Maybeshewill. Four syllables, three words mashed into one. Three Leicester lads, John Helps, Robin Southby and James Collins, making instrumental music of epic proportions – and they’re visiting our shores this weekend thanks to the good folk behind the Club AC30 nights. When State speaks to John Helps, the band are preparing for a Greek tour. He’s not quite sure how they ended up touring Greece, but it’s proof that the band are finding audiences from far beyond where they’d usually expect. ‘We’re finding more and more there’s people in countries we’ve never considered going to that are into instrumental music,’ he tells me. ‘So we’ve started ending up going to weirder countries than we thought we’d end up going to. We’re doing a tour at the end of the year with And So I Watch You From Afar, we’re going over to Europe, and when we started planning it we were like, -Oh yeah, we’ll go to France, we’ll go to Italy, we’ll go to Germany’, [but] we’ve actually ended up spending most of our time on that tour right over in Eastern Europe and into Russia – we never thought we’d be going there.’
So what is it about the Maybeshewill sound that’s grabbing audiences in far-reaching places? The fact they’re instrumental, like Ireland’s God is An Astronaut (who are pretty popular in Japan and Russia), means that there are no lyrics to isolate listeners. ‘I guess maybe because it’s music without lyrics, it translates better. But maybe that’s a patronising way to look at it. I don’t know why the guys over there are so into it but it seems to be the way,’ muses the guitarist.
The band recently completed a month’s tour around the UK with ASIWYFA ‘that was pretty epic’, and they’re no strangers to life on the road. ‘I think touring is probably our only reason for being in a band,’ laughs John. ‘Obviously making the music as well, but if it was just us sat at home doing that we probably wouldn’t be as into the band as we are. We pretty much live for touring – any opportunity we get to go out with a band around the country, we’ll take it. It’s sort of escapism in a way, I think because you don’t have to worry about work or your normal like for a couple of weeks. I love it.’
While he can’t – or won’t – remember any Spinal Tap tour stories, John enjoys touring despite the endless travelling, eating at motorway stations and lugging gear from venue to venue. ‘Obviously it’s not nearly as glamorous as when you’re a kid and you think of being in a band,’ he laughs. ‘It’s a really simple way of living because all you have to do is get from one place to another, and feed yourself and make sure you’re at the venue on time to play a show. You don’t have to think about anything you have to think about at home.’
One thing that Maybeshewill are keen to do is promote their independent way of working. They’re not signed to a major label; nor do they have any intention to. Instead, they try to do things at as much of a grassroots level as possible. ‘The best way to summarise it is that we sort of feel that no one is going to help us unless it’s easy to help us, within the mainstream music industry, unless they’re going to make money off us,’ he sighs. ‘So if it’s easy for them to do it, it should be easy for us to learn to do it and to do it ourselves.’ The band works with a few people, such as Tim Waterfield, who runs Field Records, and a Swedish tour booker. ‘All these people working together doing stuff without having to become part of that machine,’ is how John describes it, a ‘cottage industry system that needs encouraging rather than just giving money to people who don’t really care’.
Although John admits that a ‘sort of’ sacrifice of this approach is that, having chosen not to pursue larger labels or booking agencies ‘maybe we could be doing a little bit better for ourselves’, it’s clear the band are more than content with their decision. ‘We’re not isolationists, we’re happy to work with other people – as long as they’re the right people,’ is how John puts it.
When it comes to their sound, like many instrumental bands Maybeshewill have found that they occasionally get lumped in with genres that they don’t quite agree with. ‘We get called post rock a lot which I don’t think we’re massively keen on,’ admits John. ‘There’s a lot of post rock bands that sound very, very similar. We’d hate to get lumped in with that I think.’ Generally, he says the band tend to refer to themselves as ‘instrumental’, and listen to hardcore and punk acts like Glassjaw. ‘We listen to Mogwai, electronic stuff like M83, all those things have a place in Maybeshewill. It’s difficult for us when we’re inside to describe the band to other people,’ adds John.
The band are currently working on new material – although they’re not entirely sure yet whether it’s going to be compiled into an EP or an album – and a bit of online japing had some of their fans convinced that they were going down a very different direction. ‘We made a joke on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that we were writing a new album and it’s going to sound like Dimmu Borgir. And someone took that so seriously that they updated our Wikipedia page – and we couldn’t understand how they thought we were serious!’ says an incredulous John, adding the fact that someone thinks that is possible, ‘made us take a second look at how we sound!’
They might, he jokes, even write a pop album: ‘We’re going to get four female singers and sound like Girls Aloud…’ Somehow I think there’s more chance of them going down the metal route – perhaps even corpse paint and all.
Maybeshewill play Baker Place, Limerick, on Saturday 7 October, and Club AC30 Dublin #14 with Death of London, Whelans Upstairs, Sunday 4 October,8pm, €8.