MOS Interview: Maple Hill

maple hill ny“Here’s one for dreaming,” and “We’ll finally be the ones who started it all,” are two of the lyrics that stuck out to me the most on Maple Hill’s new album, Headspace. And after talking with Joel Beckwith, the band’s bassist, it seems to me that those lines really encapsulate the ethos of the band.

Maple Hill was formed about three years ago in Ithaca, New York and is made up of Beckwith, drummer St. John Faulkner, lead guitarist Max Gaeta, and vocalist and guitarist Kristian Wood-Gaiger. The pop-punk/alt-rock style that Maple Hill’s music has was something that didn’t really have a place in Ithaca when they got started. Joel went into it saying that “[Ithaca] has a lot of art and culture and a great music scene. However the music scene there isn’t really aimed towards the same music scene that we’re in. We were one of the very few pop-punk or alternative upbeat bands in Ithaca. There’s a lot of folk and even some hip-hop and other types of music, so it’s sort of been a struggle for us to kind of make our own place in the Ithaca scene, but a few venues in particular have been really nice to us and we’ve worked with them a lot, so we’ve gotten a lot of exposure in the town and we’ve made a lot of friends who have really helped promote our kind of new style of music that was growing in the town.” Joel also commented that the band enjoyed playing shows with other bands in completely opposite genres like rap and hip-hop because of the diversity of sound at the show.

Maple Hill is a unique entity in their hometown, but they’re unique in the music scene as a whole as well. The band takes the word independent to a new level. They’ve taken all of their own promo pictures just walking around Ithaca and exploring together, and their music video for “Stomping Grounds,” a track on Headspace, was completely edited by Joel. While still in high school, they decided that they wanted to record their first serious release at Panda Studios in Fremont, California. Panda Studios has seen the likes of State Champs, Basement, and The Story So Far and it was important to the guys to make their record there, but they knew it wouldn’t be easy to pay for. Joel says, “We understood what kind of cost we’d be looking at so we all got jobs. I was a junior in high school. I worked in a kitchen for like thirty hours a week for half a year, just so I could chip in my part to send us all to the studio. Our parents helped a little bit, they bought some of our plane tickets, but the actual studio fee was something we all wanted to work together and self-fund because we didn’t have anyone working with us at that point.”

The demos for Headspace were recorded in St. John’s bedroom, and they were pretty solidly laid out once the band arrived in California. Ryan “Rings” Ellery has extensive experience in the industry and gave the guys some tips and suggestions on what would sound good on a studio produced record. California was a learning experience for the band in other ways too, and Joel calls it, “the most monumental experience I think we’ve had, especially with interacting with the industry.” He goes on to say, “It was great getting to meet everyone there and see how they did everything and just how successful people in the industry interact and all that. So I’d definitely say that it was our biggest insight into that area. But also we’re working with Carry the 4 PR right now and it’s been great being treated as a very serious client and we get to experience how that side of the scene works as well.”

As Maple Hill has grown in experience, they’ve also gained fans and received great reviews in the media for Headspace. Joel says, “The reaction [to Headspace] has been great. We ended up reaching a lot of audiences or people that we didn’t really expect our music would so we’ve gotten reactions from people all over the world and that’s just been an amazing thing to see. And a lot of music magazines and music blogs have taken the time to review our album. I think you guys actually did as well. [We did! Right here.] So it’s been really great just seeing other people’s opinions about us online and just seeing a reaction. This is our first release that we really took seriously and were mature enough to push successfully.”

The record itself is gorgeous. There’s a positivity and hope to it, even on the more solemn songs, that makes you smile. And the instrumentals and vocals are so diverse and polished. Each member’s talent gets showcased throughout Headspace, and Joel says that’s a conscious decision when writing. “We just really like to show that we’re versatile I guess, and we like to be able to show every side of the music and really pull apart our sound at different times, so that’s why we try to feature different parts of songs where there will be two instruments that play together that really might not always do that.” When it comes to writing, it’s a group effort. From the music to the lyrics, everyone gets to play a part. “We all really do pitch in, it’s not all written by one person. It’s kind of our agreed and communal voice I’d say.”

They’re currently spread out, with Joel in college in Rochester, Matt and Kristian in Ithaca, and St. John in Boston. With all of that on their plates, they aren’t really planning to tour the new album until the summer. Joel says, “We have a lot of hopes for it. We’re expecting to do it this summer. We don’t have any solid plans for it, but we decided that we wanted to release the album at the start of the new year. We knew we wouldn’t be able to tour during our second semester because we’re all so busy, so it’s something we really wanna promote online right now and just kind of build a presence or a following in the scene and hopefully once we get that established, that’ll be able to carry us on a tour next summer.” In keeping with the band’s independent style, Joel continutes, “We did one tour last summer and that was great, it was a lot of fun, but we’re probably looking to do a similar thing, maybe self-organized this time. We’ll see.”

I asked Joel if he has a favorite song on Headspace (Mine is “Stomping Ground!”), and he says, “I have a lot of favorites but I’d say “All I Dream About” is quite possibly my favorite just because it’s a little unique. It’s the only 6/8 different time signature song on the album and it just hits really hard and has a different feel than everything else. That one just sticks out a little bit to me and I enjoy listening to it a lot. It’s really fun to play too.”

If you listen to Headspace, you’ll be able to see that Maple Hill has an exciting future ahead of them, and with the recent revival of pop punk and the success that pop punk bands like Knuckle Puck, Neck Deep, State Champs, and Real Friends are seeing lately, there’s a place in the scene for Maple Hill. Joel and the rest of the band dream of touring as their main occupation, playing music festivals and Warped Tour and to, as Joel puts it, “spend the majority of my time out on the road with my best friends doing what I love all over this country and all over the world hopefully.”  He dreams of “having audiences who want to hear us in many places across the world. That’s the big goal for me I’d say.” The band has made their dreams a reality so far, and I have no doubt that they’ll be able to keep doing that. “Here’s one for dreaming.”

You can pick up Headspace by clicking here.

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