Ahead of his headline show we caught up with the effervescent Max Pope to discuss why he got in to music, his idols growing up, and as ever, whose ear he’d cut off given the chance.
When did you first realise you had to play music?
Music was always around when I was growing up. We had a piano in the house, which my grandmother would play. She used to take me to classical concerts and she sang in the London Philharmonic Choir for 12 years.
A family friend would sing opera to me when I was a baby, my mother would play Al Green whilst dancing round the kitchen and my father played guitar and blues harmonica. I’d always been infatuated by it. When I turned 10 years old he took me, and a handful of harmonicas to my first Glastonbury festival and I remember feeling like I’d entered another world. I saw how crazy music could make adults behave! I came back from that festival and was set on being part of that world – have been ever since.
Who was your idol growing up?
Probably my father – he was the one that really brought music into my life.
Did you ever want to be anything else other than a singer?
I didn’t set out wanting to be a “singer”. I only ever wanted to be an overall musician and a guitarist, and to play, write and be part of that world. I started to sing initially because I wanted to write songs – with stories and melodies. I’d been writing lyrics and poems and singing them to myself when no-one was around.
Over time it all bundled into one package!
Why did you not go for the normal route and find a band to play with?
I played in several bands when I was growing up in Brighton and it was a blast. It can get tricky in bands when there are too many creative heads in the room, and we were always struggling with the writing process. My relationship with music and songwriting began largely as a form of escapism, and it really kicked into gear when my parents had split up and I was being bullied at a very academic school. The guys in my band were a bit older than me and went to a different school, where music was considered a cool thing. In my school it was rugby or you played the violin – no one had ever heard of The Strokes… Music was my only outlet, which meant that it allowed me to be able to express things in my way. I had things to say, and a very clear overall musical picture in my head. I still feel like that! I think after I’ve released an album I might feel like forming a band again, and having side projects. Myself and Alex have been talking for a while about starting a duo that is largely based around characters and art…
How would you describe your sound?
Future indie soul. Who’s idea was it to categorise music anyway?….
(Sorry Max, you can probably blame us journos for that one)
Would you ever consider changing genres consciously or is that something that just ‘happens’?
I think that’s something that would just happen. All music just happens – you’ve got to do what feels natural and not overthink it (easier said than done…)
When can we expect an album?
I reckon in a year or two. I’ve still got some experimenting to do first.
Is touring still the most important thing for an artist?
I think to play your songs in a different place, in front of a new audience each night and experience the reaction in the room first hand must be the most valuable thing for an artist. We’re making music to reach out to people, and for it to be heard by people. Being on tour is a raw opportunity to visibly witness a reaction to one’s music, and to connect with the people you’re singing/playing to. It’s also an area of the industry that has remained a consistent source of income. Audiences will always thrive for gigs because it is an emotive experience that taps into all of our senses. It’s also an innate part of being human to want to enjoy something together. I’m massively excited about going on tour.
Is the sheer availability of music helping or hindering the ‘scene’?
Perhaps it’s a little too early on to tell, but I think on balance it’s a good thing. For young artists it’s a good thing to be able to put music out and build an audience without the pressure of a record company. Young acts can be self-sufficient and keep all of the income. On the other side, it’s harder to get noticed and people end up afraid of making mistakes and afraid of releasing music, following fairly cynical routines in order to “play the game”. Largely speaking, big record companies rate an act based on numbers. Fewer and fewer A&Rs are willing to take a gamble on music they love – they’d rather observe from a distance and then jump in when there’s evidence of a fan base – “Goal hangers”. Anything that allows music to be out there is a good thing, as long as it’s artist driven. I would say that, though…
What’s up next for you?
I’ll be releasing a track every month or so between now and January, as I have been writing for a long time and I want to put some of them out, freely, without over thinking things. I’m continually recording with my mate Alex Burey, and the next batch of songs are starting to feel good. We’re experimenting more with the arrangements and using grittier production, whilst the songs are also more direct and raw sounding. I’m excited to see everyone’s reactions.
I have my final London residency show this Saturday 17th at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington, which I’m really excited for. We’ll be playing more shows towards the end of the year and hopefully a tour of some kind. I’ll see what position I’m at then and take it from there!
Finally, you are Mr Blonde inResevoir Dogsinthatscene. You have a razor in your hand and the radio by your side. Who is in the chair awaiting their ear amputation and what song are you going to play? The song would be Bang Bang Maxwell’s Silver Hammer by The Beatles. In the chair would be my power tripping floor manager from a pub I once worked at… He was a right nob head.