Why are all these young UK bands suddenly dressing and
playing sharp? The Gallagher brothers have something to do
with it, says Maximo Park
|From left: Duncan Lloyd
(g), Tom English (dr), Paul Smith (vo), Lukas Wooller
(key) and Archis Tiku (b)
courtesy of Beatink
An email arrives in mid-March from Beatink,
the Japan-based promoter and label. It announces breathlessly
that UK electronica imprint Warp, which Beat Records distributes
in Japan, is about to release its first rock album. The band
will play a showcase in Tokyo the following week.
Unaware that Maximo Parks single, Apply Some Pressure,
from the forthcoming A Certain Trigger has entered the UK
top 20, I attend their show at Unit. Five guys in dapper outfits,
neckties even, are moving frenetically about the stage, pumping
out a propulsive, angular guitar rock that vaguely recalls
post-punk bands like XTC or the Buzzcocks. Fronting them is
singer Paul Smith, whos winning the crowd over with
a valiant performance, willed out through a vicious case of
Two days later, at the bands Shibuya hotel, Smiths
voice sounds much restored as he, guitarist Duncan Lloyd and
I sit down to a cuppa. We never give less than 100 percent,
but with the vocals, nature has its way. We just kept the
energy up and tried to get the messages of the songs across,
A linguistics major in college and until recently an art teacher,
Smiths lyrics manage to be simultaneously arty and from
the gut. I write constantly about my environment and
what Im feelingnot necessarily about my life,
but if its all filtered through your opinion, then it
will come out as an honest pronouncement. I try and keep the
lyrics as interesting as possible without making them overly
Smith seems so at home in front of a microphone, its
easy to forget that he only debuted as a vocalist two years
ago. We were a four-piece, and me and Archis [bass player
Archis Tiku] used to do the singing, says guitarist
Lloyd. We were doing all right, but we wanted to focus
more on making the songs direct. Neither of us wanted to become
the frontman, so we decided to look for one. Paul was the
first choice, because he had something about him. Hed
wear his suits onstage, and also he reacted to the music when
he was playing his guitar.
Adds Smith: Being a singer had never really appealed
to me because theyre full of egos and clichés
generally, and I would have never thought that I could be
successful. I just wanted to do it for myself, and to impress
my friends. But the stuff we made, it instantly had something,
a quality to it that I was fond of and grew close to immediately.
Not only was it clear to the five that they were doing something
creative, it soon became apparent that they were part of something
larger. When we started performing, our songs were quite
jerky and edgy at the start, and I was wearing a suit, and
this was two years ago when it was not necessarily a done
thing, recalls Smith. We were reacting against
this sort of Liam Gallagher swagger. Bands made direct music
at a time when we felt things werent as direct as they
should be. Newcastle wasnt alone in having that.
With no music industry to speak of in their hometown, they
ended up releasing their own single on vinyl. This DIY approach
would prove a blessing. Rough Trade in London heard
about it and picked it up and put it in their shop, and thats
how Warp heard about us, recalls Lloyd.
You can send your demos all day, but were not
stupid enough to think anyone will listen to them, adds
Smith. A piece of vinyl shows youve got intent,
and it operates outside the usual mechanisms to get signed.
Maximo Park, named for a park in Havana, had already generated
enough of a buzz by last summer that they were entertaining
big money offers from the major labels. But the enthusiasm
of Warp won them over, despite initial misgivings about signing
with an electronica imprint.
The majors saw the potential and put the money on the
table, but I dont think they had the commitment to what
we were doing. While the deal was on the table, people were
already saying, well maybe we can change the song structures
slightly here and here, says Smith. There were
a lot of tried and tested formulas that were being hinted
at. It set the alarm bells ringing
So you look at a
situation and you say, I want to make music the rest of my
life, so lets work with a label that believes in music
first and foremost.
The happy results have allowed the Maximo lads to give up
their day jobs and devote themselves exclusively to music.
Theyve got a packed schedule that will see them returning
to Japan to play this summers Fuji Rock Festival, in
addition to hitting the big European festivals. But their
recent success hasnt gotten to their heads so far. Were
pretty pragmatic and down-to-earth people, says Smith.
We appreciate what weve got.
A Certain Trigger is available this
week on Warp Records, distributed in Japan by Beat Records.
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