After playing a handful of tenth birthday shows Maximo Park are about to head back out on the road for their first proper tour since 2014, armed with their brand new album Risk To Exit. We spoke to frontman Paul Smith about prepping for the live shows and how the music got political.
Where are you and what have you been up to/going to do today?
I’m at home in Newcastle. Today I met up with a journalist from my native Teesside and recorded a podcast about growing up there and about supporting Middlesbrough FC. I took my 1948 Gibson guitar to get fixed and I met up with my friend Peter from the band Field Music who lives near the guitar shop. I then came home and signed lots of CD booklets for people who have pre-ordered the new Maximo Park record. I had some food and now I’m typing this before watching a Champions League match!
You’ve said that on the album “there’s a questioning of power throughout and a feeling that there must be a different way of structuring our society in order to alleviate inequality”. Was that the plan for the record from the get-go or did it evolve as the events of 2016 unfolded?
We began writing in 2015 after finishing touring and the songs that felt fresh and exciting to us had a more overt political standpoint and a different musical feel – more spacious and groove-led, while still being very melodic. There were other songs about more romantic subject matter, but we decided to pursue the more socially-concerned songs. I hesitate to say the songs are less about my personal feelings, because they’re still emotional responses to specific situations, only they might be something I’ve read about or seen on TV rather than directly experienced. As 2016 unfolded (or shall we say unravelled…) the songs became more relevant. In some ways, that’s unfortunate because I wish mainstream political debate had become more empathetic rather than the polarised situation we currently find ourselves in, but hopefully the album will provide people with a sense of solidarity.
Why did you draft in Low’s Mimi Parker for some vocal support on ‘Risk To Exist’?
Because she’s amazing! I’ve loved Low’s music since I was a teenager and I was aware they had recorded with Tom Schick (Risk To Exist’s co-producer) when Jeff Tweedy of Wilco produced The Invisible Way. We asked if she would like to return to Wilco’s Loft in Chicago and sent her a few songs. She said yes, thankfully, and her voice brings extra warmth to the songs, which is important because they’re about togetherness and a feeling of being part of something bigger than your own small part of the world.
You haven’t toured since 2014, how does it feel to be heading back out on the road again? What are you looking forward to and not looking forward to?
Well, we played a few shows to celebrate our 10th birthday, including a couple at the Roundhouse, so we’re not totally rusty! But yes, we haven’t done a full tour since the last album so I’m really looking forward to playing the new songs. I’m very excited about them and we recorded the album live so we’ve already bedded them in – that gives us a lot of confidence. I’m not looking forward to being away from home, even though we get to be in lots of interesting towns and cities. I wish my loved ones could come with me somehow!
What music are you listening to at the moment?