With a sound that combines the passion of a poetic performance with a marriage of modern hip-hop and classical tones, They Call Me Max presents something quite different than the expected. From the inspiration from a sound that is unlike his own to the debut, we covered a number of bases with this London-based dynamo. If you like what you hear, he’s already got a batch of songs ready to go for another record.
Kendra: Can you remember the exact moment you decided you wanted to explore music more as a career?
They Call Me Max: It was some time during my mid-teenage years, probably when I was about 15 or 16. I remember particularly listening to Jamie T’s Panic Prevention. Although stylistically my music is nothing like his, vividly thinking, “Wait a minute, I could totally do this for a living!” His music inspired me a lot. Not so much musically (although of course, I do love his music) but more in terms of the raggedy, not-giving-a-fuck, wildling kinda vibe. I think the atmosphere of confidence in his music gave me the confidence to start pursuing my own career.
Kendra: Your debut is Start Small but you didn’t hold back. Did you surpass what you wanted to do with your debut and is there anything you’ll do differently on the next record?
They Call Me Max: To be perfectly honest, I don’t know how happy I am with the EP. I’m certainly not disappointed in it and I’m very proud of the content and the outcome of the EP as a whole, but I wouldn’t say that it surpassed my expectations or what I wanted. I think naturally I’m quite self-critical as well as being a perfectionist when it comes to my music, so I don’t suppose I will ever be really happy with anything I work on, but that said, I think it comes in phases – one week I’ll be totally feeling myself and feeling great about what I’m doing, and the next I’ll think “Oh, what a load of rubbish, you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t know where you’re going!” and all I want to do is tear everything up and start all over again!
Overall I’m proud of all the hard work and dedication that everyone put in to help me get this EP done. I could never have done it alone! I think for the next EP I’m going to try and break the production down into a few more stages. With this one I felt a bit rushed and impatient at times, so I think next time I’m going to try and take my time a bit more. But you know, it’s a balance…if you never have a deadline you spend forever changing things, so a bit of pressure is a good thing in my opinion!
Kendra: With a title like “Snake-Tooth Marrow,” we have to know the thoughts behind it. Any story to tell there?
They Call Me Max: So this is obviously a very personal story but without going into too much specific detail, the idea behind the title and the song is this feeling of being a poisonous person and feeling helpless to stop your poison affecting people you love and care about.
This song came at a time when I was really struggling with life. Struggling to understand why I did certain things, and how I could continue to do those things even when they were having such an obviously negative effect on someone I loved. I was feeling pretty confused and out of control, and kind of just thinking that I deserved to be alone to avoid damaging anyone…so I guess this song was written coming from that place and just processing and reflecting on the situation a bit. I think A lot of my music is almost like therapy for me, and this song, in particular, was very cathartic.
Kendra: Can we assume you had some herbal inspiration when working on your debut? If not, what fuels your creativity most?
They Call Me Max: I mean without wanting to condone any kind of behavior I couldn’t answer that question, but what I will say is that herbal habits have been something that in many ways have been more of a hindrance in my life than a help. I think what really fuels my creativity is the journey of self-discovery and the desire to share that journey with other people in the hope that it will help them on their own explorations…I kind of feel like for me, my music exists as a way to express things in my life that I otherwise wouldn’t normally talk about, or that I don’t know how else to express.
Without a musical outlet, I would be a very different kind of person. When people listen to my music maybe they think I’m this like depressed, sad guy that wanders around staring at his own shoes and not interacting with people, but the reality is quite the opposite, and anyone who knows me personally will know I’m actually a very smiley and positive human! But I don’t think I would be so positive if I didn’t have a musical outlet for all of my negative energy. It’s something I rely on quite heavily.
Kendra: With dates in April and coming up in May, are there any artists you pull live inspiration from when you head out on stage?
They Call Me Max: No I don’t think so. I don’t mimic or emulate anyone I’ve seen on stage. There aren’t many gigs where I’m blown away by the performance. So when I’m playing I just do my thing. I feel how I’m feeling and project and perform how the atmosphere dictates. Perhaps I should be doing something different on stage, but the only way to find out is for you guys to come check one of our shows for yourself and let me know!
Kendra: An EP and some dates. What’s next for you this year?
They Call Me Max: We’re trying to organize some festival dates in the summer. Although I think for a lot of them we’ve missed the deadline! I’m also going to try and build the band a bit more to make our live shows more interesting. So I’m looking for some backing vocalists and some other instrumentalists. I’m also doing a lot of practicing to get tighter so we can smash some more shows!