INTERVIEW – Duncan Lloyd, Maximo Park

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“HARD nosed tenacity” explains Maximo Park guitarist Duncan Lloyd, telling Quays how the band have made it to album number six. The Geordie indie rockers release their sixth album ‘Risk To Exist’ on April 21st via Cooking Vinyl. Before the record drops, Lloyd discussed the new material, entering the studio with no guitars and experiencing Trump’s America first hand.

Since starting in 2000, Maximo Park have gone on to be seen as one of the key bands of the mid-noughties indie revolution with their classic Mercury nominated debut ‘A Certain Trigger,’ and sold 100,000s of records.

Yet the band aren’t content with standing still and looking back on old success:

“We’re always looking for new ways to record and new ways to write” Lloyd tells Quays. “It feels like we’ve made steady progressions with each record. As long as its interesting and we still get on, I think we’re not going to stop making records.”

Staying fresh for ‘Risk To Exist’ came in the form of their most politically charged album in their career. However maintaining the balance between solid instrumentation and strong protest lyrics was one that the band had to try hard to keep.

“We didn’t want it to be a preachy record, we wanted it to have an empathy. We’d want people to still relate to it as well, anyone who just wanted a political rant would probably turn off. It was important to get the balance right – you need to leave space for the music”

‘Risk To Exist’ proves to be a collection of exquisite tracks to evoke anger, hope, resistance and everything in between. The title track is a response to the foreign office’s withdrawal of search and rescue crews during the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean last year. This led the lyrics to wonder “where’s your empathy?” in reply to a nearly inhumane response to an ongoing tragedy.

“I think when we saw it getting political it was paramount that we made it right for us” Lloyd adds.

The band are donating all income from single sales of ‘Risk To Exist’ to the charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), a Malta-based foundation that helps migrants and refugees in peril at sea.

Teaming up with Tom Schick, who has worked with innovative artists such as Parquet Courts and Beck, Maximo Park left their native Newcastle to record their latest effort in alt-rock band Wilco’s Chicago studio, The Attic.

“It was an amazing space to record and play live in. It felt so much more open and free being there” Lloyd described the recording space.

“We were in Chicago while the presidential debates were on but also when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. We got away from the UK which felt like a madhouse but we kind of walked into another one with Trump’s USA. It was a really exciting time!” he added.

The crazy experience of 2016 America brought the band closer together than ever before Lloyd reminisces:  “It helped the band as we were a group of friends out there in some unknown wilderness. You can tell on the recordings that everyone is enjoying themselves- it felt like so little pressure.”

Working with Schick reverted the band back to old school styles of live recording guided by a producer who hallmarks himself on being as relaxed as possible Lloyd told Quays: “It was very open and easy, we only did about 3 takes for each song. We were told not to turn up with our instruments which was strange. We were just told to grab a guitar from the studio and record. We did the first song in one take within 45 minutes of entering the studio. He made us feel so relaxed and he had a good sense of production work.

“We’d do it old school and do a bunch of takes and pick one. It was good to work with a momentum. We were just doing it all live as a band so we had no worry over layering things. I like how American bands make records, it’s a slightly older way of getting in and playing and not messing around.”

Lloyd went on to discuss the key role that music has in society: “With all our albums its always been a snapshot of a time and a feeling when it came out. I believe music has the power to help the world

“It is also an escape as well that when times are unsettled. Music is often a place where you can put it on and feel human again. It is so important,” he explained.

When Maximo Park broke out in 2004 they were part of a crop of indie bands that dominated the UK music scene and charts. Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Hard-Fi, The Enemy, The Fratellis and countless more helped produce some of the best indie rock of all time – however as of late there have been claims that it’s a dying art form.

“I think it is down to the internet” Lloyd divulges into the subject. “There is so much music and noise online. About a decade ago you would just pick a scene and go for it and live it and enjoy it. Now you can put on Spotify and you can have Nirvana one minute and Marvin Gaye the next. Its changed in a way in that fans don’t go to gigs anymore just because they’re a fan of the genre.”

However on the other hand Lloyd added that there is hope yet, it just needs to start at home: “Just going round town you see teenagers with guitars on their backs so they are still playing. Guitar music is still alive and evolving – take some bands coming out of Australia for example. It definitely hasn’t had its day.”

As Quays time with the guitarist came to an end, we discussed what new bands he has been enjoying with New Jersey indie-emo Pingrove, and Philidelphia indie-folkers, Hop Along, making up some of his favourite new bands at the moment.

‘Risk To Exist’ is out online and in physical form on April 21st via Cooking Vinyl. 

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