"This is the most unified vision of everything that we had ever set out to achieve."
Maybeshewill are just about to release their new album 'No Feeling Is Final' on their own label Robot Needs Home Collective. It's their new record since 2014's 'Fair Youth' as well as their first since their reunion in 2018.
With a fresh mindset and a reinvigorated lust to create, the band have produced an album that feels like sunlight peaking from behind the clouds of the apocalypse. Focusing thematically on the state of the planet in its current form and the pursuit for positive change, it's a beautiful and bold dive into some of the most dramatic and dizzying compositions the band have ever committed to tape. It's an absolutely glorious listen that feels as viciously human as it does emotionally vital, and it's really lovely to have them back.
To find out about the voyage to this point, we caught up with guitarists Robin Southby and John Helps and discussed how they knew it was time to return to the band...
So, how did we get from the decision to reunite to new music being a part of the conversation?
Robin: "We had been toying with new music ideas between 2017 and 2018, not long after we had played Koko as a farewell show. But it was just a case of us sending little bits and pieces between band members and wondering if there was anything to them. Are they going to be worth pursuing? We didn’t talk about anything more than that. Then the show at Meltdown happened, which gave us a bit of a kick up the arse of pursuing things more seriously, and there was more of an idea there of a direction that Maybeshewill could go in. It wasn’t something that we jumped back into. We took it slow and tried to feel each other out. Everybody was busy with other things in their lives, so it would never be a case of something going straight back to where they were before."
John: "It was funny in a way that the songs came before the talk of actually being a band again. The songs would be circulating, but there was no real talk of doing anything more. It was only because the songs felt so good that it was a natural feeling of wanting to play together as a band that we even contemplated."
Just because other parts of life are taking precedence doesn’t mean that the artistic part of you stops working. There isn’t ever an end to thinking what could fit in with Maybeshewill…
Robin: "The fact that we spent all of those years in the band as full-time jobs and became so close as musical collaborators and friends, there will always be that connection. You never really lose that. Personally speaking, there was a point where it felt like we were locked into the touring cycle that we knew so well, and it’s challenging to step outside of that and appreciate things for what they are sometimes. The way that things ended up with this finishing for a little bit was good. There wasn’t any pressure for us to do anything like touring or moving around, so the music could take our attention. It allowed us to be making music for fun again rather than just being our job. It reminds you why you love it."
As the music started to pile up, was there something that you saw that was tying it all together that allowed you to consider it becoming something more album-shaped?
Robin: "A lot of it was circumstantial, really. We started writing at a point where the world changed massively from where things were when we left the band. Everybody is in a very different headspace because of global events and political stuff and a whole heap of things that make you view the world differently. So being in a world where things are starting to feel scary and shit and not so great, it began to bleed into what we were making. Being worried and passionate about changing things and seeing a better future than what we have now. That reflected into the sonics and the mood and the vibe of what we then started to become the new album."
And when you compare to the mindsets you have been in on previous processes, were there any things that felt familiar this time around? Despite the things that concerned you, there were still things that reminded you what it was like to make a Maybeshewill record?
Robin: "There’s always a thing in the back of your head considering that, and there’s always a bit of expectation. But also, we wanted to subvert that expectation and make it exciting and worthwhile. There’s no point coming back just with something that people like, but part two. From a logistical perspective, this record was challenging in its way just because of how we had to create it. It was very much online-based in terms of sharing, and then there were video calls to refine things. It was a different way of doing things than what we had done before. But it made up re-evaluate so much of what we wanted to do."
It’s interesting to be in a position where you’re making incredibly human and organic music that is made to be played together from different places. But it must be even more powerful when you were able to stand in the same room and show off what you had created…
John: "It felt like a very natural way to be working overall, though. Various members led on some songs and developed them more, but everybody had input into it. Writing in a room together makes you write in a very different way, and we had been evolving away from that anyway, especially when you’re working with so many more layers than just guitar, bass and drum. But overall, it has been beneficial."
Robin: "We were also able to work with many guest musicians because a lot of the record's focus is on the non-band elements. We’ve always dabbled in the orchestral, and being able to work with so many new people felt so satisfying as things we had been writing could be realised. It's one of the best things that I have been involved in because of them. So for something that initially felt so digital, we could get the human element back in by the end."
It must be incredible to feel that realisation in such a vivid way, even though you are so deep into your journey…
John: "it’s rewarding. I remember at one point whilst Jamie was mixing it, I messaged him to say, ‘I don’t think a DIY band should sound like this. It is just the five of us still working on this, but hearing the records we have made sound better and better each time and then bringing in such amazing players has paid off in so many ways."
Robin: "This is the most unified vision of everything that we had ever set out to achieve."
And what would you say the overall message of what you have created is? Bringing together so many different musical and emotional elements, what is the sum of all of that?
Robin: "Conceptually, it’s focused on the climate crisis and the world in 2021. There is a lot of anxiety and doom and gloom, but we wanted to get across the bright side of things as well. We genuinely believe that things can get better than some people are making it out to be. We think that there is strength in solidarity and community and drawing and giving attention to the valuable tools to help us get through the spot we find ourselves in."
How does it feel for this new era of Maybeshewill to actually be taking place? It’s no longer just a conversation or an idea. It’s a reality…
John: "Compared to previous records, this is the first one since our first EP to be put out on our label. So it has been a lot more hands-on in many ways compared to the last few. It was a conscious choice to bring it back in-house, and it has been a bit learning experience because of that. It’s been a big task, coordinating so many moving parts, but it is extremely rewarding to have your fingerprints on every aspect of the process. It makes it feel even more real because of that as well."
And what does Maybeshewill as an artistic vessel represent for you now compared to what it may have represented in previous years?
Robin: "Because it has been such a big part of everything that we have done for such a long time, it will always have a big place in my heart. For me right now, it feels like an outlet in which I can express ideas that I can’t in other things I do. It’s also something that I can connect with people over, a way of reaching out into the world. It’s a bridge to other people."
John: "Even when we weren’t doing the band, it remained a big part of my life and identity. It’s how I know most people in my life, whether that’s through playing or touring or working. It’s so connected to who I am as a person, and it’s nice to be back doing it, but with a renewed and fresh look that taking a step back has allowed."