For some, the return of Manchester trio The Maple State has been a long time coming. Almost 10 years to be exact. While its members went off in their individual directions; Greg Counsell now works as a Conservation Biologist, his brother Christian lives in Copenhagen and guitarist Richard Higginbottom is a University Lecturer and publisher, they’ve remained friends. Fast forward to late 2015 where Christian and Richard heard some demos Greg had been working on. It would serve as the catalyst for what would eventually become ‘The Things I Heard At The Party’.
Its combination of wryly observed lyrics and sprightly folked-up indie punk makes ‘The Things I Heard…’ a wise and refined listen. Without a doubt, the intervening years and their individual experiences have had an impact on songs such as ‘Cold Theatre II (Always You)’ and ‘Not Enough’. With indie charm and vibrant melodies, the return of The Maple State is a welcomed one.
Although the trio’s life experiences have helped shaped the ten songs on ‘The Things I Heard…’, we spoke to vocalist/guitarist Greg Counsell about five albums that have influenced the new record. From a modern punk classic, that reignited his hunger to make music, to a classic Mancunian band and more.
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The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past
This album wasn’t so much a musical influence, but hearing it was a definite wake up call for me. Our band had been inactive for a number of years and I had it in my head that we couldn’t possibly be relevant anymore, especially since the scene we grew up in was long gone. But then here was a band the same age as me, they clearly had the same musical reference points and they were vital. I remember listening to it on my way to work and just immediately being excited about making music again.
The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God
Before discovering the Pogues, I had always strived to create something new – new melodies, new structures, new rhythms. But through them, I realised that I could write new music within a folk framework, where melodies are allowed to move naturally. Once I started to study their songs and work out why they moved me, I found that I could twist the obvious. I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel with every song. Realising that I could write a brand new song that followed a traditional progression was my most liberating experience as a songwriter.
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
This album IS Manchester. While other great Manchester artists all bring something to the table, Stone Roses at their peak simply captured exactly what Manchester feels like, it is joyous and arrogant and mad and too smart for its own good. Our musical styles got pulled in different directions as we discovered American post-hardcore and punk bands in the 90’s/00’s, but I feel like our hometown always shone through. No other album has inspired me so much, not just as a musician, but also as a Mancunian.
The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come for Free
Our musical style couldn’t be further from that of The Streets, but the way Mike talks about life on this album blew my mind when I first heard it as a teenager. He populates these trivial, mundane settings with humour and aggression and such poignant, emotional truths. It’s just so real; he captures the whole range of it. I always strive to do the same. No one is ever just one idea, so for me, honest music captures the full spectrum of emotion and character.
The La’s – The La’s
Lee Mavers once said that he doesn’t write songs but he captures them from the ether, and when I listen to this album I know exactly what he means. These songs exist outside of time and influence, they just are. I hear their influence in so many other bands, but this always seems to miss the point. It’s not about emulating the La’s; to capture what is great about it means understanding why they did it – sometimes music just needs to be allowed to exist without too much human interference.
‘The Things I Heard at the Party’ by The Maple State is released on 23rd March on Far Out Records.