Maxïmo Park singer discovered while crooning





Paul Smith (wearing the hat) and the rest of Maxïmo Park play Richard’s on Richards on July 23.


“You see (karaoke bars) on every street corner ... from Wednesday to Sunday (you can) walk by and hear someone belting something out tunelessly.”

Perhaps the quirkiest of the earthly pleasures discussed in Maxïmo Park’s album of the same name are karaoke bars.

Singer Paul Smith, who was discovered by the band while crooning, said they litter the streets of his hometown of Newcastle.

“You see them on every street corner,” he said. “I think they take Monday and Tuesday off, but from Wednesday to Sunday (you can) walk by and hear someone belting something out tunelessly.”

While he said they are a little tacky, Smith admits the band bee-lined to the bars while playing Fuji Rock in Japan, where song options stretch from Bon Jovi to Bloc Party. The establishments also figure in the song Karaoke Place, where one became the setting for a tragedy after Smith had an epiphany after hearing ambulance sirens over someone singing.

“I was staying at my brother’s house (in London), and at night I heard remnants of tuneless renditions of Frank Sinatra, then the sound of sirens going past,” he said. “I thought, well, life goes on.”

This ability to twist seemingly ordinary situations and objects into symbols is key to Smith’s songwriting. After describing the songs as unabashed, irony-free pop, he said the aim is to use a pop structure but lead it in an unexpected direction.

To articulate this vision, the group hired Gil Norton, a producer known for defining the sound of 1980s alt-rockers. Smith explained the group wanted to try to capture the romance of Echo And The Bunnymen and the raw dynamic of the Pixies.

“Listening to the Pixies — that raw sound — (you’re) quite surprised by the force of the music that comes out,” he said. “Echo And The Bunnymen (tones) the music down a bit … (The Pixies) express a moment but are retaining the raw element. Gil finds that compromise.”