THE PV Q&A: John O’Callaghan on The Maine’s ‘Lovely, Little, Lonely:’ "I wanted to embody sonically the feeling of complete detachment yet complete euphoria"

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By Geoff Burns

It’s almost noon on a weekday when PureVolume reaches The Maine’s vocalist John O’Callaghan by phone. He’s chilling in his home’s garage, which happens to also be his bedroom in Phoenix, and dives into the meaning of his band’s newest album Lovely, Little, Lonely.

“I have this vision of being at the bottom of my pool in my backyard and being in the deep end late at night and understanding that while you're completely alone and detached there’s something very comforting about that,” says the vocalist. “Knowing that you’re still important, knowing you still mean something in relation to your environment.”

O’Callaghan talks 10 years as a band, Lovely, Little, Lonely and why enjoying life in the moment is all you need to obtain true happiness.

PUREVOLUME: How does it feel knowing this is your 10th year as a band?
John O’Callaghan: At the foundation of everything it's been our willingness to work together and share as much of a common vision as we can. It’s been quite the journey, the past 10 years. We stared this thing when we were 17, 18 years old and now at 28 you have time to reflect. It’s odd to be having done this for 10 years and be just as excited about what's going on at the moment as we were when we started an to be just as passionate, too. I think a lot of the reason for our success is out of our control. There’s a lot of luck, timing, variables that you can’t dictate that either go your way or go the other way and have to adapt and change along the way and change the game plan. It’s been our passion for our music and passion for what we’re doing and support and guidance from people we really looked up to and trust along the way. There’s really no formula to it. You just have to accept things along the way and adapt and evolve whenever you see fit.
PV: Tell me about the meaning of “Lovely, Little, Lonely.”
JO: I’ve been kind of avoiding revealing what it means to me just for the sake of allowing people to hopefully digest this record and whatever way they feel best. Kind of associate and hopefully attach it to whatever point in their lives they’re at. I can say I went into the record with the title and it was my intention from the beginning to create sonically basically some sort of dissonance. I wanted to embody sonically the feeling of complete detachment yet complete euphoria. I have this vision of being at the bottom of my pool in my backyard and being in the deep end late at night and understanding that while you're completely alone and detached there’s something very comforting about that. Knowing that you’re still important, knowing you still mean something in relation to your environment and that’s kind of where I was headed as far as the sound of the record goes. I would like people to formulate their own opinions in what it all means. It’s always fun to hear people’s theories and take and spin on things.

PV: These are three different songs on the album, too. But what is the concept behind the order of the songs on the album?
JO: On our last album, American Candy, we felt like we did a pretty good job widdling down the songs from the whole batch of stuff we had written, but we still felt like there was much to be desired on our end as far as a flow of concern within the concept of the album. We felt we had picked the strongest songs and then kind of placed them accordingly how we felt it would flow. For this record, we set out with the intention of creating an album that felt seamless from start to finish. Something with a great flow that didn’t necessarily reach a climax and it took you to different places along the way. We knew we wanted to thread the whole album together and have songs seamlessly transition into each other. “Lovely” “Little” “Lonely” tracks within the album are our attempt at making those segways possible and hopefully achieving that feeling for people that listen to it. Basically getting from one to 12 in an effortless seamless manner where people will hopefully spin the album and will want to spin it again after it's done. That was the attempt and that was the goal. We’re really happy with the way this came out. We feel like this is an album from start to finish. It doesn’t feel like a compilation of songs or here's what we wrote and then threw it together. We feel it’s more thought out than anything we've ever done before.
PV: You sing about not being able to find the words in describing something in “Black Butterflies & Deja Vu.” Can you tell me about a time where you specifically felt this way where you couldn’t find the words?
JO: Not to sound too much like a hippie, but I tried to write the song from a perspective in how people have always been making the assumption that the song is about seeing someone that you are attracted to or whatever and becoming speechless because of it. For me personally, this song was written about that concept but not about that specific person. We got the privilege and the luxury of recording the album on the coast in California three hours north of San Francisco and we lived in an AirBnb and recorded the album there. It was literally on the coast. The backyard was the Pacific and it was breathtaking. Every day you could wake up go outside, drink a cup of coffee and honestly be speechless by the view. I used that as the inspiration for the song. I didn’t write the lyrics until close to the end of the actual recording of the album. I let a lot of those kinds of influences in and for me that song specifically was about the experience and the drive up from L.A. to San Fran. I think that so often we can forget to acknowledge how amazing it is to live here and to be alive and to just look up and see the moon and look up to see the blue sky or clouds. It's so easy to be distracted by all the bullshit that's just kind of flashing in front of our face every day. We have computers in our pockets. For me it was a moment to kind of appreciate the beauty of the world.
PV: Can you describe how this upcoming album is a step forward in keeping The Maine more alive right now than it's ever been?
JO: It’s really special to be apart of this and I feel like we're reaching this vortex of people supporting 8123 which means more than just The Maine, it's sort of a fraternity at this point and a weird community that people are helping build and create. I think every single day whether it’s through the stuff we see online, through social media or tonight we’re doing an in store in Arizona and we'll be able to share stories with people but just to hear the interactions they’re having, they’re creating and using us as a vessel to make new friends and try new things and experience whatever it is they can. It’s really incredible to be a part of. I feel like there’s something about being older now. We’re 27, 28. I feel like it's easier for people to believe us if that makes sense. I feel like when we were 18, 19, and wearing matching outfits, there was an innocence there and maybe it just wasn’t as believable for some. When you’re 18 and your favorite album is written by an 18 year old maybe there’s some continuity within the message but it’s also like you haven’t lived and you haven’t seen shit and you don’t know anything yet you’re preaching to me. I think there’s more of a believable factor now. I still don’t know shit so I don’t know why people believe in me [laughs]. It’s one of those empowering things to know we've done it for so long and people seem more vocal about it now than they have been in maybe 10 years or even in the last couple of years. It’s really exciting for us and makes us want to push ourselves creatively and put on great live performances and create new stories with people that dig what we do.

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