Up Close And Personal With The Maccabees – The Full NME Cover Feature
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Up Close And Personal With The Maccabees – The Full NME Cover Feature

By Leonie Cooper

On the day they announced their split, revisit The Maccabees’ final NME cover feature. This piece was published in November 2015, capping off a year in which the London-based group released career-best album ‘Marks To Prove It’. Leonie Cooper aimed to get under the skin of each member as they revealed their hidden talents, weird obsessions, and near-death experiences.


What was the gig that changed your life?
“I went to see The Vines on my own at Brixton Academy and I thought that was kind of amazing. I hadn’t really decided if I liked that kind of music. I started listening to music when I was 18, 19, so I hadn’t had that long an apprenticeship.”

What took you so long?
“I didn’t really know it was around! I assumed that The Beatles was a kind of shared experience that you were just sort of given, like sport. I thought The Vines were amazing, and that’s when I really started getting into music. Then I saw Franz Ferdinand play at the Concorde 2 [in Brighton]. Everyone had a big bonfire on the beach afterwards and I thought: this is great.”


What’s your current musical obsession?
“Last night I stared listening to a guy called Bill Fay. He sounds a bit like Vic Chesnutt, a really fragile voice but with very crafted songs. None of it feels overthought. ‘Time Of The Last Persecution’, that’s the album I was listening to last night.”

Anything else?
“I don’t think I could do without Desert Island Discs at the moment. I listen to two or three a day. It’s very good company.”

What was your first festival?
“Glastonbury, when we played. I must have been 21. It’s chaos – I picked up on that pretty quickly! I remember someone having an argument about how old their inner child was and thinking, ‘This might not be for me.’”

What do you collect?
“I’m trying very hard to stop collecting. I would end up with so much sh*t – just cr*p off the beach or out of skips. I’d have this room full of detritus… I still have some of it, including my own lapidarium – a collection of stones.”

What’s your signature dish?
“I like cooking, but I’m no good at it. I make my dad’s salad dressing pretty well, but I can’t tell you the recipe. There’s very little that us Weeks men have in our culinary arsenal, so I can’t give it away!”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“There’s a friend of mine who was in a band in the 1980s called The Jags. He told me that if I wrote something that I didn’t record and then I didn’t remember it, to not worry about it, because it wasn’t good enough. That’s always stuck with me.”


Will you still be making music when you’re 50?
“I think so. I really enjoy writing.”

Would that still be with The Maccabees?
“At the end of 2016 it’ll be 15 years since we started, so who knows?”

If you had to give it all up tomorrow, what would you do?
“I’ll try to make a living making things. That’s my life mission – If I can enjoy making something and it pays the rent, then that’s it.”


What was your first gig?
“I went to two gigs in a week – one of them was Lowgold at Dingwalls and the other was Oasis at Wembley Stadium, so I got both ends of the spectrum. I was a huge Oasis fan, but I couldn’t see or hear anything and it was full of people from London pretending to be from Manchester. I was really in love with the idea of Oasis and being committed to something, but the actuality of that was a real juxtaposition. It didn’t put me off the band, but it made me feel like I didn’t want to be part of that pack mentality.”

What’s your current musical obsession?
“I’ve only got Kurt Vile’s album ‘B’lieve I’m Goin Down’ on my iPhone at the moment. ‘Pretty Pimpin’’ is an amazing song. I kind of shied away from it when it first came out, because all the cool kids in Brighton were into it and I decided maybe I wouldn’t like it out of stubbornness. But I absolutely love it.”

What was the last gig you went to?
“Patti Smith at the Roundhouse. It was really wonderful. I saw her at Glastonbury singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the Dalai Lama. Who doesn’t love her music? I like what she’s got to say – it feels restorative and she’s got a good sense of perspective.”

What’s the one album you couldn’t live without?
“I like ‘Spirit Of Eden’ by Talk Talk a lot. I’d never heard music like that, and that’s quite a rare thing when you’ve been in music for a long time. It’s just totally unique. When we were making the last record, there was a period where it was quite hard and we ended up getting drunk quite a lot. We’d get back to my house at four in the morning with assorted people and I’d get everyone to lie on the floor, shut up and listen to ‘Spirit Of Eden’ in its entirety. That happened a few times.”

Aside from music, do you have any other creative outlets?
“I write about cricket for The Guardian and for specialist cricket magazines. A cricket magazine came to our studio a few years ago and asked me to write a couple of pieces and it just went from there.”

What do you collect?
“I’ve got 15 big books of Polaroid photos and gig tickets – but the older I get the better it feels to get rid of stuff. But I’ve just moved house and I was going through my old stuff and found a shirt I wore at the Café de Paris gig in 2006, which is one of the first times we were in the NME. I just couldn’t get rid of it. In my head that’s a museum piece.”

What keeps you awake at night?
“At the moment, baseball. I fell in love with baseball in America recently, and when I got home it was still going, so I’ve been staying up to watch it until seven in the morning.”

Will you still be making music when you’re 50?
“Yeah, definitely. I dunno in what capacity, but I absolutely think it’s something I won’t get bored with and give up. The Maccabees has taught me that if you really want to, you can do something that excites you and that you’re interested in. You can make anything happen.”

Which TV character do you most relate to?
“Some of my friends say I’m Jerry Seinfeld. I don’t think they mean it in a nice way. But I would never wear my jeans that high.”

What was your last big adventure?
“When we finished the last record, I went on my own to Australia for the Cricket World Cup. It was great being somewhere I didn’t have any connection to anyone. That was quite an important time for me, wandering around Melbourne on my own. I didn’t have tickets to anything, but I ended up in Sydney at Kevin Pietersen’s hotel because Marcus Mumford had managed to sort a match ticket out for me. Having been sleeping on floors I ended up at the poshest hotel in Sydney looking like I’d just been washed up on the beach.”


What was your first gig?
“It’s really embarrassing. Limp Bizkit in some arena. I felt no connection to it whatsoever.”

Who are your all-time favourite band?
“The Clash. The intensity of it, the group thing – very different characters put together to create something that’s more powerful than it would be if they hadn’t met.”

What was your first festival?
“Reading Festival. I don’t know if I should tell you this story… I was probably 16 and we broke into the festival! Someone found a gap in the fence and we legged it in. It was really amazing, actually. I don’t remember any of the bands!”

What did you want to be when you were younger?
“I used to ride BMX, but the band started rehearsing so much that music took over. Then as we got more serious, the thought of breaking an arm would have meant I couldn’t do the band. I was quite good – I used to travel to skate parks all over England.”

What’s your favourite Maccabees song?
“‘Grew Up At Midnight’ has had this whole new lease of life, because it’s in the Steve Jobs film. I went to see it in a cinema in New York and the way it’s placed is ridiculous – the whole film leads up to that scene and they play the whole song. I wrote the lyrics for that one as well, so to go from writing lyrics in my bedroom to watching it in a cinema in New York was a special moment.”

What’s it like being in a band with your brother?
“It’s quite natural, really. Felix and I have never been big fighters; we don’t even argue.”

What’s your karaoke song?
“Alanis Morissette’s ‘Ironic’. I do the verses, keep it real cool, don’t have to strain, and then I get a guest to do the chorus and they have to belt out this thing they can’t sing in tune. Florence Welch did it once – she did a good job of it, actually.”

What’s your order in the pub?
“I don’t drink, so lemonade. I stopped nearly two years ago. I love it. Sober gigs means everything’s clearer – it’s nice to feel like you still know what’s going on!”


What was the gig that changed your life?
“Fleetwood Mac a couple of years ago at the O2. I don’t really go to see many old big bands, but it showed how great they are. It was at the time we were writing the last record – I was inspired by it. They absolutely smashed it.”

Who are your all-time favourite band?
“It’s a real cliché to say, but The Strokes had such a big impact on me as a teenager. I still go back and listen to their records. We supported them before we even got a record deal. People say you shouldn’t meet your idols, but they were lovely guys.”

What’s your current musical obsession?
“Most played on my iPod at the moment is Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’. Years ago, someone did a mash up of our song ‘Precious Time’ with it. That sparked my interest in them. It’s really hard to find, but it’s awesome!”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“We supported the Arctic Monkeys the week they first got to Number One. As we were lugging our gear through Brighton in the rain, Alex Turner goes to us: ‘It’s gotta rain before a rainbow.’”

What do you do when you’re not making music?
“I like fishing. I take my rods on tour. When we were in Tampa, Florida, I caught a 100lb sand shark. I convinced the rest of the band to come out on a boat, but they don’t share my enthusiasm. I don’t like eating fish though – so most of the time it’s catch and release!”


What was your first gig?
“When I was very young I went with my parents to a festival in France where James Brown was playing. It was great – it was in a supermarket car park!”

What’s the last gig you went to?
“Father John Misty at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. He’s better live than he is on record. He’s got great stage chat.”

When did you start playing drums?
“I was about 11 and I was living in France. We had a neighbour who had a home studio and was a session bass player on cruise ships. He went on tour and said ‘borrow whatever you want’. So I borrowed his drumkit.”

What was the scariest moment of your life?
“We all nearly died in a tour bus crash in Spain a few years ago. I think our driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into the central reservation, chucking everyone out of their bunks and writing off the bus. We were all alright, but it could have been a lot worse.”

Have you ever been starstruck?
“Recently we were at Pukkelpop and Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood just casually walked over and started chatting to us. Radiohead would be in my top five bands.”

What would you be doing if you weren’t in The Maccabees?
“My plan was to get into film and theatre. I come from a family of actors. I’d still like to do that.”

What’s your signature dish?
“I make a good steak sandwich, because they’re quite hard to find in London.”

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