Since The Maccabees came to an end in 2017, frontman Orlando Weeks has turned his focus on more thematic projects. Months after the band disbanded, he released The Gritterman, an alternative Christmassy story he wrote, illustrated and composed the soundtrack for. Now, his attention is on documenting a much more profound experience on his debut solo album proper – becoming a father.
- Read more: Orlando Weeks live in London: former Maccabees frontman wows with meditative new material
‘A Quickening’ (announced today and due for release on June 12) sees him swap the guitar-led indie thrills of his past for piano lullabies that capture the emotions and anticipation of impending parenthood. “There’s often a reason why something has become a cliché and I think that’s the case as something as broad an experience as waiting for your firstborn,” he tells us of the range of feelings bottled on the record.
NME caught up with Weeks to talk about how a reluctant frontman deals with becoming the sole focus in the spotlight, giving himself a souvenir of a monumental moment in his life, and whether he misses the band he led into being one of Britain’s finest modern groups.
You started playing songs from the album on tour last year before you’d released anything – did you see those dates as a kind of road test, an experimenting ground?
“Yeah, exactly that and also just to give me a bit of a change of scenery – to take me out of the studio and force me to listen to the songs in a different way. I was working on it for so long and you know it’s real but you’re also not entirely sure if it really exists. So you put some dates in the book and all of a sudden it’s not a vanishing horizon of when something can be ready by. It had to be ready in a good enough state to present to people and I knew that if it didn’t work it added a sense of jeopardy to everything. It needed to work for me to feel like I still had confidence in the music. It worked enough for me to hold my nerve and finish the record.”
So what did that tour tell you about what you wanted to do with the album?
“Well, [on the tour] I didn’t try and note-for-note recreate the record because it would have been impossible and to have enough musicians to do it would have been so absurdly expensive. I found people to play with that were extremely good musicians and then tried to play to their strengths, so the songs were pushed and pulled around a bit, but they managed to hold together. The people that came to those gigs were so patient with what they were listening to and were so still, I felt like that couldn’t just be politeness. I couldn’t believe that would be the only thing keeping everyone from chatting – or worse. So it reassured me.”
You always seemed like quite a reluctant frontman when you were in The Maccabees. How do you feel about being the sole focus for this project?
“I suppose I’m just not very good at being at the front of the stage and bossing everyone around. But I can feel like I can justify everything – you’re asking me questions about the record and I feel like I can back it up. I feel legitimate as an authority on this record. I don’t feel like a fraud. Sometimes I think it must be fun being a proper frontman. I sometimes think I should go and do some frontman classes. I don’t know if they do those. They probably call them something else.”
With the live show this time, you’re nestled among the band at the back – does the comfort factor come into that arrangement?
“Yeah, I feel more comfortable in amongst it rather than out front. When we were rehearsing, we played better when we could see where everyone else was and watch each other’s hands. It’s more fun for me to watch what they’re doing as well. It might just be that it’s different from what I’ve done for such a long time. So maybe that’ll work into where I’ll find that I crave the spotlight more, but at the moment I’m having a nice time being nestled.”
This album is probably your most personal release yet. What changed to make you want to share more of your life?
“I didn’t consider the writing of it too much, but I’m very proud of it and I feel like it honours and documents something in a way that doesn’t make me and my family feel like it’s too invasive. It’s a record where I’m bearing witness to something. I think I would feel differently about that period of our life if photographs were my only link back to it. As with making anything or having the time to write music, it’s a luxurious position to be in and I’m grateful for having this alternative memento.”
‘Safe In Sound’ in particular is about waiting for your son to be born. What was that time like for you?
“The whole record is about the anticipation of him and our experience, apart from ‘Milk Breath’, which is obviously about after he was born. But that time was long and short. It went in the blink of an eye but in the moment it felt stretched.”
You’ve said you were grateful for the structure music gave you in that time…
“The structure that writing gave me, yeah. I found it quite hard to listen to music. For some reason, I found it less consoling than usual, but maybe that’s because I was trying to write. It gave me the opportunity to hold on to some of the experiences for longer than perhaps I otherwise would have done and the feelings around those experiences. It meant that I had very tiny snapshots of a very grand and monumental experience.”
I am extremely proud to finally be able to share with you the title and artwork for my new album. “A QUICKENING” will be released this summer on June the 12th. You can pre-order it now https://t.co/6XimuoeyKf
— Orlando Weeks (@OrlandoWeeks) April 14, 2020
You achieved so much with The Maccabees. What kind of aims do you have for this project?
“I would love to keep making records and feel like I can make a living doing that, that would be a success. Playing this last run of shows and getting to play in slightly bigger rooms that I’d never played in before is another thing I’m enjoying.”
This solo project seems to be all about new things for you – new venues, new musicians, etc. Do you ever miss the old times with The Maccabees?
“I really miss spending time with them and getting to see them socially, but I’m having a really nice time with this. Making this and putting this into the world, trying to figure out how to best represent it and not having to ask [anyone else] or run it through that particular ringer feels like a pleasure. I would like to see the others more often but I don’t miss that aspect of it.”
Orlando Weeks releases ‘A Quickening’ on June 12.