Living in Ohio during April can be confusing. Much like a lot of our midwestern counterparts, we seemingly have the ability to get all four seasons in any given week. Each year, it seems like winter gets longer while we patiently wait for spring and then summer. On April 21st, however, the weather was somewhere in the 50’s all day and for a brief moment, it felt like summer. Perhaps there was no other weather that could set the mood better for a band like The Maine, who’s very sound just rings of summer.
I know what you’re thinking, 50 degrees does not equate to summer. But let me tell you this: if you go through a winter where it’s you can still get a blizzard in early-April, you’re going to want to wear shorts and a tank top at the very thought of 50 degrees. So, on this Saturday in April, that’s what some people did. Walking around Ohio State’s campus that day, there were some people getting ready to graduate and some still mindlessly preparing for finals, and despite these two chaotic life experiences, there seemed to be an overwhelming sense of positivity. 50 degrees in Ohio during the month of April is magical.
Magical is also a good word to describe The Maine and their career as a band in general. 11 years into their career, they have been on a darling indie label, moved to a major label, and are now currently functioning as an independent band. Not only are they functioning as an independent, but they are arguably more popular now than they were years ago. This requires you to dive a little deeper past album sales, because while their album sales are really impressive for an independent band such as themselves, what’s more impressive is the fanbase they have built and the relationship they have with their fans. It’s easy and typical to say that a band has built a family amongst their fan base, but The Maine have done something bigger, something better: 8123.
I have been following The Maine’s career for about ten years, so I would say I’m familiar with the overall essence of their fans, also known as 8123. However, it’s worth noting that I have not interviewed or spoken with them since Warped Tour 2016, and 8123 has grown a lot since then. They managed to pull off their own 8123 Festival (more on that later), and just in general their fanbase continues to grow on a year by year basis. A good example of this, I got down to the venue around 4pm to do this interview – about two hours before doors opened at the Newport Music Hall – and there was already a line down the block. Not to mention, the show itself was sold out. The Maine have been playing this specific venue for 10 years and have never sold it out before.
Lovely Little Lonely also was released in the time since Warped Tour 2016, and this is another big reason for their growing fan base. “This record and the past couple [records] have all been independently released, so it feels vey rewarding when we put everything we can into it. It’s just and we’re doing all the hard work to make this record. Everything from the songwriting to running around and pushing it to people. It feels good to be in a position where we can do what we want and do it to the best of our ability, and people enjoy it,” says guitarist/backing vocalist Kennedy Brock.
One of the amazing things about The Maine is their ability to adapt and grow their sound, while never alienating their fan-base. The band has made consistent growths in sound between each record, and there’s something really special about that. You can argue that this desire to change and grow as a band has helped keep The Maine around and relevant in a scene where the lifespan of bands is not always favorable. They made their full-length debut in 2008 with Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, and there’s not a lot of bands still alive and kicking from that era of the scene. But to say The Maine is doing anything for popularity would be wildly off-base. “For us, it’s always been a challenge to try and record differently, do it in a different place, write in a different way. Each record has been slightly different. [Lovely Little Lonely] was very in-the-box, very in the computer,” Brock begins as he explains their desire for growth. “It’s always just a challenge to change it up. Like, when we continue on writing music from this point on, it’s how can we change our influences, and how can we change this. At the end of the day, when we make music – the five of us – it’s going to sound like us and have our style to it. We aren’t really worried about that at this point, which is cool.”
While they have certainly grown a lot since Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, it’s interesting to note that The Maine don’t shy away from it. The band still routinely plays 2-3 songs off of it, and usually alternate what songs they play from tour to tour. It was undeniably their first, big splash into this music world, and even the recording process is something that sticks with The Maine. Brock, reflecting on the overall experience, highlights their time with producer Matt Squire, “He was super influential in all of that, made us spend a lot of time working on the songs before the record. He made all sorts of things happen for us. It’s cool to be able to have that influential, because nowadays we have very little people telling us to try things – other than ourselves. He kind of helped a lot on that first record.”
At the same time, Brock later acknowledges the sporadic-ness of the record, mentioning that “It didn’t have a clear idea of who we were going to be. Which ended up being a really great thing for us because we still don’t know who we are, in the best way.” This idea that The Maine is unclear of who they want to be has only fueled their desire to push themselves and being comfortable with the idea of maybe never knowing who they fully want to be. This can be a tricky line to walk, it can almost be like an existential identity crisis in way, but they seem content on spending many more years going through this journey of self-discovery.
Their current “Fry Your Brain” tour was dubbed their last headlining tour of 2018, ahead of their appearance on this summer’s Warped Tour. While Can’t Stop Won’t Stop turns 10 years old this year, the previous news of this current tour being their last headliner for the year left basically no room for any sort of anniversary tour. Brock mentioned that while the band “have some ideas” about what they want to do, they also don’t want to do what everybody else does. There is a certain desire to look back and celebrate this milestone, but Brock explains that “We are very happy and excited about the future of our music and band. We’re trying to do our best to pay homage to it, I think, as well as to take steps forward also.”
On January 21st, 2017 The Maine celebrated their 10 year anniversary as a band by throwing their very own party, 8123 Fest. “We thought it was really cool when bands that we really liked like Wilco and stuff did their own festival thing. A lot of stuff where we’ve based some of our decisions off of have been reflecting on bands like that; bands that have built their fanbase over a long time and done it their own way. They’re kind of off the beaten bath for the main stream of things, but they are still very successful and have a very dedicated fan base. That was kind of our goal. It just worked out well that we were able to have the opportunity to do the fest, Arizona is a good spot for people to go to, and we are very close with a lot of promoters and businesses there,” Brock explains.
8123 Fest perhaps is the shining example of everything The Maine have been able to accomplish as a band. It’s un-fair to say it was the pinnacle, because that implies that things are all downhill from that moment, which does not seem to be the case. But having put together their own festival, in their hometown, and then have thousands of people show up is not an easy task to do. It’s why there aren’t a lot of bands doing this. Regardless of the difficult, Brock explains that “being able to look out at a couple thousand people and recognize every one of them because they have been to so many shows and we’ve had this close experience with everybody” is one of his favorite experiences.
The prospect of doing another one is not too much of a daunting task for Brock and the rest of The Maine. In fact, it seemed to be quite the opposite with how much he talked about the band enjoying having sole control over something like 8123 Fest.
Back in December, the band tweeted out the following:
We are thinking we will do 8123 fest every other year. At first we were talking about doing it in different locations but now feeling like it is really special that it stays in Arizona where everything is based for us. What do you think??? 🌵
— The Maine (@themaine) December 29, 2017
You can see the results, in that the idea of moving around 8123 Fest to new areas was the winner. While no final decision has been made, Brock mentioned that when/if the time comes to start planning the next iteration of 8123 Fest, this poll will have some influence in it. “That’s something we have always done,” he mentions in regards to taking in fan feedback, “to make sure we are doing the right thing and that it isn’t just us being headstrong about something.”
The Maine have had such an incredible career, that it’s easy to get caught up in looking back and reflecting on how amazing this journey has been so far. What’s harder to do, though, is to be able to acknowledge where you’ve been and also keep moving forward successfully. They have mastered that and it seems to be like they aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
Brock mentions that when Lovely Little Lonely first came out there were a lot of people worried that the band would be breaking up. He half-heartedly jokes that if anyone asks, to say they’re breaking up. Truth be told, this is something that the band couldn’t seriously consider as an option, he later laments.
As for what the future does hold for The Maine, they have already started working on their next album. Though, as Brock explains, this is something that they have been doing since Lovely Little Lonely first came out. “The second the last [record] comes out, we start working on the next one,” he begins, “the goal is just to keep on pushing. We’re constantly working on music. We have a studio back at home that we’ve rented out for a whole year, and we’ve already been in there for a couple months. It’s not necessarily about just recording stuff in there at the moment, but it’s about exploring, writing, and just feeling open and free again to make music. It’s always a process. To people on the outside it appears as a big jump but, you know, it takes a while to get to that next section of music. Each thing we write and throw away or scrap or use a piece from, each thing builds into what the next project will be.”
For as much as this piece is about The Maine, it’s also about their fans. After their concert on April 21st, I stood around outside all night and watched as each band member came off their tour bus and stayed for hours after the show had ended to meet every single person who wanted to meet them. While there were a lot of new faces, there seemed to be an overwhelming amount of returning, familiar faces. Waiting patiently to meet each member of The Maine, their fans would congregate and talk to one another – not just the people they came with. They would hug, share stories and catch up depending on how long it had been since they’ve seen one another. It was very much so a community of, not just friends, but people who cared about one another. Listening in as fans would share their stories the each member – whether that be Brock, John O’Callaghan, Jared Monaco, Garret Nickelsen, or Pat Kirch – it was admirable in how many times whichever member they were talking to would chime in and say “oh yeah, I remember that!” Just let that sink in for a second. These are guys in a touring band that spend hours after every show for 11 years meeting with the fans who stick around for them, genuinely listen and care about what they are saying, but are still able to retain and remember certain things because of how much it truly means to them. Not only that, but the same fans keep staying out late year after year to catch up with this band.
Throughout the past 11 years, The Maine have been going through their amazing journey of self-discovery. Never one for getting comfortable or settling for one particular sound, they have built a career on growing and pushing themselves. Perhaps the most amazing part of it is that it all comes down to four numbers: 8-1-2-3. For The Maine, 8123 represents everything. And to their fans, it’s much of the same. The Maine have built a career off of taking care of themselves and their fans, and letting the rest play out. Years ago, they left their major label home and put all of their faith in their fans. 7 years and 4 albums later, The Maine and 8123 have grown bigger, stronger, and more dedicated – the future has never been brighter.