Eight years ago Leicester’s Maybeshewill arrived on the scene with their debut EP Japanese Spy Transcript. Since then they’ve made a name for themselves over the course of three albums with their sweeping, euphoric yet rollicking brand of post rock. Guitarist John Helps talks to Overblown about their latest album Fair Youth, their D.I.Y. ethos, and society.
According to John Helps, guitarist of Leicester’s intricate instrumentalists Maybeshewill, the band’s staunch D.I.Y. ethic, adopted early on in the band’s career through necessity, has turned into something more liberating than functional. “It’s about not wanting to ask someone to do something you can do yourself, “says Helps at the beginning of our half hour phone interview, “to be in control of your own destiny.” Helps is clearly proud of what the band has achieved and rightly so. Without any band manager or a tour manager, they attempt to keep things very much in house and manageable. As the band have been together for nearly ten years and are on the eve of releasing their fourth album Fair Youth on August 25th, (their first since 2011’s I Was There For A Moment, Then I Was Gone) it is obviously an ethos that has kept them in good stead.
The compactness of the business surrounding their band can be felt throughout their music. They come across like a more succinct and more aggressive version of Icelandic post rock legends Sigur Ros, and Helps has no time for the superfluous. “We’ve always tried to keep the music accessible. When we first started the band, we’d cut out all the repetitions and make sure they (the songs) were concise.” He adds, “We’d think about it in that way. Do we absolutely need all these parts? Can we get to the conclusion, not as quickly as possible, but without dithering around it?” Economical is an apt word to describe their approach. The manner in which the new songs on Fair Youth don’t labour to their climax shows they’ve continued to refine this method.
The control of their own destiny and sense of liberation can be heard throughout their catalogue since their first EP, Japanese Spy Transcript, dropped in 2006. There’s a freedom to explore new avenues without obstacle and an overriding sense of hope that has always cut through the down tuned riffs and socially conscious samples. That sense of hope may have more space to breathe on the new album. “It’s definitely a less riff heavy record. It’s got brass, strings and a choir. It’s less synthetic, but there’s also more synthetics on the record as well,” Helps adds, “It’s more electronic and more organic. We’re trying to replicate the power you get from two guitars playing power chords using different instruments. We tried to to have no power chords on the record, but we failed slightly.”
In conjunction with the liberation and freedom allowed by the D.I.Y. ethos, their albums are carefully crafted and meticulously created. Helps agrees, “Nothing on our records happens by accident. Everything is thought over, dissected and put back together. We make sure that that is the best of way of doing it and making whatever point we’re trying to make with that bit of music.” Their approach is more methodical than the traditional image of a band practicing in a room together. “We don’t write in jam sessions”, Helps adds, “That doesn’t work for us. Everything is put together relatively carefully and maybe that comes across in the song writing.”
From Black Flag to Fugazi the D.I.Y. ethic has long been linked with more socially and politically conscious musicians. Maybeshewill are no different. In 2009 they used a sample of a famous speech from the film Network decrying western media and public apathy on their track “Not For The Want Of Trying” from the album of the same name. It’s not just the media that they have an opinion on. In fact, Helps tweeted through the Maybeshewill Twitter account in response to UKIP’s unprecedented success in the European elections earlier this year. “The reaction was absolutely phenomenal. It was the most retweeted tweet we’ve ever had. There should be less boundaries between countries and nationalities and not more. We don’t need a regressive attitude towards Europe when it is clearly a good thing for humanity.”
Despite the positive reaction, not everyone was of Helps’ opinion. “I was disappointed to see people disagreeing. The majority of people were on board with similar opinions but there was definitely a good few people disagreeing. It was a surprise. It’s a big thing for us.”
Helps also has something to say about the recent tax avoidance scandals involving Take That and Arctic Monkeys, although he is clear to make sure that these are his opinions and not necessarily the band’s as a whole. Again, it all comes back to the D.I.Y. ethic. “It’s not taking enough interest in your personal affairs. They wouldn’t have wanted to have been seen to ever be avoiding tax. They might not even be aware that it’s going on. If they are aware, it’s clearly been sold to them as a good thing to do. Obviously, someone else benefits from them paying less tax.”
He continues, “It’s both a benefit and an issue for us that we take care of all that within the band ourselves, although that’s on such a small scale.” When I facetiously ask if Maybeshewill would be the next in line to be caught up in a tax avoidance scandal Helps jokes, “Tax on what? Maybeshewill has never turned a profit!” Despite this, it’s clear that if and when Maybeshewill do turn a profit, there will be little chance of their affairs being mishandled. They wouldn’t allow it.
It’s Maybeshewill’s self sufficiency and hands on attitude, along with their euphoric post rock, that is most impressive about the band. It allows them the freedom to be the band that they desire to be, unchastened by any expectations except their own. They’re clearly a band that has a definite idea of where they’re going and how they are going to get there. I wouldn’t bet against them achieving their goals. It’s refreshing to see a band that is socially conscious and willing, even wants to, take the road less travelled. It will make all the difference.
Catch Maybeshewill at the ArcTanGent festival in Bristol which runs from the 28th to the 30th of August.
Maybeshewill’s new album Fair Youth is out on August 25th via Superball Music.