What were you doing before The Maxtone Four?
BM: I played bass and sang some for the seriously silly Hotel Faux Pas (www.myspace.com/hotelfauxpas) for nearly ten years. We made some really fun records together, my favorite being our last one, Five Dead Scotsmen. I started developing my own stuff in the last few years I was with them, playing solo acoustic singer/songwriter stuff and regularly hitting open mikes around St. Louis. The first version of Maxtone, the unfortunately titled Brian McClelland band, was formed with friends I’d made at the since-closed Soulard (St. Louis) bar Kennealy’s weekly open mike night.
Tell us three of your musical heroes and what makes them special to you.
BM: It’d be hard to narrow that list down to three! I love so many British Invasion bands, but the one I keep coming back to is the Kinks. Pre- their Soap Opera-era bullshit, they have the most amazing catalogue of pop tunes. Maxtone’s covered their "Ev’rybody’s Gonna Be Happy" on and off for a few years, and I never get tired of singing that sucker. But my favorite record ever, which is equal parts inspiring and depressing, due to the fact that I’ll never make anything so wonderful, is the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle–simply the best collection on heartbreaking pop tunes ever. Oddysey’s opener, "Care of Cell 44", is stunning.
What was the musical environment like at the time while growing up? Lots of power pop music happening? What was the music that first caught your ear and made you say, "Hey, I want to do this."
BM: Squeeze was the first power pop band that I fell in love with–after spending my junior high years hopped up on Rush, Yes, Kansas, prog etc. Glenn Tilbrook is still my favorite voice out there. One of my favorite moments ever was getting on stage with him in Kansas City a few years back to sing the Elvis Costello parts on their co-write "From a Whisper to a Scream". I didn’t stop smiling for a week. And I’d have to mention the stuff I listened to before junior high: my first two concertgoing experiences, Duran Duran and Prince, and–most notably–Rick Springfield’s Working Class Dog. I air guitared my ass off on that one. Can you guess that I grew up with two older sisters? I even remember most of Andy Gibb’s Shadow Dancing.
Any favorite songs from "Hey Hey Do It Anyway" you enjoy playing on stage?
BM: Lately we’ve been adding a lot more harmonies into our live show–we’ve recently added a keyboard player with a really strong voice into the mix–so the songs with more singing, like "Just Say I Know" are the most fun now right now. And "I Fucking Hate This Place" is still as cathartic as it ever was.
Really enjoyed the album, How tough was it for you to find your style?
BM: Thanks! It took me a while, actually. I basically learned to write songs and sing properly during my years in Hotel Faux Pas. If you listen to "Girl in the Window" on their last record you can see the beginning of what we’re doing now in Maxtone. I think that now, with Hey Hey, after developing these songs together as a band and then road-testing them for so long, Maxtone Four has finally kind of grown into itself as a band. As a singer and songwriter, I try not to box myself in, genre-wise. The stuff that I’ve been writing for the two other projects I’m working with, Tight Pants Syndrome (www.tightpantssyndrome.com) and Whoa, Thunder! is definitely coming from a different place than the Hey Hey stuff.
Do you pick up tips from other bands you’ve toured from?
BM: I think we’ve learned the important stuff: if it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing. And that you have to treat every show like it’s your last. And stick plugs in your ears whilst rocking! Or get used to saying "what?" an awful lot.
What? I hear you, Brian and I wish you continued success with the band.