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Music

Far Out Meets: Orlando Weeks discusses life after The Maccabees

@josephtaysom

It’s been almost five years since The Maccabees closed the door on their time as a band with a series of emotional shows at London’s historic Alexandra Palace. For Orlando Weeks, it took a while for the weight of the situation to properly land, and, rather than languish in the past, he immediately escaped to France to begin a new daunting chapter.

The childhood friends formed the group when they were late teenagers, and until 2017, being the lead singer of his indie gang was all Weeks knew throughout his adult life. Although they all remain close friends, the singer admits the process of making their final album Marks To Prove It was “difficult”, and, following their first number one record, they made the brave decision to call things quits while they were at the peak of their powers.

Weeks has now released his invigorating second solo jaunt, Hop Up, and he’s expressing a lighter, more upbeat side to his artistry than ever before. On his stunning debut, A Quickening, he addressed the heavy emotions that raced through his mind during the early days of parenthood, as well as establishing what kind of artist he is when left to his own devices.

Releasing his debut amid the first lockdown was far from ideal as Weeks was left unable to tour the songs he had invested so much time in creating. Still, he managed to mine the positives and instead began work on what later became Hop Up at a studio space his friend has on an industrial estate in Peckham. Despite the dour global circumstances, the former Maccabee honed in on the beauty of life and made a record that is an uplifting antidote to the last two years.

Hop Up started as a response and not even a sort of studied recollection of A Quickening, but, a vague recollection of that record and what it meant, how it sounded and felt and the heaviness of it, and the anticipatory nature of it,” Weeks tells Far Out about the origins of his new album.

“It started because (A Quickening) is not the full picture of that experience. Quickly the manifesto for the record was lightness and satisfaction in terms of the neatness of everything and leanness of the songwriting,” Orlando explains.

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It was liberating for Weeks to make a body of work that emphasised the things that make him cheerful, and despite being almost 20-years deep into his recording career, it’s the first time that he’s approached an album in this way. “Being an artist can be a very indulgent pastime, and I always felt the way of justifying that indulgence was to try and process something very heavy,” he earnestly adds. “There’s a truth to that in some ways, but I also think that’s not the only way, and other people have figured this out a lot quicker than me, and it’s taken me the experience of Hop Up to learn that’s not the only way to achieve sincere expression.”

While dissecting emotionally weighty subjects can, of course, lead to meaningful art, sacrificing yourself by opening up one’s personal Pandora’s box during the creative process is also emotionally draining. Weeks noticed a difference within himself making Hop Up compared to his previous material.

“If you’re spending time in that mindset, and trying to unpick things, then that’s where you’re mind is. Perhaps even more so when you’re spending time with the Ying to that Yang and surrounding yourself mentally, physically, with brighter, more uplifting experiences and thoughts, then that spills into your working, social, and personal life. It’s sort of insane that it’s taken me till my late 30’s to realise this. I’m a slow learner,” Weeks adds almost apologetically.

The experience of making Hop Up began as a solitary one, as Weeks would head down to Peckham and work into the dead of night. He revelled in the “emptiness and isolation of being there” and adopted a “dance like nobody is watching” attitude while writing music, providing the album with a blissful demeanour that rarely strays from the path of enlightenment.

Weeks entered the studio for his previous solo outings with a precise objective in mind, but he resolutely disregarded this ethos on the “loose” Hop Up. He explains, “I went into it without the parameters that I have previously put on myself and thought, ‘It can be whatever it wants to be, as long as it makes me feel good, then I’m into it.'”

Then the longer that he carried on working on the record, a pattern began to emerge as Weeks, and his producer, Bullion (Nathan Jenkins), tried to make it as precise as possible bereft of any unnecessary fat.

Although Hop Up initially started with Weeks working in solitary conditions, it soon became a collaborative project. He invited like-minded souls such as Katy J Pearson and Willie J Healey to help on the project, adding a further sprinkling of luscious effervescence. “The feeling that I get from their music was the same feeling that I hoped that this record would have. Willie and Katy both make music which leaves me feeling good, and as people too, they have a warmth and charisma that makes you feel better in their company,” he says about his talented friends.

The relaxed process he undertook for the euphoric Hop Up represents the place of content that Weeks finds himself nowadays, and he’s relishing every facet of this current journey. Last autumn, Weeks finally had the chance to tour with his new band and starting over again in the same intimate venues that he frequented all those years ago has been of immense pleasure to the 38-year-old.

“My favourite bit of Maccs life was early on, and the kind of the hit and hope of it, and just daring to do it. Turning up to venues when you’ve drawn the flyer, then photocopied, and left in every pub or bar you can think of, then stuck around the venue before setting the merch stalls. That sounded like a terrifying indictment of ego,” he self-consciously laughs before adding, “What I mean is like how hands-on it is. It’s on you to make it happen, so it’s been fun going back to that, and there being a lot more onus on you,” he excitedly adds.

While he’s enjoying the novelty of being in control of his fortunes, Orlando wouldn’t have changed The Maccabees’ democratised methods. All five members were of equal importance, and they were never sculpted in just one individual’s image but, instead, forged a collective one.

“With The Maccabees, everything went through the filter of all those people, and my work is what it is because it’s just my filter. When you’ve spent 13/14 years as part of a shared experience, it’s going to take a little bit of time to discover what you stand for and what you’re comfortable with, but part of the pleasure of being on your own is being able to push those things, and test yourself,” he says eagerly.

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Weeks is basking in throwing himself into the deep end and challenging himself as an artist. Since The Maccabees departed the holy stage at Alexandra Palace in 2017, there’s been no looking back, and those hopeful of seeing them reunite should quash any expectations.

“I think the way that we drew a line under everything — our final shows felt very final,” he reflects. “I feel it would be strange to undermine that experience, so I think it would be very unlikely.”

Detailing more about their grand last hurrah, Weeks recalls: “It wasn’t heavy in a dark way, but, just heavy. It was a lot to process, and I think we did ourselves extremely proud, as did the people who were fans of what we did. After the shows, I got straight on an aeroplane to France with my partner and stayed there for a little while, just to take myself out of the norm. It was a lot to try and understand and to have gone through with those people,” he profoundly dwells. 

Weeks has made a seamless transition into solo life and is making music reflective of the man he has become and creating art in whatever direction he chooses to explore, which is currently the sunnier side of humanity.

His latest offering Hop Up, is a delectable tonic capable of curing the dreaded bleakness of January as Weeks distils his newfound lust for life across eleven ebullient tracks.

Hop Up is out now via PIAS, and available to purchase here. Check out Orlando Weeks’ tour dates below.

Orlando Weeks tour dates

March

10 – Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
11 – Edinburgh, The Mash House
12 – Manchester, Royal Northern College of Music
15 – Birmingham, O2 Institute 2
16 – Cambridge, Junction
17 – Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms
19 – Brighton, Concorde 2
20 – London, The Barbican Centre