Mazes released their sophomore album ‘Ores & Minerals’ on February 18th and rolled into Glasgow a few days later for a show at Broadcast as part of their UK tour. I caught up with Jack, Conan and Neil to talk about their new album, life on the road and what DIY meant to them.
The new album is a step in a different direction in regards to sound and song structures. You guys have lost a guitarist since the debut album, was that a contributing factor?
Jack: I think it was in a way because a lot of the shows we played around the first album it was actually just us three because Jarin had lots of other commitments. We did a full tour with just the three of us and we did bits of America with just three us. When there is just the three of you and not two guitars going at it there is a lot more dynamics and ups and downs. I guess you have more space and it’s more interesting because of the contrasts and stuff. I think informed it informed the new album it in that way.
Did you have a set idea for what you wanted the album to sound like or did it gravitate towards that sound naturally?
Jack: I think it was a bit of a progression. I started demoing things and I’d find a sample or a drum loop or I’d make something and it’d just be very repetitive and then I’d write the melody around that. I’d always have Conan and Neil in mind as the rhythm section. I think with the first album, I always used to write songs that were kind of swung and it’s not like we couldn’t play them live but I don’t think it suited us in a way so when I was coming up with the demos for the new album I was thinking about the way Neil drums so the way he plays was more influential on the way I wrote. I always thought when we were playing as a three piece on the first album we’d do things that were really cool and sounded great and I thought that was the way we should go. There would be little 10 second snippets where we’d play in a certain way.
Conan: When everyone heard the new record for the first time they were like ‘it’s totally different’ but to us when you go back and listen to the first record there are some songs that totally fit in with the new stuff and you wouldn’t even notice they were off the first record. That first record had like an arch over it which was like ‘it sounds like this’.
Where did you get the idea for the title of the new album?
Conan: My girlfriend is an illustrator and she’s done lots of artwork for us and other bands before and we were looking around for ideas for the artwork and we didn’t have an album title yet and we had about 4 or 5 songs for the album. So we were looking around and we came across this old poster you’d get in a science classroom with all these rocks and crystals. We really liked it and it said in the middle ‘Ores & Minerals’, pretty much the exact same way we have it on the back of the LP. I showed it to Jack and he really liked it and we lived it with it for a while and by the end it really seemed to fit in with how the record ended up sounding.
Jack: I still hadn’t written most of the lyrics for the album and the ‘ores & minerals’ bit creeped into one of the songs and there’s now a song called that.
Do you find it hard to incorporate some of the stuff from the first album into your new sets?
Jack: I think so yeah. The songs that we had videos for on the first album like ‘Most Days’ and Summer Hits, I think we were a bit bored of playing them even when we were touring the first album. They were like the ones you would just blast through as they weren’t taxing or fun to play. The thing that I have figured out is that you can never second guess what people are going to like and what they are going to respond to and you just have to stop trying.
Conan: All the songs we’re playing now off of the album we’ve been playing as a band together for nearly a year but it’s only now that other people are hearing them but to us all these songs, we all know, and it’s what our band sound like but to everyone else it’s new and different.
When you guys first started you were involved in quite a big DIY London scene. Do you still feel involved in that scene? Is it still a strong scene?
Conan: I dunno, we still see all those bands at the weekend like Male Bonding, Veronica Falls and Fair Ohs. Every weekend we’ll all go out and see each other at the pub or at parties and everyone still hangs out but I think all the bands have got a bit bigger now so it’s not as easy to play a small show together.
You recently done a piece with The Guardian giving tips on being DIY, do you consider yourself as a DIY band?
Jack: That was something that I wrote as like ten things that we do. We’d never say we’re a DIY band because then you’re setting yourself up for a fall. I think there was just a general acknowledgment that the music industry, since punk or hardcore and DIY, it had taken all that time to come round again when people were like there is no point in us trying to do that, to get caught up in all that, it’s a waste of time.
Conan: Nobody reinvented the wheel, DIY has always been around but I think it was just taking it more with a pinch of salt instead of too seriously as a lot of that scene is po-faced and too serious: ‘we’re a DIY punk band, we’re always going to be a DIY punk band’. I think the group of bands that we were involved with were DIY but were more open so if a label came a long that they trusted and they were into it then they’d work with them, we wouldn’t turn them away and always be a DIY band. I think that’s the difference between those type of bands and our sort of DIY.
Do you even have a manager with you on tour?
Conan: No, all we have really is a booking agent who helps us out but we book our own UK tours and we have someone at the label who helps with press. I think the point with that article for The Guardian is that there is a perception by some bands that as soon as you’re on a label you can afford to get a driver, a big van and a sound guy. For me the point of the article is that you get to a point which, we found out with the first album, when everyone who works around the band and works for the band is getting paid but the band aren’t getting paid. There is no other industry where that would happen apart from the music industry, where the people who actually make the music are going home empty handed when they’ve worked for two weeks. How is that a good way to run a business?
Jack: I used to work in a venue when I first moved to London and I’d see bands that I’d never even heard of and they’d turn up in a splitter van and they’d have a sound engineer, a tour manager and someone selling their merch and it’s like walk before you can run.
You guys were on tour with The Cribs last year. How was that whole experience, was it a lot different to other tours?
Jack: It felt pretty normal. We were in two minds whether to it because we’ve been offered tours like that before and it’s like £50 a show and they can do that as they know you’re getting good exposure but The Cribs allocate an amount that makes it worth your while to do the tour. That’s an example of what their like, they’ve supported so many people they know what it’s like for a supporting band. They are really nice lads.
Conan: There was only one show where we got heckled.
Jack: The Cribs tour manager tried to get them kicked out so that was cool.
Neil: I think we were lucky that we were second on every night as it meant there were always quite a lot of people there to see us and if there is are a large group of people then some of them are going to be into it.
What have you guys got planned for the next six months?
Jack: We’re quite busy, we’ve got a tour with Veronica Falls in Europe.
Conan: We’re sending e-mails every day at the moment trying to sort stuff out, hopefully just try and go to Europe a lot more. We did Europe for a week when we done the last tour which was really good. We were on tour with two other FatCat bands, We Were Promised Jetpacks and The Twilight Sad and they are both pretty big Europe. We were first on every night but every night you’d go in and it’d be a 500 capacity venue and it’d always be full for the first band, you get treated great in Europe so we’re definitely going to get over there more.