by Meaghan Paulosky
Máximo Gómez y Báez spent much of the nineteenth century leading the Cuban Army in the revolt for independence. Despite his position of power, Gómez valued democratized action over politics and dedicated his entire life to achieving success in it. In the century following his death, Gómez’s name has been immortalized in schools, currency, art, and even British rock band Maxïmo Park, renewing his rebellious legacy for generations to come.
Maxïmo Park came together after the four founding members spent years playing in other bands as college students in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. According to keyboardist Lukas Wooller, things became official after graduation when their respective bands dissolved and Archis Tiku (bass guitar) and Duncan Lloyd (guitar) had the brilliant idea of joining forces.
The three shared the stage with Tom English (drums) for two years, always under Maxïmo Park. Originally after Máximo Gómez Park in Cuba, the name came when Duncan saw a documentary that portrayed the park as a place “where people sat around discussing various issues and everyone seemed to be allowed to make their own point,” shares Wooller. The democracy instigated by Gómez thrived in the park and was fitting for a band that wanted to share songs and ideas.
At the start, they even shared roles. Both Tiku and Lloyd led on vocals, but as Wooller continues, “…we reached a point where we felt we needed a frontman to concentrate on the singing so we could concentrate on playing…” Paul Smith was that special someone. “It was his moves that impressed us, rather than his voice, but during our first rehearsal we [realized] he was an incredible singer too.”
Smith then helped fill out the band and, together, they prepared to start playing outside of Newcastle. “Newcastle was a good place to write and perform without attracting any undue attention from the outside world. So when we started to venture to Manchester and London we were completely ready for the next stage.”
In the time after, they toured, wrote, and released four studio albums, following the Golden Rule of Collaboration. While a song may start with just one person coming up with lyrics or a melody, it isn’t long before someone else gets to add on. For example, “”Recognise The Light” was written when Duncan took some words that Paul had written, and wrote music specifically for them. The way he set the lyrics has not changed since the demo, as Paul liked what Duncan had done.”
Such a creative dynamic allowed them to keep working for a highly prolific decade and beyond. February of this year saw the release of their fifth album, Too Much Information, and a slightly new approach to recording. Whereas previous albums included a producer and the traditional formality of making a record, this one was done more independently and in a studio built by the band. A decision guided by their rebellious ancestor perhaps?
Gómez-infused or not, it allowed them to play. As Wooller explains, Too Much Information is, “[irreverent]. It has a sense of fun and of not caring too much about creating a cohesive body of work. It still hangs together because the same five people are creating it, but we relaxed more during the recording because we took charge of it ourselves.”
But that’s not to say they aren’t the same Maxïmo Park that already achieved gold record status on two albums in the UK. They’ve simply matured into a band that no longer needs to hone their identitying “Maxïmo flavor” and make it heard – now they can expand. Wooller describes it as “partly a realization that no matter what kind of music we write, it still somehow sounds like us. Paul is a distinctive singer and writes emotional, well observed lyrics that don’t read like anyone else’s. So musically we can go to different places if Paul’s voice is holding it together.”
Come experience the “catchy, passionate, [and with] a little something extra” Maxïmo flavor this Wednesday, May 21st. As part of the US tour to promote Too Much Information, they’ll be sharing Underground Arts with Eternal Summers in a return trip to the Philadelphia area. “One of the first places we ever played in the US was The North Star,” recalls Wooller. And true to Philadelphia form, “My abiding memory of our last visit was a stop off after the show to get a cheese steak at Geno’s.”