The Maccabees have had a blinder of a year. When they met DIY in their beloved stomping ground of Elephant & Castle for a chat over slabs of victoria sponge back in August, they had just finished fourth album ‘Marks to Prove it’. A gargantuan love letter to belonging somewhere, the band crafted their most physical sounding record yet, and they also had a quiet inkling that their new record would take on independent life on the stage.
The way things panned out once ‘Marks to Prove it’ was unleashed on the world, they were right. A band that get leaner and stronger with every record, The Maccabees returned to another familiar stomping ground - Reading and Leeds festival - and stole the show. They also scored the first number one album of their careers. And, it turns out, they took a few selfies we’d pay good money to see.
With The Maccabees at #23 in The DIY List of this year’s biggest artists, we rang up the band’s Hugo White for a debrief on a whirlwind year…
This year you bagged your first number one album with ‘Marks To Prove It’. It was a very close one between you and Lianne La Havas that week - you must’ve felt so proud, as a band?
Yeah, it was. The day we got the call we were flying to Romania, and we were in the airport waiting for the flight. Five minutes before we got on we were checking our phones, and we got the news right before. It was a really nice thing, actually, because I think as a band we never expected anything like that. A number one felt like a real achievement. Actually, it made all the hard work - a good two or three years - there was a sense of it being worthwhile.
As that week unfolded, you were going round the country, stopping at record shops, playing sets, and meeting your fans - kind of campaigning for the number one spot. it was very exciting to watch.
It felt like we had an election campaign! We were meeting the people! It was really fun.
What’s your best moment from 2015, looking back?
Do you know what? Probably Jamie T playing with us at Glastonbury. We’ve known Jamie for a long time, we toured together on our first record, and we’ve always had so much respect for him and the music he’s made. So, yeah, to play with him; he brings a real excitement to stuff.
When you spoke to DIY for your cover feature back in August, you talked a lot about how you’d written ‘Marks to Prove it’ with live performance in mind. Seeing you play shows over the summer, at places like Reading’s main stage, that really came across. Does it feel good to take this new album out onto these huge platforms?
It works really well, I think. We just did the UK run and played a lot of the new record, and it’s really great because the songs were written in a room - one of the main things was that we were performing, and writing them, as a band. We wanted to carry that energy onto the record. That did make that transition work well. I also think every time you need the songs to excite you, so you feel like you’ve moved on, and so it’s great playing them. In some ways I think they tie in a lot of the old songs we haven’t played for a while, and it makes sense with the other records in the live sets.
You’re veterans of Reading and Leeds Festival by now, as well…
Yeah, that felt brilliant. I’m really hoping we get another good run at festivals with this record. Reading has supported us from the beginning - we’ve played every stage I think.
And finally, have you had any major Maccabees mishaps during the year?
Sam, our drummer, fell asleep backstage at Pukkelpop, and we got people to come and take photos with him while he was asleep. Dizzee Rascal did a nice pose with him, and John Paul Jones. Sam was wearing his Led Zeppelin t-shirt at the time, as well. He met all his heroes when he was asleep.
Photo: Mike Massaro / DIY. The Maccabees new album ‘Marks to Prove it’ is out now.