There is only one surefire way to ensure your music gets heard. Relentless touring. Making a van your home for three months – maybe more, occasionally being granted the luxury of an actual bed. Salivating at the thought of real food on a rider, playing packed out venues night after night through blisters and hangovers. But it’s okay, because these bands have teams of people to do all the detailed and tough legwork for them, right? Not Maybeshewill – the DIY instrumental band from Leicester. They love the road, gleefully delaying the start of their fourth album, ‘Fair Youth’, to support …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead and Dillinger Escape Plan.
“There are some bands you just don’t say no to!” laughs guitarist John Helps. “We wanted to start recording [‘Fair Youth’] just before those support tours in 2013, but we really enjoy touring.” He definitely isn’t joking – the band have been on the road for the best part of three years since their last album. Covering the UK, Europe and even as far a field as China. “We were this kind of transient entity that was never really in any one place for very long at all and China was just amazing.” But shortly after they returned from touring the band managed to squeeze in a bit of time off to set the wheels in motion for their upcoming release.
If you know of Maybeshewill, you’ll most likely be aware that they are proud to be a band with a strong DIY ethos. Never being ones to chase a label or agent – they learnt how to get what they needed through trial and error. In fact, they take it further by having bassist Jamie Ward at the helm for their recording efforts. “We didn’t have to book studio time – we were able to do it in sections which works really well for us. Our tracks start off as ideas that develop and we can work on them over time rather than jamming in a practice room. We’re not really a jamming band.” Now for most people, self-producing can present a whole smorgasbord of problems. For example if you try and record your voice you’ll most likely panic, speak differently or even freeze – it can be tough to stay neutral and keep your eyes on the end goal. But Ward keeps them in check. “He’s great at looking at stuff objectively, and as we are all very different musically we quite enjoy critiquing each other and taking stuff apart and rebuilding it.”
Inspiration for the new album comes from being on the road, no surprises there of course, but both physically and mentally. “The album's kind of written around being in that weird place between 25 - 30. Being a part of incredible moments and trying to hang on to them.” When the ideas started bouncing around between members there was a distinct aura of positivity not heard on previous records – and they made a concerted effort to keep it there. “We wanted the music to express the positive ways to get around the negative things in life.” In order to reinforce this they used real instrumentation rather than synths where possible. Enlisting the help of friends and local Leicester based musicians to play an array of instruments from accordion, trumpet, violin and cello. “There’s just something very different and special about recording the real thing. That human element, I guess the imperfections, are what really add magic to music.”
"Music is not a competition."
— John Helps
This is a huge leap of faith for a band that, in the past, has used a fair amount of synthesisers. It would have been very easy to just select a preset violin sound to fill the gap. But taking on musicians not only adds to the record they are making, but also gives other people chance to play music that they wouldn’t necessarily be involved in otherwise and promotes a self-sustainable industry, something that the band are very passionate about. Not content with just pushing themselves and their own music further they also run a small label, Robot Needs Home, to urge others to do as much as they can for themselves. “Music is not a competition – sometimes it can feel like it, maybe it's something that’s fostered within the industry. I suppose we don’t necessarily feel like a part of that though. We sort of exist in this weird little world outside of it, and that’s something we like”.
Although they suggest it’s a small world – their tour itinerary suggests otherwise. Following a busy festival run, the band hit the road again: UK, Europe, Russia, Japan, and Australia. That’s a pretty big small world to cover.
Maybeshewill's new album 'Fair Youth' is out now.