by Ziggy Merritt
I had the pleasure of speaking to Felix White from The Maccabees this past Monday in anticipation of the release of their fourth album, Marks to Prove It, coming out this Friday, July 31st. It’s not often that I’m called to do a phoner from the UK, but thankfully all went well, albeit brief.
Marks to Prove It comes after a year and change spent reworking and retooling the sounds and layers within the album. “People say we wrote a record and scrapped it, which wasn’t actually the case,” White admits. Much of the current album has been kicking around in one form or another for the past three years, yet the initially nascent inspiration for the album has been there from the beginning. Take the Michael Faraday Memorial which is depicted on the cover art for the album as White elaborates. “The Faraday is a roundabout in Elephant, which is where the studio is, Elephant and Castle. You just drive past it, it doesn’t look particularly significant. But someone took a photo of it in the early 70s and the photo frames it in a pretty magical way. It connected to a lot of the things on the record.”
The record itself comes as a return-to-roots album for The Maccabees with much of the current content inspired by the constantly in flux landscape of London. However inspiration also comes from abroad. “Kamakura”, their second track on the album, stems from a tour stop in Shibuya, Tokyo in 2012 with the title specifically pulled from a city in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture. “We spent a few days in Tokyo,” White explains. “It was magic. It was one of the only times I can remember where I was genuinely happy and peaceful.” The waves made there reflect such an outlook, one appreciative of not just the fans but, perhaps surprisingly, the gifts received. “We got presents,” White says with a bit of humor. “They’re all incredible artists! They’d turn up and have pictures drawn of you. All of them seem like such talented illustrators.”
These dreamy few days spent in Japan were married with lyrical content pulled from “kick out times at the pub in the evening at London.” There’s a nostalgic fondness, a reverence of sorts on Marks to Prove It that comes as both charming and sincere even when grinding down to simple composition, such as on their latest single, “Something Like Happiness.”
“’Something Like Happiness’ exists on that big group vocal,” White explains. “That was an exercise in making something sound as big and as unconstrained as possible. It was an exercise in simplicity really. The lyrics are concerned with when someone else has a good thing going for them in life; it’s about being happy for them.” And with such words it’s hard to come away without feeling the slightest bit giddy for whatever comes next. From the forging of this latest release, The Maccabees have gone through a process that in dire cases, dissolves the creative drive of any particular band. But having come through that very process intact, they have proven that they are not just “any particular band.” They ground themselves in the familiarity of their surroundings to compose an honest reflection of their lives, one that divorces itself from the mundane to appreciate the underappreciated.
With some finality, White reflects again on the Faraday Memorial to illustrate its importance to the guiding message of the album. “There will always be beautiful things around, you just don’t always notice them. That kind of framed that exact principle in a really nice way. Of course it being local to us and a lot of the story for the record coming from around the area, it just married up in a perfect way.”
Marks to Prove It comes out this Friday with a national tour of the US expected sometime this fall.