Getting Lost in Modern Nostalgia [Part 2 of 2]

John O'Callaghan and Colby Wedgeworth By | November 8, 2017 at 2:00 PM

The Maine. Photo by Stephen Denton.

Find out how the two most recent albums from The Maine are similar in Part 1 of Getting Lost in Modern Nostalgia.

With friends like ours, anywhere is home

For The Maine’s fans, “Colby Wedgeworth” is synonymous with “producer” but that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, he spent a lot of time on the other side of the mic during his school years, before he closed the door on his singing career. “Those days are long gone for me,” says Wedgeworth. “I’ve played in bands since I was in middle school, so earlier on that was the more normal thing for me. I’ve been on the other side of it for so long that going back would be so uncomfortable.” When I mention that I have one of his solo songs saved somewhere on my computer both Wedgeworth and John O’Callaghan crack up and Wedgeworth is quick to add, “I’m happy with what I’m doing now.”

On the other hand, O’Callaghan is enthusiastic about the idea of producing for other artists. “I think that would be a really exciting opportunity. Even with the stuff that I’ve released on my own, I feel like there’s a level of learning and trying new things. I’m very envious of Colby and his ability to meet and work with different people all the time.” Don’t panic, though: If you think this interest in production is going to break apart The Maine you have nothing to fear. “To be honest, it’s a lack of time—I don’t have or care to have the time for a whole bunch else right now,” says O’Callaghan. “That’s just a testament to where my allegiance lies with The Maine.” He adds that he’d love to explore the possibility eventually but, for now, we can rest assured he’s one hundred percent committed to the band.

Being on the journalist side of the music industry, I confess to not really understanding the technical bits. As someone who reads the liner notes (what, doesn’t everyone?), I’ve noticed that Wedgeworth is sometimes listed as producer while other times he mixes and masters (usually the EPs), but the distinction eludes me. After a brief pause, while they think about the best way to answer without overwhelming me with industry jargon, Wedgeworth jumps in to explain.

Wedgeworth and The Maine. Photo by Guadalupe Bustos.

“Producing is more so song composition, steering the lyrics, the melody, overseeing something and helping it along,” he starts. “In some way, it’s just being another member of the band…at least the way we do it. Everyone’s producing when we’re making the records together, it’s not like I’m the king telling everyone what to do.” Mixing, meanwhile, is “how something sounds—treble, bass, stuff like that. More the sonic composition, whereas producing is actually the song structure.”

O’Callaghan offers his thoughts too, though he feels that mixing is probably easier to define since it’s more structured. “Producing gets a little blurry. We’ve had producers in the past, especially earlier on in our career…where the producer would give us input, we’d take his input, and then it’s like ‘Hey, I wrote that song with you guys’, and we’re caught off guard.” Thankfully, The Maine has come a long way from producers trying to take credit for something they didn’t actually have a hand in, and their music is the better for it. “Our relationship with Colby, he’s another brain we really trust at this point. My idea of a producer is we take what’s already been written by a band/artist/songwriter, and we make that specific thing the best it can be based on who’s doing it and who’s working together.”

I can practically hear Wedgeworth nodding along before he adds, “That’s probably a lot different in certain genres, or even how it was forty years ago when the producer was the guy who came in and made sure everyone played their parts right and then went home. The producer can be the guy who makes an entire song, it’s definitely a blurred line.” In short, the way The Maine works with Wedgeworth is totally different than how most artists and producers operate. They’re so comfortable with each other, and there’s a level of mutual trust and respect that is hard to find in other partnerships. At times, it almost feels like Wedgeworth and O’Callaghan are extension of each other—when one of them struggles to describe something, the other will jump in, offering a concurring perspective.

There’s beauty and grace in the flaws of your face

Creatively, one of the few things Wedgeworth isn’t involved in is promotional videos. The Maine consistently turn out music videos with a range of plots. For Lovely Little Lonely, they’ve already produced an 8123 Fest-centered video for “Bad Behavior”, a moody short film for “Taxi”, and, most recently, the aesthetic-driven “How Do You Feel?” that saw the band in white suits performing against a background of red roses. “Whenever we’re on airplanes travelling, Pat [Kirch] and I end up sitting together and talking the whole time,” says O’Callaghan. “And I remember telling Pat that I felt like it would be important to play off the same idea as “Am I Pretty?” as far as the aesthetic [for the new video]. For a band like us that doesn’t get millions and millions of YouTube plays—in our opinion, we’ve built more of a cultish kind of following—we felt it would be more effective if someone that was watching a video, then went to a concert and saw those same people in those same outfits with those same colors around us.”

Kennedy Brock and John O’Callaghan. Photo by Kyle Hulett.

As pretty as it is, “How Do You Feel?” is definitely a change from the more cinematic “Taxi” video that was released in August. For me, ‘Taxi’ calls back to their equally dark video for ‘Misery’ a few years ago, and O’Callaghan agrees, laughing, “I always seem to get fucked up in our music videos. ‘Tortured Lead Singer Syndrome’, that’s what I call it.”

“‘Taxi’ was fun because it leaves a lot up for interpretation,” he muses. “That’s what I love about art in general, people attaching their own personal meanings to each individual piece. It’s fun to read comments, especially on music videos about what people have taken away from it and what they thought. More often than not, it’s the farthest thing away from where the inspiration was birthed…but that’s the beautiful part.”

Given the fifteen or so music videos that The Maine has delivered over their decade in the industry you’d think making them would get easier over the years, but O’Callaghan admits that he still isn’t really comfortable with performing in front of a camera. “I have a really tough time letting go of the idea that performance videos are garbage; I hate them, I think they’re awful. It’s so clear that you’re not playing your song and you’re not singing and nothing’s actually happening, you’re just being filmed,” he says vehemently.
“That’s what I love about art in general, people attaching their own personal meanings to each individual piece.”
Their most recent videos, however, were directed by one of their LA-based friends, Tucker Audie, which made the ordeal easier to swallow and, I’m guessing, more fun. “We shot them in two days. When you’re working with a budget like ours that’s pretty much non-existent and it’s coming out our pocket…we have to be more focused on what the goal is,” says O’Callaghan. If there’s one thing the music industry has learned about The Maine it’s that the band is remarkably focused, and has no problems funding their own ventures. Just think about the hands-on way they record and produce albums with Wedgeworth’s help. Or their devotion to the fans which has, in the past, included a completely free tour and countless hours spent interacting with people face-to-face after shows.

Am I pretty? Do people like me yet?

There’s also the fact that they have a presence on social media, allowing them to connect with thousands of people on a daily basis. While some of the other band members have hosted Twitter Q&A’s—Pat Kirch, in particular, tends to be very responsive—O’Callaghan is a little more enigmatic. If you follow him on social media, you’ll notice that his Twitter and Instagram presence is carefully cultivated, chock full of both inspirational lyrics and hilarious hashtags. (My personal favorite is #warmmilk.) Wedgeworth, meanwhile, steers away from social media in general, calling it a great way to see pictures from friends or relatives but steadfastly refusing to get heavily involved in that world. But O’Callaghan admits that he doesn’t think he’d be on any social platform if it wasn’t for The Maine.

“It’s important for me to be genuine but also be goofy and be all the things I think I am as an individual without giving away too much personal information,” he says of his Instagram habits. “There’s a very clear distinction between who I am in the band and that’s separate from the friends and family I have at home. I don’t think I’m being an actor in the band, or somebody I’m not,” he continues. “I like to think that has something to do with why people still care about us. To me, I don’t think we feel phoney, we don’t try to be individuals that we’re not. Hopefully some of the earnesty and us being forthright is endearing.”

“It’s all a balance and it’s really what you make of it.” He mentions that while he only tweets once a day, people read a lot into his words in different ways—the same way they dissect new music videos to find a hidden meaning. “Once you start taking things you see online too seriously, that’s a negative thing. People should be well aware that we can doctor our lives in little squares…it’s important for me to be genuine and really try to spread a message of unity and togetherness, and solace in knowing that I feel just as fucking alone and messed up as the next person sometimes.”

John O’Callaghan and Jared Monaco. Photo by Kyle Hulett.

He’s right, in more ways than one. The idea of presenting a different version of yourself online compared to the real deal is true, but also the fact that The Maine’s sincerity is one of the many things that fans love about them. This honesty is one of the things that made O’Callaghan’s brief stint as a radio show host on idobi’s Mixed Tape such a success but—unfortunately for his listeners—you shouldn’t hold your breath for more episodes.

“[Mixed Tape] was certainly fun, but that’s all retrospective. During the process, it’s super hard,” O’Callaghan laughs. “I don’t listen to podcasts to begin with, so when I was trying to do some research….people are just straight-up paid to talk about life and to make light of situations or just conversate. So for me it was tough to develop a concept of what I was going to talk about. I suppose when I have somebody to talk to it’s easier…if I ever do it again, I might change the format.” The other variable is a matter of time. “We’ve been so busy with tours,” he says, and if you take a look at their touring schedule, you’ll see that The Maine rarely stays in one place for long. “I feel like every tour we’ve gone on, we go for a month or longer, and then we have two weeks off. In between, it feels so nice to just sit down at my piano or with my guitar that I don’t even think about doing anything else. I’ll leave that wide open.”
“It’s important for me to be genuine and really try to spread a message of unity and togetherness, and solace in knowing that I feel just as fucking alone and messed up as the next person sometimes.”
While O’Callaghan ruminates on the possibility of resurrecting his radio show, the band is getting ready for yet another tour: Modern Nostalgia kicked off on October 24. Despite not being able to attend one of the shows myself (I playfully complain about the lack of Canadian dates and O’Callaghan apologizes), it’s going to be a memorable event. From the rosy red and bubbly blue aesthetics right down to the passion that The Maine puts into every performance, it’s the type of show that only comes around once in awhile, and anyone lucky enough to experience it for themselves is going to come out of the venue with a new appreciation for the band and Wedgeworth’s work.

The door opened on O’Callaghan and Wedgeworth’s relationship six years ago when they first collaborated on Pioneer and their respect for each other is what keeps it wide open. If anyone can get lost in modern nostalgia with The Maine, it has to be Wedgeworth, one of the few who’ve been with them—creatively—through all the lows and every high.

Catch The Maine on the rest of their MODERN NOSTALGIA tour dates:

November 9 – Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA
November 10 – Baltimore Soundstage – Baltimore, MD
November 11 – The NorVa – Norfolk, VA
November 12 – Lincoln Theatre – Raleigh, NC
November 14 – Cannery Ballroom – Nashville, TN
November 15 – The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
November 17 – House of Blues – New Orleans, LA
November 18 – Gas Monkey Bar N Grill – Dallas, TX
November 19 – Emo’s – Austin, TX
November 22 – The Van Buren – Phoenix, AZ
November 24 – House of Blues – Anaheim, CA