Jump Point

8 May 2012 | 8:09 am | Tyler McLoughlan

Bullying is the key to The Maccabees success, boasts band member Orlando Weeks. In fact, he reckons the band is made up of five "really brilliant" bullies.

Though London five-piece The Maccabees have had all manner of tags bestowed on them ranging from underrated to Coldplay wannabes, they've generally done a good job of attracting both popular and critical success since the release of their 2007 debut record Colour It In. With their latest Given To The Wild changing the pace from indie guitar pop into a more grown up, ambitious sound aptly hailed by some as The Suburbs of their career, the mid-ranking Brits couldn't be prouder ahead of their first visit to Australia.

“I'm loving it man,” enthuses a gently spoken Orlando Weeks of the reception for their third record, which peaked at number four on the UK charts. “I think it just feels so… it was quite an intense process and we kind of felt that even though we'd had more time to get stuff done, we found more and more faults with the record or figured out how we could make it better, so by the time we'd actually got around to playing it, it was so nice.”

As perhaps the impetus for changing tack stylistically, The Maccabees began preparation for Given To The Wild by dismantling their successful jam-room writing style to work individually. “We'd finished some pretty heavy touring and we thought you know, we don't need to make it claustrophobic like that for the first bit – we can all go [do our own thing]. It was a really enjoyable thing; people would email each other bits and pieces and you'd be like, 'Yeah, that's amazing' and then they'd work on it [or] I'd get sent something and then I'd work on it overnight and I'd send it back and we'd talk about it. Or I'd go to someone's house or they'd come to mine and we weren't all off totally separate, it was just a nice kind of way of easing ourselves into it and enjoying that bit of it, which for me is the best bit… It's the best feeling I think, that initial feeling of [getting] something from nothing and then sort of bullying it into shape, making it work.

“You've got to!” Weeks exclaims with vigour as he explains his choice of the word bullying. “They don't want to [come], well not for me anyway – I'll have an initial thing and then it does, it needs crafting and stuff and sometimes you can't do it and then thank god I've got four other really brilliant bully-ers. And they have a go on it and help push it to the next bit. That's how it works for us anyhow.”

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Given To The Wild also captures a new lyrical approach for Weeks who is starting to get to that age, the one where having an entire song dedicated to the happenings at your local swimming pool no longer feels appropriate. In Pelican he sings, “One thing's for sure we're all getting older/ So we take a lover waiting in the corner/ Before you know it, pushing up the daisies”.

“When we came back from that tour and started working on stuff, we'd been in and out of our homes for about two years and over that time a lot had changed; suddenly we'd come back and people – our friends, really good friends – were getting married or having children and all of that kind of stuff had a big impact on me. I kind of felt like I didn't want to write songs about lost love or failed relationships or happy relationships or any kind of thing with just one person necessarily and I thought that it was an interesting thing to try and understand. And as soon as you think about these friends of yours that are at this tipping point between a young adult and an adult with responsibilities, you start thinking about your own family and your own responsibilities. So that became enough for me pretty much in terms of where I was going to try and start finding stories worth telling, events worth cataloguing.

“It was just a kind of shock to me. It's that kind of thing where you know it will happen but you kind of can't really believe it when it does, especially when someone that you've known for years and years and years suddenly has a tiny version of them kickin' about; they're gonna be raising this screamy little person and it's crazy. It had a real… yeah, I felt it,” he trails off.

Recording with Tim Goldsworthy (LCD Soundsystem) and Bruno Ellingham in the iconic Rockfield Studios in Wales, The Maccabees finished the sessions with an incomplete record.

“They suggested this place and it had an extraordinary musical heritage and all of that is kind of slightly off putting I think. It kind of slightly masks the fact that all you really do is you get there and you work and you try and get as much done as you can. We came away from it just feeling a bit like we hadn't quite nailed it and that it wasn't exactly right, so then we went back to our studio in Elephant And Castle and patched up a lot of stuff. [We] re-did a lot of stuff, re-recorded all sorts of bits and pieces and quite often found ourselves going back to those really early recordings – demos and stuff – and stealing sounds from those things, just the kind of happy accidents that happened along the way. They don't seem it at the time, you just think that that sounds like a weird squealing in the background or something, but in the end you think, no, that's how it sounded and that's how it should be.”

Playing four capital city shows as well as taking in a host of regional centres on the Groovin' The Moo bill, Weeks is quite chuffed to be getting to see so much of the country on the band's first visit.

“I've had a brief look [at the tour schedule] but I've kind of left it as a bit of a mystery tour… it's the best way to experience such a huge country; it's pretty amazing to be getting that as your introduction.”

He has some vague notions of what Australia might be like, though he's happy to be surprised for the most part. “The first time I went to America, the scale of stuff, the bigness – and I know that sounds silly, but I'm fairly sure that that's gonna be a similar thing; just the kind of grandness of scale, I think I'll be kind of daunted and impressed by that. But everyone I've spoken to has just said that the hospitality of people is amazing and the crowds are really good for the shows. I've got a few friends out there; my cousin moved out there last year so I get to go and see him in Sydney – it's so exciting,” he enthuses, before concluding, “We feel very blessed, very lucky given that this is… [our] jump point for getting to know a place.”