What is your songwriting process as a band? Does one of you write most of the material in terms of melody/harmony/lyrics, or do you write collectively as a group?
I tend to write most of the music, melodies, and lyrics. I have always loved songwriting more than any other practice in MAE. More than the stage and being the "frontman," I absolutely love melody and songs crafted through and around melody. Jacob and Zach are always down to work on music together, so after a song is pretty much there, we finish it together. I usually have vocal melodies picked out before lyrics, so getting help from the guys lyrically is great. I just hum the melodies I am hoping to use and we fill in the missing lyrics together.
Will the song-a-month idea be a recurring theme in years to come, or are you planning on returning to normal albums, or have you even thought about that yet?
At this point, we wanted to make a commitment to each other and to our fans through 2009. With the door wide open following the release of SINGULARITY, Mark and Rob's departure, and our break from Capitol, we really wanted to try and do something unique with our music this time around. In the future, I'm not sure exactly what the method will be, but the plan at this point is to release our EP's on our own label and future MAE music in the same fashion.
Do you guys already have all 12 songs written and recorded for each month's release for 2009?
We actually have only 9 out of the 12 songs written for this year and even less recorded. We are working hard in the studio right now on our March release and the music that will be exclusive to the (M)orning EP. We recorded demos this past summer at Drexel University. Some of the material we are keeping for the actual releases, while on other songs we have rewritten and started recordings from scratch. "The House That Fire Built" was mixed for the final time about 36 hours before we went live with it on January 1st...by the skin of our teeth!
Will you release all 12 songs as a physical copy in some form in 2010?
We definitely plan to. The most important thing we strive to do this year is encourage people to be a part of a community...to make change happen as opposed to waiting for it. We are closely documenting the entire year and the changes that do take place. Right now there is talk of a film/documentary at the end of the year. It would be great to include a "full length" release to accompany the DVD.
How are you managing to support yourselves while donating all proceeds from your music to charity?
Great question! Again, by the skin of our teeth. We are playing a few spot show dates here and there to make money to pay for the studio time but at the moment, things are really tight. We look forward to our full U.S. tour and the (M)orning EP release in mid-April.
How did you guys decide on which charity to donate to?
MAE's best friend and pocket knife (truly this guy is capable of doing practically anything and doing it well), Brett "Benji" Brownell worked on a Habitat for Humanity mission in Guatamala a while back and his stories really inspired us. When it came time to tour last year, we wanted to raise money for the cause and get people giving to each other. We played acoustic shows before or after the plugged set with a donation getting you access and started building our Habitat For Humanity fund. Cnce we finished the tour and saw how much we raised, we decided to take it up a couple of notches and the goal became to have our fans pay for the entire building of a home through Habitat. We are almost 1/6 to completion of our goal. We have several ideas for future humanitarian causes, but now that 2009 is upon us and people have been so giving, we have decided that we want to put the decision as to where to where the money should go next in your hands. We want your voice to be heard and we want to help meet the needs of your community. We will be holding discussions on our MAE forum and on MAETEAM.
Will you guys be looking for another label after this adventure or try to stay out on your own?
The goal for MAE is to create and release music on our own label during this endeavor and release all future MAE music on it.
Aside from the twelve songs, are you guys planning to release anything else this year?
Absolutely! Each EP (M)orning, (A)fternoon, and (E)vening will have extra music that will not be part of the monthly campaign...bonus songs, instrumental tracks, acoustic tracks, etc. There are also talks of a DVD or two along the way.
Who thought of the "choose your own path" idea for the DVD?
We enjoyed the choose your own adventure aspect of The Everglow. One of MAE's purposes has always been to create a unique experience for our audience. We didn't want to "just put out a DVD," we wanted to release something that was interactive and noteworthy. From here on out we will take this approach with every song, webisode, EP, etc. that we share with you.
Do you feel any differently with only 3 members in the band now?
It is much different. It has it's pros and cons for sure. Sometimes it's nice to flow communication through 3 people as opposed to 5. Rob and Mark are married and have different priorities than we currently have. Zach and Jacob live together and I live a block and a half of away from them, so there is never an excuse to not get together, work, and get creative. We are all multi-instrumental musicians which is great, but not one of us could play the piano as well as Rob can or the bass as well as Mark can. Mark is engineering the new material and playing bass on it, so as far as the "low end" goes, nothing about MAE's sound is changing. We are all contributing on the piano/rhodes/keys side of things. I'll be playing a majority of this on the recordings. Jacob will be contributing a piano piece he wrote in college called "Seasons" on our third EP, (E)vening, which I promise will make everyone fully understand that we have not abandoned our original sound which relies heavily on keys. Robert Smith from the band Tokyo, who plays with us live, has also contributed to the recordings. All in all, being in a band is full of life, adventure, trial and error, failure, and success. The load is sometimes heavier and other times lighter now that we are a three piece.
Are you seeking any new permanent additions to the band?
No. Zach, Jacob, and I have been investing in MAE, making decisions and sacrifices for over six years now. We are confident that we can create the best music, the best records, and the best experiences as a three piece. With that being said, we rely on our own community of musicians, creative minds, and administrators to make that happen. MAE, the band is Jacob, Zach, and I. MAE, however, is Zach, Jacob, me, Andy Mellon, Brett "Benj" Brownell, our team of administrators (booking agent, lawyer, business manager, behind the scenes director, etc.), and you. MAE is an idea that any of us can run with.
Are you happy with the progression of the band, specifically the music made, over the years?
Definitely. When we released The Everglow, i couldn't have been prouder. I was so happy with the results, working with Ken Andrews, a personal hero of mine, putting a record together that would encourage our listeners to enjoy the whole record every time, including the artwork. When we released Singularity, musically we were really enjoying ourselves. We were writing more as a band which made things really enjoyable. We were all learning together and we were stretching ourselves. When we got into the studio after signing our names on the dotted line, we wrote what we wanted to write and then had more outside influence (label heads, producer, etc.) than we had ever had on anything we had ever released. Needless to say, we still wrote and recorded the songs we wanted to write. What excites me most about the music we are sharing with you this year is that this music will finally come straight from MAE to you. I'm acting as producer this time and MAE is acting as the label. We have no manager, we have no outside influences, only you, our fans, who matter almost as much as we do when it comes to songwriting. ;) These 2009 songs will truly be MAE songs, even more so than Destination: Beautiful, which is the only other MAE record I've produced.
Would you change anything about any of your previous albums?
There are things about every album that i would change. With Destination: Beautiful, I was only 19 and had never put much thought into a record people all over the country/world could listen to. We always thought of D:B as demo sessions before we signed with Tooth & Nail and gave them the record. There are only a few things I would have changed about The Everglow. I'm not sure i could even tell you what they are anymore. When the record was finally finished and I would listen to the final mixes on my iPod in early 2005, I remember feeling stoked 99% of the time and occasionally thinking to myself, "oooh, I wish I would have sang that differently or played that melody differently." With Singularity, that process was both incredibly long and somehow not long enough for us. Songs like "Reflections," "Home," "Sic Semper Tyrannis," are exactly as I heard them in my head when we started writing together for the record. Other songs just didn't quite complete the way I think we all would have wanted. Some bands are made to work with major labels and producers. Others need to learn how to make it on their own terms. Here we are now, trying to do that.
When can we see a full US tour?
We will be touring the country beginning mid-April through the end of May with our friends Person L, Barcelona, and Tokyo.
How, if at all, are you influenced by any criticisms of listeners or album reviewers?
I try to stay away from criticisms as often as i can. However, whenever you release a song, a record, etc. you want people to enjoy it and then you submit yourself to finding out if they really do enjoy it or not. It's a tough thing to submit yourself to. As the saying goes, "everyone is a critic." It's ironic but the most biting reviews I think i've read have come from this site, and it's community. When it comes to writing a song, I have never thought about critiques first. I only hope and believe that MAE songs are the best that they can be from us and nothing less.
Do you take the fan's own feedback into consideration when you go to record a new album?
Not when recording an album, but when performing live. I really want to hear the honest truth about our live shows. What was lacking, what was cool, what songs could have made the set more enjoyable. What songs should be staples for our show and which ones people can do with out. We really like pleasing our fans with our show. You already know what the songs sound like recorded. If you pay money and take time out of your schedule to see us play, we want to make sure you are beyond satisfied when you leave. A rock show is an escape and bands should respect that. It's our duty to provide you that outlet and make you feel alive while you are with us.
On the flipside, when it comes to recording a new album, we have to satiate ourselves. When people suggest we write a song, record, or sound like an previous record, that always floors me. I always wonder if the people suggesting this are musicians. If they are, do they only play the same chords and progressions or do they enjoy learning new chords, new arrangements, new ideas? This is really the case in anything you passionately pursue in life. Who wants to paint the same picture time and time again, write the same poem, live the same day over and over again? My favorite artists always evolve and when they stop, that's usually when I stop listening. Growing is the most important part of living.
How did you take to the pressure to follow up such an immense album as "The Everglow"?
It was tough for me. At the time, I felt like I had dried up the "creative" well. I didn't write a single song for about a year or so after The Everglow's release. But then one day, during a Singularity writing session, it clicked for me. I was surrounded by creative minds and great musicians and songwriting and performing was our collective job, and I have to say, the best job in the world. At that moment, the pressure lifted and I remembered that being creative for a living is beyond a dream come true. It is a blessing. Sometimes the inspiration simply comes to you. Sometimes you have to exercise it into existence. But most importantly you have to respect it. Music is always a gift and language that we are all capable of understanding. If we are blessed enough to speak it, we should learn how to be more focused, eloquent, intentional, and giving with it. From that moment on, I've been able to pick up the guitar everyday with the understanding that in time, it will always come.
What artist/album/song has brought you closer to someone, or has allowed you to make a true connection with another person?
The Beatles' Abbey Road brought me closer to my stepdad when I was a kid. We didn't get along too well when i was young. I had a knack for rebellion and defiance. He probably didn't know how to be a father to me at times. But i remember listening to Abbey Road with him as a child and thinking, "this music is unbelievable and this man must know a lot and i need to learn from him." Today, he is one of the most influential people in my life and one of my best friends.
What are your favorite novels/authors?
I am currently reading or have recently read: Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.
Jacob has been inspired a lot in preparing for this project. Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat" talks about the power of individuals to make huge differences in the age of globalization. He also has a fantastic new book called "Hot, Flat, and Crowded." Steven Johnson has a book called "Emergence" that deals with the science of self-organizing systems and how huge and amazing things can happen when little things collaborate together. Finally, the Russian painter, Wassily Kansinsky wrote an amazing book about the power of art called "Concerning the Spiritual in Art." This book is a constant reminder of why Jacob became involved in art and music in the first place.
For Zach, it's "The Brothers Karamazov" and other books he's read by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Both Dostoevsky and Soren Kierkegaard continuously blow his mind with their ideas and their writing. Their subject matter explores and analyzes what he's really interested in and they have a very effective way of cutting straight into the complexities of spirituality, conflict, and honesty.
Anything else you want to add?
Our new song, "BOOMERANG" is coming February 14th. Thank you for the interview and the time. Donate and download at whatismae.com!
I'm so excited for their future. I will definetely go to their show on their tour with Person L. I also like it that they're staying a three piece. Does anyone know what they're gonna call their label?
"Music is always a gift and language that we are all capable of understanding. If we are blessed enough to speak it, we should learn how to be more focused, eloquent, intentional, and giving with it."
I liked what he said about people wanting them to record songs like their previous records and how he wonders if people who say that are musicians with any idea what it's like to progress and evolve--it would be boring for them to keep recording the same thing over and over again. Totally makes sense and I hope people get that and stop complaining.
I will continue fully supporting this band. Absolutely love what they're doing. Keep it up!
"When people suggest we write a song, record, or sound like an previous record, that always floors me. I always wonder if the people suggesting this are musicians. If they are, do they only play the same chords and progressions or do they enjoy learning new chords, new arrangements, new ideas? This is really the case in anything you passionately pursue in life. Who wants to paint the same picture time and time again, write the same poem, live the same day over and over again? My favorite artists always evolve and when they stop, that's usually when I stop listening. Growing is the most important part of living."
This should be permanently stickied to the top of the site and posted in every thread about Fall Out Boy, Emery, Anberlin, Paramore, Coheed & Cambria, and... a million others.
Great interview. What made me think is how obviously passionate these guys are to their music and what it means to them, and then you get people who just download music illegally without any quarms, it's kind of heartbreaking.