March 6, 2014 Interview – John O’Callaghan and Kennedy Brock of The Maine
It has been a long journey since The Maine’s initial start in Tempe, Arizona back in 2007. It has been a whirlwind of seven years, four full-length studio albums, and countless tours together, but this group of five talented musicians has no intentions of slowing down. Most recently, The Maine released an all-acoustic EP, Imaginary Numbers (2013). Featuring new music, as well as some glorified favorites turned acoustic, The Maine decided to set out on a smaller, more intimate acoustic tour. CrypticRock.com received the opportunity to sit down face to face with The Maine’s lead singer, John O’Callaghan, and lead guitarist, Kennedy Brock, for a personal interview before they took on New York City’s Webster Hall for one of these special acoustic shows.
Crypticrock.com – A lot has happened for The Maine since the band’s formation 7 years ago. You have released 4 successful albums, been on a series of tours, and continue to grow as the years go by. Could you have imagined when you first joined the band the success the band has seen thus far?
John O’Callaghan – Not at all. You know I still can’t even imagine that we are continuing to do what we do. We have been on the road with so many different bands and actually been on quite a few of the Vans Warped Tours. Just to be able to still do it is very surreal. It is very humbling. You know it makes us want to work hard.
Kennedy Brock – We like to take it one goal at a time.
Crypticrock.com – It sounds like the band has a good prospective on matters. Looking back on the past 7 years, I imagine you have gained a lot of experience and learned a lot about yourselves as musicians. What do you feel is the biggest thing you’ve learned over the years with The Maine?
John O’Callaghan – There are so many different things. Not only just as a band and as musicians, but as people too. I think one thing we can take away from what we have done, who we have talked to, and the experiences that we have gone through, is believing in ourselves, not selling ourselves short and not necessarily chime into what other people think. At the end of the day, you have to be happy with what you are doing and if we are making something we have to stand behind it. We try to control as much as we can. At the end of the day, if we fail we are doing something that we are really proud of and that we love, we are fine with that. I think that is not how it started, but that is what it has come to.
Kennedy Brock – Yeah, you need to be proud of what you are doing. I think we definitely learned that doing things ourselves gets the outcome we want.
Crypticrock.com – That sounds like the right outlook. Not many bands stick around this long, you’re doing a good job and your plan is working. The band’s sound has progressed over the years. Obliviously you always want to challenge yourself as an artist and try new things, but what has been the band’s biggest inspiration in the progression of the sound and style of the newer music?
John O’Callaghan – I think it just continues to be an attitude that is indicative of not compromising. I think it is a mentality. It is basically just, “I can only do what I can do” but at the same token, nobody else can do that. I think that is what is really inspiring about creating art, in general, is that a billion people can paint a picture, but they can’t paint it exactly how you have painted it and exactly how you have envisioned it. So, I think it is the individuals, not only in music, but in life that refuse to compromise, refuse to mold to what is popular or the surroundings, and stick to their gut. Along the way, that is the way inspiration and creativity works. You just suck up a bunch of things around you and subconsciously those things make their way into what you are doing. I think that the direct correlation with our change in music is the music that we have started to listen to and continue to listen to along the way. Not only the music, but films we have watched and books we have read and so on and so forth. But we are just trying to do what we can at this point in time and try and figure ourselves out.
CrypticRock.com – That is awesome. Your newest record Forever Halloween came in June 2013. The album has received an overwhelming positive response and is overall a great album. You worked with Brendan Benson of The Raconteurs. What was that experience like and did his presence influence the direction the band took the record beyond production?
Kennedy Brock – Yeah, Brendan… great musician, great guy. He brought a definite vibe to the whole album and made us look at things a lot differently than we had before, just in the way of actually putting the song down and what our songs were.
John O’Callaghan – He is a very rock-n-roll dude. Nothing is hokey about him. He is very just sincere and genuine in his passion for making rock music. It was somebody we could trust before we even got in the room with him because we respect what he does, the music that he makes, and the message he is putting out through his music. That is something we had never really been able to experience prior. We had met with producers and worked with producers that had made albums, but at the end of the day we kind of forgot that the band is really who makes that music. The producer makes it sound good, but Brendan really brought the sound aspect and also the approach of the analog process. He is definitely one of the more influential dudes in our career.
Kennedy Brock – Yeah! There was something about him. We knew he wasn’t going to steer us in a direction we didn’t want to go.
Crypticrock.com – That is great that you were able to trust and work so closely with him. Last year you had a successful tour with Anberlin. Now you are on a headlining acoustic tour in 2014. So, what inspired the band to do a full tour of acoustic shows?
Kennedy Brock – The fact that we had not done anything like that before. We only get to do maybe one acoustic song on an album, or we get to put it out separately, or something like that. But there were a lot of people out there that we had heard from saying “Oh, we would really like to hear acoustic songs” and this and that. It was an opportunity for us to go at songs a different way with songs that had not made the previous records. Some songs that we had for a couples years even, as well as some new songs. It was an experiment with our studio as well; trying to figure out the ins and outs of a new room to record in and all the gadgets and gizmos that were acquired and figuring out what they do along the way.
John O’Callaghan – I think it is all just us pushing ourselves and now that we are completely detached from any label… you know we are not associated with any ‘big brother’ kind of deals. We are expediting the process of experimentation and exploration. We are trying to do as much as we can as fast as we can because that is the only way we are going to get better. Sometimes it is not going to always work out, but this whole thing, not only just the band, but this whole life is a learning process. We are figuring out faster than we were before and that is what cool about this… it is kind of a daily task to do something unique and new.
Crypticrock.com – Many say if a song sounds good on acoustic guitar then it will sound good any other way, whether it be with electric guitars or various effects. You have done acoustic shows before, with that said how does performing acoustically live differ from an electric set?
John O’Callaghan – Well we took a lot of the songs that we had already written, chose to rearrange them and cater them to being a more intimate kind of setting. It expands our horizons as far as musicianship goes. It forces everyone to step outside of their comfortable little circle and experience a different instrument. What is funny is that a lot of the songs we have started out on acoustic guitar, rapidly turn into something different along the process. There is this fascination with people asking you to play an acoustic song, but people do not realize how hard it really is to take a song that you made a rock-n-roll song and break it back down to acoustic. We make it loud and we put electric guitars all over it. There is so many different parts to a song, yet they want you to simplify it down. So that was our headspace for this stuff, we had to take a step back and really breakdown the structures of our songs. It is almost as if we rewrote a lot of these songs.
Crypticrock.com – That is very interesting. It is almost a completely different song. You can literally hear more of the passion in the songs as you are performing them.
John O’Callaghan – Yeah, exactly! It is definitely a challenging thing, but in order to get to where we think we want to go, we have to keep doing these kinds of things.
Crypticrock.com – That is a very progressive attitude to have. What are some of your musical influences? I know you mentioned Brendan Benson before, but any others off hand?
Kennedy Brock – It is an overwhelming list. Anything that is good, we enjoy. I have been a big fan of Paul McCartney and I have been listening to a lot of different records of his lately.
John O’Callaghan – Too many too count! There are so many different things on circulation on my iPod. Beck just put out a new album and it is really great. But yeah, Beck and Paul McCartney!
Crypticrock.com – There really is a lot of good music out there. My last question for you is regarding films. CrypticRock.com is a rock and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you fans of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
John O’Callaghan – You know I can dig on horror if it is ridiculous, you know what I mean? I hate the stuff that is plausible. Where it is if you are in a cabin, there is some sadistic dude that actually arranged that.
Kennedy Brock – I hate movies like The Strangers (2008). You know, I like watching those movies when I am with a lot of friends that make it ridiculous.
John O’Callaghan – Yeah, we do the Paranormal Activity (2007) thing on the bus!
Kennedy Brock – Yeah, we always group together and watch that, it is really funny and always a good time.
John O’Callaghan – Because it is a predictable thing and we all get kind of scared. Our bassist Garrett is a fan of zombie movies.
Crypticrock.com – I think Pat Kirch actually mentioned that in an interview we did couple of months ago with him.
John O’Callaghan – Yeah! Brendan Benson actually turned us on to these old drive-in movies that come in this huge box set of DVDs that he bought. They are just very low budget, with kind of ridiculous story lines.
Kennedy Brock – A couple of actors. Definitely a murder scene.
John O’Callaghan – Definitely a nude scene.
Kennedy Brock – Yeah! Nude scene and a murder and you can just guarantee they have to be in it. A few do have those generic horror themes as well.
The Maine kick off their European tour March 29th. Dates are as follow:
Mar 29 Academy 2 Dublin, Ireland
Mar 30 Oh Yeah music Centre Belfast, United Kingdom
Apr 01 UEA Norwich, United Kingdom
Apr 03 02 Academy Newcastle, United Kingdom
Apr 04 02 Academy Leeds, United Kingdom
Apr 05 Academy Manchester, United Kingdom
Apr 06 53 Degrees Preston, United Kingdom
Apr 07 O2 ABC Glasgow, United Kingdom
Apr 08 Tunnels Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Apr 10 Clapham Grand London, United Kingdom
Apr 11 Clapham Grand London, United Kingdom
Apr 13 02 Academy Oxford, United Kingdom
Apr 14 Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall Wolverhampton, United Kingdom
Apr 15 Great Hall Cardiff, United Kingdom
Apr 17 Concorde 2 Brighton, United Kingdom
Apr 18 The Unit Southampton, United Kingdom
Apr 19 Hit the Deck Festival Bristol, United Kingdom
Apr 20 Hit The Deck Festival Nottingham, United Kingdom
Interview conducted by Vanessa Carlucci
Feature photos credit – Dirk Mai