Maxband on Their Debut EP “Top of the Stairs” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Maxband on Their Debut EP “Top of the Stairs”

Bringing It All Together

Feb 03, 2021 Maxband
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Maxband is the Brooklyn-based indie rock project of Parquet Courts drummer Max Savage and Patrick Smith of A Beacon School. The two split vocal duties, with the lineup filled out by Tim Nelson on lead guitar and Eric Read on drums. The band first debuted in 2018 with a lofi tape release entitled Perfect Strangers, but have since returned with their first EP, Top of the Stairs. The band’s newest work revamps Maxband with cleaner production, tighter chemistry, and some instantly gratifying, hook-filled indie rock. Under the Radar caught up with Maxband to discuss the new EP and where the project is going next.

Caleb Campbell (Under the Radar): To start off, do you mind going into the origins of the band? How did you all link up and start playing together?

Max Savage: Sure, I was introduced to Tim by my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time. They went to school together and I just suggested to Tim that we should jam sometime. That was really it and then Tim went to high school with Patrick and he called Patrick up, and then Patrick knew Eric and Patrick called Eric up.

Tim Nelson: It was a chain of events that way.

You first put out your debut tape, Perfect Strangers, back in 2018. What was the leadup to that?

Tim: I think we just had some songs written that we wanted to get out there. It was something we had recorded in our practice space and Patrick did a lot of great work to polish that and get it ready to put out in the world. It was just the first set of songs that we felt good about from having played shows and wanted to see what the initial response would be to that.

And what have the intervening two years been like for the band, like have you all been playing together and touring around over those years?

Max: Yeah, we have actually done a fair amount of recording; we have some songs that haven’t been released yet and we played a fair amount of shows and we went on a tour, a mini-tour a few nights, supporting Bambara.

So right before COVID?

Tim: Yeah, I don’t think they got to finish the tour unfortunately. But the three dates we were on, we were able to successfully do, thankfully.

Going into a little of the recording of the EP, what do you feel sets this material apart from what you were doing on Perfect Strangers? I did read that was more of a collaborative writing process.

Patrick Smith: Yeah, the first tape was just to have something to get shows, we just kind of recorded something to have a recording. This time we actually thought about, took our time, and were more deliberate. We spent so much time practicing and had a better idea of what this band was. We were so ready to do a real recording that by the time we met up with our producer Doug [Schadt], we had whittled down everything we had to the five best songs that were the best representation of what the band is.

How would you kind of describe that, what the band is to you? How is it different from all the other projects you’re involved in?

Patrick: It’s all a lot more collaborative than anything else I’m doing; everyone writes their part. We used to just bring in songs, but now, even if someone brings a song in, we jam it together and everyone brings their unique part. Me and Eric as the rhythm section kind of do our thing and those guys do their thing. Everyone has different skills and different styles so we just let it happen now.

How do you see those different styles coming out on the EP?

Patrick: Max and Tim have pretty distinct guitar playing styles. Max is a lot more rhythmic and Tim likes those licks.

Tim: If anything, I got to scale that back a little bit. [Laughs] I think what we put out with this EP is a good representation of us. Not only is it how the songs come together that is collective, but I think the ideas are collective in terms of sound. We all contributed various demo ideas that we then culled down to figure out what we were gonna record. Not only did that work for all of us, but everyone has what they are interested in doing musically represented in their part.

Patrick: Yeah, everyone’s pulling it in a slightly different direction, in a good way. So where it ends up is a unique melding of how we would do things individually.

That’s one of the things I really enjoyed about the record. “Unsaid” feels like Parquet Courts to me, while “Cut It Loose” reminds me of the Strokes, and “Case of Dust” has that really great instrumental outro. Were there other ideas that ended up on the cutting room floor that you’d like to revisit?

Eric: All of the other 15 songs we wrote.

Tim: We’ll have to find a way to integrate some of the fun audio samples we put in at least some of those demos.

Eric: We started kind of thinking about this thing a long time ago, I think it was over the summer of 2019. We just thought we should get a record going and Doug [Schadt] said, “You need to write 15 songs, record 15 songs, and then cut them out from there.” We spent the whole summer writing a ton of songs and getting them in shape and trying to spin that around. Then we ran out of patience waiting for somebody to pick it up and we thought we could afford to get five songs in.

Patrick: As far as the cutting room floor and styles, we have some stuff that’s more jammy and some stuff that we always think of as similar to Neu!, like the German band. We definitely don’t have a definitive direction in mind, but we have some more jammy things. I can say we’re not making the synth crossover anytime soon. Each song kinda takes on a flavor and a character but it’s not too thought out as far as style ahead of time.

Max: Yeah, it’s nice that people are responding to different songs. We’ve had a few write-ups at this point and everyone seems to be latching on to different tracks which is really what we wanted. I think it’s much better than for everyone to become fixated on one song that gets all of the attention; it’s good that people are into different things.

Absolutely. I know that Max and Patrick take on vocal duties at different times on the record. How do you work out who sings lead on a given track?

Patrick: So far it’s been who kind of walks up the mic. I would say whoever starts a song but, for example, “Unsaid,” I brought the chords to that one, but then Max had some great vocal ideas for it and it suited his voice better. So there’s no methodology. It just kinda happens if someone has an idea that works. Tim has a song still to be released and a song on the first tape, so there’s no set rules.

Eric: We’ve been trying to incentivize everyone taking on some kind of vocal duty. I feel like the throughline of the whole band has been that we try to get everybody to hop on vocals at some point.

Tim: There are demos where Eric and I did our own vocals. We each have our own different styles. It’s interesting you mentioned the one song I did vocals on; it wasn’t a result of something that I brought in. It was more something where I’m playing a part where I feel I can manage singing and playing guitar at the same time, so I’ll give that a try. It’s about fitting pieces together and finding the right circumstances.

Patrick: So far, necessity is the mother of invention. It’s been, we need someone to sing on this who can do it? Someone’s gotta do it. It works so far.

I did wanna ask Max as well, because personally, I’m a fan of Parquet Courts. What’s it like taking the lead a bit more with this project?

Max: Early on, it was pretty nerve-wrecking because I had never played the guitar in a band and I hadn’t ever sung in a band either, so it’s been just a learning experience. I think Tim would echo some of that sentiment too. It’s his first time playing guitar in a band. We’ve really learned a lot from each other, we’ve been helping each other out this whole time. It’s been really fun.

Tim: I feel very fortunate that I’ve had all these guys around me and I got very lucky that this is the first project I’m involved with. I have people around me who know what they’re doing a bit more and can kind of show me the ropes in terms of how one is in a band. It definitely feels like I was very fortunate to get a leg up with something that normally someone in my position would have to pick up on their own.

Has it taken some time to adjust to that?

Tim: Yeah. At least for me I say that a lot of aspects of it were new and I was still learning what was going on and these guys have been very patient with me. I feel a lot more confident about the role I play at this point. It’s been good.

Were there any plans to tour for Top of the Stairs prior to COVID, or any plans for 2021 as far as touring?

Patrick: We’re not making any plans, cause they’ll inevitably get fucked up, but we’d love to tour at some point.

Max: Yeah, ASAP really. We are ready to go.

Tim: Yeah, my last day out in the world was when we played a show on March 7th. It was the last thing I did in the outside world. I definitely wanna get back out there.

Patrick: Remember someone fainted at that show? I felt like the world was ending.

Eric: They didn’t have COVID, they passed out because of anxiety of COVID.

Tim: I remember we got off stage and then Pom Poko from Norway was headlining. That was right when the NBA was like “Yeah, we’re shutting down for a while,” as they were onstage. We were like, “Oh, this is getting serious.”

Patrick: More importantly than the NBA was they shut down flights to Europe. I think Pom Poko was more concerned about that than the NBA. [Laughs]

Tim: Fair point. Fair point.

Patrick: Oh my God, the Lakers aren’t gonna get their fucking playoff run, no! [Laughs]

Tim: I feel for them, that was a rough time. At some point, we want to get out on the road, but the next step is to put some of these out in a physical format.

Patrick: Yeah, it’s coming out on vinyl, on Holm Front Records.

Has there been any slowdown with that? Cause I know the vinyl industry as a whole has been struggling to keep up production with COVID.

Patrick: Yeah, we made all of the arrangements amidst COVID, so that’s kinda worked into the schedule.

Eric: I think we’re expecting something in January.

Tim: Holm Front is great, they seem really enthusiastic about putting it out.

Patrick: Yeah, we didn’t think it would be a physical item, so we’re glad it’s gonna be real.

Max: Yeah, we’re stoked!

Tim: And unlike the tape, I can actually play it this time. so that’s gonna be good.

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