The past month has been a whirlwind for indie rock band, The Maine. Their fifth studio album, American Candy, debuted to largely positive reception from fans and critics alike, reaching number 37 on the Billboard 200 and was celebrated with a 24-hour live stream of the five-piece from Meerkat. With all of the encouraging words they’ve received, the members—lead singer John O’Callaghan, guitarist Jared Monaco, rhythm guitarist Kennedy Brock, bassist Garret Nickelsen, and drummer Patrick Kirch—are still riding that high. Now as their U.S. tour begins to lead them toward the East Coast, John discusses finding inspiration, navigating trying times, and feeding off of each other’s optimism.
Do you feel like the writing and recording process has changed from when the band began to now?
I think overall the process somewhat stayed the same. I think the approach is what changed; and I only mean the mental preparation and the mental headspace obviously changes from each record to each record. I think that we run things similarly as far as how the songs start the same way, it’s usually with an idea I had, then we come together and listen to the demos I have and go from there. But I would say after each record you learn more and more of what you love and what you don’t about the recording process. We’re just fortunate to be in a situation where people are letting us learn, this is our fifth full-length, so five times in. Hopefully we get the opportunity to do it five more times. That’s the goal for each album.
How did you and the other members decide to record American Candy from Joshua Tree?
We’ve done records now in Los Angeles, and we’ve done a record in Nashville, so kind of the cities where music is alive and happening. We’ve done records already in those spots, so we wanted to switch it up. We have recording equipment of our own so we felt kind of a necessity to disconnect ourselves. And we’re familiar with the desert, and we love the desert feel, so instead of recording in Arizona we decided to take it to Joshua Tree.
I think some of the allure is some of the magic of the spot; some of the tall tales you hear about people like Keith Richards and Gram Parsons. Kind of that funky, disconnected trippy vibe it puts off was attractive to us and we wanted to really disconnect ourselves and focus on making a record. And it wasn’t necessarily like, “Let’s make a psychedelic record,” obviously you can hear that the songs are more pop-oriented. But it was just good to have positive energy out there and really focus on the task at hand.
Speaking of positive energy, American Candy is a bit of a more lighthearted departure from your last album, Forever Halloween. How did you end up honing in on that tone?
We really wanted to make an album this time that was uplifting, not only lyrically but melodically as well. I suppose part of it is hearing from some other people, I guess I was tired of hearing, “Is everything okay? Is everything alright?” I think what’s so interesting about the last one is that I didn’t think I was in that negative of a place mentally. But after listening to it and hearing a bunch of people, friends and family and people on the road like, “I hope you’re doing well,” and “I’m really pulling for you,” I felt like it was necessary to take a departure and write from more of an optimistic place. Be a little more lighthearted and expose the other side of the coin, if you will, and talk about what it can be like not what it is like. So I think it was a multitude of things that drove me to write from that place.
One of the tracks, “24 Floors,” has an uplifting message but is still a relatively heavy subject. From a personal standpoint, did you ever worry about the reaction those close to you would have since they had already been concerned?
I think it’s always a thought in the back of your mind, but I think it was an important song to include on the album because of the message and because I felt like I was attempting to let people know, in a similar situation, that there’s hope. Feeling alone, everybody feels those feelings of hopelessness and solitude. Fortunately, it’s been three years or so since I was in that place. So having the time to reflect and for introspection of it all, I suppose that that’s the message I want to relay here. You’re not alone and there’s more to everything than a spontaneous kind of reaction. I think it was a necessary track to include on the album because I hope that the message is helpful for those people who are feeling similar feelings.
Absolutely! Now as for the album as a whole, how has the reception been?
Oh man, it’s been so supportive in an overwhelming abundance of love and support. It’s a really strange feeling because it feels like we’re just starting out again in a lot of ways. I went to grab a drink with Garret and my mother yesterday and she just kind of voiced how much she enjoys the album, and she’s never really done that before as far as breaking it down from track-to-track, which is really reassuring to hear. It’s very uplifting for our psyche.
Billboard wrote a little thing; we sold a lot of records, a lot more than we have in the past two releases. It’s just really amazing that record sales are really declining as far as the public goes but we’re selling more records, or sold more records, this first week than we did on the previous two first weeks, both with Pioneer and Forever Halloween.
I mean the shows have been sick, for lack of a better adjective. The energy has been so gnarly, again lack of a better adjective. Honestly our spirits are very, very high right now. We have great people out with us on the road too; they’re skilled, there are no stinkers. So it’s all positivity from here on out.
So you’re anticipating some more positive vibes as you make your way across the U.S.
Yeah! I mean, I think you realize just how infectious your attitude can be and how contagious positivity really is. I learned a little bit about that over the past summer on Warped Tour, just meeting individuals who really project that goodness, that kind energy. And I hate using those kinds of words like energy because of the negative connotation that kind surrounds the words like vibe and stuff; it kind of veers toward hippie-ville. But I think it really is important for us to spread positivity and the gospel of good love. I think it’s really, really imperative, because you see and you feel how you gravitate toward that good feeling and we want to be beacons of that as well.
You mentioned meeting these people on the road. Do you still feel taken aback at times when you hear how your music has affected certain people?
Even more so it’s really reassuring and encouraging to see and be out on tour with bands, young bands like Real Friends and Knuckle Puck and The Technicolors, who are just kind of getting their start in the whole thing and are wide-eyed. Not in the negative connotation but wide-eyed as in hungry. We’re really feeding off that because it’s weird to think that we were the “veterans” on Warped Tour last year being only 25 and 26 years old. But getting that kind of new air breathed into our lungs is exciting. Knowing that five albums in it’s still a possibility, it makes us want to work harder and that much more dedicated to what we’re trying to do.
What do you have to say to your fans about your upcoming shows on the East Coast?
Prepare with your head, as far as drinking water is concerned, those who are enthusiastic enough to stand outside for hours and hours. I think it’s important to bring some lunch and some water so you don’t pass out when it comes time to rip during the show. We’re so excited to hit the East Coast; I’m sure the weather will be beautiful. Thank you everybody for the support, and thanks for taking the time!
You can catch The Maine performing at Best Buy Theater in New York City on May 7, and at Electric Factory in Philadelphia on May 9. Their new record, American Candy, is available now through Big Picnic Records. For more information, visit their website wearethemaine.net.