Where the wild things are
With the chart-busting success of third album Given To The Wild and the stop-start tempo of lead single Pelican paraded all over Radio One, THE MACCABEES are coming into their own this year. Already tipped to clean up in the end of year polls for best album of 2012, their bastion of loyal fans can await an extensive UK tour this spring. We sent Bethany Garrett to catch up with guitarist Felix White ahead of their 12th March show at the O2 Academy to discuss the five piece’s onstage evolution, his love for Liverpool and leaving the hard work to his baby brother…
Bido Lito!: Since your last Liverpool gig you’ve had a top five album under your belt, did you ever imagine that happening?
Felix White: I don’t know, it didn’t occur to me really that it would be anything like that until it was suggested a couple of weeks beforehand in the NME and then we had a think about it. But it’s kind of amazing isn’t it? It’s exciting man, I feel proud of everyone.
BL!: And so you should! Are you looking forward to the next Liverpool gig then?
FW: Yeah it’s gonna be big, I loved that gig in The Masque to be honest that was one of my favourite gigs from the last tour, it’s just a shame that it’s closed down ‘cos I thought it was one of the best venues in the city. I really love being in Liverpool in general, I got really used to staying there when we recorded some of the last record [2009’s Wall Of Arms] in Elevator Studios; it’s the only other place in the UK outside of London I can imagine myself living in. It’s always amazes me how we get such a good response there.
BL!: Have you been getting different responses playing the new material live?
FW: Yeah it is different. We used to judge gigs on whether everyone was jumping up and down front to back – that was a good gig – if it wasn’t going crazy then we weren’t doing our job. But with what this album’s set out to do, it’s meant to hold more of an atmosphere, I think there’s more of it that needs to be watched. You do have to get your head round it a little bit but so far a lot of people have been good about it and we feel very fortunate that people coming to see us are prepared to let us do what we feel is right. I don’t think people come to hear one song, thank God for that, but we have had a few mishaps with the new material this year – we’re still working out playing the new album live but it’s coming along.
BL!: There’s a lot of synth and electronic sounds on Given To The Wild, how are you incorporating them into your live performances?
FW: Well Will [White, younger brother of bandmates Felix and Hugo] is in, he’s doing about four things with his left hand, four things with his right hand and things with his feet as well. We kind of left him a little bit too much to do to be honest but he’s doing a really good job of filling in. Other than that it’s alright. A lot of the stuff on the record is guitars doing weird things, like disguised guitar sounds so there’s just a bit more fidgeting with pedals and more specifics. It is manageable; the songs just come across a little bit more direct live than they do on the record.
BL!: With you having more material to choose from now how are you finding choosing the set list?
FW: Well it’s just difficult to please people. Everyone’s got their favourite and people will want to hear specific songs off the first record [2007’s Colour It In] and you can’t play all of them because you have to accommodate the gig right. The sets used to be a hundred miles an hour the whole way through but now you’ve got to judge it so it moves with the atmosphere a bit more. Unfortunately we can’t play everything off the first and second records but I’d like to bring back songs like Mary and Tissue Shoulders maybe ‘cos I think they’d fit in nicely with the new material.
BL!: The Cribs performed each of their albums on three consecutive nights in their native Yorkshire back in 2007. Would you ever consider something similar?
FW: You know what you’re the first person outside the band who’s mentioned that to me and I’ve been thinking about doing something like that recently; it’d be really cool. Me and Hugo [brother and fellow guitarist] have spoke about it. Maybe at the end of the year we could play the first album all the way through in a tiny venue, do Wall Of Arms in a slightly bigger place, then Given To The Wild in a bigger venue again. That would be amazing. But it’d be difficult too – for a start we’d have to remember how to play all the songs and the B-sides too! I’d definitely be up for it though.
BL!: During your recent European tour an original print for each city you’ve visited has been posted on the band’s tumblr. Which of you has the artistic streak?
FW: Yeah that’s Lands [lead singer Orlando Weeks] he’s been doing little prints they’re really good. It gives him something to do when we’ve got hours to kill on tour. I think he’s gonna try and do it all year so I’ll have to get him to make an extra special one for Liverpool. Watch this space.