Working class heroes or bastions of the art school fraternity? Or maybe theyï¿½re a bit of both? Whatever your take on Maximo Park, thereï¿½s no disputing that the last 12 months have been the sort of stuff dreams are made of. With a platinum selling, Mercury nominated debut long player and a clutch of Top 20 singles under their belts, not to mention a relentless spate of sold out shows, one could be forgiven for thinking Maximo Park had overcome their biggest challenge to date.
Not so. Drowned In Sound grabbed a few spare moments with chatty drummer Tom English during their soundcheck at Nottinghamï¿½s Rock City before their headlining NME Brats show and found out what itï¿½s really like to have pressure applied against you.
Howï¿½s the tour been so far?
Great. Weï¿½re really enjoying it. All of the bands seem to be getting on well and theyï¿½re all good bands soï¿½I suppose the only downside is that weï¿½re having to play shorter sets than we would at a normal headline show. Weï¿½re also fully aware that a lot of people in the audience arenï¿½t necessarily Maximo Park fansï¿½.
ï¿½which brings me onto my next question. Is it daunting having to go on after the Arctic Monkeys, particularly with all the tabloid hysteria as well as music business hype around the band?
Itï¿½s good for them because theyï¿½re under enough pressure as it is trying to justify all the hype. Itï¿½s surreal for us because there is a lot to live up to, but weï¿½ve got enough confidence in ourselves to rise to the challenge. If weï¿½d have been asked to do something like this a year ago we may have buckled under the pressure but I think now weï¿½re very experienced and accomplished performers. Itï¿½s like a smokescreen for us. Weï¿½ve heard the rumours about their management offering to swap the bill around ï¿½ not true by the way ï¿½ and for us thatï¿½s fine. Weï¿½re used to working in the face of adversity anyway. I was reading an article in The Times the other day about how uncomfortable Maximo Park would feel having to follow the incredible, unstoppable Arctic Monkeys would be well worth pondering! At the end of the day, thatï¿½s all it is, something to ponder over not worry about. Weï¿½ve got a reputation as a live band whereas theyï¿½ve got a reputation as a hype band. If they wanted to change the running order around then Iï¿½m sure it wouldï¿½ve happened but I donï¿½t think they wanted to do it. They may be Monkeys but theyï¿½re not cheeky monkeys!
Your biggest hit single ï¿½Apply Some Pressureï¿½ was a re-release of your first hit single less than 12 months after it was originally in the shops. How do you feel about the record label re-releasing your material?
ï¿½Apply Some Pressureï¿½ got re-released because it didnï¿½t really get enough exposure the first time round last February and it is such a strong song. We made another video and we knew that it would get twice as much television and radio play. We want to market our music just like anyone else, whether they say they do or not. Initially we hoped we wouldnï¿½t have to go down the road of re-issuing stuff but after the Mercury nomination things started to take off and that was the track everyone associated with us, so it seemed the obvious thing to do. The bottom line is that re-releasing it worked, as it got a better chart position, got us more exposure on daytime radio and terrestrial television, and everyone goes mad for it when we play it live.
The media, not least via the Internet and printed press, has played a large part in spreading the bandï¿½s name to so many people. Do you feel indebted to them in some way?
Theyï¿½ve been good to us but they tended not to notice that much in the early days. We had to get ourselves noticed the hard way, by playing loads and loads of gigs. I think the Mercury nomination was the turning point, where we were then getting in the faces of the press regularly. I think at that stage the press had to get involved. I suppose you live and die by the press and Iï¿½ve got as much respect for the way theyï¿½ve perceived our work so far as I have apprehension of what theyï¿½ll be saying about us 12 months down the line. Itï¿½s like with the Arctic Monkeys. Iï¿½ve got such a lot of respect for them as people and what theyï¿½ve achieved in such a short space of time but because of the hyperbole surrounding them I can only offer a mixed congratulation with a few words of warning about where they can go next. I mean, after all the superlatives thrown at them in the media over their debut record, how can they possibly follow that? In putting someone on such a high pedestal, the press are just creating more intense pressure on the artists.
As opposed to a lot of your contemporaries, Maximo Park seem to exist on the periphery rather than at the forefront of any music scene. Would you say that is how the band see themselves?
Most definitely. Weï¿½ve always seen ourselves as outsiders. I mean, even in the North East, where there are numerous great bands coming through at the moment, I wouldnï¿½t say any of them has anything in common with each other apart from geographical location. We all operate independent of each other I the same way we do with any other bands in the world. I think we will exist far beyond any fashionable scene for the simple fact we donï¿½t tend to trust anyone else but ourselves and in a funny way, we do want to remain ï¿½ not exactly obscure butï¿½on the outskirts of everything. I think if we were in the middle of something weï¿½d have a much more insular view and our songs wouldnï¿½t convey the same messages, so from that point of view we need to be on the outside looking in if we are to carry on as a pop band.
It must be satisfying though to know that the success of people like yourselves and The Futureheads has opened a lot of peopleï¿½s eyes to the fact thereï¿½s a lot of good music coming out of the North East of England at the minute.
Iï¿½m glad that people have at last started to see the potential where we come from and there is a lot of exciting stuff happening up there at the moment. Iï¿½ve seen fliers for hundreds of bands whenever Iï¿½ve gone out around Newcastle ï¿½ it really is quite phenomenal. We have friends who run recording studios and rehearsal rooms in Newcastle and theyï¿½re just constantly booked up. It really is a hive of activity. I think a lot of other cities could be quite envious of us at the minute because thereï¿½s no pre-requisite of what comes out of Newcastle, unlike say London or Manchester.
The most recent addition to Maximo Parkï¿½s growing song directory was ï¿½Wastelandï¿½ for the Warchild compilation album. Would you say that song is more representative of the bandï¿½s newer material?
That was actually an old song that we re-vamped. Iï¿½d say that all of our songs are representative of themselves and not really anything else. Weï¿½ve got a lot of new material ï¿½ one song called ï¿½A Fortnightï¿½s Timeï¿½ which has been part of the set throughout this tour and another new one called ï¿½Nosebleedï¿½ which we played on the December tour. Neither of them sounds particularly like ï¿½Wastelandï¿½ but then we tend to think that none of our songs sound the same. I still think those two songs have the same lyrical directness and complexity as all of our other songs.
What about the bandï¿½s musical direction? Are there any artists you currently admire and think, ï¿½I wouldnï¿½t mind doing what theyï¿½re doingï¿½ at the minute?
Thereï¿½s too many to mention really to be honest, although I donï¿½t think weï¿½ve ever deliberately gone out of our way to sound like anyone else. Structurally, the songs are the same as before, really. Itï¿½s like, with us, we feel we need to build up tension through our songs then release it in the chorus. Weï¿½re not going to become obtuse too quickly but Iï¿½m sure thereï¿½ll come a time when we get jaded and go out of our way to make the records as inaccessible as possible!