“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” wrote Dickens. On occasion never a truer word has been spoken. Clash turn up to meet The Maccabees at a Clapham pub that only days earlier had called its final last orders and boarded up. Add to this guitarist Hugo White’s recurring tonsillitis that requires imminent hospital treatment and the absence of drummer Robert Dylan Thomas who has not been seen nor heard in two days, we start to fear that the day will veer towards the worst. In the shape of a lovely Irish themed pub on St. Patrick’s Day, the best of times are just a stone’s throw away.
The Maccabees have even more in common with the book from which Dickens famously opened with those words. In a modern day Tale of Two Cities they left Clapham, South London and moved to Brighton when lead singer Orlando Weeks was accepted at University, a show of unity that would have resulted in the end of many other bands, but has led to the production of an album, ‘Colour It In’, full of frantically raw, nervy energy that fuses effortlessly with the total juxtaposition of lyrics that are tinged with childhood nostalgia and sentiment.
It has been claimed that they started off life as a folk band, perhaps this is where the impetus for reflection and nostalgia was derived? “I don’t know if we were really a folk band, it was sort of simple musically and that was just because we just weren’t very good with our instruments,” says Hugo.
To borrow from the title of their August 2006 single The Maccabees took their precious time about releasing this album. Relentless touring over the last two years has seen a steady rate of followers converted to their cause over the sudden groundswell often seen after being decreed ‘The Next Big Thing’. This is something that they feel particularly glad of: “It is a much more natural thing,” says Hugo before older brother and fellow guitarist Felix adds: “It has helped us not having too much over exposure and our gigs have become a much more personable experience because of that. We would rather have somebody come because a friend has told them rather than because they have been told to by a magazine.”
That said it seems by the very nature of you reading these words their success will inevitably be reflected in column inches, but Orlando feels confident that the press will react in a similar vein to that of their fans. “We were speaking with a journalist yesterday who told us that he didn’t like us to begin with but the more he heard the more he enjoyed our sound up to the point where he is in love with the album and seeing us play live.”
The Maccabees, historically, were HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jew” o “Jew” Jewish rebels who fought against the rule of HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiochus_IV_Epiphanes” o “Antiochus IV Epiphanes” Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellenistic” o “Hellenistic” Hellenistic HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seleucid_dynasty” o “Seleucid dynasty” Seleucid dynasty. With this information it will come as no shock to learn where their name was found. “None of us are religious, we were flicking through books and stopping randomly at pages in search of a name. It just so happened that the Bible was the biggest book we had,” recalls Orlando. There is another band with the same name who are much more active in the bar mitzvah circuit. “We heard about them so we called them up and they were like, “Yeah that’s cool we’ll share it”, after all they were good religious boys so what else would they do?” he continues.
The subject of names is a prevailing one and with Orlando, Felix, Hugo, Rupert and Robert Dylan Thomas, The Maccabees can surely lay claim to the title of ‘Best in Music’. “We can’t really take the credit for that. Rob has the coolest though,” admits Orlando. It’s Rob’s namesake Mr. Dylan that is one of the few connections the band share musically. “Our influences don’t really affect our sound, I mean I love Bob Dylan but he doesn’t exactly make me play guitar like him,” says Hugo. “Rupert you’re really into your drum and bass aren’t you?” asks Felix. “Yeah I loved trance-plants and stuff,” comes the reply. As none of this comes across in their sound it is safe to say that their friendship is the driving influence.
I don’t know if we were really a folk band, it was sort of simple musically and that was just because we just weren’t very good with our instruments.
They will soon be back on the road, this time heading to America for the first time in support of Bloc Party. “They are playing pretty big arenas, which will be great for us but apparently Americans don’t really see support bands and only come for the headliners so it might be like playing early shows in Newcastle to 10 people. Hopefully it will be the same 10,” jokes Felix.
Famed for laying on buses for Brighton-based friends to attend gigs across the country, they will continue this tradition of taking their friends along in the States. “Some of them are going out two weeks before and they are going to leave Polaroids at all the petrol stations that we have to try and find like a giant treasure hunt,” Orlando tells us.
It is a fact that the worst of times are never far away and as scores of emerald green figures flock into the pub the interview starts to sound like being at the rugby. A glance at the screen sees we pretty much are at the rugby; not only is it Paddy’s Day it is also a home Ireland fixture. We are left with little alternative to spend the next few hours having beers with the boys and watch the action. The best of times are back and they look set to be here to stay for The Maccabees.