The House of Blues Chicago was filled with old fans and new friends Sunday, April 29, 2012. Headlining the tour is the Maine, who released their third album, Pioneer, this past December 2011. Opening for the Maine are new friends The Arkells and Lydia. Before the show I had the privilege to talk with Jared Monaco (guitar/vocals) and John O’Callaghan (lead vocals).
The Maine, who originated from Pheonix, AZ., started off their career in 2007 with the release of their EP, “Stay Up, Get Down.” That same year, they released another EP, “The Way We Talk.” It’s safe to say that the Maine has definitely matured both in and out of the studio since the release of their first album, “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” which was released in 2008. Two years later, the Maine released the album, “Black and White” (2010). With the release of “Pioneer,” John and Jared were more than willing to open up about their progression as a band, the next five years, and everything in between.
JS: The tour to promote Pioneer started oversees; can you tell me a little bit about how the UK/Europe fan base responded to the new CD?
John O’Callaghan: I think just the support in general has been really reassuring. We’re just very thankful that we got to put it out and that people still cared. But I don’t think there is really a difference between there and here. I used to trick myself into thinking there was but if people like music they like music. Over there, they just talk funny…
JS: In North America is there a city you are most looking forward to playing at?
Jared Monaco: Actually when you say North America there are some places in Canada that we’ve never been too before that we are gonna hit on this run. As far as the states, it’s weird to go back now that we are more familiar with the different places.
John O’Callaghan: I think that we are just really stoked that we get to tour in the spring ‘cuz it’s really nice outside. We get to see a lot of Western Canada which we haven’t really seen before that they [The Arkells] are taking us over there.
JS: I saw online that you had asked fans for song suggestions for the tour, what would you say were the most requested songs from Pioneer?
Jared: I saw a few. A lot of kids wanted to hear “My Heroine” which is weird because we have been playing that song forever. We had that song written a year and a half before we recorded the album and been playing it live so that kind of shocked me that they wanted to hear that one.
John O’Callaghan: We are playing a lot off of it so I think people will be satisfied, hopefully.
JS: Do you have a favorite song from the new CD, one you really enjoyed writing, composing, or just love performing?
Jared Monaco: We’re playing this song called “While Listening to Rock and Roll” and that’s fun because I get to play a lap seal, which is kind of a challenge, I guess, which is fun to play every night.
John O’Callaghan: Yea, I’ll go with that one.
JS: There is a definite progression in overall sound, lyrics and feel of from your first album to now. How would you say you’ve matured as a band over the past five years?
John O’Callaghan: I think we are just getting closer to where we feel we’d like to be. And I think we are trying to hone in on…We’re just really passionate about music and I think that passion has only grown over the last five years. I think we’re taking it … not to say, I don’t want to say we’re taking it more serious because it’s always been taken seriously but I think we are becoming aware things can change quickly and dissipate.
Jared Monaco: I think our influences have changed a lot too. There are more professional acts we’ve been listening to as of late.
John O’Callaghan: We’ve had the luxury of going on tour with artists we really admire and look up to and I think unintentionally they’ve kind of rubbed off on us. Being on the road with people who take music very seriously is official for us and we’ve been fortunate to share the stage with some really great people. I think we are just trying to get to what we think we sound like.
JS: I read that you are trying to broaden your fan base—are there any marketing strategies you are trying in order to reach an older audience?
John O’Callaghan: We always say that we want that but in reality we don’t really give a shit. We don’t care.
Jared Monaco: We started this band I was 19, you [John] were 19, we were young and so our fans were really young and they’ve kind of grown up as we’ve grown up.
John O’Callaghan: I think at this point we really just would like anybody who is interested to listen.
JS: The music video “Misery” embodies the more mature style of Pioneer, can you tell me a little bit about filming Misery—what was the concept behind the video?
John O’Callaghan: Daniel Gomez, we have a bunch of mutual friends, and he has done videos for some of our friends who are in bands.
Jared Monaco: The treatment was really simple too. It was one setting.
John O’Callaghan: It started out actually for a song off the album called “Some Days.”
Jared Monaco: But it just didn’t fit the vibe.
John O’Callaghan: And it just made more sense to do it for Misery. I really like the way it kind of symbolizes what the song is for me. I jus thought that it captured what I envisioned.
Jared Monaco: It was a super easy shoot for all of us except for John. He was on the ground like in the dirt getting water poured on him and it was like 60 degrees outside.
John O’Callaghan: Everybody had one shot to do.
Jared Monaco: We’re standing around drinking coffee and he’s getting fake gasoline poured over him.
JS: You have several lyric videos for Pioneer, are there any plans to make another music video from the new CD?
John O’Callaghan: We definitely have plans on shooting another video, we’re just not sure what song we’ll do it for. I have a couple of concepts I’m tossing around and I think when we get back home we will make it a point to bring something to fruition.
JS: The band put out a book, “This is Real Life”, and most recently you, John, published a book of litho poetry with images by Dirk Mai titled “Exaltation.” I understand that there is a new book coming out in collaboration with Dirk Mai, can you tell me anything about that project?
John: O’Callaghan: It kind of just fell together. It’s not necessarily a book, ‘cuz that makes me sound like an author, and it’s not necessarily poetry, ‘cuz that makes me sound like a poet. But, really it’s just thoughts that I have. And I wanted to kind of keep it completely separated. I wanted to make sure he, Dirk, didn’t read any of my poems before he took pictures. So he took an approach completely separate from the whole vibe. It’s very tasteful. But it ended up there were nude models in it so we had to preface it to say…
JS: For mature audiences…
John O’Callaghan: Yea, yea it’s really tasteful. It’s art.
Jared Monaco: Not in America.
John O’Callaghan: (Laughs) Yea, but ugh it just fell together and we put it out. We still have a bunch of boxes full of those things.
JS: Are you talking about Exaltation or the new one?
John O’Callaghan: We don’t really have a new one. Dirk might be doing something but I don’t know. I think we are gonna attempt to do another one as a band, kind of similar to the first one that we did—Just a collection of journal entries and up to date – different perspective. I think now with the Internet and how everything is so easily accessible I think it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you know everything about whoever. I think it’ll give a little more light as to who we are as individuals. I don’t know when it’s going to come out, what it’s going to be called, or anything like that, but it should run along the same lines as the first one.
JS: As a band you have found a huge amount of success since you started five years ago. Where do you see yourselves five years from now?
John O’Callaghan: Hopefully still together playing music.
Jared Monaco: The end goal is to make us last as long as we can. And I feel like we’ve developed some tricks along the way to keep it going. And hopefully we can continue writing music people want to hear and share with their friends. Because that is how this band has survived is just word of mouth.
John O’Callaghan: I just love everything about it. I love making music, I love being on the road, um yea, I just hope it lasts, that’s the goal. It’s a little early to make plans for five years from now. What’s that line, “plans are as useless as a baby’s hands.” But we’ll try man.
Jared Monaco: It can be done.
JS: I think it’s great. I had never heard of Lydia or the Arkells until I found out you were touring with them. I’ve seen you with bands like Boys Likes Girls and Mayday Parade…so it’s nice to see you are expanding.
John O’Callaghan: Yea that’s awesome. We are so fortunate that they took the offer.
Jared Monaco: It’s awesome because I feel like our fans have been really receptive to them. People tell me after every show that they loved those first two bands even though they did’t know who they were before the show.
John O’Callaghan: It’s also difficult for us because we are trying to branch out. You know, take a different path than just kind of being on tour with the same people. We are really lucky in this past year and a half– we’ve been able to tour with Taking Back Sunday, Augustana, and um, yea so it’s a really good fit. Because [the] Arkells is pretty upbeat and Lydia is kind of ambient and cinematic, and it’s just good.
Even though John and Jared weren’t willing to layout any concrete plans for the future, I don’t think fans need to worry. The Maine’s love and passion for music seem to be the binding that keeps them all “roll[ing] along.”
For those of you who want more from The Maine, check out my slideshow of pictures from the concert. You can also look them up on iTunes and www.wearethemaine.net. If you purchase John’s poetry book, Exaltation, you will receive a free download of his exclusive song, “Take Me Dancing.”