By Lindsey Gonzalez
On October 31, everything went dark. A solid black photo was posted to each of The Maine’s social media pages. After four Farewell Forever Halloween shows, it was “time to turn the lights off for a bit and get to work,” according to the picture’s caption. Concluding a year-and-a-half of tours with Forever Halloween, the band packed up their equipment and headed into the desert to record their fifth album, and no one has heard from them since.
Such reclusive recording is not uncommon for the band, who recorded Pioneer on a farm in Arizona without the knowledge of their current record label. “It just kind of makes it so that can be your only thought,” explains drummer Pat Kirch. “You can walk outside, but there’s nothing there. So, you’re just going to come back in and work on music.” Although this was not the case when recording Forever Halloween in Nashville, Tennessee, these musicians often find themselves completely consumed with music, no matter where they create, working around 12 hours a day to perfect their art. “But there’s something about being alone,” muses bass player Garrett Nickelsen. “It’s going to be really cool!”
Once they settle in the studio and begin working through a song, the process becomes a collaborative effort that largely stems from the ideas of the lead singer, John O’Callaghan. “We’ll have a phone demo. Or a GarageBand demo. Or a verse and a chorus. Or just him on acoustic. Or he’ll sing a guitar part. Or something maybe a little more structured. Then, we’ll get in a room and say, ‘What is this? What is this song?’ and try to throw ideas around and see where it heads,” explains Nickelsen. They may bounce ideas off one another for days until they find the right tune. And by the time the song is recorded, it often sounds nothing like the demo. “There’s always that part in the studio when a song goes from like 80 percent to 100. It’s either a guitar part or a melody that switches and makes it that thing!” says Nickelsen.
Ever since the formation of their own 8123 Studios in Phoenix, Arizona, The Maine has spent a lot of time in the studio, bouncing ideas off one another and collaborating with other musicians under their studio. The ability to create music without restraint has had a huge impact on them as individual musicians. For instance, Kirch has developed his skills as a producer by directing the recording of his friend Nick Santino’s first solo album, Big Skies. “I think his ear has gotten so much better,” gushes Nickelsen as Kirch hangs his head on the couch beside him. “I think he can understand music way more because he’s surrounding himself with it constantly. He’s taken on little producer, which has been cool.”
Kirch simply laughs and confesses that it’s fun to be able to record more freely. “A couple of years ago, that was just a dream of something I thought I’d always be doing. So now that I have it, I can actually do it all the time,” says Kirch with a smile and nod of his head. And whenever Kirch is in the studio, Nickelsen is usually by his side. “It’s been really cool to just be part of it,” says Nickelsen, who also played guitar on Santino’s album. Although the 8123 Studios are not as secluded as the band would like for recording a full-length album, they recorded their acoustic EP Imaginary Numbers and five songs for Forever Halloween Deluxe Edition in this space, and the equipment they store here makes it possible for them to record in the desert instead of working in a traditional recording studio.
With the absence of a record label and the freedom to record whenever and wherever they please, The Maine’s upcoming album will be very similar to Pioneer and Forever Halloween in that it will come largely from just the five of them. Once again, they will be working with producer Colby Wedgeworth, who mixed Pioneer. “I think we are the most comfortable with him,” says Nickelsen. “We’re just going to get in, and everyone will know what the fuck to do, and it’s going be good.” The production of this album will mark the first time the band has worked with anyone for two albums, as they recorded Forever Halloween with producer Brendan Benson. According to Kirch and Nickelsen, they chose to record with Wedgeworth once more because his approach to music is rather different from theirs. “He’s got a different ear than us,” explains Nickelsen. “We kind of are more on the rock thing, and he adds this pop element to it that I think is going to be really cool.” This caused a small battle in the process of mixing Pioneer, because the band was trying to stray away from their pop background, and Wedgeworth was pushing them to tone down their rock sound. But the band seems to thrive on such creative discrepancies. “I think every time with him, that’s kind of what happens in a good way,” affirms Kirch.
While the fans wait anxiously to hear the new record, The Maine is just as curious to see what will become of all their demos. “There’s like, 20 demos floating around right now, and there’s sort of a few different vibes going on, so I think when we narrow it down, it’s going to be really interesting,” says Nickelsen with a smile. Kirch agreed, laughing, “I’m really looking forward to hearing it. I’m just as interested to hear how it’s going to sound as anybody else would be.” Once they return from the darkness, fans can expect to hear great things from The Maine in 2015.