Words, Photos, Video by Jason Anfinsen
At the dawn of emo, The Promise Ring from Milwaukee, Wisconsin were unfairly thrust onto the cover of every smutty rag from Tiger Beat to National Geographic, and after releasing four albums, eventually collapsed under the ill-favored tag of indie rock's young crusaders of the next sonic salvation. Their beer and cheese flavored love anthems exploded with high caloric slabs of winsome vocals, honeybunch lyrics and harefooted guitars that wrangled hearts with flippant potency.
Having practically supported the Delaware basement imprint Jade Tree for three treasure chests in escalating worth and importance, 30 Degrees Everywhere, Nothing Feels Good and Very Emergency, the ring disengaged from the tree and found comfort around the finger of Epitaph Records owner Mr. Brett Gurwitz, whose diversified upstart ANTI- eventually became the resting place for the band's final delivery Wood / Water.
Produced by Viva Hate producer Stephen Street, WW came atop a Tsunami of slowed down melancholy with a somber undertow that weighed the vibrancy of the previous ring trilogy down like an barnacled anchor, which made the appearance of the rather advanced product of restless alchemy, as grotesque to it's bankrolling beneficiary as if it were the wretched face of Cher, or her son MASK.
Damaged beyond recognition yet still coherent, singer Davey von Bohlen and Dan Didier broke off to mix a pitcher of brisk Sunday sunshine called Vermont, the acoustic compound of carefree perspective and high caliber screwdrivers.
When news spread like unmanageable infernos in the breast pocket of Southern California that D.C. spazztastics The Dismemberment Plan went bust, bassist Eric Axelson was summoned to Milwaukee from the District of Columbia and the incubation period, originally named In English, now and forever Maritime, began in the sternum of a ship on a mapless journey into the beating drum of the Bermuda Triangle.
The first effort, Glass Floor, came with more post-breakup garbage than the Braddifer Anglinaiston crucifiction and moments after kickstarting the turbo ignition of the breakthrough cycle We, The Vehicles, bearded bassist Axelson abruptly quit the band in order to focus more on facial maintenance rather than touring, pacifistically demonstrating that he was not as good as the interstates are, Axelson just couldn't take von Bohlen and Didier, that far.
Flash forward to current internet age of free music in the Fall of 2007. No longer pretty in punk and happily married with children, the Milwaukee dad dudes Davey von Bohlen, Dan Didier, former Decibully bassist Justin Klug and guitarist / keyboard whiz Dan Hinz, cornered yours truly at an open table outside of Bauhaus Books and Coffee in Seattle America on a recent pit stop, beaming with the healthy thirty-something faces of extremely happy men. Flameshovel Records released Maritime's third album Heresy, And The Hotel Choir on October 17, a milestone recording that was peacefully configured without battling a single computer in the digital recording arena.
"The joy of Heresy is that we actually started writing it as four individuals crammed in this very small practice space in Milwaukee and only went to the computer after the song was structured so we could have a hands off listening," drummer Dan Dider told me of the band's valuable new commodity, invested in fully by newcomers Klug and Hinz, who each helped craft and design the album as equal shares in the company.
"I think Very Emergency was the last record that we wrote together that we actually were all in the same room. Wood / Water, Glass Floor, We, The Vehicles were all written basically with the aid of a computer. That's a chunk of time where you are kind of like, 'this kind of sucks, we should really focus on just trying to play and not send files back and forth.' So that was the charm of the writing on this record."
"We had to cut ourselves off from pro-tools or whatever tools," von Bohlen admitted. "You start to realize that its not helpful. There's just something missing if you do it 100% online."
"We're dinosaurs," Didier says of the mindboggling intricacies of the worldwide web. "It's the new batch of young bands that know how to design web sites and make blogs and format myspace posts with html. They probably got their first laptop at the age of five."
"I predict that in two years there will be no more internet," von Bohlen jokes. "But really, all we're talking about is forward. There's a whole lot of backward that comes with evolution too. I mean, after your whole record collection on your computer crashes, people are still going to be like 'dude, the Journey double gate fold, it's still here.'"
"It feels good to go back to an organic way of being music," bassist Justin Klug chimed into the convo, hidden beneath a gargantuan beard of Sasquatchian proportions. "Its so much more honest from the four of us that way because we wrote them the way we play them now. And that helps us in every facet."
With astounding vigor, the Maritime men pulverized a young audience at Showbox Theater | Seattle while opening for Jimmy Eat World this past October, with a stoic confidence matched only by fanatical sport enthusiasts in adult softball leagues, where the excitement of performance is its own championship ring.
The unit was tight, as if coached in the off-season by the great Vince Lombardi himself. Didier behind the drum kit made Animal from The Muppet Show look like a punk bitch. von Bohlen tore his throat out and stuffed every last rumble of his alpine delivery through the teeth of an unarmed microphone. Klug's wrinkled bass frothed like an epileptic tornado with Hinz on the keys, chords, and backing vocals, helping to round out this firm and final lineup of first-string cheeseheads.
"With Holes For Thumb Sized Birds"
Live - Maritime At Showbox Theater | Seattle
"With the old band, it was like expectation, expectation, these guys are going to be huge, just you wait, its coming, just wait...the next move these guys are going to make...its going to break them...and it just never happened. Ultimately that becomes un-enjoyable," explained drummist extraordinaire Dan Didier. "That's why that first Vermont record is my favorite record because there was no preconceived notion, there's no expectation. That's basically why Vermont happened, subconsciously. We thought, 'let's just do something where we're not feeling like were kind of at gunpoint by our fans and the media.' With Maritime and especially on Heresy now, I feel the same way I felt doing that Vermont record. I'm just too old to give a shit. I've already done a bunch of shit and I'm over it."
"I don't think you really lose that feeling of the fact that its pretty cool, that throughout all of the personal extensions of our lives now, that we're still a band. That's a huge feat, " von Bohlen says, having already worked alongside producers Casey Rice, Brad Wood, J Robbins, Mario C, Stephen Street and Stuart Sikes in an electric hodgpodge of projects from Cap N' Jazz to Jimmy Eat World. "If we get blogged about we can't control that or worry about that or whatever the notion of success is. We're still a band and were pretty proud of that."
"When you got nothing you got nothing to lose," said Dan Hinz, who participated on two of the band's three releases. "I think you sit back and look at the things you have to put out, and to make three records, and the band is still a whole, that's nuts. There's always a yearn for more, but I think we are very appreciate of what has happened so far."
While muttering this deep thought before dashing off to suffocate the blaring cry of his weeping mobile, Dan Didier provides a poignant outline. "Expectation kills bands. And this band has no expectations."