Without much ado, Midwest indie pop rockers Maritime just recently released their fifth record, Human Hearts. Even as two of the groups' three immediate predecessors, Cap'n Jazz and Dismemberment Plan, have entertained nostalgic fans with recent reunion tours, which have effectively encouraged calls for a reunion from the third group (The Promise Ring -- more on that later), the aging musicians continue to find time to produce well crafted, dancey indie tunes. Punknews contributor Matthew Bentel caught up with Dan Didier to discuss the new record, how to maintain a rock band as life transitions into domesticity and his affinity for Chicago.
Human Hearts presents Maritime pushing its brand of indie pop even further, refining the produced sound on We, The Vehicles. More layers, more post-punk and new-wave inclinations. What have you guys been listening to? I get a strong Smiths and Morrissey vibe.
I think that most of that comes from the other Dan in the band. He is the Brit-pop listener of the band. A lot of his influence kind of makes sense, I think rightfully so, that he is highlighted even more than on any other record weâve done. Which is good. It should be. Iâm really glad you feel that, because heâs definitely had that influence from British music and British guitar players. Iâm glad it shows.
Davey has always had a good set of pipes on him. However, his voice is usually more restrained on past releases; on Human Hearts, it is very much front and center. When did you recognize the beneficial element to promoting the vocals more?
It was kind of a mixture of things. Billy Bush, he is the one who mixed the record, both of the mixing decisions were based on him. And we agreed with it because he mixed it really well for us. But as far as the sound, that is reflective of how we recorded it. We literally recorded everything but the drums at our own studio. The environment was very relaxed. I think that was beneficial for tracking Davey cause if he is in a relaxed environment he sings better. It reminds me of the [Promise Ringsâs] Wood/Water mixing, going there [Davey] was totally healthy and comfortable. And when we started to track vocals he got sick. It was like it was psychosomatic, and he knew he was going to sing. It was like, "oh, no." So part of his body was like, "Iâm going to go get sick." And it did. So Iâve always thought that factored in. On this record, it was a much more relaxed environment. For some reason, we were recording what we wanted when we wanted. I think [the record] benefited greatly in that regard.
As far as it being more up front, itâs all Bush. Same with the guitars; Billy mixes much differently than anyone else whoâs mixed our records. You kind of forget those guys have carte blanche with the album, but we had to know that. The mixes he kept sending us were great. Weâd listen, and be like, "Hey, the guitars are louder, but it really works." All the decisions he made we werenât used to but we agreed with them cause they were the right decisions for that song.
At this stage in your career, do you find it difficult to keep writing catchy pop songs?
Not really. The song writing never really gets old. Especially now since we have other things going on in our lives. When we get to song writing and practicing and being in the same room together, weâve done so much during the week it feels refreshing. So itâs almost a welcomed break, almost… to hash out new songs. I think that might help. Itâs not like weâre too laborious with the songs, but kind of just let them speak for themselves and write themselves. I think that is definitely why itâs not that difficult. Itâs only like one night a week where weâre all doing that. So itâs like that is the only time weâre thinking about it. I think that is helpful.
The A.V. Club defines Human Hearts as the band "stepping out from the shadows" of its memberâs previous groups, namely the Promise Ring and the Dismemberment Plan. Do you think that is true?
I donât think about it like that cause I felt like Glass Floor -- to me that [Maritime is different from its previous bands] was established way more before than in any of these other records. Personally, itâs so far removed from that. Like you said, itâs been almost ten years, so you know, we were stepping out of the shadows when we broke up [laughs]. So I donât really think of it and I just think of this as another record that we wrote, and an amalgam of the last four years of our life. Itâs not stepping out of any shadows, itâs just what we did with the last four years of our lives. Thatâs how long it took us to write, so thatâs how I think of it.
You mention it taking a while to write. Why did it take as long?
Well…basically, what we didâ¦at the time We, The Vehicles was recorded- Well that and Heresy and the Hotel Choir were written and recorded pretty close to one another. After we did the Heresy tour, some of us went back to school, some were starting to have kids. That sort of thing. So the amount of time we could spend as a band was way shorter. The main reason was that we had lives to live outside the band, so we just did that. And thatâs why it took so long.
In light of everyone being in this similar restricted place in life, what does the future hold for Maritime? I mean, do you kind of fade out, or do you end it one day? Or do you just keep it going indefinitely?
Well, for this record, immediately, weâll have to play the coast at some point, so weâll take a weekend out to New York, Boston, maybe D.C., then somehow to L.A. Weâre already planning to do some European and Japanese shows cause weâre licensing the record to labels out there, so we were already planning to head over there. So yeah, weâll play less, but weâre still going hit the same rounds. And weâll still play a lot in the Midwest cause those are weekend drives, you know, to St. Louis or Chicago or something. But in the future weâll get out there when we can.
Which makes sense. It is the point you are at in your life. I mean, is that a kid I hear in the background?
Yeah, Iâm with my wife and kids right now.
How many Maritime members are married? Davey is, right?
Yeah, weâre all married and we all have two kids except Joe, he has one. So weâve got four wives and seven kids between us [laughs].
So then how long does this go?
Iâm not really sure. As long as it remains fun and we all remain happy with each other, then it will keep going in some way, shape, or form. Or not. Itâs hard to say. The times right now, Iâm looking forward to, now that we did this whole record-the-record-ourselves thing, Iâm looking to do more of that for the next record. Iâm already getting the itch to record another one. I think we all sort of get that drive to keep creating cause its something we all really enjoy. And yeah, so you know. Weâll look to get our hands dirty with the new songs.
Previously, Maritime released most of its music through Flameshovel Records. The latest comes by way of Dangerbird Records. Why the switch?
Well, Flameshovel weâ¦weâ d still be there if Flameshovel wasâ¦stillâ¦ Flameshovel. At some point Jessi and James were like, "Weâre not really going to be a label anymore. Sorry. You guys can have your back catalog and whatever we have." So okay, weâre label-less, which is actually fine because we were going in that directionâ¦even when we were still on Flameshovel, we were still like, "Lets record the record ourselves and kind of give it to them and they can do whatever." So when they no longer were a label we were like thatâs fine, we can still record the record ourselves anyway, and all we need to do is get is a good publicist and a booking agent. As long as we got that, weâre a band. Because itâs not like a label is going to really do anything; theyâre not going to pay for [the record] anyway. So we can record it ourselves and put it out ourselves and do the Radiohead model and have people pay what they want. But it just happened that we were at Pop Love and met Jeff [Castelaz, owner of Dangerbird Records], and he was like, "Hey, why donât you be on my label." And saying like I wanted to do this for a while and stuff, so it was serendipitous, and we said, "Why not?" There are certainly worse labels to be on. So itâs been awesome that it happened, and itâs been really good. They are doing good work there, for all their bands. They are sort of like a label 2.0, they know what is happening in the world and theyâre dealing with it in a very smart way. And they are successful because of it. I donât know. I think theyâre really smart people and itâs great to be part of that.
Now that the Capân Jazz, and I suppose the Dismemberment Plan, reunion is out of the way, can we expect a Promise Ring reunion soon?
Thereâs talk about that for sure. But in a while. Iâd say in the nextâ¦some serious discussions in the nextâ¦pretty soon, for 2012. We may do something. Thereâs talk- [lost connection; Dan called back]. See, I didnât know how to answer that question so I made it cut out [laughs]. No, there has been talk, possibly 2012, to do a get together tour or show. Itâs always been on thee back burner for a while cause when we did that one reunion show for Flower 15 [at Metro in Chicago in 2005] we wereâ¦it was-- we had a great time. There are lot of things up in the air. Thereâs really no decisions being made but no one wants to push it forward either because itâs a low priority. There is talk but nothing certain. It may or may not happen. Howâs that for a vague answer [laughs]?
And you? Do you want to do this?
Iâm on board. Iâm 100% on board. That sort of thing doesnât really matter. I would do it in a heartbeat. Itâs justâ¦itâs fun. I certainly enjoy the people nowâ¦more so then towards the end of the band. But theâ¦personally, I would; like any time things come up Iâm like, "Lets do it." I think it would be fun. And cause now-- to see Jason [Gnewikow] is great. I donât make it to New York as much as I used to. And Davey and Scott live in Milwaukee so I get to see them all the time. So I look at it like that. A chance to just kind of hang out again.
Last thing: where did the name Maritime come from?
We used to be called In English, which is a band Davey and I started after The Promise Ring. After Eric [Axelson, from The Dismemberment Plan] got involved we changed it. The band changed it laterâ¦it was just one of those things like the name of The Promise Ring. We had everyone give ideas and it was sort of a March Madness tourney bracket. We had enough names where it was like. "what about this," cross it off, cross it off. So then it got to the Elite 8. It was a thing where we just kept throwing band names outâ¦I donât know. We were sort of under the gun, and we were going to go on tour with The Weakerthans; we were supporting them on the east coast and in the south. I remember this vividly. We were driving to North Carolina, Davey and I and our wives. We were just taking a trip and saying we need to make a decision about the band name. So we had to like get that name decided as we were driving down on vacation. We canât go on tour with The Weakerthans without having a name but we have to commit to the tour today in order to be on it. Weâre pretty good at procrastinating, so letâs just keep on playing and recording. So we had to choose a name, just from a long list. It was one of the remaining contenders so we just picked it.
Well, Iâm glad. Excited about the Chicago show tomorrow?
Yeah. We have a huge Chicago tie, obviously. But that felt way more like home than Milwaukee did because we would have better shows down there and they felt way better than in Milwaukee. Not that they werenât great butâ¦ whatever, it was just different. The press in Chicago really liked us. Milwaukee, no one mentioned anything. It was really kind of strange, but soâ¦going back to, when we were on Flameshovel, it reinvigorated the connection with Chicago, the Chin Up Chin Up guys and Justin James. We love Chicago, Chicago is awesome. It felt good to get reacquainted. So itâs like The Empty Bottle shows we played then and the Beat Kitchen; we always had good bands playing with us because it was usually Flameshovel bands. And all those bands are awesome. Definitely a really good community to be apart of. I love those guys to death.