Maximo Park’s hook-driven alt-rock is about to reel in a huge crowd at Glasgow’s TRNSMT festival when RESOUND catches up with singer Paul Smith and guitarist Duncan Lloyd. 

Duncan Lloyd and Paul Smith of Maximo Park | Pic: Calum Mackintosh

With seven studio albums under their belts, the band are currently a three-piece with original member Tom English on drums. The self-confessed ‘art-rockers’ chat to us about right-wing politics, art and their upcoming Singular Tour, which promises to be a celebration of singles which have coloured our lives from 2004’s debut Graffiti to latest release, Great Art.

Ever-dapper Smith is ready to hit the stage, telling us “I’ve had a shave, put some fancy shoes on, I’m just getting dolled up really,” the look complete, of course, with trademark trilby which somehow remains on his head despite all his vigorous dance moves including the occasional high kick and scissor jump. 

Maximo Park’s lyrics are laced with references to recent issues, with Why Must A Building Burn, from last year’s Nature Always Wins, influenced by the Grenfell fire and Bataclan shootings. So with the political pantomime playing out at the moment and ongoing conflicts like the war in Ukraine, are new ideas brewing for future releases?

“Yes, everything seeps in,” says Smith, 

Society has a kind of osmotic effect on our consciousness as do more personal things. The songs end up being a mishmash of all those different concerns.

“You never know which one’s going to pop into your head or be good enough to be used in a song because you can write a lyric and think ‘yes, this is really sticking it to the man’ and then it’s just not very good, so it can’t go in!”

“Our latest single Great Art is a track which didn’t fit on the last album, Nature Always Wins, so it’s kind of a stand alone single, but it’s basically about right-wing politics and the idea that we have someone in power who’s the lowest of the low. Across the pond there’s been a lot of that discussion too, it’s been the same sort of thing since David Cameron got in to power, people have been saying ‘yeah well you know, at least we’ll get some great art out of it’. It’s meant to be a little bit of a jab at that, but also a bit tongue in cheek like ‘is this great art or not? Is this good enough?’” Hmm I think we know the answer to that…

Smith goes on to say, “Great Art talks about climate change in one line and then Brexit in another, which we don’t really know the full effects of yet. It’s the same for all these seismic political decisions, we won’t know the full effects until it’s too late. It’s incremental, they don’t just hit you in the face. Of course there are certain issues that hit the headlines but it’s the other things that seep in that are really worrying and it will be 20 years later before you find out that a policy was really harmful to people.”


With both Smith and Lloyd being former art students it’s no surprise that the band also draw influence from art, Smith explaining,

references to art are always there and with Nature Always Wins we used our friend Laura Lancaster’s painting on our cover.

He’s also thrilled to add that although Lancaster’s an internationally renowned artist, she’s also their friend who he went to art college with, as well as being in a band with them. “With each record we have signifiers that people can pick up on, I suppose,” says Smith. “It’s a subliminal effect but to us we’re kind of art rock, you know it’s rock but there’s an art to it, we have a love of art that sinks in. And although it might have seemed a bit heavy handed before, now seven albums down the line we can go ‘yes here’s some art on the front.’”

Lloyd adds, “I think with the artwork, you almost put more pressure on yourself when you’re first starting out. It’s quite intense, you want to get who you are as a band across almost immediately. But as you go through the albums you become more relaxed, which can be seen with this album where we’ve used artwork that we care about but that also links to the album. It’s so different from our first album’s artwork (A Certain Trigger). That one’s a bit of a slap in the face, but on Nature Always Wins you’re kind of drawn to it in in a different way and I guess that comes with…age!”


Yes, you can get away with a lot of stuff using the old age excuse, but why not? They’ve surely earned that right and with age comes bolder actions, as Smith explains. “When we were younger we were like this is us, deal with it, in your face sort of thing and we didn’t want to repeat ourselves musically so kept trying to find different angles to be us on the different albums. Eventually we went ‘ah all of them sound like us in some way’ even when we were doing more electronic stuff like Brain Cells and Leave This Island on Too Much Information (Maximo Park’s fifth studio album). These songs were quite radical but they still somehow sounded like us so we became more comfortable with the sound.”


Literature also influences their work, with Smith’s love of books seeing him diverge into the world of literature. He hosted several Penguin Podcasts where he interviewed authors about their works and objects that inspired their writing and tells me that although he’s not doing them anymore, he will be in conversation with poet Michael Pedersen the following week about his book Boy Friends, which looks at male friendships and his friendship with Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison (published by Faber).


With writing in mind, although Lloyd was the founder member of the band who penned first single, Graffiti, how much involvement does he now have in the songwriting process?

“Paul does the lyrics and I write the music mainly and then there’s a little dabbling in between. For the last album we were down to three original members and it was a real challenge to us, we even asked ourselves ‘can we do this?’ It was Paul, myself and Tom who’s on drums and a great arranger.”

Having to do it separately due to the pandemic was a bit of a challenge. But we proved to ourselves more than anything that we could write good songs and so in a way it was bringing Maximo Park right back to where it began.

Paul goes on, “it was helpful that we worked with Ben Allen who we knew was a great producer and could also play a bit of keys and bass. Dunc also played a bit of keys and bass and all of a sudden we had a band and did it all remotely with this guy (Ben) in Atlanta! Although we were a bit worried that it would be less unified than the other Maximo Park records, it worked and I think that’s what we were really proud of.”

Maximo Park live at TRNSMT | Pic: Calum Mackintosh


Outside of the recording studio, they’ve got the Singular Tour coming up in the autumn. Asking why they decided that this was right time to tour the singles, Smith keeps it simple, “well, we had a new single but we didn’t have an album!” Lloyd adds that “in some ways it gives us a bit of space to think of where we’re going to go next as a band and it’s good to do something that connects us with our fans.”  He explains that along with the die hard following there are plenty new fans too. 

It’s quite interesting seeing the audience change and develop, with other generations coming in. In someways it’s almost like reintroducing ourselves after the whole Covid thing, it’s like this is who we are, come along, see if you enjoy it!

From the reaction to their performance of singles Girls Who Play Guitars, Our Velocity, Going Missing and Apply Some Pressure at TRNSMT, anyone going along to the Singular Tour is in for a top night and Smith’s feeling pretty upbeat about it.

We haven’t played some of these songs in years. It’s a kind of celebration because we don’t look back generally. We did a 10 years anniversary tour as a laugh which ended up being bigger than we expected, and this is what it’s going be like with the Singular Tour, let’s do the singles and just knock them out for a laugh!

So with two nights at Glasgow’s Barrowlands on the tour, how does this really differ from stadium or festival gigs? Paul says there are “pluses and minuses to everything… with a big show, there’s this communal feel, looking out into a huge crowd is kind of amazing but you also wonder is everybody is hearing it ok? Are they seeing it? Can they feel the energy? Whereas in smaller venues you’re more likely to get that, everyone’s closer to the action and that’s great. But again, some people just love that festival experience of having a pint, having a good time and really it’s just a different experience for them.”

As for playing to people who are not there to specifically see you, Paul says “I like the fact that someone can be walking around with a hot dog and hear us play then think ‘this is my new favourite band!’” 

For all the people who come along to see lots of bands, you want to be one of their highlights! I have the same attitude to every gig, I always want it to be the best gig people have seen that year, I want them to go home and say I had a good time.

That’s exactly what I said 16 years ago when I last saw Maximo Park play, and wonder if Smith still has the same energy he had that night, cavorting around the stage, ensuring it was my best gig of the year. “We’ll see,” he smirks. And to be honest, nothing had changed, though I did fear for him during what I think was a scissor jump. There was even an addition to his repertoire, a couple of dad dance moves, not surprising now he’s a parent. With that in mind, has parenthood had any influence on their music?


“We’re all dads (Paul, Tom and Duncan)” he says. “Nature Always Wins is about human nature, how you pass things on, how your behaviour affects those around you and I suppose with being a parent you become more attuned to that. You read about what state the world is in for your child’s future more than ever and all those things add up. But there are also those little moments in life that you have as parents. Some of those things ended up on the last record. Baby Sleep is me walking around a shopping centre pushing a pram, going ‘I’m knackered, what’s going on here? I’m delusional.’” Oh yes I’ve been there too, Paul. Mind you, it’s hard to visualise this spruced up version of Mr Smith slumming it round the shops in his trackies, which he claims to wear when he’s not “dolled up” for a show. Then again, if he wore his trilby and all this get up his daughter would eventually become maximo embarrassed…


The trio are fans of sparkling Dutch quartet Pip Blom, who’ll be supporting them on the upcoming tour, and have a TRNSMT slot which unfortunately overlaps the Maximo Park set. So how do they choose their support acts?

“We’re very hands on with how we select them,” explains Lloyd. “We always want to choose bands who we like and we don’t go for the old standard, like ‘blokey bands’. I think for us it’s really important to give the stage to younger acts who are coming through.”


Touring in Europe is becoming more and more challenging thanks to Brexit and it’s lashings of red-tape, along with the rocketing fuel prices and general cost of living. These guys are obviously feeling the pinch like everyone else. So does that change their touring outlook? 

“We’ve looked at our budgets this year and yes there’s no avoiding this cost of living crisis that everyone’s dealing with,” says Smith. “We’re in a business where we travel, and playing in Europe isn’t looking like a great job from a financial point of view at the moment, compounded by the Brexit issues. But we’ve got our tour in September and we’re kind of lucky because we’ve got a fan base already and people will turn up but for younger bands it can be harder. There’s also the fuel issue. One of the sad things about being in a band is that we have to use fuel to get around and as we all become more conscious of environmental issues, going forward we’ll be looking at different ways to offset it if we can.”

So will they be trying out a spot of camping or sleeping in their van to keep costs down? Lloyd says “this isn’t even our dressing room, we had be beg for one, we were just stood round the back of the vans earlier.” Hmm the gourmet chips van maybe…


Before we leave them, one last question. With Boris grudgingly handing in his notice, who should be the next Prime Minister (and thankfully, in this hypothetical world it doesn’t have to be a Tory). Anyway at first we thought Smith suggested Bet Lynch. Ok, she’s fictional and dead but to be honest she’s still a better option that the big blond we’ve almost got rid off. Anyway, it turns out he actually jokingly said Mick Lynch. Yes, that sounds more like it and the Mick option is definitely a better one! Lloyd’s happy for anyone outside the Tory party to take the honour. No surprises for guessing what chant was resonating around Glasgow Green when these guys took to the stage later. “F*** the Tories”. It might just end up on the Singular Tour!

Nature Always Wins, with its beautiful cover artwork, is out now and you can find dates for the Singular Tour on the Maximo Park website:

Interview and Words: Shirley Mack.@musingsbymarie
Pictures: Calum Mackintosh @ayecandyphotography