Tim Maxwell – LOSER ‘The Winning Formula’

LOSER is a band that is anything but their name. They’ve toured with some of the biggest names in Australian music and their singles have gotten extensive airplay. Ahead of the release of the band’s album Mindless Joy, which is out next week, I chatted with frontman Tim Maxwell about being an awkward human, the Noel/Liam Gallagher relationship with his brother and technology taking over.

Thanks so much for having a chat with me today. To start off, I just wanted to chat about you guys as a band. You say that your name comes from the nineties grunge vibe and that you’re all anxious weirdos, which is something I can absolutely relate to. What is the one the cringiest things that you can remember doing?

The cringiest thing I’ve ever done, like in the band or in general? Huge opening question! Wow! It’s so me, but I can’t even think of one right now. I can think of the cringiest thing my brother’s done? 

Yeah, you can dob him in!

He played in this pop-punk band, I’m not going to mention the name, but the main thing he had to do was dress differently, and they rehearsed in front of a mirror, and they had to jump, and they told him to jump higher. They said, “you can’t wear flannies in this band, you’ve got to wear V-necks and practise in front of a mirror and jump”. I’m pretty sure that’s the cringiest moment.

That’s amazing! Let’s get into the album. One of the biggest themes is mental health struggles and you getting your feelings off your chest. How important was that to you, and why do you think it’s important to speak about these issues?

I think it’s just the most open I’ve been about it. I mean we’ve always touched on it in songs, but I guess it all pairs with the whole theme behind the album which is mindless joy. That’s where future’s heading with all the tech and trying to maintain relationships and always being connected with people. So, I think it was just easier to get out this time around. After writing music for so many years, I just felt like being a lot more real, and it just came out. I had a lot more to say than when I was a bit less mature.

You touched on it quickly, but you also talk about the “mindless joy” and the black mirror/technology taking over theme as well. What are your experiences with that, why did you want to talk about that so much?

I’m just really interested in it, me and the bassist Craig, we’re really into the whole thing. I mean, I can’t talk, I have a wireless charger, I have everything, I’m part of the problem. But I love tech so much and learning about Elon Musk and the future, like MirrorLink and putting brain implants in to change you and being able to live forever; I just find that so interesting. We’re not far off it; everybody’s already glued to their phone and can’t really communicate properly anymore. It’s only going to get worse, and I guess it’s me singing it so people realise that they’re not alone and it’s only going to get worse, unfortunately. It’s a brutal truth, really (laughs).

Absolutely, and I mean as we speak we are talking on phones, and I have my computer. And we have to live our lives with it.

Yeah and as much as people don’t like to admit it, probably like 80 per cent of people these days just have to show what they’re doing with their life through a lens all the time. It’s not cool! I mean it helps to some degree, but we’ve definitely lost touch with communication, that’s for sure.

Yeah and that brings me to another question, you guys run off that nineties vibe, and to me, the nineties was an era of really great music. What do the nineties mean to you?

Well, I was pretty young during the nineties, but I guess I have just discovered all the bands I know and love at a later date when I played in a band I was in six years ago or so. I’ve always grown up on good rock music, and I always knew bands like Foo Fighters. And I guess I really got into nineties music when I grew up and started delving into The Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer and Radiohead and then I worked out who their influences were. And rock bands like Sonic Youth and all those nineties alt-rock bands.

 A huge influence on this album was a band called Failure from the nineties; they just burnt out because they were meant to release one of their main albums around the time Nirvana’s Nevermind was released and they just got lost in that, and it’s pretty sad. There are heaps of those underground gems that I’ve discovered that have helped influence me heaps.

You’ve said that the new album is still guitar music, but you wanted to demonstrate more depth and ambition. What else did you do differently on this album?

The first EP was a bit more like my old band, it was a touch on the alt-rock stuff, but I kept it simple because we were a three-piece.  And now there are two other guitarists in the band, one being my brother and my other brother from another mother who’s been with me in bands for years and years. So to fill out the sound, we had three guitars, and I could do a lot more with it. We’re all influenced by seventies rock and blues music from day dot, so if we can play that style of music, put more guitar in it and show that we’re not like everybody else, then we’re going to do that. I feel like there’s a real lack of guitar bands in the mainstream really and there’s not enough talent anymore (laughs).

That leads me to two things, first of all in ‘Golden Things’ you talk about how it was important for you to keep creative control rather than working necessarily towards commercial success, so basically you were saying you’re not keen on selling out?

Oh, yeah, I guess. I just mean staying true to who we are and not changing for anybody else basically. And if it takes a while for our music to get out there then so be it. I’m just going to keep doing what I love.

And speaking of your brother, Will, how is it working with him now that he’s part of the band?

Ah, it’s great; we’ve been playing and arguing in bands for years. We’ve sort of got a Liam and Noel Gallagher approach to our relationship.

Hopefully not as volatile?

(Laughs) Nah, it’s not volatile but we can either be getting on like a house on fire or just be arguing over things all the time. But I love playing in the band with him, and it was meant to be from day one really. It was always going to come full circle, and he would end up being in it anyway. It just made sense. 

So the term ‘supergroup’ has been thrown around because you all came from already fairly successful bands when you put LOSER together. What effect does that on the recording process?

None really, we’re all just normal dudes, it didn’t really affect anything. It was just cool that once I started the band, I asked Craig and Chris to join and I was just so stoked that I could even play with those guys. I worshipped them when I was young and watching their bands and touring with them and I was like “Oh, I’d love to play with you one day”. When it happened, it was overwhelming. It’s crazy, and I am thankful for it to this day. Couldn’t ask for a better bunch of musicians to play with.

I’ve been lucky to enough to have a listen to the album, and I will be doing a review of it as well. My favourite song so far is ‘Generate’. Do you have a favourite or one you’re most proud of or is that like choosing a favourite child?

Ooh, good question, ‘Generate’ is a good one. I reckon it would be ‘Dopamine’, that one showcases what the next album is like.

Yeah, I loved ‘Dopamine’ as well.

Yeah, that’s a lot of big guitar rock, and we’re sort of delving into that. I am proud of the whole thing, but I think like ‘Dopamine’ or ‘Middle of Nowhere’ are really my favourite songs on the album. I think ‘Middle of Nowhere’ is really cool; we went for different production on that and a drum machine. I was heavily influenced by ‘1979’ by The Smashing Pumpkins if you haven’t got that yet.

Yeah, definitely heard that.

It was definitely cool to experiment with different production that we’ve heard through heaps of records from Zeppelin to The Smashing Pumpkins.  In the track ‘Lazy’, we experimented with mellotrons, and we don’t want to be too shy to put instrumentation where it needs to be. And it’s just going to keep growing from there; I don’t want to just stop and be like a Weezer pop-punk band, I want to constantly progress.

One influence I picked up on and I don’t know if this was intentional, but I felt a real Crowded House vibe sometimes.

Oh really? Yeah, they’re a huge influence on me! And funnily enough, when I was writing, I was listening to heaps of Crowded House. I love Neil Finn, and I love all of his melodies, and I think they ring true in some of the songs. That’s awesome that you picked up on that. What song, in particular, made you think that?

There were a couple; it was just your voice that really made me think that. And ‘Middle of Nowhere’ gave me those vibes and there was another song as well that I was like “Oooh that feels Crowded Housey”.

That’s awesome! Rad you picked up on that!

So last question and then you are free to go. You have supported the likes of Ruby Fields, Tired Lion and Luca Brasi, can you give me the scoop on when your album tour will happen?

Hopefully, around March or April. Nothing’s confirmed yet, but we’re trying to do something really cool for it, like pair an art show with it, because our drummer Chris Cowburn has done all our artwork. We really just want to make something special and different by pairing a show with an art show and being able to sell art from the album artwork and the singles. Yeah, we think it would be really cool, we just basically want to be creative in any way possible.

Sorry, I said that was the last question, but I am about to ask one more. I’ve heard you mention the second album as well; you’ve got quite a lot of that done too?

Yeah, I don’t know how much I can say. Basically, the EP Restless Noise came together in less than a month, and we recorded that straight away, so by then, I was already writing. I think ‘Get It All Out’ was one of the first songs that came about and then shortly after ‘Mindless Joy’ and that set me on the theme of writing. Because I have had so much time in between, there’s pretty much two other albums lingering around that we’re ready to pre-produce and get in the studio. I have my own studio, so I have really easy access to writing and recording, which makes life a lot easier.

Awesome, very exciting! Well, that is it, thank you so much for having a chat with me today.

No worries Caitlin, thanks so much.

Interview by Caitlin MacDonald (@cait_2tone)

Mindless Joy is out February 14th via Domestic La La
Pre-order here

loser - mindless joy

LOSER – Mindless Joy tracklisting

1. Mindless Joy
2. Get It All Out
3. Erase Me
4. Golden Things
5. Melting
6. Come To Terms (Meditate)
7. Out Of Luck
8. Lazy
9. Generate
10. Gone
11. Middle Of Nowhere
12. Dopamine

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