The Maine is a band that has no fear of doing what they want, when they want, and how they want it. Since leaving Warner Bros. Records after releasing Black & White, The Maine started their own label/management 8123 and have never looked back. This fact has been well-documented and discussed, but it hasn’t been until the past few years or so where being a completely independent band has shown it’s benefits to the fans.
What I mean by that is, when The Maine first left Warner and became an independent band, they still did regular tours, their meet and greets after every shows and so forth. From an outsiders perspective, it might not have been easy to see the difference in what it meant for them to be an independent band, free of any label or someone looking down on them. In the past few years, The Maine has done an entirely free tour, launched a festival on their own, did an acoustic album, did another festival, did a live album, and just potentially did their biggest undertaking: Sad Summer Festival.
It’s not to say that bands on labels don’t do these things, or even that The Maine and their career would have turned out entirely different if they never left Warner, or were even still on Fearless Records. But what it does mean, is there’s no one to shoot down their ideas outside of them and their small team around them. They, essentially, have become an anomaly in the music industry, doing anything they want and it succeeding; much of this success due to the incredible connection with their fans and that community they’ve built (read our interview from last year for a more in-depth look at that).
I was able to catch two separate dates of Sad Summer, and what was evident among both dates was that it was going to be something special. The immediate comparison was Warped Tour (though I would say Disrupt Festival tried to cover that market more), but to make that comparison would be a disservice to what Sad Summer really was — and that’s where my conversation began with drummer Pat Kirch when it was time to chat with one another.
We begin our conversation by talking about their expectations for this tour and what they had been looking for with it. He explains their desire to put together something that people could come together for and make it as more of a bigger experience, not just a regular show. This was seen throughout the festival, with different photo opportunities and props littered around: an “emo kid” glass box that fans could get into, pink back drops with different lyrics from the bands on them, and so forth. On a more fun note, it doesn’t hurt that the shows are bigger, too. “I kind of look at it like…we wouldn’t be playing this venue if it was just us on our own,” Kirch emphasizes.
Another big part of Sad Summer Festival was the inclusion of local charities and each stop of the tour. This was an integral part in making the experience for fans one that felt larger and being a part of something different. “There’s so many people that are coming that maybe they don’t know all the bands and they just want to be involved in something, and if there’s a charity or cause that they maybe hear about for the first time here, that’s a great thing,” Kirch explains. “If something they see it and it sparks something in them to do something good, then that means that we did something more than just playing some rock songs.”
I bring up the history of their band and what they’ve been able to accomplish since then, with the free tour, 8123 Fest, their retail store, and so forth. Kirch talks about these things with sincerity, pride, and utter gratefulness as well for their fans who keep supporting them at every turn. I pose the question of whether there will be a return of Sad Summer Fest next year — something The Maine teased on stage themselves — and he, of course, confirms nothing but speaks with hope that it will return due to the success of its inaugural year. “I think as long as those ideas keep coming and we keep making records that people like, we can keep this going forever and make this bigger and bigger,” he states.
Earlier I mentioned the decisions being up to The Maine and their small team around them, and this comes up during our interview. I talk to Kirch about who’s involved with their decision making team, and outside of the band, he talks about how it’s his brother, Tim, and his assistant — and that’s it. This allows them to take their ideas and bring them to life quicker, as well. “I like the idea that — I don’t like to save the good ideas that we have. It’s like, let’s just do them and put ourselves in a corner where we have to think of something better,” Kirch tells me. “That’s kind of where we’re always at. We plan ahead but we also do things last minute: where we think of something and, like we’re already working on a tour and we’re really behind on it because we’ve been working on Sad Summer, but that happens with all of these ideas. It’s like crunch time, but that’s when we come up with the best stuff.”
Their team behind the scenes may be small, but The Maine is constantly growing their fan-base. Their second iteration of 8123 Fest doubled in size in comparison to the inaugural year, their album sales + streams continue to grow, their tours continue to sell better and better. This was never their end goal — and still isn’t — but they are always thankful for the community they have built for themselves and their fans. “It feels like we have this platform and this group of people that really care about our community and the culture,” Kirch shares. This has been built through the aforementioned meet and greets and genuine interest in connecting with their fans, but it’s something they never thought was too big of a deal. “I didn’t think anything of it, like I just figured, wow, people come and support you, you go out and shake their hand and say thanks. That’s something my dad would do if someone helped him. We don’t think a lot about some of this stuff, it’s just what we naturally do. Not a lot of people do it, so it’s a big deal. We do something that was just natural to us. That’s kind of how we are.”
All of this was in support of their latest album, You Are Ok, which has been an unsurprising smashing success amongst their fans. “We talk about luckily we’ve built an audience that is interested in what we’re doing now. I think there’s a lot of bands that the fans come to hear what they did ten years ago,” Kirch explains before pivoting to talk about how they wouldn’t be a band content with doing that kind of thing, only playing older songs and doing anniversary tours. “We’re not the kind of band that would have fun doing that. I think we’d get burnt out and maybe not be as interested in doing the things that we do; so we’re grateful for that. So grateful that people seem to dig it. Just that they’re open to that the album closes with a ten minute song and that seems to be on of the favorites.”
At the time of our discussion, The Maine hadn’t quite yet announced their fall tour, so the details were few and far between then. But Kirch shared that they have plans to play a lot of newer songs off of You Are Ok that they haven’t played yet, as well as older songs of course. But outside of the U.S., they are still growing as well: they’ve got tours in Europe and Asia lined up, and an appearance in South America — places they haven’t been since the album dropped.
“It really makes the world feel smaller, because it’s like, yeah we’re so different, but we’re all in the same venue for the same reason. To hear the songs they all know even if they don’t know the language,” Kirch shares regarding their upcoming touring schedule and plans. But no matter how busy they are, how much they continue to grow, their intentions behind it all never seem to change:
“We’ve never been concerned with being the biggest band in the world. We want to be the band that has the most dedicated fans in the world. It’s where we’re headed.”