Jacob Marshall and Zach Gehring, 2007

 

Written & Photos by: Jason Perlman

 

First off, I have to say I love the Social Distortion shirt you are wearing. I had Mike Ness sign a photo for me and I was scared to even talk to him.
Yea, the guy leaves you speechless.

 

I was talking with Brett (tour manager) and he was talking about how many fans you have lined up each night when you do your autograph signing.
Jacob Marshall: Yea, for sure. And I remember when it first started in Minneapolis and the line was only like 10 minutes long. It was really weird.
Zach Gehring: It wasn't organized yet and was just this makeshift thing.
JM: And now it is becoming this thing that some nights we don't eat because catering is over by the time the lines die down. But to just sit there and meet hundreds of kids is awesome.

 

You've done all kinds of tours including headlining in front of hardcore Mae fans and now you are playing sold-out amphitheaters with The Fray and OKGo. Is it exciting to play in front of so many people who are unfamiliar with Mae?
JM: It's definitely, I don't want to say nerve-wracking, but it sure makes you wonder what the response is going to be like. But we have been doing this long enough that we have become comfortable with just playing a show and just hope that people like it. And so far it has been awesome. The response has been really amazing.
ZG: But I also think that is the beauty of this tour is the excitement of playing in front of people know don't know who we are. But we have been doing this for long enough to realize that either kids are going to like us, or if they don't like is here, they probably won't like the records. But I think this tour has been awesome if getting us some new fans, or at least they now know the name.

 

It was interesting after telling some people I was coming up to do the interview. Because people either never heard of Mae or if they have, they are fanatical about the band. There seems to be no in between. So you have this swell of amazing fans. How do you view your fans?
JM: Yea, they are awesome, and that is one reason you see us signing stuff as hopefully a small way to say thank you to all the fans that have supported Mae. And we have an online community at maeteam.com that has about 5500 kids on there. And we have profiles on there and it is a very communal atmosphere and I think the attention to the relationship between fan and band is very important to us. We love doing what we do for a living, but it wouldn't be possible without all these people participating in it with us. We are very grateful and anything we can do to keep that relationship building closer we are going to try and do.
ZG: And our fans are awesome because they are Mae fans for a long time. They usually just don't hop on Mae for a while before moving on to another band, they stay with us, and that is so important to us. I mean we have fans paying the $40 ticket price to this show just to see us play for half an hour is amazing. To think kids in high school or college are paying that over other things is ... I mean, fuck, when I was that age I didn't have that kind of money.


That is like a months worth of Ramen noodles!
ZG:[Laughing] Exactly! So to take that kind of time and money to come see us for half and hour in a non-rock and roll atmosphere because we are playing at 6pm is just awesome for us to see. So hopefully we can find someway to show our appreciation in one way or another.

I was talking with Damian from OKGo about a year ago and he described their music as aggressively listenable. Yet others say they write totally internally without concern for an audience. On that spectrum of writing for fans to listen to versus writing and seeing if fans flock, where do you see Mae fitting in?
ZG: Wow, OKGo hit the nail on the head for their sound.
JM: Definitely, but I do think we kind of try to split the difference in a way that sort of has a foot planted firmly in both worlds. Everything has to start with us collectively agreeing that it is worth putting on the record because we do love it and have to believe in it. And some stuff we have come to love less over time just because the nature of a human being is to change and progress and a musician or artist. But by the very nature of what we enjoy to listen to is music that pulls you in.
ZG: I think there are some bands in which their intentions are not necessarily to get fans and if people like it, then okay. But they write music specifically for their own ears. Those bands create a connection to their fans that are extremely close. And there are others that write music specifically for commercial appeal. Then there are the majority of bands that do both in creating a connection but also making music people can gravitate towards. And we are trying our best to toe that line. We are still growing and music is still very exciting to us and when we start a new record we don't know what we are going to do until we get into it.
JM: I think the key in all of that is to never change what we are doing and not create for the purpose of trying to gain more fans. The motivation has to be ours, and that is something only we can internally know. But at the end of the day, we have to be happy with whatever decisions we make as a band and so fare we haven't made decisions that we thought took away from our ideals to try and make a more radio-friendly hit and that is a good feeling.
ZG: So far, so good.

 

You talk about those decisions and as you have gained experience, have you gotten more confident in your decision-making ability or is there always some doubt when you put a song or record out?
JM: Well, the first record we did was totally independent, so we just went into a studio and recorded it, which is what most bands do. So that made us have to get comfortable with our decision-making. There was no one else to give input. It was a shock almost to work with Ken Andrews on this record and to have someone else there whose opinion mattered. We got so used to the creative project being just the five of us, so having Ken there was interesting. But we know that at the end of the day, we are the ones that have to live with this record. So ultimately any decision that gets made for a record we have to be responsible for and proud of. So we need to take that responsibility but also be open to having an outside perspective of what we are doing and make it a positive thing because it can only add more ideas into the mix. So we have to have a healthy balance with that and it is always evolving but I think the key is to never lose that responsibility.

 

The great thing about this record and really anything Ken does is the great vibe to those records. How important was vibe over perfection?
JM: A lot of the time for us the feeling is collected over the recording of the song all together. So it is not like one take will be ass, but the rest of the song is in. That would just produce a song that is too jarring. So you have to be careful how you do it, but it really is about how it layers all together.
ZG: But there has to be elements of both. I remember doing The Everglow with Ken and the budget between that record and Singularity were so different. For The Everglow we had like four or five guitars to choose from and like three or four amps. So some of the guitars were a bit off so we would have to play these songs over and over again and when I was playing leads, I couldn't tell what was good. So it is funny how ears will hear the same thing differently where one person will think it's okay and others won't. But for the new record Singularity, there were times I would drink wine all day then do a solo at the end of a song and the lights would be low and it would create this great vibe. So I would play and ask Ken if that was good, and he would be like, "Yea, let's keep that one." But there are also times on Singularity where we would tune a guitar over and over again because our ears are more trained. So it is a combination of both, but if you rely on feel too much you may miss out of something that doesn't sound right, and vice versa.

 

Do you rely much on computers?
ZG: Well, it is actually becoming quite possible these days to write a record and not know how to play an instrument.
JM: You have to strike that balance. Because with computers you can really lose the need to know how to play. We all want to be good musicians so we never want to rely on what the computer can do to cover our lack of musicianship. [Laughing] We really want to progress towards perfection without being slaves to it.

 

I think Singularity still has the great vibe even with the budget being much higher, as you mentioned. Often times bands tend to go over board, as the budget gets higher.
ZG: It's funny you say that because even going into this record, our focus was less is more. Because for Mae, the music has always been so layered in the studio for the first record and The Everglow that there are layers on there that even we forget about. One of the things we tried to do on Singularity was try to strip it back so the listener hears one melody and can remember one melody and not just have things that muddle what is more important. But this record, as far as instruments needed and loops and stuff like that is the most barren. It's pretty straightforward and I guess all that money went to guitars and whatever.

 

And better wine to drink?
JM: [Laughing] Exactly! Or even liquor!

 

So no more of the Frenzia boxed wine for Mae! But the band Three Days Grace say they write acoustically because you can always add to it but the core of a song is written with just an acoustic guitar. How does Mae approach writing?
JM: It's funny because we actually did a completely different approach this time around. It is still continuously evolving, but for Singularity, we started with about 60 different parts so it was kind of the exact opposite of starting with the acoustic version. We started with sounds, ideas and riffs and recorded all those and spent a good three or four days just listening to it all and begun to see how they were just pieces to a puzzle that we needed to put together. So maybe an idea Zach (Gehring) had would fit with an idea Dave (Elkins) had or there was this progression that Mark (Padgett) and Rob (Sweitzer) had worked out would work well with this chorus over here. And we would change keys and tempo to see how stuff would fit together. I thought it was a cool way to do it.
ZG: Yea, the ideas for The Everglow were so concrete when we went into the studio and the way they were written made them almost complete when we got to the studio. They were just so much more complete. But on the record, when we went into the studio we really didn't have anything and like Jacob said, we just figured it out. And you can hear it all over the record. Take the song Reflections, the last song on the record, came from an idea I had and was mixed with a piece Rob had and then Dave added his vocals on top and all these pieces came in and it just kind of melded together. But I never imagined my idea would end up the way it did but it became one of my favorite songs on the record and I can go on and on about stuff like that. But the record was pieced together and that was a challenge to make it sound as if it was all written as one song and I love the record, though I may be biased.

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