ve played here before. Finally, they played the Black and White track, with John taking a second to figure out the chords for a bit and playing it up until the chorus.
The best moments in the show tend to be the unplanned. The things will only happen that one time and couldn’t be replicated if you tried. Here is a raw moment from Manila…
Posted by The Maine on Monday, September 23, 2019
“Thank you so much for letting us play music,” John addresses the crowd before closing the show. “I’m gonna be sincere when I say that never in a million years would we have thought that, putting out our first two songs, we’d be able to come all the way over here and play music for you guys so thank you very much for letting us do it.”
Whether or not you were there, and whether or not you’re a fan of the band, allow us to share the message nonetheless, because you need to hear it:
YOU ARE OK. AND IF YOU’RE NOT RIGHT NOW, YOU WILL BE SOON.
PULP sat down with our good friends from The Maine to talk about You Are OK, the success of their recently established 8123 Fest, achieving new milestones as a band, and more:
PULP: Welcome back to the Philippines. I wanna know what the experience has been like performing these new songs live, first at the 8123 Fest and soon throughout your following tours. I remember Numb Without You, I believe you first played it live at the fest so do you remember how that felt?
JOHN: Yeah, I think, we’re so fortunate to, one, be able to still make music this far into doing it 12 years later. I think, certainly [with] the most recent record, it’s been the most immediate as far as response, and that might be just because we’re not forcing it on people, but also I think people genuinely enjoy the new music. I think the first time we played it, the song had only been out for a day and a half, yeah, like 36 hours and people already knew the words, which is really unreal. I think I still get the same feeling—just because we’re playing it in new places all the time. We played it in Singapore the other night, we played it in London a few nights before, and sort of that first, that first chorus comes on “Numb Without You” specifically, and people have still sort of elevated their experience and our experience as well so, I still get the same kind of feeling.
PULP: Wanna ask about the 8123 Fest as well because now on it’s second year, it has grown so much from the first one. Why bother putting together your own festival? What’s the story behind it and how different is it compared to when you’re playing normal shows? Are you planning to do it again next year?
PAT: I think, the idea for the festival is that we’ve always wanted to bring the culture that we have as a band, all of our friends, the merchandise, y’know, the company that we have, and we’ve been building these pop-up shops and doing all these things that people can be a part of and we wanted to bring it all into one place. So that’s why we decided to do it as a festival and in Phoenix, which is our hometown. So there’s all these things, like landmarks we’ve talked about in songs or like the parking garage we got the name 8123 after… All these things are in Phoenix so people can come and get fully immersed in everything that is The Maine and 8123 all for a weekend, you know, so that was kind of the goal and I think people have been having a really great, great time at it and they turned it into a vacation with their friends, you know.
PULP: Are you doing it again next year?
PAT: Yes, we’re gonna do every, every other year so, yeah!
PULP: Playing for Reading and Leeds! I could tell that’s been a huge milestone for you guys, does it ever still feel weird when, you’ve been a band for so long that there are still some milestones that you’re achieving together?
JOHN: That’s the lucky part, you know, when you keep getting these fresh experiences, I think that’s the one big catalyst that keeps us going–finding new territory and figuring out that new things can happen, even this far into what we’re doing so… I mean, it always is the same, it’s like this thing happens and you might have the expectation of it being one way or the other, and I think every new zone that we step in to, I think it’s usually shattering how we perceive it would be if that makes sense, it usually supersedes our expectations and I think that certainly was the case for Reading and Leeds. Because I don’t think we really planned on having a lot of people in the crowds and it was the opposite, so those experiences keep us going and make it still exciting, you know.
PULP: “Slip The Noose” for me has to be the best opening track on any The Maine album. So we have to ask—how did that song come together, how long did you work on it, and from the get-go did it always feel like THE song to open You Are OK?
JOHN: The demo itself has been around for four years, and we actually turned it into “Black Butterflies…”
JOHN: That was what the first demo we turned in to and Colby Wedgeworth, who had recorded Lovely Little Lonely, he took and helped us take that demo and turned it into what became “Black Butterflies…” and we felt like it was such a departure from the demo that when we were writing and recording You Are OK, we felt like it was, no pun intended, OK to revisit the demo and do it the way that we perceived it and the way we thought it should have been from the start–not to say that Colby was wrong, because a lot of people dig what happened on “Black Butterflies…” and I think that we had just always heard it a certain way, and we felt like it was so different from “Black Butterflies…” that, it was okay to revisit and reimagine it so I think, yes, we always heard it as the opening song and I think it wasn’t until we dove into it more that we decided the vocals would come off the top and… I’m with you, I think it’s our strongest opening song on any album that we’ve had.
PULP: Was that the only song that came from past demos that you revisited and reworked into something new for the record?
KENNEDY: That was the only one that was old like that, yeah, everything else was, was done after that one yeah, like fresh new.
PULP: With just the title, YOU ARE OK, your message is already clear. Where did this idea come from, from what headspace is it coming from? What sparked it? Why is this the message? And were songs written and formed around it, or did it just come together naturally?
JOHN: I think we wrote a lot of songs, and along the way, I think it was just important to be as honest as we could with ourselves, insofar as what we actually enjoyed and what we really wanted to share with people. As far as what the sound of everything was concerned, I was initially gonna call the record “The Glitter and the Gloom,” from Numb Without You, and, after thinking about it, it just felt a bit too abstract. It felt too heady, for lack of a better word, and then we landed on that and I don’t think we wrote songs around a concept–more so, we wrote songs around whatever it was we thought we were trying to do. Everything was written–except “Broken Parts” and “One Sunset,” in the studio, we wrote those–and I think that conceptually, I think I always hover around that concept, the duality of just good and bad. I think it’s a really universally accepted sentiment, I think everybody deals with the idea of wrong and right, good and bad, positive and negative, and I felt like the title was just more of an overarching kind of message that I don’t think people hear enough, and hopefully it’s something that has helped people and they take it for whatever way they need to take it and we’ll see.
PULP: How about “Flowers on the Grave”? What’s something you can share with us about that song and when you recorded it? I think it’s the longest The Maine song ever, am I right? And also a sure favorite among fans.
JOHN: Yes, that’s correct. Once we decided that we wanted to use the initial demo, I think we had decided that that was gonna be the last song on the record. We didn’t know the length at the time because before we went in to record, all we really had was like, about two minutes of a part, then when we got into the studio, we had taken a couple of other demos that I had done, and just mashed them together. So after that, right before it breaks down into the strings, that was the initial demo, and then from there on out there were a couple more songs so…
JARED: Like, four songs.
GARRETT: It was a big combination.
JOHN: Yeah, and I think we really didn’t have aspirations to make a ten-minute song, it just sort of came out. And for people to be supportive of it, is really crazy, you know, ’cause we felt like it was, maybe too much and maybe a little too bold… I don’t think we ever thought for a second that it would sound pretentious because the strings, in our opinion, was kind of keeping the whole thing together for the whole record and not just the last song. For us I think it’s a good snapshot of the record in its entirety. Now that we’ve done the ten-minute song, and people like it, then maybe there’ll be a twenty-minute song (laughs) I think that will probably be the only time we ever really go that deep into it, as far as the length goes, and it’s just really neat to know that people like it, and wanna hear it live, it would really be a goal of ours to be able to play it with an actual string arrangement for an audience and not just the one person that we did with at the Orpheum, yeah.
PULP: At this point, after how many albums in, do you feel like you already know 100% the perfect process that works for you, or is going into making a new record something that still feels unfamiliar? Does going out to create a new album feel new still, or does it feel like you’ve been doing it many times now that it’s all good?
JOHN: Yeah, I think it’s important that it feels unfamiliar. I think that feeling those doubts and those uncertainties, means that it’s still important to us. And I think that we’d never want to put out the same record twice, so I think people have, obviously… you know, you talk about people talking online, and a lot of people would probably agree that there isn’t necessarily two records that don’t really connect. And I think that what’s really important for us is that people stay on their toes, and they don’t get too comfortable like, “Oh, The Maine’s just gonna put out a record that sounds like this or that.” So it’s really important for us, as far as the process goes, to flip it on its head and to get uncomfortable, and to try to come up with new approaches and new angles every time we sit down to write a song. Which is why, we’re already talking about how we’re gonna change the process for the next record and–I mean it’s crazy that this record only came out months ago, so for it to be this new… We have a lot of places to visit and a lot of people to see, and we’re just fortunate just to be able to do it.
THANK YOU MANILA. WE WILL SLEEP GOOD TONIGHT. THANKS FOR GIVING IT YOUR ALL.
— The Maine (@themaine) September 14, 2019
PULP: Lastly—Manila and The Maine, we go way back. What message do you have for your Filipino fans?
JOHN: The first message would just be: Thank you for letting us experience it. Thank you for letting us see the place that you live in. And I think for us, from our vantage point, we can easily take all this stuff for granted and we certainly don’t. You know, the flights and the travel gets hard, being away from our friends and family gets hard, but this is the life that we want to live and for people to let us inside their hearts and their homes and their hometowns… that’s really what 8123 is to us—the sense of community. From the very first time we came here, the respect that we’ve been shown has been unbelievable. Not just by people that are familiar with our band or our music, it’s everywhere you go, throughout Manila. So that’s what keeps us coming back. Obviously, people showing up at the shows is really nice too. As far as the message is, just, thank you, and, come to Arizona and we’ll show you the same love, yeah (laughs) PULP
It’s been a long road. THE MAINE, PULP and all the fans in the Philippines have literally grown up together.
Thank you for those who shared last night with @themaine dancing, jumping & singing their hearts out.
'Til we see each other again! #YOUAREOKMnl
Photo by:Joel H. Garcia pic.twitter.com/BJPFHHxXvW
— PULP Live World (@PULPLiveWorld) September 15, 2019