Sound As Medicine: Maitland reflects on its long-awaited debut Glimpse
This Friday, Philly indie-folk Maitland will release their debut album, Glimpse. It’s been a long time coming for a band that has gone through several different incarnations over the past couple of years. Combining elements of folk rock with meditative, textural layers of harmony and instrumentation, they recently released the album’s first single, “Sycamore,” and today they are sharing another song from Glimpse, “When Fists Turn To Flowers.”
About two weeks ago, I met with Josh and Alex Hines, the two brothers of Maitland, on a bridge in Manayunk just before dusk. The setting turned out to be a great place to conduct this sort of interview, with distant sounds of the SEPTA being interrupted by chirping birds. That’s the kind of band Maitland is; one that locates places of beauty in the midst of chaos.
Originally formed as a duo, Maitland has since become a full band with the addition of childhood friend Evan Moffitt on guitar (who writes his own music as Kenny 3) and drummer Adam Shumski (of Vita and the Woolf). The full band gives them the opportunity to explore more expansive atmospheres, especially on the driving “Embers” or the plaintive “Luna.”
Josh is a seeker; his experiences and adventures have led him in search of a deeper meaning within the music he creates (Alex jokes that the album cover depicts him and the rest of the band looking for Josh somewhere in the water).
The two brothers that make up the core of Maitland are connected not just by blood, but by spirit as well. They understand each other more than most siblings do because they’re on the same journey together. You can hear it in the way they harmonize together; this is a journey that is deeper than just the music itself, but a journey of healing that they intend to bring their listeners on with them.
The Key: First off, tell me about Maitland (the band).
Josh Hines: Maitland started out as a solo project. It was a side project years ago when I was in a band called Clouds Make Sounds in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. When this project started out, I was playing on street corners and in subways, i was couch surfing. I went on a “busk tour”, to Boston to Pittsburgh, down to Ocean City, Maryland. Then my buddy Jeff (Mach) who played drums in Clouds Make Sounds decided to join and it was a duo for a few years. Then he left, and now we have had the full band going on for about 3 years. And we’ve been working on the album for 2 years now.
TK: Where does the name Maitland come from?
JH: Our great-great-grandfather’s name was Edgar Maitland. He ended up playing baseball and worked and lived in Williamsport and ended up being one of the lumber barons. Williamsport was built on the lumber trade. He bought this property, died before he could sell it and left it to our grandmother on our mom’s side of the family. So now we have this family cabin and we pretty much grew up there. That’s where I go and write a lot of the music and record.
Alex Hines: That’s where the whole first EP was recorded.
TK: And a couple of those songs are on the new album as well, correct?
JH: Two of the songs from cabin in the woods. we re-did full band. “Dust Of Old Leaves” and “Embers.”
AH: There’s a couple from Alive and Well. A couple years ago, Josh put out a duo live album with Jeff that was recorded live at the Trocodero.
TK: So you’ve been writing these songs for a long time.
JH: They’ve taken a lot of different forms.
TK: Do you guys write together?
JH: We do the arrangements for the full band songs together. When Jeff left the band, I didn’t want to play solo anymore so I recruited Alex and Evan (Moffitt) and then we went into Alex’s tiny North Philly apartment where we worked out all the guitar and bass parts and harmonies as they are now, before we brought a drummer in.
AH: The goal of what we’ve been trying to do in the studio, is not only rework these songs that we’ve played for a while, but work them so they get heard in a totally different way. Add a new touch to these old songs, and there’s a lot on the album that is more than that. We’ve got harp on “Luna” and “Glimpse,” which was done by Liz Ciavolino from Liz and the Lost Boys. She’s awesome.
TK: So is this new recordings mixed with old recordings?
JH: All new. We met Drew after he recorded the Tutlie album, and I was super impressed with what he was doing in that aspect of the indie scene in Philly, so I wanted to work with him and Asher. I ended up meeting them at Johnny Brenda’s for a Tutlie show and we started working on that. So the idea behind it was we were going to try to hammer everything out with live takes and that didn’t really turn out too well because I was sick, I had a fever.
At that point I was pushing too hard to make this dream come true and make this album, and I ended up blowing my voice out. It was a good example of trying too hard and hitting a brick wall. So I ended up going to Omega, this holistic institute in Rhinebeck, New York. I studied Reiki, crystal healing, mindfulness and meditation, yoga and all that fun stuff. Holistic life. I was planning on staying there for a month and recovering to get back to the album, but I ended up spending 5 months there because I loved it. And that started shifting the perspective that I had for the album and what i was really trying to do with music in general, as a career and life path. So we got back to the studio at the East Room/Headroom and we started doing more individual tracking.
AH: We did a lot more with the click track. We would go bar by bar to map it out. I think the difficult part was we had a lot of music that doesn’t sound right unless it’s fluid in terms of each bar and measure. On “Dust Bowl,” we spent about 2 or 3 hours just mapping out a click track before we even recorded it. It just didn’t sound right doing it all to the same tempo. Some songs were a little more extensive in that way.
TK: What were your musical influences going into this? I know your Instagram says something about Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes.
AH: “Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, and woodsy expeditions.” But I think there’s a lot more to it than that. On Josh’s side, he listens to a lot of eastern music as well.
TK: Like George Harrison.
JH: I love George. All of that. Omega did a lot to expand my vision for music and writing style. It was a trip. I was really into Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, and Sigur Ros is a huge one for me, and that all turned into sound healing, energy medicine. I had my first experience with Kirtan, ecstatic chant, and chanting the names of god. Hare krishna. So now I’m in this place that’s covering where The Beatles were, there’s this sort of magic going on. How do we bring Maitland into accordance with creating songs that are sacred geometric patterns, or certain tonal or lyrical ideas that can craft the music? And that’s the future that I’d like Maitland to have. Seeing sound as medicine rather than as entertainment. And that’s what helped me take the weight off myself. Instead of saying “Oh, we’re indie rockers,” it’s no, we are offering medicine from whatever plane you want to hear it from.
AH: That’s been a lot of our thinking recently.
JH: There have been a lot of musical acts that inspired certain aspects of the songs, but the biggest inspiration probably came from spiritual texts, dreams, and crazy things that i don’t talk to a lot of people about because they are really personal experiences. A lot of these songs are divinely inspired. My body will start vibrating and I’ll see something, like a presence. “Cup Of Love”, I was sitting out back of the cabin and I saw this figure walk across the pond from the sunlight. And the figure drifts away from the sunlight and its standing on the pond, what do you do with that? You translate it to music. It was during the writing process. I didn’t directly hear a phrase but it was like, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing and it was an affirmation and i will continue to do this until the song is done or where it needs to be.
TK: How was your experience with the NPR contest?
AH: That was really cool. We had just had a gig back in Williamsport and i saw that they were doing the contest again this year and thought, “Let’s just do it.” We were trying to figure out the logistics of getting everybody around and getting high quality sound and videos. We had a weekend to do it, because Josh was leaving for the midwest the next week. So we hit up our friend Chelsea Moore who we grew up with and said, “We only have this weekend and we’re trying to do this thing, is there any way you could film something for us?” and she said she already had somewhere booked. We went to this really beautiful place in Williamsport and recorded it, and didn’t think anything was going to come of it, but we got an email that said, do you want to play this showcase? It was great, there were a lot of people there.
TK: What are your plans going forward?
AH: We’ve been going back and forth about that. What do we do? Do we book a couple solid release shows and make sure we play for the people who want to hear this and celebrate this with us? Or do we book a tour and play some weird Monday and Tuesday gigs in random places? So we decided to just book some awesome gigs for the people who want to hear it. Josh has some other plans in the works as well.
JH: My vision of what i want to do with the music is bridge the gap between kirtan and indie folk. To go back to about music being medicine, when you hear a pop song you can connect to it in a spiritual sense. I also want to weave a tour that hits both venues and holistic communities. When we are playing a show, we are making an offering, its nice to be in a space where you know that offering is received. More or less, just spread a message of peace and community and love through the art. The art is something that I love to do and has always been a part of my life, and will continue to be a part of my life, but i think it’s more of a vehicle or a platform to create some kind of change.
Maitland’s debut album Glimpse is out Friday, June 2nd. Their album release show will be at Johnny Brenda’s on Friday, June 9th, with Dirty Dollhouse and Former Belle. Watch their Key Studio Session performance of “Sycamore” below.
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