Everybody knows the Maccabees. Even my Zimbabwean Olympian housemate knows the Maccabees. Sadly, they’ve been away for a while leaving a five-man-indie-rock shaped hole in so many lives. On the first night of their tour at the Institute, I sat down with Hugo White, who became the band’s guitarist in 2004 at just sixteen years old. Since then, Hugo’s life has been all about the music. With the choice between a lovely, leather sofa and a crappy plastic chair, Hugo instantly offers me the comfy seat. I like him already.
Success hit the Maccabees like a ton of bricks following their first album in 2007, ‘Colour It In’, their last one ‘Given To The Wild’ in 2012, and my favourite addition in the middle ‘Wall Of Arms’. Every album has a totally individual sound, without losing that unique, guitar-brimming, energetic style. The next album has been a long-time coming, and not an easy process to create. In the interview, Hugo talks about the struggles of getting five passionate and very different men to agree on the same thing. Fans can expect to hear a slight turn in style on the new record, and if the just-released single ‘Marks To Prove It’ is anything to go by, it’s going to be brilliant. Hugo produced the whole album, creating it through the style the band wanted to portray; ‘landscapey’ and ‘dream-like’, and sculpted in a raw and authentic way. Where are they performing next? Hugo White has no idea – just a notification that pops up to tell him the day of and a double-decker tour bus to take him there. Soon, they jet off to America, where they will support Mumford and Sons on their tour. Hugo tells me that they’re almost repaying the Maccabees a favour, as Mumford and Sons supported them on their last tour, and have such a big presence in the US.
I was lucky enough to go to the gig afterwards and see the Maccabees absolutely kill it. The support act was a band called Gengahr, an alternative London-based band with a falsetto vocal to die for. They provided a chilled-out atmosphere in a palpably excited room. Maccabees strolled onto stage with effortless coolness, and if they were nervous about touring for the first time in two years, you absolutely couldn’t tell. In terms of musical ability, the band approach their instruments like old friends, and the sweat dripping from them was testament to how much of themselves the put into performing. Orlando’s vocal was so strong – and his words between songs were excited and humbling. A trait that Maccabees are known for and absolutely own, is the switch-up of tempo and pace in so many of their songs, and from witnessing their live performance, I have to take my hat off to them for executing it so seamlessly.
Normally at the end of a gig, my feet kind of hurt and I’m content to go home and jump into bed, but this might just be the first gig I’ve been to where I was totally annoyed that it ended. Every song had so much energy and life – it couldn’t have been more obvious that every member had their own input into creating every track, because the way they play their old and new music is so familiar and loving. More noticeably, they’re having fun. From the front barrier, I can see the band smile and gain so much energy as the guitar and drums meet in perfect timing, a riff is pulled off faultlessly, or they suddenly realise that everyone in the crowd is singing along with them.
Listen below to hear Hugo talk about why he sees touring as a celebration of the hard work of making a record, the democracy of song-writing, and the audible blushing of an overwhelmed interviewer.