After doing a review of UK artist Maycomb‘s recent album “I Opened My Heart to Caustic Things”, we asked them if they would be interested in doing an interview with us. Guitarist Jonathan Ward offered to sit down and respond to our questions..
How did you guys all meet and decide to start a band?
We mostly all knew each other from playing in different bands from around Wolverhampton. I was asked to join a band that Jimmy (Taylor – drums) was in, and we got on really well, even though the band wasn’t so great. We found ourselves looking for a bass player, and that’s how we met Simon (McCoy – vocals and bass). Simon played bass for us for a little while before any of us realized he could sing. When he started to write and record some demos of his vocals, around the same time that the band was falling apart, the three of us decided to form Maycomb with Simon singing lead vocals. After a couple of years, and many different line-ups, we asked Jack (Owen – guitar) to join the band. He had been filling in for a few shows we had, and the chemistry was really good between the four of us. It’s the four of us playing together that makes Maycomb sound the way it does. It’s pretty special – I can’t imagine it working with anyone else.
Did you know you wanted to perform/make music?
I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, but I knew that I wanted to make music from a very early age. A lot of my family members are musicians so I was always surrounded by music while I was growing up and was often being dragged along to gigs in pubs and bars. I started taking music seriously around the age of 12, when I began asking my dad to teach me some stuff. There were always instruments lying around the house that I could pick up and practice on, and my family were very supportive of my musical endeavors I’ve been very lucky in that respect. Often the biggest obstacle getting into music is actually getting an instrument to play and finding someone who will teach you the basics. I think the other guys in the band might have gotten into music a little later, but I know that they all have equally supportive families, and I think that’s important – it’s good to have someone to encourage you.
What are your favorite things to do when you’re not performing?
As a band, we really enjoy writing music. If we don’t have any shows coming up, we usually spend our time working on new demos or ideas. It’s a really fun, creative process and even if a particular song you’re working on doesn’t end up being used for anything, there’s always something you can take from the experience of writing it. You learn so much from the demoing process that even mistakes are useful experiences. We also spend a lot of time practicing. When we perform, we like to know that we’re playing the songs to the best of our ability, so just running through everything a few times a week helps to keep us tight and solid. Outside of the band, in our spare time, we all enjoy reading books, watching movies, playing computer games, and drinking some beers in the sunshine.
How did you come up with the name of the EP?
The name, “I Opened My Heart to Caustic Things’”is the first line of one of the songs on the album. When we went into the studio to record, we were all pretty certain that the album was going to be called “Start Missing Everybody”, but then as Simon was recording the vocals, the line ‘I opened my heart to caustic things’ really resonated with me. I’d heard it sung before, but right at that moment, the line caught my attention. It seemed to encapsulate how I felt about a lot of things at the time, and equally, the struggles we’d been through as a band to get to the point where we were able to record our first full-length album. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I suggested it as the album title, and we all argued about it for a couple of weeks until we were all happy with the name. I’m really glad we went with it. It’s very personal and really helps to make sense of that period of my life.
Where do you draw inspirations from to write songs?
We never really draw inspiration from just one particular place, or write songs in just one way. With the album we sort of settled into a system, where we’d write and record some guitar parts that we liked, and then Jimmy would write and sequence the drum parts on a computer, while Simon would write the vocal melodies, backing vocals, and lyrics. We’d piece all the parts together, iron out the kinks, and then try to learn how to play it. Sometimes, the process didn’t quite work, and there were a handful of song ideas that we never really developed properly. But for the most part this worked well. Lyrically, Simon drew inspiration from many places. There are songs based on books, films, and even computer games. It was daunting writing a full-length album from scratch, so we tried not to limit our creativity so as to give us the best chance of keeping it interesting.
What songs/bands are currently on your iPod?
I think one of the best things about playing in Maycomb, is that all of our individual musical tastes are very eclectic. We like so many different kinds of music, and pop-punk is the point where all of our interests meet. I think playing in a pop-punk band and interacting with other pop-punk bands, and keeping up with pop-punk news means that pop-punk is often the last thing you want to listen to on your downtime. It’s good to draw inspiration from all styles of music, and broadening your tastes helps you to appreciate different artists that are making different music. I think it surprises people to learn that you’re not always listening to pop-punk. Recently, I’ve been enjoying music from Tokyo Police Club, Vampire Weekend, The Streets, Pulp, Tegan and Sara, Gang Starr, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Hold Steady, and a brilliant British band called Tellison. Tellison are so criminally unknown. I truly think they should be the biggest band in the UK. They’re flawless and a fantastic live band. I urge anyone reading this to check them out. The Hold Steady is kind of my go-to band. If I’m ever unsure of what I want to listen to, or if I don’t know what I’m in the mood for, I put The Hold Steady on, and it’s always a good time.
What do you hope to accomplish with the band in the next year?
I think touring is pretty high on our list of priorities. It’s been a while since we did any proper tours, and it’d be a good chance to showcase some of the album tracks. It’s tough because we have to arrange shows around everyone’s jobs and when we can get holiday time and are free. Logistically, it’s tough to organize but it’s definitely something we’re aiming for over the next twelve months. We’ve been jamming out some new demos, and developing new ideas for our next release. It’ll probably be another album, and things are coming together really well. It’s interesting because after our EP we knew we had to do an album, so we began writing with that in mind. This time there’s a lot less pressure, so we’re taking our time and experimenting with different sounds and ideas to really make this next record the best it can be. A lot of the songs are only half-developed at the moment, so over the next year it’d be nice if we could get ourselves into a position where we could start thinking about how we’re going to record it.
What bands would you like to tour with/work with in the future?
We’ve been lucky to have had the chance to work with so many great people during our time as a band. It’s crazy how many like-minded people you can meet through doing this, and they’re all sickeningly talented. All of the illustrators, promoters, producers and bands we’ve met have all been a pleasure to work with, and it’s so much easier when everyone is doing it for the right reasons. Touring with The Wonder Years, opening for Saves the Day, and working with some incredibly patient people (I Am Mighty Records, Frankie Torpey – producer, Daniel Fishel – illustrator) to help put out our debut album have all been real highlights from our time in the band. We always say that it would be a dream come true to tour with Motion City Soundtrack. They are a huge inspiration to us, and I think they’re probably the only band that we all admire equally. If we ever got the chance to open for them I’m pretty sure we would lose our minds.
Who are your musical influences/heroes?
Personally, a lot of my musical heroes are artists I grew up listening to. People like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Morrissey, Stevie Nicks, Ray Charles, Sting, and Phil Collins helped to shape my understanding of music. They inspired me to try to forge my own sound and to develop my own way of playing and performing. With more contemporary artists, I find my appreciation gravitating more towards drummers. I think part of it is that I really would like to be able to play the drums. I really admire a drummer who is not only extremely talented, but appreciates the song and strives to compliment it with their parts. With that in mind, Derek Grant from Alkaline Trio absolutely blows my mind. He has such a great style when he plays and I really could watch him all day.
Do you think it’s harder to appeal to an American audience and break into the pop-punk scene?
Honestly, I would assume that it was probably easier to appeal to an American audience. Pop-punk as a genre is interesting because while I’d argue that, with a few minor exceptions, it’s not a mainstream genre of music, it’s also massively over-saturated. There are so many bands making pop-punk music, in relation to the amount of people that listen to pop-punk music, that it’s often difficult just to be heard. The UK is quite a small place really, so naturally the audience over here is smaller than that in the states. It also means tours are usually pretty short runs as they can cover most of the area in a couple of weeks or so. By comparison, the US pop-punk scene is on a much grander scale. I can imagine tours over there being quite different to how they are here. You probably have to work twice as hard, but the payoff is likely twice as big. There seems to be a real market for good American pop-punk bands to come over to the UK at the moment – a trend that can only be a positive thing for both US and UK pop-punk.
At what point will you feel that you’ve “made it” as a band?
It’s difficult to measure our success. Being in the band makes it tough to see it objectively and hard to judge how well we’re doing. I think putting the album out was a humbling experience, in that for the first time we realized that we actually have a fan base. People have always been kind towards us and often say nice things, but the fact that such a great number of people we’re willing to put down money on a pre-order for a record they’d not even heard yet was overwhelming. Obviously, there will always be things we want to do with the band and goals we’d like to achieve but realistically I’d say that we’re extremely happy to be where we are. We always said that as long as we’re making the music that we want to be making, then we’re happy. The fact that anyone else is into it too is awesome.
How do you hope to progress with your music?
I’m really happy with how the new songs we’re working on are sounding. We used to have such a rigid formula for writing our material, and the stuff we’re working on at the moment is being given a lot more freedom. We’re experimenting with different sounds, and instruments, and not trying to worry too much about how we’re going to play it live just yet. It has a lot more heart than our earlier material and, as such, it feels a lot more personal. We’re all excited to keep working on it. I can’t see us growing bored of playing music together any time in the near future. As long as we’re still having fun, we’ll keep making music.
Be sure to check out facebook.com/maycomb for more info on the band. We really appreciate Jonathan taking the time to chat with us! – Nicole