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“It’ll be a return to waistcoats!”
Orlando Weeks of the Maccabees isn’t the first person to comment on the former moth-eaten sartorial choices of Mumford & Sons, but the lead singer — whose band will be hitting the road with the folk-gone-rock quartet on select dates this summer, starting with a two-night stand at MCU Park June 2 and 3 — is referring explicitly to the penchant for vests (or waistcoats) his road buddies share with iconic (and fictional) Coney Island gang the Warriors. The Warriors, the cult fave from ’79, follows the colors-touting, leather-vest-sporting crew as they try to make it through a series of gangland altercations from the Bronx back down to their home turf along the surf on Coney Island, just steps from where the Maccabees will hit the stage for their first stateside performance in a proper minute. Weeks has seen The Warriors, of course; whether or not he’ll procure some Warriors-inspired garb for the headliners remains to be seen. “I think we need to get the boys some vests,” he laughs.
Coney Island will see the American debut of the first new Maccabees material since 2012’s Given to the Wild, and the changes between that record’s lush, heady ruminations and the driving, urgent pulse of their forthcoming full-length, Marks to Prove It, are drastic — necessarily so. After touring worldwide with the likes of Mumford and Florence and the Machine, the Maccabees found themselves back in England and eager to head into the studio, but they had trouble reining in the inspiration they encountered on the road and parlaying it into a solid studio experience. They excel onstage and on the record, but Marks to Prove It had them rethinking their entire approach — and scrapping that of the whole first year they spent making it.
“One of the mistakes we made was we came off of the end of touring with a kind of tour enthusiasm, and actually, it was completely the wrong kind of energy for us to try and start writing a brand-new record,” says Weeks. “We did that for almost a year, and then looked back on it, and it wasn’t good enough. All of the tools we were using, we’d used them a lot on the last record, and we looked on them as kind of cheap tricks. We felt really dissatisfied with what we’d done and had to start again. That was our mistake, really. I think that kind of proved to us that we needed to give ourselves a breather. I guess it’s a good question, where we have to kind of section off our different live energy and our recording energy. It’s a very different mindset, I think.”
After the false start, Weeks and the rest of the band — Hugo White, Felix White, Rupert Jarvis, Sam Doyle, and Will White — found themselves exploring new options in a minimal way that stripped their songwriting down from Given to the Wild‘s intricate instrumentation to a bare-bones rock setup.
“Everything was so reverbed-up and broadened [on Given to the Wild] that we wanted to limit ourselves,” says Weeks. “We wanted to try to not have any of those double tracks and quadruple guitars, all those kinds of things, and then try to establish different instruments as characters on the record.”
On the next page: “You could imagine it’s not the same band, let alone the same record.”
Enter the piano, which Weeks refers to as Marks to Prove It‘s “constant personality” and which shines especially on “Slow Run,” “Spit It Out,” and “Silence.” Couple that with a newfound appreciation for bounding basslines (“Ribbon Road”), dark, foreboding brass (“River Song”), and the grand spread of warm choruses sure to elicit sing-alongs even though no one knows the words yet (“Something Like Happiness”).
The majority of Marks to Prove It will remain a surprise for fans until the release of the record — for which a release date is still TBD — later this year, but the breakneck speed of the title track will shoulder up alongside previous Maccabees hits in their setlist this summer. Weeks is currently feeling “Spit It Out” and “Marks to Prove It” the most when they practice, but “Marks to Prove It” is an aural mission statement, a song that heralds a new era for a band determined to put itself to the test one chord at a time.
“It’s the first track on the record, and it’s almost like a preface to the record, because the end of the song trails off into this kind of sunset sound,” Weeks says. “It announces a visage. It’s fun to play and it’s got something about it — there aren’t other moments like that on the record, and I love that if you listen to that and you listen to ‘Dawn Chorus,’ the last song on the record, the difference is insane. You could imagine it’s not the same band, let alone the same record. It just felt like the right thing to lead with.”
And with that, the Maccabees are set to put their best foot forward — or, more accurately, they’re set to take said foot and stomp on the sonic equivalent of a gas pedal as they try the new stuff on for size before a patient and waiting audience. Coney Island is the end of a long subway ride and a final stop for some, but for the Maccabees it’s merely the starting point of the next phase in their career.
The Maccabees open for Mumford & Sons at MCU Park June 2 and June 3, and will headline Le Poisson Rouge June 9. For tickets, click here.