INTERVIEW: Kennedy Brock of The Maine
Back in 2019, just one year after the end of the forever loved Vans Warped Tour took its final bow, Sad Summer Fest quickly became the can’t miss lineup. With the first incarnation featuring Warped Tour classics like Mayday Parade, State Champs, and The Maine hitting the states, it was clear this was going to become something special. And then…the world shut down. But the festival came back strong in 2022 and is now in its fourth summer, with the tour kicking off just yesterday. Bigger than ever, this year brings a band who had a heavy hand in starting the festival up with The Maine and, of course, lots of friends for the ride. With past veterans of the tour like Mom Jeans and Hot Mulligan making their return, as well as new friends like Pvris and Taking Back Sunday, it’s sure to be one for the books. Not to mention several bands joining the ride for a handful of dates, each with Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, the latest supergroup of our emo hearts, L.S. Dunes, Head Automatica, and Motion City Soundtrack amongst others, it’s sure to be the biggest summer yet.
With a change of location for dates in Mass for the first time, the tour will be hitting one of my favorite summertime venues in Boston, the Leader Bank Pavilion. The tour will be in town a week from Sunday, July 16th, and it’s sure to be one for the books. Doors will open at two pm for this all-day affair, and while seats are still available, they are limited, so scoop your ticket soon here.
To learn a little bit more about this summer’s run, I spoke with Kennedy Brock of The Maine recently, not only about the tour but, of course, the two electric new singles the band has released in anticipation of their ninth full-length album. An insane feat to think about for the long-time mainstays that had a heavy hand in creating Sad Summer Fest. Find our chat below!
To get right into it, you’re about to start your first run on Sad Summer since 2022. From interviewing you in the past as a band, I know you guys had a heavy hand in that initial run before Covid. Maybe how have you been preparing for these sets? I know you were just in the UK, but especially considering the new album that’s about to come out.
Kennedy Brock: Yeah, it’s an exciting time around here. Things are just very chaotic. There’s a lot to be done right now. But it’s good! We are working on our new songs, playing new ones rather, getting ready to add them to the live set. We’ll see how many we add for the summer compared to stuff we might do later in the year or onward with this cycle. But that’s been really fun. And we’ve revamped some other songs we’re working on for the set. And yeah, we actually just wrapped up our rehearsals yesterday. And everybody’s feeling really good and really excited. And yeah, we’re all kind of split off on our own zones right now, getting things ready for the tour. Because as the saying goes, if you want it done right, you got to do it. And we’re doing a lot of stuff right now.
Taking a little time to yourself right now before you jump in.
KB: Yeah! One of the trucks leaves tomorrow morning, and the other one leaves tomorrow night. The reason why I’m mentioning that is because I’m personally making a photo prop for Sad Summer right now in my driveway. I’ve been making this thing for about three weeks; it’s an eight-foot by six-foot television. So it’s pretty big, it’s pretty fun.
And that’s going off in the truck tomorrow?
KB: Yes, it is!
And that tour starts in Florida, right? You’re like a week out?
KB: Yeah, it does. We’re about a week out. And most of the production stuff stays here in Arizona at respective storages. It’s all kind of a chaotic process getting it all going. And then, once it’s all moving, it’s kind of easy to keep moving.
Perfect, then from speaking to John and Jared on that first incarnation of Sad Summer, there was a lot of part on The Maine of getting the tour going. Considering your return to the tour this summer, can you bring us back briefly to how the tour started? I know it was somewhat because of the hole that Warped Tour left, but maybe how Sad Summer first came around.
KB: Yeah, I think that there was definitely a void in Warped Tour’s absence. And I think there was just a reasonable thought to have a gathering of people who wanted to listen to our type of music. So for us, I think we’ve been a part of these festivals since the beginning of our band. And we’ve been going to them, have been fans of things like this for much longer than that. And we just wanted to try our hand at making the experience customized to our liking. We’re always just trying to make the experience something where people feel they got more than they bargained for.
And obviously, your band has experienced something very rare, where for the most part, you’ve remained the same unit since day one. Now in over fifteen years as a band, this album has been chosen to be self-titled. Maybe why this album, if you can say, why did you choose this album as a band to be self-titled? After being in the band for so long.
KB: I don’t know if I can speak for everybody but in my view of how it feels and why it felt right to me. It was personal reasons why I feel like I know who I am at this point. It feels very similar with the band. It felt like the right moment for us to claim, “This is our band.” And I think we may have had that opportunity in the past to do our self-titled. But it’s always just kind of sat in the background. It was cool because we hadn’t done it, so it’s neat to do something new. We’re always kind of trying to do that too.
So I think we went into this record talking about records. We referenced so many whole records that feel cohesive and neat. And we tried to have touched on that many times in the past, but it felt right to feel like this. This one needed to be titled as us and let the music speak for it.
Perfect, and then for this album I know you worked with Colby (Wedgeworth, producer of both “Lovely Little Lonely”( 2017) and “American Candy” (2015)). This was the first time since “Lovely Little Lonely,” working with him again. So obviously a little bit of break of time. So maybe how has it been to return to working with someone who is so familiar with you, everyone in the band, how you produce as musicians? How has that experience been to be back with him?
KB: Yeah, I love Colby. He’s so great. He’s such a great person. He’s such a great vibe. He always brings a lot of really happy energy to our band. As you said, we’ve worked with him a lot over the years. And it’s actually been eight or nine years since we’ve done that record. So it was a long time. He’s a lot of successes in different ways, and we’ve done a lot of different things. And we both have a lot more to bring to the table. Honestly, immediately upon entering the room and starting to work on things, it felt right. We work really well with him. We feel comfortable taking bleeps from our minds, even if they may or may not end up as drastic as we feel. He’s really good at reigning us in and keeping the vision on course. It honestly is such a great experience, and doing it at home in our studio. It’s one of the cooler things. It’s a really rewarding feeling. I know I feel very lucky and fortunate to be doing it in this way.
And then, from looking at some of the episodes of Miserable Youth that the band released, you have this notepad of the songs the band was talking about potentially making the album. Or songs that people were pitching in the band. When it came to this album, were there all kinds of roles that you took on as individuals? Or just something that came naturally?
KB: We bring things to the circle, the conversation, all the time. So much of our band is discussions—everything we do. We’re constantly hanging out together. We have a studio in Tempe. It’s one of those things where we really just end up willing things into existence by talking about them. So when we’re talking about the songs, we are constantly circling back to things and constantly discussing stuff. Going, “Well, what if this one worked with these songs? Would it fit better?” And then sometimes I’m going through the brand new one, which makes you come back to one on the list. I like the way that we made a process over the years where we keep things on the table still, even if they’re not a frontrunner. And it allows for a cool idea to happen later on.
Perfect, then for these first two singles, Blame and How to Exit a Room have already received a good amount of buzz. When did you start writing for this record? It’s not the first album that you’ve made during the pandemic. But when did you start working on this record?
KB: Well, Blame is probably the song that’s been around the longest for us. I’d say we started working on that one around the same time, maybe a little after we worked on Loved You A Little. So it’s actually been kind of taking up our headspace for quite a while. And that song is just a kind of tricky thing that we had been working with. The first rendition of it that we got all the way to mixing even really didn’t do it for us. So we kind of just chopped the song apart and reworked a lot of things. That’s kind of why you can feel that drastic shift of the in-between parts of that song. It’s that we were really kind of referencing songs. And there’s a lot of things in modern music and rap and stuff like that right now that we were thinking was cool. Trying to incorporate that. And “How to Exit a Room” felt through and through very naturally, sounding like our band. And it felt that way from the get-go. So that one was kind of an obvious choice too. So I think it was important for us on this record that we really didn’t really discuss singles. We really were just trying to make our record feel like a record. And the songs that were going to rise to the top were going to rise to the top.
And it’s been three years since everything shut down, but everything is now fully returning. All the big mainstream acts are touring again this year, Taylor, Ed Sheeran, and Beyonce, for example, but everyone’s touring. Everywhere is booked, but as a band, you made a really conscious effort as a band; it felt like to stay connected to your fans during the pandemic. With your live streams, doing the upcoming release show on a day important for you and your fans on 8.1.23. How do you think that helped the band during this chapter?
KB: Yeah, I think everybody was feeling the chaos going on. It felt good just from a comfort perspective to have that connection. So I know it was symbiotic. I know we got as much out of it as everybody else did. I think we’ve always tried to keep a close connection with all of our fans. The things we do, our 8123 Fest is a really good gathering like that. I think when we considered what to do, we had recently got in the studio. We knew we could put on our own streaming shows and things like that. It was fun because we actually got to experience things in a totally different way. I’ve never played a show where I could see a stream of consciousness live. See what people who were listening were thinking. Because when we did some of those shows, we ended up having this big tv screen on in front of us that had the chatroom open. So people, as they were watching, could be typing as we were playing. So as we were playing, we could read what they were typing, and it was pretty funny.
I remember seeing clips of that.
KB: It just felt good to stay connected. And in general, the perks of our band were through the internet and Myspace and getting to connect with people that way. So we’re not really strangers to that way of getting back to people.
Then to end it off. You guys are always so busy playing shows. I know so far for this year, it’s Sad Summer that has been announced, and your Brazil dates have been announced. But being so early in this album cycle, I’m sure there’s more to come that you probably can’t talk about. So maybe to end it off, maybe some goals for you as an artist and within the band this summer as you take on Sad Summer? And I’m sure your fall will be pretty busy as well.
KB: Yeah, man, I’m just excited for a really good summer. We’ve got a really wonderful crew of people with us. The bands that are going out with us are great. I’m excited. We’ve got a lot of really good friends on this tour. I’m excited to be doing a big full tour. It’s been a while since we’ve done a big full one. We’ve been doing a lot of weekend shows and things like that. So I’m excited to get into the groove of things. There are just so many fans and people, friends across the country, that I’m excited to see. And playing new music. Yeah, I think just as the year goes on, we’re going to incorporate more music into the sets and add on more shows. We’ve had enough time sitting around. We’re excited to get to it.