An interview with sci-fi folk band Maia ahead of their Barfly show
Maia, four young lads from Huddersfield, fresh out of university, played an impressive set at the Barfly Camden on the 12th June.
The self-titled “sci-fi folk” band produce a wonderfully eclectic sound through their array of instruments including acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, trumpet, ukulele, drums and more. The music is refreshing, exerting tones that don’t seem to draw too heavily from a single influence, but instead form totally immersing music.
They performed a set consisting of tracks from their debut album and also teasing the crowd with some stuff from their upcoming LP. Melons, from their debut, has beautifully enigmatic lyrics and vocals from lead singer Tom Clegg, where the soft drumming and strings set the tone for the song perfectly. While the track from the new album Living in the Alligator is a more pop-ish upbeat song, the band change tempo within the song with pure talent to make for an invigorating performance.
Maia may have attained more from a more animated crowd when they threw down their hoedown rhythm song and even with pleas from the guitarist/banjoist Simon Robinson, the crowd wasn’t as lively as the brilliant artists deserved.
The Upcoming interviewed the band before they got up on stage that night.
Hi guys. Could you introduce yourselves and what you do in the band?
Tom: I’m Tom. I play the guitar and I’m the lead singer.
Will: My name is Will. I play drums and percussion.
Simon: I’m Simon. I play banjo, mandolin and backing vocals.
Joe: Joe. I’m the trumpet, keys and backing vocals.
How did the band come to form?
W: Well it started when I met Tom at university on a bit of a night out and we ended up wanting to start a band. We didn’t know what to expect really, played a few songs to see how it would go.
T: Yeah, we just met at university and we all shared an interest in different types of music with the folk genre.
How long have you all been playing together now?
J: It’s coming up to four years now.
S: Is it? Blooming heck!
J: It will be four years in October, so three and a half years now.
You pride yourselves on being the inventors of sci-fi folk. Could you give a brief description of what this unique sound is?
T: You don’t have a dictionary there, do you? (laughs)
S: It’s kind of the whole psychedelic folk thing, so we have a really psychedelic sound, but it’s more different than that, so it’s a bit of a play on words.
W: The album which will be released later on in the year, it’s got a heavy space theme so hence the sci-fi folk.
Can you tell us a little bit about the new single you released in March, Living in the Alligator?
T: The song title comes from when I was walking around the natural science museum in London and I was looking at this old machine, an old iron lung. It was a scary looking one from the 40s or 50s and it had a little caption “living in the alligator” so I nabbed that. The song came from there really.
S: We filmed the video in Whitby and had this alligator mask made by a lady who lives there and it was incredible.
Did you direct the video yourself?
S: Everyone chipped in to the conception. Our manager did quite a lot; he dished orders out. Joe storyboarded it and did a great job!
How is the new album coming along?
S: It’s been finished for a little while now and we are having a few single campaigns first, before we push on for the album launch. It will be out in the beginning of October.
What’s it like in comparison to the debut album?
T: The songs are a lot more pop-orientated.
S: Yeah, they are a bit catchier.
T: The playing has improved, the singing is better!
J: We recorded the first album about three months after meeting and so it was like we were children finding our feet and learning to walk. Now we can run… hopefully! (Band laughs)
S: We can jog!
Your sound incorporates a wide range of instruments. What are your favourites to play?
S: The bouzouki! (the rest of the band laugh) Yeah, it gets a lot of stick! It’s a Greek instrument, their version of the mandolin but a bit longer. I don’t use it in the set anymore, it got kicked out! I still play it though, it gets left out otherwise.
T: The answer to that question is all our favourite instrument is, of course, the banjo.
S: It’s got the best range out of all of them.
T: It’s a good spranger!
Can you tell us about your best gig experience?
S: As gigs go by, the memories of how good they were at the time almost fade a little bit. If you play a really good one, you think that’s the best one, but then later on if you play another you think that’s the best one! Whatever is a good gig is the best gig.
W: One that stood out though, was the Cambridge Folk Festival last year. We gave out all these leaves – actual leaves – saying it’s a leaflet with all our details. A lot of people were really interested in it and all came down to the show to see us. It was totally packed, good atmosphere. I really enjoyed it. That was definitely up there for me. (The other band members make sounds of agreement.)
T: Our single launch was good for Living In The Alligator. We played in Islington at the Old Queen’s Head and our stage was set up with trees made up of wood which had psychedelic black squiggles on them. When it was all lit up on the stage it looked really cool.
S: It looked amazing!
Who inspires you as a band and influences your music?
S: My answer to this is… everybody! Even bad music, because then you know not to do that!
T: But then you accidently do it anyway! (the band laughs)
S: We don’t particular go into making a song thinking we want to make it sound like this.
J: Maybe as a band, I don’t know whether you three agree with this, but Love… Arthur Lee’s band.
T: I thought you were going to go into some existential rant about love there.
S: The love and the universe! (The band laughs)
What are your plans for the near future with Maia?
T: We are releasing a single called Zuma Aluma; you can see the video online. It’s really cool; we made them with four iPhones and you can’t explain it; you need to see it, it’s really good!
W: We are doing the launch of that at the Apple Store in Regent Street on the 26th of June at 7pm!
T: Also got quite a few festivals lined up. Wilderness Festival, Hop Farm Festival, Larmer Tree, In the Woods.
S: Lots of gigs, radio sessions and the like; it’s going to be good!
Photos: Marco Arias Rua
For further information and future gigs visit here.
Listen to their forthcoming single Zuma Aluma, released on 25th June, here: