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Interview: Max Collins talks going solo, 'Honey from the Icebox,' fans, and more

Max Collins has been the lead singer and bassist for Eve 6 for almost two decades. Best known for hits such as “Inside Out” and “Here’s to the Night,” he has toured all over the world delighting fans with catchy melodies and clever wordplay.

Eve 6 played a show at The Paramount in Huntington, New York on June 22, 2014 as part of the 2014 Summerland Tour.
Elise Yablon
Eve 6 played a show at The Paramount in Huntington, New York on June 22, 2014 as part of the 2014 Summerland Tour.
Elise Yablon

Now, the red-headed singer is taking on the music industry alone with the release of his debut solo album, ‘Honey from the Icebox.’ While the album, released on May 6, is a departure from the loud rock of Eve 6, Collins’ songwriting is as strong as ever. Collins retains the cleverness of his lyrics while adding a whole new singer/songwriter element to them. However, ‘Honey from the Icebox’ isn’t necessarily a typical singer/songwriter album either. The songs don’t depend solely on the acoustic guitar, like many rockers-gone-solo tend to do. While some of the songs, like “Perfect Crime” and “Push It Down,” with a little tweaking, wouldn’t be far out of place on an Eve 6 record, each song is more than just an acoustic Eve 6 song. Collins attacks these songs differently, giving each song its own personality within its mix. There are a number of tracks, including “Sports Bar” and “World on Fire,” that have a folky, storytelling quality to them that he has never explored in his music before. It’s more ambitious and definitely worth a listen.

‘Honey from the Icebox’ was funded through a PledgeMusic campaign last year. In an effort to get even closer to his fans, Collins offered some unparalleled perks, including getting matching tattoos with a fan, taking fans to Medieval Times, and offering fans the chance to be a part of one of his music videos.

So far, Collins has released two music videos from the album, “Sports Bar” and “World on Fire.” A third video, for the song “Push it Down,” will premiere through on July 10.

Max Collins is currently touring with Eve 6 on the 2014 Summerland Tour along with Everclear, Soul Asylum, and Spacehog.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Max Collins during his tour stop at The Paramount in Huntington, New York on June 22 to discuss going solo, ‘Honey from the Icebox,’ fans, fatherhood, his recent music videos, and why doing track-by-track descriptions is “silly.”

First of all, congratulations on the release of your debut solo album.

Thank you.

What was the songwriting process like for the album?

It was a really kind of prolific month for me for whatever reason. It was January of 2013 and I had just gotten off tour, close to a year of touring with Eve 6, and… I don’t know. I was just waking up and picking up my guitar every morning and just writing and seemed to be finishing songs, you know. Kind of remarkable for me, sort of like, efficiency. I mean, in the past I’ll write a verse and then I’ll kind of leave it alone and maybe I’ll finish it later. But, I don’t know. For whatever reason, songs were just kind of coming out. Once I got a few, I started to sort of write with a purpose. I couldn’t see these songs with big power chords on them, you know. So it just kind of felt like it was time for me to make my own record.

How is your songwriting different for the solo record than when you write for Eve 6? How are the songs different?

The process is pretty similar. I mean, Eve 6 songs start out with me and an acoustic guitar. But, yeah, I don’t know. The main difference was in the way I envisioned these songs sounding. I guess maybe they could have been put through the Eve 6 filter, or whatever, but I don’t think that would have felt incongruous, or something, with these songs.

I was listening to the radio, KCRW, an LA station, and I heard this song. I still don’t know what song it was and I haven’t heard it since. It was really good, and it was just minimal instrumentation, acoustic guitar, piano, drums, bass. Everything sounded really good, it wasn’t an intentionally s**** sounding record, like a lot of indie records. Everything sounded unapologetically good. And the song, it was just sort of about an honest representation of the song without any pretense or anything. I was like, that’s what I want to do with these songs.

Why release it now? I mean, Eve 6 just got back together…

Well, Eve 6 did that record in 2012 and… Yeah, I don’t know. We did that touring cycle and it was fun. Obviously I still enjoy playing the loud rock with these guys and stuff. But I think creatively, I’m just in a place where having been in a band for so long, I just need to be able to kind of selfishly follow my whimsy and not concern myself too much with anything else.

You funded the album through Pledge Music. What was that experience like?

It was awesome. Definitely, I learned a lot. And if I do it again, and I think I probably will, you know, I know how to better sort of navigate certain things now. But, I mean, overall, it’s like, just the concept itself is really exciting. And my audience is acting as my record label. There’s no obnoxious middle entity in the way. So there’s that aspect of it that’s very freeing, you know.

And it also allows for these strange, experiential get-togethers in a lot of cases with the Pledge Music tiers, like getting matching tattoos with my fans and going to Medieval Times with my audience, and just doing weird things. So yeah, it’s given me a whole new appreciation and respect for my audience, and I’ve gotten to know a lot of these people’s personalities and they’re an impressive lot, doing those 20 questions things. It was just cool.

I know you have a really good relationship with your fans. You were doing livestreams at one point…

Yeah, I was. I was sort of doing that when the campaign began to kind of spread the word. But yeah, that was fun, doing unfortunate cover songs and stuff like that.

You just became a dad too. How has that changed your music?

You know, I haven’t actually written songs for myself since I became a dad. I’ve done writing for other people and stuff like that, but… So yeah, remains to be seen, I guess. But, you know, it’s definitely… There’s just this, I don’t know, just this capacity for love that you didn’t know you had kind of thing. So I can’t imagine it not effecting my work, you know.

How do you keep your music fresh for you, because you’ve been doing Eve 6 since 1995…?

I mean, I think that’s what I’m doing with ‘Honey from the Icebox,’ is I’m just, like… Expectations be damned; other people’s, my own, whatever. It’s about the art, you know, and that’s what I need to be doing right now. From the songwriting to the videos, [I’m] just making things that I enjoy and excite and thrill me. Doing what I enjoy, you know, I think that’s the way.

You are releasing a music video soon…

Yeah. We shot it a couple of weeks ago in Joshua Tree with the same fellow. Yeah, I’m really excited about this one. I think it’s probably the best one and is probably going to be the most polarizing amongst Eve 6 fans.

Is there a connection between the videos? There’s this same shaman guy in both of the first two videos.

He’s the connection. I feel like with the “Push It Down” video you’re going to get a vibe for who Francis, that’s his name, more of who he really is as opposed to playing a stereotype in the “World on Fire” video and just some, I don’t know what, in the “Sports Bar” video. Yeah, he’s just a really interesting, impressive guy, and the “Push It Down” video is kind of a celebration of his real life, with some liberties taken.

I know you’ve been asked this before, but are you going to tour behind ‘Honey from the Icebox’?

Yes. I hope to in the fall, and I have an agent that’s specific to the solo thing. So yeah, it’s just about getting the right opportunity. I’d like to open for an artist that is sort of in the wheelhouse of what I’m doing. So, yeah, we’ll see if that happens, but I also want to get to work on writing another one and do as many videos as I can for this record. It’s sort of our ambitious goal to do a video for every song on the record.

I saw on YouTube that you were doing track-by-track videos. You seemed a little bit uncomfortable with those…

Oh, yeah. I’m always uncomfortable with that stuff. What I’ve sort of learned [is] the only way to get through it for me is to be uncomfortable and just do it anyway. And sometimes the more uncomfortable I am the more entertaining I feel like it becomes. So if I don’t pretend I’m not uncomfortable, whatever, it is what it is.

It’s a silly concept to me, explaining a song. It’s kind of stupid.

…Because everyone will take it as their own…

Yeah, and they should. So when I’m saying that a song is about something, it’s some tiny little facet of maybe what’s going on in it. So I try to add some sort of absurd situational stuff like being on a Ferris wheel or having the wind in Joshua Tree be blowing so loud you can barely hear what I’m saying.

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