When it came to recording their new album, Maxïmo Park were thrown the gauntlet.
Armed with new 15-20 songs, Ben Allen, their would-be producer, laid down the challenge to the Newcastle indie heroes. The Atlanta-based, Grammy Award-winning whizz gave them the daunting task of hitting 40 tracks.
It was one the Mercury Prize-nominees embraced. They invited Allen to their north east hometown at the beginning of 2020 for a trip to soak up the culture. They took in the sights, from the fleamarket to the quayside, before stopping off for a curry – sealing the deal for him to become Maxïmo Park’s “fourth member” in the process. Led by frontman Paul Smith, they got to work on even more new songs that would form their seventh studio album Nature Always Wins, out on February 26 via Prolifica.
“We thought this guy had thrown the gauntlet down”, Smith told Daily Star Online. “It pushed us to writing more songs and you end up with more songs to choose from.
“You can get the diversity you want from the record and hopefully you will get a better calibre of song, even though we tend to hold great stock in the art of songwriting. We try and craft songs that are timeless and built to last. We pushed ourselves a bit further.”
They were due to fly out to Atlanta to work in Allen’s studio but the pandemic threw a spanner in the works. It meant Nature Always Wins was recorded and produced remotely.
But Maxïmo Park remained unfazed by a the transatlantic hurdle that stood in their way.
Nature Always Wins is an ambitious and sublime landmark for Maxïmo Park. While their thrilling, “quintessential Maxïmo” punky hooks are still there on songs like the dizzyingly catchy single Baby Sleep, Ardour and I Don’t Know What I’m Doing, they’ve embraced an alluring sonic enchantment boosted by Allen’s work producing Deerhunter, Animal Collective and Gnarls Barkley.
Rousing synths are layered over Placeholder, All Of Me, and Feelings I’m Supposed To Feel, but the real shift is seen in atmospheric album closer Child Of The Flatlands, which Smith describes as “one of the best things we’ve ever done”.
Lyrically, Smith is as bold and inquisitive as ever. Here he tackles themes inspired by the anxiety of newfound fatherhood, the brutal realities of disaster and terrorism, and the treatment of ethnic minority groups among a stunning cluster of expertly researched and universally relatable songs about the everyday.
“It feels like all of our songs there is a life goes on light at the end of the tunnel aspect of all of them”, Smith adds. “Whether it’s Apply Some Pressure where it says ‘what happens when you lose everything? You just start again’. Having people hear those things in songs is a powerful thing – especially for me. I only speak as a music fan really, most of the time. When I’m looking for what I love in a song, it is often those everyday things, everyday statements you maybe don’t hear in a song all the time.”
He added: “I’m more relaxed as a songwriter. We take more chances, especially on this record.”
Daily Star Online’s Rory McKeown caught up with Smith to talk about Nature Always Wins’ creation, its themes, working with Ben Allen, becoming a dad, and Maxïmo Park’s evolution since 2005’s A Certain Trigger.
Hi Paul. How would you describe the past year for Maxïmo Park? How have you dealt with any challenges that may have arisen from the weirdness of 2020?
“It’s been not one we would have liked. We were due to go to Atlanta to record the record just before lockdown started. We started to try and find a different way of doing it. Luckily Ben Allen, the producer, was happy to do it long distance and see how the processed worked.
“We were geared up to go to the other side of the world. We were pretty excited about recording. That was one big thing I can definitely say was a disruption.
“But in terms of every day kind of stuff, it has in someways been very normal. I work from home, I make my own solo records at home. Making music at home wasn’t that unusual, to be recording a vocal and sending it off to somebody. I do that because that’s my break from the collaborative excitement you get when you’re away somewhere with your pals making music.
“It was slightly annoying in that respect but loads of other people have lost jobs or can’t go into work. I feel fairly self-sufficient at home. I can read, write and try and process what’s going on at home.
“My four-year-old daughter started school in this time, which is a bit of a shift in everybody’s mental states and schedules. All the daily things have started to pile up and it definitely feels like we all need a bit of a release. Like going out to the shops, things like that didn’t bother me too much.
“Now it’s that idea of contact with people, that kind of freedom you have to go to places, I feel like I’ve been trying to be as responsible as possible in limiting all the contacts I’ve been having. You do feel under pressure to do right thing, even though you’ve been left a bit to make your own mind up in that respect.”
You’re about to release your seventh album Nature Always Wins. Tell me about its writing and recording process. When did these songs start forming?
“Our keyboard player Lukas (Wooller) left the band. He emigrated and started a family in Australia. We knew that was on the cards and we didn’t start writing until he’d gone. We were having a re-learning of how to write songs after you go on the road for a while. After Risk to Exist was out, we went out for the best part of the year doing festivals. After that you want to get back to trying to find some inspiration rather than churning something out. We’re not that kind of band. Every bit of music we put out has to mean something to us. We’re pretty stringent on that. There’s plenty of disposable music out there and we don’t want to be part of that.
“You come back and try and reset in some normal life and try and find things to write about, do research, listen to a lot of music that excites you to try and recharge your musical batteries. Me and Duncan (Lloyd) both make solo music. That gives you a different kind of outlet, artistically speaking. We felt like ‘OK, Lukas is going to leave. Let’s try and think about what that means to the way we write songs’. He would chip in every now and then with a song but it’s basically me and Duncan who write all the songs together.
“Lukas’ keyboards are a big part of the sound of all of our other records, up until this one. We’re not just a chuggy guitar band, of which there are many. We try to think how we’re going to keep going with keyboards, it was definitely important to us.
“Duncan wrote a few songs on piano and did a bit of synth on some of the demos. We thought we were going to try and not just fill the gap entirely, but we did want someone who could play the keyboards. We thought ‘right, we need a producer who’s a musician and who can play a bit of bass, a bit of keyboards, and anything else they think is applicable to the songs’.
“That’s when we thought of Ben Allen. We’d looked at him for a few of our records when we were making decisions about who we might approach. We’ve always liked his work with Deerhunter and the Animal Collective record he made, Merriweather Post Pavilion. It changed a lot of alternative music’s sound. A lot became more synthy and dream-like. Those kind of things are something that interests us sonically, even though we’re a more poppy and, in some ways, aggressive and punkier band.
“We approached him with 15-20 songs. He said ‘I really want to work with you guys, but I want you to write 40 songs’, which we were slightly alarmed by! We thought this guy had thrown the gauntlet down. It pushed us to writing more songs and you end up with more songs to choose from. You can get the diversity you want from the record and hopefully you will get a better calibre of song, even though we tend to hold great stock in the art of songwriting. We try and craft songs that are timeless and built to last. We pushed ourselves a bit further. That was in 2019. We were just chipping away at things and went into overdrive after speaking to Ben.
“In February, Ben came over from Atlanta. He was having some meetings in London. We said do you want to get the train up to Newcastle. We’ll show you around and we’ll try and get that bond with your producer. They’re becoming a fourth member of the band, essentially. We went through a few of the songs. They went so well that we were really excited about making the record. We said let’s see you in Atlanta. We went around the fleamarket on the quayside here in Newcastle and he bought Rupert books because he wanted something quintessentially English. We had the little bonding experience you need before you make a record and before you trust somebody with your songs.
“We collaborated with him on a song called All Of Me. He’d written this great keyboard riff. We were really positive about all of the songs and it felt like it was a new kind of sound of us while not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We love pop music and pop songs. That’s the one thing that binds us every time we make a record. We push the sound in different directions and sometimes the structures are a bit more freeform. Especially on this record with Child Of The Flatlands, which we put out first to get people stroking their chins a bit and working out what kind of band we were. Something that’s a little bit more reflective.
“It felt like the punkier side of the band is still there, which you can hear on I Don’t Know What I’m Doing. There’s this ambience that’s in-built into the songs that I would put down to Ben. We had some of those ideas in our demos. Duncan had done some synthy stuff but he brought it onto the level we wanted that felt new and bold territory for us. It’s a layered approach. On the surface of it, it’s 12 pop songs of different styles and lengths but there’s something in the sound. We were inspired by people like Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois production. How could we apply those more textual things to our hooky pop songs? That’s where we got to with Nature Always Wins.
“The lyrics are a different aspect. The big change in my life was becoming a parent. All the different feelings that throws up. My main challenge when writing the lyrics was, yes I always write about personal experience but I always try to connect with other people and think where are the little doors and windows into this work that I’m trying to create with the lyrics.
“I was thinking of these universal feelings of despair or love. The ups and downs of being a parent. Can I put them in the songs and make songs that everybody can relate to? I feel like I really tried to hone them so they didn’t lose the ambiguous qualities. The last album we made, Risk to Exist, was really up front and the lyrics were fairly clear. They were explicit about the topics I wanted to write about, and for some people they were probably too clear.
“But what we’ve always done generally before that was to have this more ambiguous element where people can try and wonder what the songs are about, and then there will be another line that’s very specific and self referential almost that allows people that realise that they’re very detailed and specific, they’re not just airy fairy made up stuff that’s trying to appeal to everybody in the world. We realise we can’t do that and you have to put a bit of yourself into the songs. For me, my favourite songwriters have done that. I feel like we got that balance right. The state of the world, you can read all sorts into the lyrics, hopefully, about where we are in the north east, in British society, those more local things that align more with the more universal, emotional aspects of it.”
Theme-Wise you tackle issues in society, such as the treatment of ethnic minority groups, the Grenfell fire, the north east, and parenthood. As a songwriter, what is it like tackling these subjects? You mentioned research, do you read up a lot into these issues you’re writing about?
“Certain things you’re interested in and you put it down on the page. I might be writing something or wondering around and I’ll use the notes in my phone. If you’ve got an idea, you just put it down and recognise when something might be interesting. A lot of that stuff isn’t use and it’s not great but if there’s something that is associated with the wider world, shall we say, I’ll do some extra research.
“On the title track of the last album, I was reading about colonialism and some of the history of our country. I felt like I needed to do that. Although the lyrics were as universal as I could make them, I wanted to do that so I could have conviction in singing what I was singing about. The same with the Grenfell fire. I’ve been reading a lot about the inquiry that’s been going on. I wanted to add my own personal reflection on that tragedy, but also I didn’t want it to be just a descriptive song. I’m detached from it in one way despite it being on the news. I think we were in London the day afterwards and woke up and saw it on the news. It felt very close and real and horrific. I would have never thought of writing a song about it at all, but I found myself writing one day and thinking about the fact that there is a lot of hindsights in decisions that are made that affect big groups of people. You just think it was your job to do something about it before it happened. That’s often the way when something quite tragic happens. You think ‘could this or that have been done?’. It seems to be that in this scenario a lot of things could have been done in order to prevent this from happening.
“My own personal connection which came into it was the idea of seeing somebody’s picture on the news and recognising them. That is something that could happen to any of us. It’s shocking when it does happen. One of our old merch guys, Nick Alexander, was killed in the Bataclan terrorist attack. I remember putting on Channel 4 news and seeing his face and thinking ‘I hope this isn’t true’ even though you’re confronted by the reality of something like that.
“When people were talking about Grenfell on the news, these images would come up of so many people on the screen and you’d think ‘these are lives’. It’s a horrible thing to have to deal with. That was my way into writing about it. There’s a political element to the lyrics that we have in all of the record and it bubbles up to the surface on various occasions. But when it came to the song Why Must A Building Burn, yes you have those tragic and factual elements in there but the rest of the song is a snapshot of Britain as I see it and as I live it. It feels like all of our songs there is a life goes on light at the end of the tunnel aspect of all of them. Whether it’s Apply Some Pressure where it says ‘what happens when you lose everything? You just start again’. Having people hear those things in songs is a powerful thing. Especially for me. I only speak as a music fan really, most of the time. When I’m looking for what I love in a song, it is often those everyday things, everyday statements you maybe don’t hear in a song all the time. With that song, and on this record, I’ve tried to go back to the snapshot aspect of our songwriting where each line leads on to the next, but you’re not quite sure how they relate. You have to fill in the gaps as a listener to create the full meaning of the song to you.
“It’s not as explicit as some of the stuff on the last album. It’s clear what it’s about if you’ve lived in Britain over the past couple of years. That song will key into something in your mind but the rest of the song will lead you down different paths, which was the intention that hopefully how people receive it, so that they don’t think it’s some sort of didactic fight the power kind of thing, even though it is (laughs).”
You mentioned becoming a dad. How has fatherhood changed you? I interviewed Orlando Weeks whose album A Quickening is about that journey into parenthood and he says it changes you and brings out all these different emotions. Is that true with you?
“It’s an enhancement of things that you’ve felt or thought in the past. To me it dredged up a lot of things that you put to one side. I’ve become even more emotionally on the edge than I already was, which is my role in the band essentially. Some sort of emotional lightening conductor. Thankfully being in the band has allowed me to live a fairly calm existence and all of the extreme emotions can come out in performance or in writing and songs, which isn’t to say that I don’t shout at my telly quite a lot!
“The first song on the record, Partly of My Making, says I wasn’t prepared for this kind of intensity, essentially, that’s what it’s trying to say. You end up in arguments in that song where you’re ramping it up because you’re not in control of the situation. You want to just express yourself. Everybody’s been bottling things up. You and your partner might be both tired and stressed out and you’re egging each other on until it subsides and you can feel like you’ve expressed yourself. You might be upset at the end of that as well. But also that idea of unconditional love and not realising that is intense either. There’s a line on Feelings That I’m Supposed To Feel, which is the penultimate song, and there’s this spoken word bit about not realising that you could love this more than one other person as intensely that you do, and the love expands and grows and is allowed to attach itself to somebody else, this new life. You feel very protective and you feel like it’s less about you. Loads of people will probably say that in terms of parenthood, but that’s a good thing. I’ve been very much driven by wanting to write great songs and be interested in lots of different things and going on lots of tours away from home and my wife is very understanding of that. My life was geared towards making music and being a good partner and now being a good dad is joint number one with being a good partner. If you’re a good partner that helps the situation by no end. It’s there in the songs.
“The song Placeholder talks about the pressures that are on a mother and the pressures that are on a mother to ‘get back into shape’, or ‘you should feel great about being a parent’. Over the past few years there’s been more mental health awareness and people are becoming more attuned into the idea that being a parent is full on and hard and can be a struggle for people. That song is about being supportive and the idea that you’re whole personality might change is even more of a pertinent question for somebody who has been through nine months of pregnancy then through labour. Being so attached to this extra human being. They say that for ever how many months the child doesn’t even know they’re separate from the mother. Once you realise that, that explains a lot of things that are happening. For me that’s part of my role as the partner is to support my wife. As one of the song says ‘conceal the difficulty of the moment’ which is in I Don’t Know What I’m Doing, and realising there really isn’t a right or wrong way of doing things, which is so frustrating because all you want to do is the right thing. You feel like you’re really affecting this little person who is so impressionable and is learning about how to be alive and function. It’s so wild that it always going to be a big part of our lyrics.
“As I say a lot of my friends don’t want children, it’s not the way they want to live their lives. I want these songs to translate to anybody. Like teenagers who are feeling intense feelings as well. That’s one of the things that I’ve realised as I’ve gone along, that feeling of intensity you have when you’re younger is still there and sometimes it’s buried under the surface a little bit. Having a kid has probably brought that out in me more. I’ve been so raging at certain points of frustrating of how to solve something when it’s going wrong. The intensity of falling for somebody, the romantic love you might have and the love you have for your family, just feeling that in the most extreme circumstances is really life-affirming. It makes you want to write about the topic. I think I’ve become less self-centred I would have to say. That’s no doubt a good thing.”
Do you think it’s changed your songwriting approach since being a dad?
“I guess it gives you more perspective. I can try and feel my way around what’s important to be and what my priorities are. I don’t have as much spare time anymore. I’ve been as productive as I possibly can while my daughter’s been growing up. Any spare time I’ve had I’ve tried to read a book or make a record. I’ve been making some music with a friend of mine, Rachel Unthank, which will hopefully see the light of day at some point. During lockdown I’ve been doing a radio show for a local venue Star and Shadow on a Monday night, doing 90 minutes of DIY broadcasting using this Mixlr app. My daughter goes to bed at 7 and I just go read her a story, go upstairs, plug in and during the daytime I’ve prepared the show and got the records together and written a bunch of notes. Whatever time I’ve got I try and cram something else in.
“Sometimes you just want to watch Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse going fishing. That was like being down the pub with somebody, which was just nice TV. I’ve just been trying not to waste time. Time is short. I look at things in a different way now. I look at things and think ‘when I’m 50 how old will my daughter be’ and ‘will I be able to play football?’, more existential questions that you might have felt a little bit more relaxed about in your 30s when you feel like ‘I know where I’m going, I know more about myself, I feel more comfortable about who I am’. Me and my wife have thrown a spanner in the works!”
Stylistically and sonically the album a brilliantly varied effort. For me, you’ve got the huge powerful opener of Partly Of My Making, the catchy indie pop of Baby, Sleep, the glorious synth-driven Meeting Up, and the enchanting ender Child Of The Flatlands, which offers an engrossing conclusion. What was it like delving into these different styles?
“It was very rewarding and it was more so because it was a bit of a bitty process sending files to Atlanta and coming back with effects on things. Ben would do a bit of work and we’d speak to him about that. Dunc would send something. Tom’s drums were all done and dusted in a week session he did over here distanced with Ben on an internet connection. It felt like putting the nuts and bolts together was pretty boring because we weren’t there. We weren’t talking about it. We were having to sort it out on WhatsApp the next day.
“Sometimes I would be thinking how is this ever going to turn into what I imagined? During the mixing process, especially giving yourself a couple of days to have a break from some of the things you’ve been stressing about, songs like Child Of The Flatlands and Meeting Up, they were both ones where I just felt like this subtlety was needed, and that’s a tricky thing to get even when you’re in the same room as other people.
“Child Of The Flatlands is one of the best things we’ve ever done. I don’t think we’d tried anything quite like that before. There’s a song on our first record called Acrobat. It has spoken word on it, this electronic beat, and it’s atmospheric. It’s slower than a lot of our songs. We’ve got songs like Brain Cells and Leave This Island from our fifth record which are much more synthy and atmospheric. But I think Child Of The Flatlands is different because the structure is very different for us. The demo Duncan did I felt like I had free rein to do whatever. I didn’t even expect it to go on the record at that stage. I thought ‘I’ll do what I’ll want and see if the other two like it’. They did. You start to think what the possibilities are. Dunc threw in some field recordings he’d done of cafe noises in some of the breakdowns.
“I really wanted the tenderness of it to come across because it deals with industrial landscapes. Billingham, where I grew up, a small town where ICI, the chemical industry, was a big part of the local landscape. My dad worked there for most of his life until he retired recently. It’s more nostalgic than some of our songs. You need the music and the sonics to really provide a good home for that kind of thing, otherwise it can become schmalzy or lost if it’s too big and the sonics overwhelm the little tale I’m telling, the descriptive writing that’s in that particular song. When it finally came out, whatever Ben did to the drums, I thought ‘yes, this is exactly how I want it to sound’. To me it is psychedelic in its own way, but in a very soft, pastoral way. You wouldn’t necessarily associate Maxïmo ParkPark with pastoral psychedelia! In that respect, I felt we’d achieved something. We’ve really got to where we want to get with that particular song.
“Meeting Up was another one where it felt there was a real vibe on the demo. We didn’t want to lose the vibe and make it too much like a live band. When Ben listened to it and did a bit of work on it when he came over to Newcastle, he said ‘it reminds me of Underworld’. I hadn’t thought about that at all. As soon as he said that I thought this was in safe hands. I didn’t want to lose the propulsion of it and the softness. That was one of the things we talked about before even making the record. Feelings I’m Supposed To Feel and Meeting Up were in the mix. They were different to some of the rockier songs, and more guitar-led songs. We just had to make sure we got that softness and edge to it. If it’s too soft, it’s not really Maxïmo Park. If there’s too much of an edge to it, it doesn’t take us anywhere new.
“Versions Of You was another one that came together at the last minute, which is the second song on the record. It was like this could become a little bit too sentimental in the wrong hands. It feels really atmospheric to me as well as having the propulsion it needs. Partly Of My Making was probably the breakthrough in terms of feeling like the record was going to be a step away from what we had done before. The drums hadn’t been done and we’d done it a little bit faster with the beat very different. It sounded like a really good Maxïmo Park song with an incredible riff from Dunc. Tom had done this half-time beat and all of a sudden it started making me think of Led Zeppelin. The way it opens out in the chorus we said to the engineer of the record, Ben’s assistant Annie Leeth, that we knew she’d played violin and we said ‘could you play some of these guitar parts on strings?’. All of a sudden it came back the next day. I was so excited. I’m slightly embarrassed to say how excited I was when I heard it the next day! Singing along to it in my attic room where I’d been doing all the recording, pumping my fists (laughs).
“It’s that idea of it being varied, not just being one-dimensional or repeating what you’d done. Just trying to have this variety. It really reflects all of the things we’re into. It’s hard to get across because it’s a collaborative thing but I felt like we were really getting somewhere when that one came through. The rest of the record was made a little bit easier because I had total faith we’d get there, even though it was a bit of a retracted recording process.”
You mentioned the atmospherics there. Ben Allen albums Merriweather Post Pavilion and his work with Deerhunter are awash with these amazing atmospherics. It really does come out in Nature Always Wins, I find. Almost a magical enchantment on some of the tracks. Do you agree?
“It’s something he (Ben) brings to the table. Ultimately we’re a band – we have vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass and drums. How can you do something that’s interesting with that? Because a lot of people don’t. A lot of people just want to sound like The Beatles or sound like a 70s rock group, or whatever it might be. People get hung up on specific sounds. It feels to me that Ben’s production on the Deerhunter stuff for example, is that you know it’s a band but you’re not quite sure how they’re making the music. There’s something going on, a kind of alchemy that’s part of the recording process, part of the people making it and their relations, their interrelated band things, the sound of a band that makes one band different from another one. You’re pondering all that if you’re listening to a Deerhunter record, even if you’re not conscious of it. If you put it on headphones, you can listen to all those layers of sound. I think that’s what Ben’s given us on this record, as well as little musical flourishes.
“It’s a different dynamic to our other records. Part of the fun is not knowing how it’s going to be but having those intentions that we can have that much more space because there’s one less member, we can have more sounds we would have never thought of ourselves because there’s this guy in Atlanta who is a person whose job is to pay attention to sound. He’s worked with Gnarls Barkley, Christina Aguilera and with other bands. He has the capability of getting what you need in whatever situation you provide. That’s the interesting part about it – seeing how you bounce off each other and seeing what the end the result might be.”
This is your seventh album. When you look back at the release of A Certain Trigger, how would you say Maxïmo Park has evolved from then? And what are the next steps?
“We still play a lot of the songs from A Certain Trigger. A lot of people love those songs. We haven’t got sick of them. If we ever get sick of them, we give them a rest and play them on the next tour. We feel there’s a real thread between what we did then and now. It feels like we’ve still got loads of room for progressing and doing new things. I think we’ve shown that on the new record, while still being enthralled to the power of the pop song.
“We’re more relaxed than we ever were. The first album is perhaps defined by its tautness, its economy, and the emotional intensity of it. The emotional intensity is still there but is focused on different subject matter. It’s part of the songs we sing. It’s about connecting with people. There’s an element of celebration of life to all of the songs we’ve written. They’re commemorating small moments. That is something that connects all of the stuff we’ve done. Obviously how we’ve done it is the way it’s changed. I’m more relaxed as a songwriter. We take more chances, especially on this record. The last record was playing live in a room and trying to add an element of funk to things that was part of the music we played in the practice room but never made it into the records. With each record you try and tick off a few things you haven’t done before. The spaciousness on the new record and the more interesting synth sounds, the production, that’s definitely something that’s very different to the last one, which is the sound of us playing in Wilco’s studio in Chicago. There were virtually no overdubs, which was something we were really interested in doing.
“Next time out it will be something we’re interested in doing. I’d like to push it even further out there. Stuff like Child Of The Flatlands, we’re not proving it to anybody else but to ourselves that we can do things that we haven’t done. That gives you room to go a bit further each time. The first album we were thinking we don’t want any guitar solos, even though there’s one on Graffiti. We broke our rules every now on then. It was about economy and why would a song need to keep going once you’ve said all you need to say. I still believe in that but it’s fun to go against that.
“Like at the end of Versions of You, there’s 10 seconds of extra synth noise we just liked. There’s a conversation where I said ‘we should cut that off’ but Ben was like ‘what are you talking about? It’s fine.’ I lived with it for another couple of days but I thought ‘yeah, there’s no reason why’. It feels that what you hear on the record stemming from the last one is you’re hearing the process of us making it a little bit more.
“The first three records at least were very precision tooled, from Too Much Information onwards we decided to be a little looser in things. Even playing live I’m probably not going to jump off stacks of speakers or the drum kit anymore because it’s kind of stupid and my legs won’t take it anymore! But I’ll still run around and I’ll do whatever feels right when we play live. I’ve never given anything less than 100% at all of our live shows because that’s a thing I’ve said to myself at the start. I see no reason to go back on that. It seems fundamental for me to be the person who is the conduit of the songs going out to people and expressing as much as the emotions of each song as possible, without feeling like it’s the wrong thing to do. Sometimes that’s making a fool of yourself or dancing in a silly way, because that’s what the song makes you feel like doing. As you go on, that will always be the case. It will be driven to do the things we want to do and be that independent band that we always have been.
“We’re still a pop band so it’s not like it’s reinventing the wheel but the intensity we put into it and the sense of humour that there is and all of the different hooks we put into it, somewhere in among that there’s something that’s quintessentially Maxïmo Park, whether it’s the three of us or the five of us to begin with. If that’s not there, there would be no point in doing it. But luckily, that spirit is still there between the three of us and, more importantly, in the music that we make. It’s there for other people to enjoy and to feed off. We just want to enjoy the lucky job that we’ve got because not a lot of people, especially less and less people over the next few years, will be able to make music for a living. It’s going to be tough. If people are still daft enough to give us money to work with Ben Allen, we’ll take the money and we’ll try and sell records to justify it, and enjoy the luxury of being in that position (laughs).”
Maxïmo Park’s Nature Always Wins is out on February 26 via Prolifica