Maxïmo Park Interview

Maxïmo Park are one of the stalwarts of British rock music with their fourth album, ‘The National Health’, having been released earlier this year. I had a chat with lead singer Paul Smith ahead of the band’s upcoming trip to Australia.

Hey, how are you and where are you writing from at the moment?

Fine thanks, although I’ve damaged my ankle slightly during a football match! I write from my kitchen table-top in Newcastle upon Tyne.

So seven years after the release of your debut album, what do you think has changed the most about Maxïmo Park?

That’s very hard to say because, if anything, we’ve solidified our original position! My views on what we do are broadly similar, but I think the way we carry out our aims has become more varied and diverse. For example, ‘The National Health’ stays true to our original ideals of producing catchy, direct pop music with a romantic, articulate worldview, but the means by which we achieve this are different, with songs pushed to more extreme levels of calm or chaos!

And on the other hand, what has stayed the same throughout everything you’ve done?

We’ve always maintained a passion for what we do and had a desire to connect with people through the music, whether on record or live at a show.

‘The National Health’ has a really clear political focus, was it difficult to balance the personal side of your music with a broader social message?

It’s a tricky balance, but I’ve tried to be heartfelt and write about topics that interest me, which I think you can hear in the music. Each album has had a slightly different slant on our core ideals, but this time we wanted to draw attention to the side of the band that questions the society we live in, as an extension of our personal beliefs. There’s no soapboxing or preaching, but a fair degree of confusion and anger, which people can relate to, alongside love songs and more reflective moments.

How important was it to take a bit of a break between ‘Quicken The Heart’ and this record? How would have the album been different if you hadn’t taken that break?

It’s hard to say what would’ve happened, but we were conscious of creative burnout, so by avoiding that I think we’ve avoided the risk of a lacklustre album or shows where we were tired. I think the music is more focussed than ever as a result of having done different things over the last couple of years. We did a film soundtrack for an old silent film and performed that over two nights at a local volunteer-run cinema, for example!

I saw you guys play a show in Melbourne a couple of years ago and was really struck by the energy and chemistry you guys have on stage, has that always come naturally or is it something you’ve had to work on over the years?

I think we’re all really just music fans at heart and we truly believe in the music we make, which has been the case from our first show to our last one. That’s what you see when we’re on stage, regardless of whether you even like our music! As a frontman I think I’ve got better at communicating what the songs are about to bigger audiences, but I don’t rest on my laurels and always give my best at every show.

You’re coming down to Australia for Falls Festival at the end of the year, have you ever played an Australian festival before? Are you looking forward to it?

Yeah, we played at Wiseman’s Ferry alongside Cocorosie and Ian Brown a few years back at the Playground Weekender – the Australian people know how to have a good time, so it’ll be exciting to be back. We’ll be playing with the likes of Best Coast, Sharon van Etten and Hot Chip, so we’ll be fans as well as performers!

And finally, I know you guys are all big football fans and I remember reading that you’re a fan of Middlesbrough, as a huge Boro supporter myself I was wondering what you make of our current situation and hopes for next season?

After the wonder goals scored by the youth academy lads, Williams and Reach last night in a 3-2 win, I’m more confident than I was after we lost the first game of the season! Tony Mowbray’s a good man and I prefer to watch attractive football, so good luck to him.

‘The National Health’ is out now and available everywhere including iTunes. You can catch Maxïmo Park at the Falls Festival in Marion Bay, which is not yet sold out, alongside some other great acts.

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