Maxïmo Park frontman, Paul Smith, talks to Sinead Mathews about his hatred of typical lead singers, his love of Jay Z and his pursuit of the romantic life…
IT CAN’T BE easy to become the lead singer in an already formed band, especially if you have no real singing experience. Yet Paul Smith, frontman of Maxïmo Park seems to have taken it all in his stride.
After being discovered by drummer, Tom English’s girlfriend while belting out Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ in a nightclub, Paul now admits that he had some less than flattering preconceptions of singers. “I’d never imagined singing in a band.” he explains. “I always thought that the singers were kind of ego-maniacs, you know the guys around town who thought quite a lot of themselves.”
Luckily for all those Maxïmo Park fans, his life was rather boring working in a call centre so he tried his hand at singing “for the laugh really”. Yet somehow, it seemed like he was made for the band and his voice fitted in nicely with their sound.
Although Paul was a latecomer, the band has become very close and with concerts that see them tour the world they still can’t believe how lucky they are to have met.
“There are moments when we are on tour and stuff when you just step back and go ‘wow, we’re lucky to know each other’, because it is that chemistry between us that makes the music what it is,” he exclaims. “We were in Slovenia the other week and it was really beautiful and we were just walking around going, ‘how did we get here?’”
And despite being the frontman, Paul refuses to take full credit for any of their hits and insists that writing songs is a joint effort, which he believes makes their band a lot closer.
“We were recording the new album, and went to see Jay Z in Los Angeles – that was amazing.”
“I think in other bands, it becomes a bit of an issue and the singer writes all the songs. Either that or there’s one person who has all the power, but that’s distributed evenly among our band and avoids any of those real, proper ‘I’m leaving the band’ arguments.”
Yet this band didn’t just take a chance with their singer, they also take risks with their music, refusing to fit into just one category as they dabble in all genres. Paul explains that this is the reason they call themselves a “pop” band.
“[Pop] means that our music doesn’t get lost in any genre. I don’t want people to go ‘yeah that’s indie music’ and only people who like indie music can like it. I think that’s very restricting,” he states.
“I think people underestimate what you’re capable of listening to depending on the type of music that you make. When we were recording the new album, we went to see Jay Z in Los Angeles and that was amazing.” The group also want people to acquire a deeper meaning from their songs and they are wary of becoming part of the commercial dross that is constantly being churned out.
“We don’t want to forget the fact that they’re pop songs. But you do want to kind of throw a spanner in the works, so that people have to listen two or three times to a song instead of getting it first time and being sick of it when it’s on the radio for the thirtieth time.”
So just how do they find material for songs, as they continually delve in and out of different styles? “My lyrics tend to come from experience. I think everyday is quite amazing. You could be walking the streets and you pick up on something you’ve never seen before in these familiar streets,” he says contemplatively.
“There’s a romance to everyday life and just being with somebody or being in a certain place to me – it’s constantly inspirational if you can remember to be inspired.”
Maxïmo Park’s new album Quicken the Heart is released on 11th May.