Following the news that The Maccabees are to split, their friend and contemporary Blaine Harrison of The Mystery Jets penned this letter explaining why they’ll be missed.
Blaine Harrison: “The first time I caught The Maccabees was in London, at a packed-out Borderline in late 2005. I had met Felix a few months prior at a Jets show down in Brighton and had been taken by his noticeable spiritedness and drive for music. It was a wet winter evening and they were placed halfway up the bill but word was already going round that this band had something special, and all the faces of the day were there. When the boys walked onstage, the force of their energy was beyond question; Orlando’s convulsing dancing reminiscent of a young Ian Curtis, flanked either side by the White brothers, both playing at breakneck speed up past the 12th fret. They looked just the way I always thought a band should – like a gang. They stared unflinching over the audience’s heads with their hoods up and it gave them an edge to match the intensity of those classic early singles like ‘X-Ray’ and ‘Latchmere’.
Fast forward ten years and most of the bands once considered contemporaries of both the Maccabees and the Jets have moved on to other things. And who could blame them? Being in a band in 2016 means something completely different to when we all started out (as fresh-faced 19 year olds with obligatory asymmetrical haircuts). It resonated with me to read The Guardian piece last year in which Orlando told a journalist “Even a band with a number one record can barely afford to live in London”. I could understand how such a statement could baffle someone outside the music-sphere but the truth is that every musician and artist I know has had to move with the changing tides of the digital era in one way or another; be it writing for other artists, film & TV, teaching drum lessons or yes, moving to Berlin.
Watching The Maccabees’ star rise over the years has been a wondrous thing, and mapping their evolution across four studio albums always brought joy to those of us listening closely. For the Jets, their records were yardsticks. ‘Colour It In’ had all the vigour and ambition of a first born, with a string of singles so recognisable that the record felt like a classic before it was even released… Wall of Arms was a move away from the breakneck tempos, Sam and Rupert’s driving and unmistakeable rhythm section adding muscle around Orlando’s voice – already considered a defining one of the British guitar music of that time. The gloriously reverb-bathed ‘Given to the Wild’ has come to be seen as their sea change album, featuring lyrics addressing grander themes of life and death, and notably saw Hugo stepping forward up the controls to bring a new dimension to their sound. And finally the lauded ‘Marks to Prove It’ last year – the sound of a band rediscovering the finite energy created when playing live in a room together. An album made in such close quarters over an extended period of time takes a lot of love and belief, and the day the album hit the number one spot in the British charts felt like a triumph not only for The Maccabees but all of us for whom this has been all we have ever wanted to do.
Somehow, ‘Pelican’ feels like the closest thing to a definitive Maccabees song If I had to pick one. That unmistakable pace that I will forever associate with them, with chanted lyrics that feel both innocent and yet written by someone old beyond their years. A song arranged seamlessly with unity, yet listen again and you can hear all of them in it’s parts.
For me that is what being a band is all about. And for the Jets, The Maccabees were one of our finest.”