The Maccabees’ Felix White talks albums, gigs and Brighton

With a highly-anticipated UK tour coming up, including a date at the Brighton Dome, The Maccabees’ Felix White opens up about his love for the city and the buzz of hitting the stage.

The Maccabees scored their first number one album this year with Marks to Prove It       Picture: Jordan Curtis Hughes
The Maccabees scored their first number one album this year with Marks to Prove It Picture: Jordan Curtis Hughes

The Maccabees have evolved into one of the country’s best-loved bands. Latest album, the atmospheric and gorgeously rich Marks to Prove It, was the band’s first to reach number one in the charts and followed hot on the heels of a triumphant late afternoon slot on Glastonbury’s Other Stage.

Easy-going and humble, Felix admits there was a sense of vindication when they finally reached the top spot.

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He says: “It feels great to have a number one record. It was a really brilliant thing when it happened. It was a surreal moment. In films, when people’s lives flash before their eyes, it feels like that. It was very palpable. It felt like really solid vindication.”

No stranger to Brighton’s artistic and laid back streets (Felix was once a student at The University of Sussex) the guitarist reveals an affinity for the city.

He enthuses: “I love going back to Brighton very much. I love Brighton Dome. It feels like a deeply sentimental place. Sometimes it’s bizarre because it reminds you of certain people from ten years ago.”

Jokingly, he continues: “You notice it’s been taken over by people who were your age.

“It’s probably got the most Caribbean attitude to life, which has got to be respected.”

The band is spending most of October on the road in the United States before returning to the UK for the next leg of their tour, culminating in two nights at the Brixton Academy in the new year.

“It’s amazing playing your music in front of people,” says Felix. “It’s a real buzz. It always seems bizarre that people wouldn’t show that really.

“What I’m most looking forward to is working out aspects we haven’t been able to do until now. Some of those brass parts, the percussion, maybe some extra vocals. There’s going to be a fuller version of the record, which I think is going to add another dimension to the set.”

Released three years on from third album Given to the Wild, Marks to Prove It feels like a natural progression from that record. It’s full of the atmospherics that defined its predecessor, but then there’s still the anthemic and raw guitar-laden hooks of the first two albums.

Felix says: “Even if it’s accidental, it’s nice to have a record to sum up what we sound like.

“I have only listened back to it a couple of times to approve the vinyl acetate. It’s hard because you don’t really know until a few years later what you really think about it, because you need that space. The times I listened to it it took me by surprise how diverse the types of music were on it. It was more immersive this time.”

Written and recorded in a sprawling studio in Elephant and Castle, the album reflects the environment of its creation.

“It was informing it in a lot of ways, lyrically Orlando was picking up things he heard in places,” reveals Felix. “The music started to sound like what it kind of looks like, weirdly. When you’re on a night bus home or whatever.

“It’s always hard (the making of the record). We felt like this time it took a while. We knew we were keen to make a record but it took a year to figure out what record to make. We knew we wanted to make a different type of record. It took a while to pull it into focus. If our first two albums belong together then this is an evolution of Given to the Wild.

“Given to the wild was quite a cinematic record. A lot of it almost belonged on a computer or something. We wanted to achieve the opposite for this. Sounding like a band playing in a room.”

Since forming more than a decade ago, the band’s line-up has, for the most part, remained constant. Watching them perform, you can tell they are a close-knit group.

Felix says: “In terms of longevity I think what we have done in the last four, five, six years is realise that the band isn’t going to be the same for everyone. When you’re 19 you’re like a little gang, there’s new adventures all the time. Now we are 30 the band means different things to everyone. It’s hard, man, to keep five people together all pulling in the same direction. You spend a lot of time in small spaces.”

While it’s clear he’s more than happy in the The Maccabees, which band would he belong to if he could join another? The answer might come as a surprise to some.

He admits: “There can’t be a more fun band to have been in than the Beastie Boys. If you watch Sabotage from Woodstock ‘99, that’s the best thing you can Youtube.”

The Maccabees’ UK tour kicks off at Nottingham Rock City on November 18.

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