On Monday 8th August 2016, I woke up to the heartbreaking news that The Maccabees were no more; the beloved UK indie rock band had announced their amicable split to pursue individual musical projects. Parting on the best terms and comforting their fans with news of farewell shows, it’s necessary for me to look over what the band achieved over their 14 year odyssey.
Photo: The Maccabees on Facebook
In 2005, The Maccabees released their very first rough-and-ready single X Ray, allowing the world to gain its very first impression of the band. Fast paced and heavily layered with fist pumping-ly rocky instrumentals, the five piece band erupted with a musical bang. Lead singer Orlando Weeks’ voice melded the track together, following the beat and the tempo with heavenly synchronicity. Little was created in a sense of ‘receptional bang’ as the track received little exposure; however, this was inevitably the start of something big. It all turned around for the band when they released Latchmere, the song named after the Latchmere Leisure Centre in Battersea. Again with the fast beat and relentlessly paced guitar and drumming instrumentals, The Maccabees created a classic indie rock name for themselves. Indisputably catchy and edgy, the song had airplay from BBC Radio 1 and received subsequent popularity on YouTube after they released the accompanying video. After cultivating quite some following, The Maccabees were signed to Fiction Records in May 2007, releasing their very first album Colour It In; they definitely did not ‘stay in [their] lane.’ This debut album allowed them their first US tour supporting Bloc Party and a full solo UK tour with a sell out venue in Roundhouse London; not forgetting a secure position of 24 in the UK album charts. Being exposed to their indie music as a young teen, I remember relentlessly rocking out to Latchmere – did you know, they’ve got a wave machine?
Colour It In produced the spritely band’s most popular song; Toothpaste Kisses has been listened to over 16 million times on Spotify and is undoubtedly a staple for the indie music diet. Incredibly stripped back, the classic ‘vinyl crackle’ and guitar introduction can stir any millennial into singing along to the softly sung track. The timeless lyric ‘lay with me, I’ll lay with you, we’ll do the things, that lovers do’ has shared endlessly between teen lovers since its production and even inspired the bands merch line. It only lead on to continued success – in May 2009, the band released their follow up album Wall of Arms with free downloadable single, No Kind Words. The single was a big progression for the band; from the gentle notes of Toothpaste Kisses came the dark, foreboding, echoic crashing of both the instrumentals and the vocals behind No Kind Words. NME published an article in collaboration with guitarist Felix White around the time of its release, stating that “with more a expansive sound and lyrics that tell of watching a self-destructive friend veer off the rails, ‘No [Kind] Words’ seems a world away from the wave machines, toothpaste kisses and tissue shoulders we’ve come to associate with the South London four piece.”
Image: Pooneh Ghana.
Entering the UK charts at number 13, NME rated the album an 8/10, showing the world that The Maccabees really were an act to be paid attention to. The year of 2009 propelled the band into a larger stratosphere as they played both Reading and Leeds festival, as well as later headlining the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2010 with major fellow acts Bombay Bicycle Club, The Big Pink and The Drums. However, 2009 was only the first time the band would play at the major Reading and Leeds festival; in 2010, the band debuted the new single Forever I’ve Known from their third upcoming album – the album that would be the soundtrack to the start of my long distance relationship.
The most notable turn point of the band’s progression was their evolution from the previous two rock heavy high beat albums, to the mellower, deeper feel of their January 2012 album, Given To The Wild. Growing up with The Maccabees in my musical background, this was the album that soundtracked my 2015 and still resonates with me even now. A fan favourite among thousands, the sound follows a more isolated and tuned down feel, producing classics such as Child and Grew Up At Midnight. This artistic redirection for the band was beautifully developed and executed, debuting at number 1 in the midweek chart and settling at number 4; 9 positions higher than their previous record. Whilst Child was a relatively laid back track with Orlando Weeks’ silky vocals layered on top, Grew Up At Midnight was a lot more slow tempo; relaxed, quiet and calm, the track is a beautiful lullaby to calm down a generation of Colour It In and Wall of Arms. 8 months after the album’s release it was nominated for the Mercury Prize 2012 – just one month after this, it was certified gold in the UK.
Image: Pooneh Ghana/NME.
The record’s new artistic direction acted as a cohesive for their final album, Marks To Prove It. The creation of the conclusive record began in early 2013, however in an interview with NME in January 2014, guitarist Felix White claimed that ‘every time you write something new, it raises the standard.’ Recorded in The Maccabees’ studio in Elephant and Castle, the final album played homage to the area and was released to the world on July 31st 2015.
When I woke up to the news that The Maccabees had split, I had no idea what to do with myself. I had rocked out to them as an awkward young teen, listened to them when I missed my love and soundtracked them to nights out. Toothpaste Kisses and Went Away stirred the biggest sentiments in me, whilst William Powers and Happy Faces inspired me during some heavy duty revision sessions. Whilst the news of their break has saddened thousands, it’s a joy to leave the band on such a good high. On behalf of every fan of The Maccabees – whether we were there from the start, or joined at some point along the way; thank you Orlando, Hugo, Felix, Rupert and Sam – you were incredible.
“Oh, from the seed they’ve grown me, and I thank those, those who kept me company, they are a wall of arms around me, oh, it is they who are my army.”
Featured Image: Phil Sharp.