“I think just with every record and every song that we create, it’s obviously hard to not imbue whatever I’m going through in my life into the material that comes out,” John O’Callaghan, the frontman of The Maine, told HollywoodLife. While John and the band created their upcoming album, XOXO: From Love & Anxiety in Real Time, amid the pandemic — inside a temporary quarantine house, in fact — the record is not just a manifestation of the anxiety that 2020 brought. As the album’s title suggests, it offers a wide spectrum of emotions and experiences that listeners can “attach” themselves to: from nostalgia to an element of “existential crisis” to the positives. John focused on the latter for The Maine’s latest song release, “April 7th,” which dropped on that very same day.“I met my wife, my now wife, like, probably 11 years ago….via mutual friends. I was going to a buddy’s wedding, and we didn’t really like see each other with those eyes,” John said while explaining the inspiration for “April 7th.” He said that it “wasn’t until four years ago,” on April 7th of 2017, that they did see each other with those eyes. He no longer had to “drink and cry alone” at his friends’ weddings, as the 32-year-old singer once tweeted in 2016. He could drink at his wedding with his wife, Meghan Harder, that took place in October of 2020.
“With all the negative that was going on in the world, and especially in the past 14 months or so, a lot of positive was going on in my personal life. Like I said, I got married for hopefully the only time — the first time,” John said, laughing. With such a high in his romantic life happening, John “couldn’t help” but have that joy “creep into what [he] was wanting to say and sing about,” he explained.
John O’Callaghan with his wife, Meghan Harder. [Instagram/@thefifthjohn]
This is evident in the other single that The Maine has released leading up to XOXO: From Love & Anxiety in Real Time’s release on July 9, 2021. “Sticky,” which arrived in March, shares the same theme of nostalgic romance as “April 7th” with lines like, “When I see your face / It’s like I hit rewind / Because you’re on repeat.” It’s sugary-sweet in both its words and visuals: the music video translates the song title’s metaphor quite literally by dumping honey on each band member’s head.
Sonically, “April 7th” and “Sticky” are nearly as saccharine as its lyrics; not in a bubblegum pop type of way, but rather, both have that identifiable pop alternative rock sound. While one may wonder if this is a departure from the pop punk era that The Maine formed amid, John admitted that he never really considered his band to fall under that camp of 2000’s rock music, despite being adjacent to bands that also rose to popularity during that time like All Time Low and Paramore.
“From my perspective, I’ve never really thought that we were a pop punk band. You know, I think we’ve toured with plenty. We were on Warped Tour playing [with] pop punk bands. And we’ve been on tour with Neck Deep before and bands like that, that I think are actual pop punk bands…or State Champs, somebody like that,” John told HollywoodLife. “It’s so hard to not put everything in a genre…I always just thought that we were, like, a pop band, you know. And it’s cool people think that we’re pop punk.”
While John says the new album “lean[s] more towards the pop side of things,” just like the band’s late-aughts hits like “Into Your Arms” and “Everything I Ask For” that put them on the map, he still acknowledged the considerable transformation he and his bandmates have undergone between then and now.
“It’s really interesting to listen back to our early records and hear sort of how my voice has evolved and changed. I think even just, you know like, physically, it sounds different now…It’s interesting to try to manipulate your voice in ways that you feel like fit your approach best. But I’ve also understood that I by no means am like a good singer,” John humbly said. He added, “I just take what I have — my sense of melody — and I try to emphasize it the best way I can and make it work best for me and for The Maine. But it is fun to listen back. And it’s like, I don’t even remember that guy, let alone that voice, you know? So yeah, it’s fun, for sure.”What hasn’t changed, however, is the close bond and drive that brought John and his bandmates together when they were all about 15 years old. Such a connection doesn’t survive solely on sentimentality, either. It actually has a lot in common with the romance that John sings about in “April 7th” and “Sticky,” in terms of the relationship feeling nostalgic and fresh at the same time.
“You would think that at some point, it loses its excitement, and it loses its luster, but it hasn’t for us,” John told HollywoodLife while reflecting on sticking with one band his entire life. He explained, “Because we’ve seen and felt the impact over the last 15 years, I feel like it only makes us that much more feverish in what we want to accomplish and how many people we want to reach. And I think it shows that when you really just kind of put your head down and work hard and you know, don’t settle for things, I think it — again — makes us hungrier and makes us want to work that much harder. And obviously, with things kind of opening back up and the idea of touring again, it just makes us all much more excited for what’s to come in the future.”