'All Of Us Have Been Through A Lot Of Shit': The Maine Want You To Know That You'll Be Ok

16 September 2019 | 4:57 pm | Anthony Carew

Guitarist Jared Monaco of The Maine talks to Anthony Carew about starting out as a band 12 years ago in the age of Myspace, and the fans they've made along the way.

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The Maine have released seven albums, lasted 12 years, and toured the world; for their latest trip to Australia, they’ll be coming from a run of shows in east Asia. It’s a long way, and a long haul, for an outfit whose members grew up in the same area of Phoenix, Arizona, a city never known for its music scene. It’s all been, for the band, a surprise.

“When I was a teenager, playing in bands, I never even thought about leaving Arizona,” says guitarist Jared Monaco. “It never occurred to me that I could cross the state line to play shows. The fact that we’re able to do that still blows my mind. Back in the day, we were just happy to be doing it, happy to be there. I’m 31 now; we started this thing when I was 18. Looking back on all these things we’ve done, it’s amazing that we’re still going, still getting better.”

Monaco first crossed paths with The Maine’s core – vocalist/pianist John O’Callaghan, and rhythm section Garrett Nickelsen and Patrick Kirch – on opposing sides of local Battle Of The Bands contests. He’d been shaped by early exposure: his first concert, in middle school, was to see blink-182 and New Found Glory, a “hugely impactful moment” for the budding musician. After years of playing in adolescent punk, emo and ska bands, Monaco dropped out of college at 18 to join The Maine for their first tour. “It was a self-booked tour, we left Arizona and went to the east coast, and it was in summer,” he recounts. “We had a couple guys who were still in high school, so they had to come back home once the tour was over and finish school.”

The band's early days coincided with the nascent phenomenon of artists connecting with their audiences directly online. “A lot of our time was spent logging into Myspace,” Monaco admits. “That instant feedback, that instant connection with fans, was something we immediately saw the importance of. That’s how we knew that we had 15 fans who’d for sure come to a show in New Jersey, or 25 in New York... There were nights we thought we were killing it, nights that felt horrible, nights where [shows] didn’t even happen. But, because of those moments when things felt awesome, we just kept going with it, and we’re still going with it.”

For 2019 album You Are OK, The Maine wanted to make something that felt fresh, the album’s orchestral elements both tying it together and separating it from prior LPs. “We had two rules [for You Are OK],” Monaco offers. “Firstly, we didn’t want to be subtle, at all; we wanted everything to be deliberate, everything to be in your face. And the second rule was that we wanted every single part of the record to feel urgent, that it was this pressing matter. We didn’t want anything to drag. Those two things laid a foundation for the record.”

“All of us have been through a lot of shit in the last ten to 12 years."

After their previous record, 2017’s Lovely Little Lonely, was “about being alone and being ok with that”, the title of their new album, You Are OK, was meant as a “blunt and direct message”, Monaco says. “All of us have been through a lot of shit in the last ten to 12 years – hell, 31 years if you want to count my whole life – and I think the thing that we’ve always learned, through hardships and struggle and adversity, is that pressing on usually yields the result of things, ultimately, being ok. It felt like a good time for express[ing] that, to stump for positivity in hard times, to give people a cornerstone to lean on, a totem to attach to.”

The Maine thought that message would resonate with their fans, who they see as a community, often organising gatherings or road trips among themselves. “It’s the most fortunate you can be as a band, to have a fanbase that not only supports you, but supports each other,” Monaco says. “To me, that’s probably my proudest achievement in my life. That we not only have fans, but we’ve created this family.”

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