Maximo Park - Park Life
Author: Carlisle Rogers
Friday, 10 August 2007
Believe half of what you read and none of what you hear. That’s fine wisdom handed down to us from men better than ourselves who figured it out a long time ago. So the first thing I ask Paul Smith of Maximo Park is whether or not this rubbish about him being discovered in a nightclub singing along to Stevie Wonder was true, or just another postmodern Quixote-ism. Once we cleared that up, we were free to talk about the band’s second album, Our Earthly Pleasures, a rocking continuation and improvement on their genius debut, A Certain Trigger.
And what is it, after all, about northeastern English blokes- Their accent is thick, but sweet, like cream cheese and honey. And you get the feeling that you’d like nothing more than to sidle down on an old upholstered seat in the back of a smoky Newcastle pub and talk about desert island albums until the bar closes, then you head back to his house, which seems like it would have an old chesterfield and not much else, just records and a bottle of Wild Turkey, and you’d listen to old jazz albums all night without saying another word.
“There are loads of stories about us that are semi-true,” confides Paul. “The story of our discovery is kind of mundane but also quite incredible that it led to being in a band that now releases records and tours the world. I was just singing along to Stevie Wonder in a nightclub. It wasn’t a karaoke competition or anything. I was standing next to a few people and I had a few drinks. You think the music is loud enough in a club, you can see everybody mouthing along to the songs. Tom’s [English, Maximo Park’s drummer] girlfriend at the time was standing next to me at the time. She said to Tom, ‘I think he might be able to sing, he was in tune belting out a song the other night and I was standing next to him.’ They knew me from the instrumental group I was playing in as well called Me and the Twins. I enjoyed performing; they could see that I was quite comfortable on the stage and believing in the music I was playing. They put two and two together and ended up with a singer who had never sung before, but somebody who was willing to give it a go. It’s strange that that little coincidence has turned into what’s going on right now.”
There are no coincidences, and as much as I’d like to, this fine magazine will not allow me to share everything Paul said about the album in a steady stream of information, like waiting for the honey to stop pouring off a spoon. Paul says that, as with all good music, writing Our Earthly Pleasures was more of a continuation than a new project. “It might sound a bit arrogant to say, but I think most of what we do is pretty good. We were never under any pressure to write a second record just because we never stopped writing after we wrote the first record… the thirteen songs that after A Certain Trigger felt like the right songs to put on that record. Even when we were recording A Certain Trigger we had songs like ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’ and ‘Nosebleed’ and when we went in to do our first b-sides after recording the record, I remember doing little demos of those tracks and they formed the foundation for the next record because they felt like something new and it felt like we were doing something different from the first record.”
When the guitarist, Duncan Lloyd, broke his arm, it enforced a time of repose on the band, and allowed them to toy with the idea of their new sound. “I think, once you’ve done one thing you want to do something else. We don’t want to turn our back on A Certain Trigger, but we also want to try to create a record that stands up itself. That was our mindset as we went into finding a producer. We spoke to Gil Norton, who was into our music, I think through his engineer Adrian Bushby, who subsequently became our engineer. He said, ‘I think we can work together’. We were looking for somebody to get the energy of our live concerts across. They can be quite heavy and aggressive things, whereas our music is quite romantic.
“I thought, since we’re seen as a quintessentially English band it would be nice to throw this all-encompassing sound in there and try to come up with something that sounds a bit different to what else is out there. The summer, we went in to record and we didn’t really realise how much tighter we could get. As the summer turned to autumn we decided to go down to London to work in Gil’s favourite studio, Rack Studios, which is quite near to where he lives and it came together quite naturally. We lived above the studio, and it’s a fun thing to make a record, so I think very fondly of that time.”
WHO: Maximo Park
WHAT: Our Earthly Pleasures out through Inertia / Play the Metro
WHEN: Out now / Wednesday 15 August