The Maple State are back, and there is a definite sense of excitement surrounding their return. Although the band are Manchester based, they are not your typical Manchester band as they have successfully cultivated a sound that is notably different to other music that is currently circulating in the alternative scene. With three new singles released, each differing thematically, yet equally as charming, Circulation thought it was time to catch up with the trio. We talked touring, song-writing, highlights and spirit animals with front man Greg Counsell. A “sweaty, punk rock vibe”, is a theme to be expected for The Maple State’s forthcoming gigs, so if you haven’t got your tickets already, this is certainly not one to miss.
You’ve already sold out a venue, that’s pretty impressive after a 10 year hiatus! Are you nervous about taking to the stage again?
We booked these gigs before we had even released any new music so we had no idea how well received they would be, but selling out our first Manchester gig in 10 years… considering this time two years ago I never imagined we’d be playing again, it really is unbelievable. I would sometimes get nervous even back when we were touring all year round, so I am definitely feeling it this time. I’m trying not to think too much about it, I just want to get on stage and hopefully it will all come back to me. I’m excited for people to hear the new music and see the reaction.
What made you decide to start things back up after so long?
We have all kept in touch and even made music together over the last 10 years, but this group of songs just felt special and when we started to record them it really felt like an album. We discussed releasing it under a different name, but there are a few moments on the album that really feel like direct continuation of our earlier music and the stories we were telling back then. I thought it served the songs better to keep everything together as one body of work, as soon as we decided to release the album as The Maple State everyone was suddenly really energised and excited about what this could lead to and we just rode that positivity all the way.
What was it like working on new music and being back together? Was it a nostalgic process?
Even though 10 years have passed, it doesn’t feel that long ago and as soon as we get in a room and start playing and writing together it’s like no time has passed. The most exciting thing about creating these new songs though was seeing how we have all progressed and developed as musicians. We all bring something different to the table, in the past we often clashed on ideas and styles, but this time around there was an acknowledgment of each other’s input and it allowed us far more freedom and creativity than we ever had in the past. Really, I am actively opposed to nostalgia, for me this has nothing to do with the past, it is very much happening right now and I like that.
Which is your personal favourite song that is on the new album? Why?
I know this is a cop out of an answer but I couldn’t pick one. Our next single Winner is really fun to play and I can’t wait to do that one live. There is a song called Africa that I really love the lyrics on. If I really had to choose one, the final song “the motorbike & the closest of calls” is up there, there are a few lines in there that still move me when I hear them now, and I just feel that it sums up where I am as a person right now more than any other song I’ve ever written. Of all the songs on the album it is the one that feels most like a continuation of our older music, whilst also bringing in some entirely new ideas.
Everything has moved on a bit since the MySpace days. Has the amount of online support you have received this time around been surprising?
The amount of support in general has continued to blow my mind, considering we were never that well known in any sort of mainstream way, it’s amazing that people have retained an interest. The whole music industry is completely unrecognisable from 2008. When we stepped away, a lot of people seemed to be struggling with this shift towards streaming and social media, but now things seem to be settling into a new rhythm where artists can pretty much do everything without industry support. It is the punk rock ideal that we started out with, but just on a global stage. We are still learning how to navigate it in a practical sense, but in terms of the self-promotion and a DIY approach we feel right at home.
If you could name one band that has consistently had influence on your musical style, which band would it be? Why?
I honestly couldn’t answer this question, I’ve been writing songs for 16 years and at this point my style is very much grounded in my own ideas, but obviously over the years I’ve added to this pallet through so many different influences. We grew up with Britpop and indie rock and grunge, then as teenagers discovered punk and post-hardcore, then I sort of worked backwards through the 90’s, 80’s, 70s and 60s. Over the last few years I have really explored folk music, classical, grime, hip-hop, and a lot of African and Spanish music. It all feeds in, maybe not directly, but often just a feeling or an idea.
When did you start writing for the new album? Has time changed the way you write or what you write about?
I started to write some of the songs around the end of 2015, Christian and Richard heard a few rough demos I had recorded and then we all worked together on a couple of songs. The song writing process is now entirely different than it was back in 2004-2008. Back then we would lock ourselves in our rehearsal room and just jam out ideas until something stuck, but this was a really time consuming process and we don’t have that luxury these days. On the new album I wrote all but 2 of the songs before taking them to the band to work on, once their ideas get worked in the songs can change a great deal but that idea of having essentially fully realised songs at the start of the process is new.
If you could choose anyone in the world to go on tour with who would it be?
Most of my musical heroes have been dropping off over the past few years and I don’t know an awful lot of current bands. I saw Japandroids in London a last year and they blew my mind, I would love to watch them every night. Japandroids, or maybe AC/DC.. I reckon that’d be a laugh. Actually yeah, AC/DC!
What is your favourite memory from touring Say, Scientist?
We did a co-headline tour with our friends Tellison and Furthest Drive home, the final show was at Dingwalls in Camden and it was just unbelievable, our other good friends Data.Select.Party played that night too. There was just a special feeling that night, the show was packed, and there were so many friends and people we had met through years of touring. Everyone was there in one place at the same time. I can’t even remember how our set was, but it was just a special night. Within a year Tellison were the only band still together, so it adds an even greater level of poignancy to the night.
I have heard that you work in a Zoo, which animal would you chose to be your spirit animal?
I do indeed. I’d like to say something cool like a Jaguar, but they spend most of their day lounging around doing very little. I’m always moving, I can’t stay still for 5 minutes or I start getting jittery. So I’d have to choose something equally restless like a Red River Hog.
What has been the highlight of your comeback so far?
The reaction to our first single “the things I heard at the party” was amazing, with it being the first music we had released in so long we had no idea how it would be received. Obviously we love our new music, but until that first song was out in the world we really didn’t know how anyone would react. The week leading up to that release was really intense, I was so nervous and then we released it and got nothing but great responses and it just put us at ease for the rest of the record, I now just can’t wait for people to hear the rest of it.
What can fans expect from your forthcoming gigs?
We are having an absolute blast doing this again, and I just hope that comes across on stage. If the audience pick up on how much fun we are having then I think we are going to have some really incredible gigs. The venues are nice and intimate so we should get a good, sweaty, punk rock vibe going. In terms of set list, we are promoting a new album so we will be playing some songs from that, but we realise that people have been waiting a long time to see us so we are going to try to balance the new stuff with some older songs. We know that you can never cater for everyone, so we are just going to make sure that we are having a great time and hope that it is infectious.
Tickets for The Maple State’s tour are available here. To listen to more of the band’s music, old and new, click on the links below.Rebecca Higginbottom and Kat Ferris