by Rebecca Diaz
If Mapmaker were a show mannequin, it would wear a sweet fedora but it would also have a fresh pair of Nikes. Thankfully, Mapmaker is not a mannequin; they are instead, a talented Chicago-based band. As a musical group, these dudes have managed to mix Funky old-timey tunes of jazz with a spin of indie originality to their sound. Indeed, these polished musicians play in a multi-instrumental band, playing some songs that are totally instrumental and others with lyrics to construct a mature but lively sound. Following their first album, State and the Nimbus Cloud, Mapmaker has recently released their second album, Houses on Stilts, which can be purchased at an offer-your-own price on bandcamp.com—a deal that might make any mannequin wiggle just a bit. ChiUwas able to talk to keyboardist and vocalist Maxx McGathey recently to get the low-down:
ChiU: Tell us how you got your start? How do you know each other?
Maxx McGathey: Mapmaker started as a weekly jazz jam in the Mundelein Auditorium at Loyola. We all met by coincidence in our first year at Loyola. Max Martini (drummer) and I sat next to each other in class while we were wearing the same Medeski, Martin and Wood t-shirt by chance. After realizing that we were into the same music, he invited me to play with some other guys he had found who were interested in forming a jazz combo. This led to the five of us (Max Martini, Evan Fazio, Aled Fain, Nick Bush and I [Maxx McGathey]) getting comfortable with each other as musicians. With the addition of Nicholas Cardelli, we started working on our own original rock songs.
C: What's your sound like?
M: Just as our history suggests, our sound wouldn't be the same without jazz. It’s not that we play straight ahead jazz charts, rather we have a jazz mentality when we write, arrange and perform our original rock material, giving the music an improvisational flare. Throw funk in there, as a common interest among all of us, and you have mapmaker's sound.
C: Do you have any big influences that you attribute your sound to?
M: Ask each member of the band and they will give you their favorite musicians that they try to emulate. As a full group sound, however, we are united by the styles of songwriting in the band. I personally take a lot from indie-rockers that try to write catchy songs with a different and unique twist. Artists like The New Pornographers, St. Vincent, Radiohead, and Belle and Sebastian guide me in this way. The vibe of the music, however, is a vintage one being influenced by legendary artists like The Beatles, Santana, and the Doors.
C: Where are your favorite places to play?
M: We love playing at venues with good sound. The Empty Bottle did a great job when we played there not too long ago and the Kinetic Playground also has an incredible sound system and an incredible staff.
C: Do you have any weird rituals before you play a show?
M: One thing that has materialized recently is one of us will write out the set lists before the show without using the titles of the songs. We've gotten quite creative with it...
M: So, are you going to be going on tour anytime soon? Or do you like the local scene a lot?
C: Right now we are focusing on keeping the local Chicago performances rolling. Playing live is the best part of being in Mapmaker. We have always considered ourselves a live act and will try to perform as much as we can. Our next show will be at Red Line Tap on November 9th. Come hang out with us!
You heard it! Check out Mapmaker on November 9th at the Red Line Tap! In the mean time you can listen to their songs at http://www.myspace.com/mapmakermusic#!/mapmakermusic, or download their tracks for a name-your-own price rate at http://mapmaker.bandcamp.com/album/houses-on-stilts