Story by Shea McMahon
Photo by Tim Harmon
Originally published in Issue #11
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The house music stops.
The fans erupt as their favorite band’s backdrop tumbles from the ceiling to fall smoothly behind the sparkling drum set. The roadies buzz across stage, setting up mic stands and amps. and backstage sits the band – focused and preparing, tapping out drumbeats, fine-tuning bass strings and warming up the vocal chords in lush, fully-stocked dressing rooms.
For the guys of The Maine, your wildest dreams are far from their Rockstar lifestyles.
Ten minutes before showtime, Peter, the band’s tattoo-covered best friend and tour manager, invited us outside to experience the band’s pre-show ritual. In a team huddle, to a clapping rhythm, the band and their crew chanted and danced to the chorus of “We like to party. We like, we like to party.” Dancing, clapping and spinning, the band didn’t crack a smile, a laugh, nothing.
With the tribal ritual complete, they simply wandered to their instruments behind the drapes on stage, conversations far from the set-list or the crowd. Their final few seconds before entertaining thousands of fans – “Is Charlotte seriously an eight hour drive from here? I am NOT looking forward to that.” And ‘showtime.’
Despite the Phoenix quintet’s calm and laid back demeanor, their sound is serious. One listen to their first full-length Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, will have you seriously in love with their pop-punk sound.
But be careful calling The Maine a Phoenix-band. Their road to fame may not exactly list the desert mirage as their departure point.
“We’ve actually played more shows in Dallas, Texas than we’ve played in Phoenix,” said drummer Pat Kirch. “There just wasn’t much of a scene so we had to really use MySpace and get our name out there to kids. I guess we would call ourselves much more of a touring band than anything.”
In the early stages of touring, it didn’t seem like the good news was traveling very fast. While their first tour, in a family, GMC Envoy, took them to all corners of the United States, wind of their first EP Stay Up, Get Down couldn’t quite keep up.
“We played a show in West Virginia for two people. And they were two people we knew.”
But have I mentioned that this road to where they stand today has only been about a year and a half? That’s right, the guys of The Maine stand before you on stage and on your iPods everyday as 18, 19 and 20-year-olds. Graduates of the high school classes of 2006, 2007 and 2008, John Garrett, Kennedy, Jared and Pat have grown in just over a year into international stars.
In September, the band traveled across Europe to entertain hundreds of thousands of fans. Crowds of kids sand their songs, memorized by heart, but this time it was more than two fans in folding chairs at a rural West Virginia club. It was droves of kids that speak the language of The Maine better than the language of English.
“‘How ridiculous is this?’ has kind of been our theme for a while,” said lead singer John O’Callaghan. “We say it all the time. To be on this tour [Soundtrack of Your Summer with Boys Like Girls, Good Charlotte and Metro Station], to be on Fearless Records, to be going to europe with our band. It’s all just so surreal.”
Ironically enough, “How ridiculous is this?” was my first thought listening to their first full-length, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. From the first chord and first lyric, I had the strange (and rare) feeling of “wow.” in a job where you listen to boxes of CDs and pages upon pages of MySpaces and Purevolumes like it’s your job (kind of is), it’s easy to overlook bands. And I’ll be the first to admit that, The Maine was nothing more than a strange press photo that stood out in an old issue of Substream. I had yet to experience the privilege of their music, I hadn’t given them the chance. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
From track one, “Everything I Ask For”, I was in love with The Maine. They are upbeat and exciting, wildly brilliant, both lyrically and musically, and carry a close-to-home heartfelt vibe. It is beyond what kids their age should even be capable of. An outside-the-box pop-punk album with meaning.
“It’s strange to write songs for someone. I write to an idea, I guess. And it might sound bad but when we go around and talk to kids after shows, the songs take on so much more of a meaning to them than to me,” said O’Callaghan. “It’s nice to see that what I say really matters to these kids.”
Appearing in Los Angeles’ famed recording studios for Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, rather than the college classrooms of their peers, the youngsters’ focus was certainly on their music, but not entirely. For the kid that graduated from high school five months early to go on a national tour and record a premiere, full-length album, the excitement extended far beyond his beautiful SJC drum kit.
“For me, it was just exciting to be living on my own,” said the 18-year-old Kirch. “Having our own apartment for a month and getting to live away from home was awesome for me.”
On a diet almost entirely of scrambled eggs, the protein-packed posse put the wraps on their album and the LA lifestyle and returned to the “filth and stink” of their tour van (Blame it on the roadies, right?) to take their sounds across the country.
Among the tracks you’ll enjoy at one of their live shows, is a cover of Akon’s “I Wanna Love You”. The radio-kill favorite (chosen over 2Pac’s “Changes”) has been transformed into an enjoyable guitar-driven love song that was featured on Punk Goes Crunk, the latest installment in the popular Fearless Records series.
And when the show’s over, keep an eye on the guys. Rather than dash off backstage to the mini-fridge, they stick around to pack up their gear and help out. Far from the rockstar mentality on and off stage, it’s an everyday event to see the guys hanging around by the merch booth after the show.
“We’re not doing those kinds of things just to get bigger,” said Jared “n00b stomper” Monaco, the band’s lead guitarist. “We remember what it felt like to go to our favorite band’s show and shake their hand and have them thank us for coming out.”
“We’re still those people! On this tour, we couldn’t wait to meet Metro Station and Boys Like Girls and Good Charlotte. It’s crazy to me that Benji Madden took us to Dave & Busters for a birthday celebration. It’s like we won a contest or something,” said bassist Garrett Nickelsen.
Browsing Facebook the day after I got to enjoy them live, I found multiple friends with pictures of the band, effectively stomping on the exclusivity of my Backstage Pass.
With a show cancelled due to sickness in an accompanying act, the guys kept those disappointed fans in line happy with an impromptu live performance in the alleyway next to the venue. No money, no booking agent. Just music and an appreciation for the people that allow this blur of realized dreams to continue.
In the liner notes of CSWS, guitarist Kennedy Brock says “Either do something worth writing about or write something worth reading about.”
And here we are. The songs they write deserve a full magazine of praise – good guys making good music.
The Maine is destined for their BIG arrival.