Interview: Dave Elkins of Mae

In November, Mae released their first full length album since 2007. The album was called Multisensory Aesthetic Experience and marked a reunion of sorts with Tooth & Nail Records. We got a chance to talk to lead singer, Dave Elkins about the new album, virtual reality, and what a MAE Day is.

After releasing your first two albums with Tooth & Nail Records, what was making the jump to a major label like?

It was pretty much a nightmare. We signed a two album deal with Capitol Records in 2006. Our album came out in August of 2007 and all of the staff we had been working with during the album production process was fired in the weeks and months leading up to our release date for Singularity.

When the album finally came out, the label in the midst of all of their firings (90% of the Capitol Records staff was let go during this time) the label was in the middle of a spending freeze. So even though Capitol Records (on their own accord) spent of three quarters of a million dollars for us to make Singularity, they couldn’t spend marketing money to print posters and send them to venues when we went on tour to promote the album.

A couple of months later we were signing a new agreement with Capitol to part ways and they paid us to walk away and not have them put out a second album.

The chaos and disappointment lead two of our original members (Rob Sweitzer and Mark Padgett) to leave Mae and had the rest of us to re-evaluate Mae goals and redefine Mae success.

It was certainly a dark time but that ultimately lead towards a tipping point and a new and necessary self discovery of our band and roles individually in Mae.

After more than a decade off the label, you re-signed to Tooth & Nail. How did that come about?

Very organically. Tooth & Nail has always been Mae’s home where we have been free to create and stay truest to our craft and our passion. Once Tooth & Nail caught wind of us making a new album, they reached out and wanted to work together. From the very beginning Tooth & Nail has been a great fit for Mae, and today is no different.

What does working with Tooth & Nail offer you that a major doesn’t?

Full creative control…rich history…trust and comfort…forward thinking goals…with both our label and ourselves having been around for so long, (Mae has been a band since 2001) with a lot still to prove and accomplish, it made for a familiar but yet revitalized team that gets us really stoked for the future. We have always loved working with Tooth & Nail.

You have called your new album, “most ambitious efforts to date.” What makes this album so ambitious?

The album is self-titled, Multisensory Aesthetic Experience. So we intended to really create a multisensory experience for our listeners going in. There is a virtual reality component to the album as well as opportunity to experience the album with fragrance and touch and taste combinations.

Also, I believe this album contains most of my favorite Mae songs, the best songs we’ve written to this point.

What were the recording sessions for the album like? How long did it take to record? Where did you record it?

The album took well over a year to make and most of the album was made right outside of Nashville in my studio, Schematic Studios. Since the three of us live in different parts of the country, we had to work together when we could, and then I kept at production, engineering, and songwriting for the album for months after the other guys had left Nashville for good. My good friend and studio partner, Geoffrey Mutchnik (production assistant) and I worked on the album for several months and finally finished production/mixing/mastering late summer/early fall 2018.

You have been including MAE Days in various stops on tour which seems like a pretty ambitious idea, how long did it take to go from inception to making it a reality?

Mae Days are still being tweaked, but we love lowering the barriers between the band and our listeners. Because there is such a world to explore in this album, we wanted to try a new context for how to experience it. These Mae Day experiences always involved a unique location, included a meal with the band, one on one virtual reality journeys, conversations, a listening party to the new album and acoustic performances. It gave a chance to really engage with our fans who’ve been with us for a long time.

What made you interested in trying VR?

It started a couple years ago when we became the first band to create a synced virtual reality concert experience. We performed at the Tower of David in Jerusalem. Over 600 people were connected over music and VR and as we performed at one of the oldest stages on the planet. This was such a groundbreaking experience for Mae and for right in with our name (multisensory aesthetic experience) and from then on we looked to do more in partnerships in the VR space.

We have incredibly talented friends who innovating in the VR/AR industry so it helps when we get to collaborate with such extraordinary creativity.

Finally, this year was the final Warped Tour. Mae was famously on the Warped Tour in the mid-00s. What are your memories of the tour?

Being a lot younger, making so many lifelong friends, some of the biggest crowds we had played in front of at the time, and canned water!

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