A Conversation with Garrett Nickelsen of The Maine


The Maine is a band that seems uninterested with the expected. For almost ten years now they’ve continually marched to the beat of their own drum – blurring the lines of genres and scenes, experimenting with their sound across albums, all while building a fanbase that is buckled in for the long haul. The only thing most interesting than the ever-evolving, ever-changing sound of The Maine is their fanbase that has seemingly multiplied exponentially with the release of each new album. The Maine seems to have a bar set for themselves that they raise a little bit every time they’re going to put out a new album.

The Maine is currently gearing up for the release their sixth album Lovely, Little, Lonely due out on April 7th, along with national and international full-length tour. I recently had to chance to chat with bassist Garrett Nickelsen of the Maine about the new album, the upcoming tour and ten years as a band. Nickelsen was warm, funny and oozing with a genuine humility during our conversation, leaving me incredibly excited for this next body of work from Tempe, AZ based The Maine. Check out the full conversation below and be sure to grab your tickets for their upcoming tour HERE.

Twin Cities Media: So you said you’re calling from your car, but tell me where exactly you’re calling from? Are you guys still down in Arizona gearing up for the tour?

Garrett Nickelsen: Yeah, we’re home right now, we start practice in a couple days to get the set ready for the tour. First we go to the UK and then pretty much right after that we shoot out to Denver and start the tour.

TCM: Yeah, it looks like a pretty extensive tour that you guys are going to be heading out on. So what is practice and preparing, just logistically even, for that look like? Going overseas and then coming back and it’s what almost, two/three months on the road?

GN: Yeah, it’s uhh, it can kind of be a lot (laughs). Normally it’s not too hectic. But since it’s the first tour on the new record, and the new record is coming out soon, it can be a little hectic, just because we have to learn new stuff. And just making sure everything feels good for the first chunk of shows on the record you want it to be kind of special. It can be a little hectic, but I think we’re prepared (laughs).

TCM: I was going to say, you guys have been doing this for a while now, so does it feel like it’s gotten easier, the whole going on the road thing, or how has that process of just even preparing, making a set list, etc., changed for you guys over the years?

GN: I mean, it’s definitely gotten a whole lot easier. You know when we first started touring I was 17. You know, like just being out of high school and instead of moving out of your house for the first time, I moved into a van. So you know things have gotten a lot easier, you’re use to it, the family is pretty use to me being gone a lot. It’s probably harder for them when I’m home than it is when I’m gone (laughs).

TCM: Right, right. A different pace of life I’m sure.

GN: Yeah, but you know – it’s still super fun and we still really enjoy doing it. And you know we still get the rush from playing shows. Definitely can’t complain.

TCM: Right. And it seems like you guys have a really engaged and unique fanbase. I don’t want to say like “cult-following,” because that sounds weird, but definitely a loyal fanbase so I’m sure that still makes going out on the road fun and exciting, like you said.

GN: Oh totally. There’s people who will like go to 10 shows on one tour. So it’s really awesome, and I think it’s probably what most bands wish they can do. So we don’t take it for granted for sure.

TCM: Right, right. That was something I kind of wanted to dive a little deeper into hopefully today. I mean, I’ve followed you guys for a while now, you know I’m going to be 25 this year too so I’m like right in that demographic that kind grew up with you guys.

So tell me how you feel you guys have grown that fan-base that you have? Because it has become this unique, special thing. I mean, not a lot of bands have fans that are coming out to 10 shows and the whole culture of being from Arizona, how do you feel you’ve cultivated that and grown that fan base? If that makes sense…

GN: Yeah, totally. It’s one of those things that it’s (pause), you try to put into words, and yet you really can’t. We’re just really thankful that people you know, attach to what we’re doing, but honestly all we’re trying to do is do things that we would want to see in other bands that we grew up doing. Just meeting people and trying to be as real as possible. And you know the whole “being a band” thing can get pretty like…well, people have a certain idea of who you are and that’s definitely not what we’re trying to do.

We’re just trying to seem like 5 dudes who like playing music and hopefully you’ll enjoy the music, or at least get something out of it. Just trying to be a good person.

It’s a strange thing, for sure. But we’re really thankful. You know, we just had our 10 years of being a band and that’s so crazy to me.

TCM: That has to feel weird and cool at the same time.

GN: Yeah, it’s like the first time where I felt like we’ve been doing this for a while. But when I try to think back on it, it’s like things have just flown by.

I still remember being 18 and having our first album come out, and that honestly doesn’t feel that long ago.

TCM: And I feel like nobody prepares you for that. Like I was just even seeing shows that are coming up of different bands that it’s been 10 years. And no one really tells what that’s going to be like. I mean in your guys’ shoes, you’ve been a band for 10 years, or on the other side of it, it’s being a fan, like “wow I’ve been listening to this band for 10 years.” That’s a long time, but it went by so quickly, it just kind of flies by.

GN: Yeah, and I mean the most things we hear about, when we talk to people that have been in bands a long time, is just that they’re just really jaded. They think that because they’ve been doing it for so long they deserve something. And like, I’m happy that I still feel like we haven’t been doing it for that long, because it makes me not feel that way. I’m still just excited and I don’t feel like I deserve anything because we’ve been doing this for so long. It’s like…that’s what’s crazy, I can’t believe that that’s how people view it. But some people are definitely different (laughs).

TCM: Yeah, right, right. Everybody’s is different, but I think that is something that seems refreshing about you guys. Is it still seems like you enjoy it. And that was something I jotted down as I was preparing, it just seems like you guys all genuinely like each other as well. Just as a band, and the team you have around you. So I’m sure that has to kind of help as well, doing it with people you actually enjoy.

GN: Totally. And, it’s still being excited about doing it. And you know, I think at the end of the Forever Halloween cycle, it was kind of a lower point for us, just not really sure what to do next. And I think putting out American Candy kind of kicked us into like “super stoked” mode again and it felt like we started over. And that kind of carried over to the new record Lovely Little Lonely, so it’s like this feeling of putting out the second album, instead of putting our sixth.

TCM: Totally. And American Candy definitely had a different feel than Forever Halloween. I don’t want to say more upbeat, but it definitely had a different feel. A friend of mine and I were talking about the song, what is it, Am I Pretty?

GN: Mmhmm, yeah!

TCM: Something about that song, and I don’t know maybe it’s just this season life that we’re in, and probably the season of life you guys are in, but it felt so relevant. And I think re-energized my excitement about you guys. And I don’t know if you felt that way about your fan base, but something about that song was really just striking.

GN: Yeah. For me, it was one of those songs that usually by the end of a record cycle, you’re kind of sick of playing some the new stuff. But that song in particular it feels like the first time we’re playing it again. There’s just an excitement behind it that’s really cool and I’ve never really felt before, which is awesome.

TCM: So now with this album that you guys have coming out, you guys did this all on your own, right? Produced, recorded independently, correct?

GN: Well we had our friend Colby Wedgeworth, who helped produce Pioneer, he mixed Forever Halloween, and he produced American Candy. He came back and produced it with us. But yeah, it was all our own gear, we rented a house, or did an AirBnB, in this place called Gualala, California. And brought our own gear up there. It’s like three hours north of San Francisco. And it was right on the cliff of this ocean, and we just looked over the ocean and made the record.

So yeah, it wasn’t in a traditional studio, it was in house (laughs).

TCM: Yeah, which I’m sure was just a whole different process. How did you guys kind of make that decision or end up where you were recording that? What was the decision process like to do that?

GN: Well, um, you know…

TCM: Or were you guys just like “we want to go in the woods and make a record.”

GN: Ok, well the original plan was we really wanted to try to go out of the United States to make the record. So we were thinking about going to Puerto Rico and that was kind of in our head for a while. But then expenses got pretty high on that so we thought, well let’s figure somewhere else out that has that same feel,  but we can actually just drive to. And so our manager, Tim, found some AirBnBs, and we just picked out one and it ended up being amazing. It was beautiful and a perfect place to make an album. Yeah, it was kind of….it felt like how I pictured the album, when I heard the demos and whatnot. Like the view I saw is definitely how I was picturing it, so it was pretty incredible.

TCM: Right, for that just to come together like that. Like this is how I saw it in my head and this is also what is happening right now.

GN: Yeah, yeah – totally.

TCM: I’m sure that was cool.

So maybe the answer to this is obvious, but do you feel like you guys being in that space and just a little bit DIY with the album, has given you the creative freedom and ability to make the record that you want. Like you said earlier, what would you guys want to hear from bands if you were standing on the other side of the stage. Just more of that freedom in the creative process to do what you guys want to do.

GN: Yeah, I mean, it completely affected the record. When we first started talking about the album John (O’Callaghan) had an idea of it making it feel like you’re floating in the ocean or you’re in the bottom of a pool all by yourself, and you have this feeling of aloneness, but you’re ok with it. And you know waking up everyday and looking out at the ocean, it just breeds that. And you know we did things like record the ocean.

We really wanted the whole album to connect, together. And I mean, we’ve been trying to do that on records for, I couldn’t tell you how long. But we finally did it. And yeah, the mood is the exact thing we imagined.

It’s definitely the most proud I’ve been of something, it feels like we nailed a moment and nailed exactly what we were trying to do.

TCM: That has to be a good feeling.

GN: (laughs) Totally! I’ve never felt like that.

TCM: I can imagine that would feel really rewarding and just accomplished too.

So I guess another thing I noticed, it seems like the visuals and the aesthetics for this album, and for all your albums, is a very distinct thing. So along with the sound changing and developing or whatever you want to say, so have the visuals. So I’m curious how you guys go about working that in? Because it does create a cohesive experience. So how do you go about engaging those people (videographers, photographers, artists) and working that into the recording process?

GN: Yeah, it’s definitely something we talk about. On a couple of the albums, and this one in particular, we shot the cover of the album before we even recorded the record. We had the image in our head for a long time. It’s kind of like…. you’re not really trying to be like “ok the record needs to be captured in this one photo.” That’s like too thought out. But you’re trying to get the image to somewhat, I guess, zone in a little bit on the album.

It’s stuff we try to talk about it. It doesn’t 100%  get done exactly right every time. But I think if you try it sometimes make it seem bigger than it actually is (laughs).

You know, we’re not the most visual band. You look at Pink Floyd or something and their visuals and music align perfectly. They’re probably one of the best at it. But you try to take some sort of cues from people like that. But you know, it is what it is. It’s difficult when you’re not the most uh visually capable person. I think we got as close to nailing it as we ever have on this one.

TCM: You feel like that about the most recent record?

GN: Yeah on Lovely, Little, Lonely. Just the hands in the water. And there’s other photos within the record that give in more background. We attempt (laughs).

TCM: Right, versus not trying at all. And then you’re like what I’m hearing and what I’m seeing are two different things.

GN: Totally.

TCM: So you’re gearing up for this tour. And I saw on social media you guys engaging with fans about what people want to hear. But give us a little preview, without giving too much away, of what we can expect from this tour?

GN: We’re definitely going to play some new stuff, which I’m really excited about. We’re running over some really old stuff that I don’t think we’ve done since like 2009, or even before that. We kind of got in a groove of tunes we were doing a lot on the American Candy record, even with older stuff, and we kind of wanted to flip it on it’s ass and just do stuff different. So I think people are going to be excited about hearing some older stuff. And then hopefully super excited about hearing the new stuff too.

TCM: So sort of in that same vein, something I wanted to ask you about is, well you’ve been a band for nearly ten years. But at the same time, this isn’t a 10-year anniversary tour. And it seems like you guys were pretty intentional about not having it be a 10 year anniversary tour. So I was wondering if you could talk about that a little bit.

GN: Yeah, I mean you kind of go back and forth. We did the festival for our 10 years. And that was kind of the big thing we thought was special. We did the 8123 festival and we had all of our friends come out to Arizona.  And it was our biggest headlining show we’ve ever done. So that definitely felt great.

But for the tour stuff, it’s such a hard thing. Because your ego definitely gets in the way, because you know the first record doesn’t completely mean everything to me anymore. There’s still some songs that I still like, and there’s some songs that I would never listen to again if I didn’t have to. Your ego gets in the way, but then you realize it does mean something to people. And there are records that I would love bands to play in full.

And then, you’re like, I don’t want it to feel like a money grab or something. So it’s a battle of what you’re trying to do. So I think if we did do something like that, we’d do it in a way that felt super special. Not like “give us all your money!” (laughs).

TCM: Right, right. And not like just play your first album and nothing else.

GN: Yeah. So you know, it’s a battle I guess but it’s alright. If that’s the hardest thing I have to figure out then I feel like I’m doing alright.

TCM: Right, exactly! Like if that’s your big problem for the day, that’s probably ok.

GN: If I have to worry about what songs I’m gonna play, I’m still doing something right.

TCM: Right! Like life is ok, life’s not that hard.

GN: Totally.

TCM: I guess I was thinking about that because there was another band who came through town doing the 10 year anniversary thing and we were covering that. And it was a lot of fun from our side of things to just enjoy it. But it was interesting in my mind, I don’t know if I was doing it intentionally, but I was contrasting it with what you guys are doing. And as I was watching that band it just felt very nostalgic, and it took me back to different time. But when I listen to you guys, it doesn’t feel nostalgic. It’s feels like this is just a band that I really like.

So I guess it was just interesting to note, because like you guys said, this is not a 10-year anniversary tour.

GN: Totally! Well thank you for thinking that (laughs). It makes me not want to do one of those.

TCM: So, I did want to ask, just with the prominence you kind of have in your scene or arena or whatever you want to call it, with the 8123 Festival and whatnot, do you feel like you guys have kind of been a catalyst for other bands? Have you been recording with some of those bands that you had at the festival or what has that been like with those relationships?

GN: Yeah, yeah. Nick Santino, he was in A Rocket To The Moon, and now he’s in a band called Beach Weather. He was doing his solo stuff a few years ago, and Pat, our drummer, actually recorded that record for him. A lot of us played on that record. And then Beach Weather, his new project, was actually recorded at my house from my roommate, Sean Silverman who was in a band called This Century, that we’ve toured with. And actually Beach Weather is coming out on this spring tour with us.

And then The Technicolors, the guy who recorded the Beach Weather record, is in that band, which we tour with quite often.

So we have a group called 8123, it’s our crew of buds and friends who are all under the same management. And that’s what the festival is called is the 8123 Festival. Not everyone on that festival is under that management company, but it’s people we’ve toured with. Or like The Summer Set, we grew up with those guys.

TCM: Yeah, this seems like a community for sure. I just couldn’t tell if it was something was geographically, or just the people you guys grew up with or toured with.

GN: It’s a little of both, I guess. It’s a lot of people that are working with are from Phoenix. But there are people from all around. It’s a cool thing.

TCM: So I guess to finish up, and maybe you guys are asking yourselves this, but where do you see The Maine going in 5-10ish years? What are you guys hoping to do next? I know maybe that’s not fair since you just finished a record, but I’m just curious where you guys see this going in the next 10 years?

GN: Well definitely hoping to still make albums. Personally, I love for us to get an actual spot where we can move all our recording gear in, that way we can be recording more often, over different periods of time. That would be super ideal. We’ll see how realistic that is in the future.

But I mean, this 10 years has gone by pretty quick so if still feels like this is 10 years, then I’m the luckiest guy on earth.

TCM: Right, and like you said I’m sure that is where most band want to get to. Like if you can do the thing you love and have people who want to listen to it, that’s a great place to be.

So tell me real quick who’s coming on tour with you guys?

GN: Beach Weather, it’s dudes from Boston, Nashville and Phoenix. And a band called The Mowgli’s, and we just met them and played with them on Saturday and they seem like really nice people. And they both put on really good live shows. So I think it’s gonna be energy filled, and I’m excited for people to hear the new record!

TCM: Well we’re really excited too. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us this afternoon! Can’t wait to have you up here in Minneapolis!