Roads is a new book that tells a photographic and oral journey of The Maine’s past four years as a band captured by photographer Dirk Mai. PropertyOfZack had the pleasure of speaking with both Dirk and Jared Monaco from the band for a new Perspective piece on how the book came to life. Check out Editor-in-Chief Erik van Rheenen’s piece below!
For four years, Dirk Mai became a fly on the wall in the life of The Maine. Four years turned into hundreds of shows, thousands upon thousands of photographs, — six or seven terabytes worth of hard drive space— and, finally, a 500-page chronicle of the band’s oral and visual history, titled Roads.
“The books could’ve easily been 5,000 pages,” Mai says with a chuckle. “I spent hours and hours sitting in front of a computer screen every day for a few months. I chose selects from all the photos we had. And then I picked selects of selects. And then selects of selects of selects.”
Jared Monaco, The Maine’s lead guitar slinger, laughs when I tell him how much space Mai reserves strictly for photographs of the band. “Dirk has — I’m not exaggerating — like a million photos of us.”
Even for a book called Roads, The Maine sure has traveled a lot of them in the past four years. From the band’s first “An Evening with The Maine” headlining tour in 2010 to a whirlwind international tour in 2011 and a fistful of gigs in South America a year later, Mai, armed with his camera and a whole lot of ambition, captured the entire journey — from home, to tour, to the studio, to tour, to home again.
Mai jokes about feeling like The Maine’s sixth member (the one who plays the camera instead of an actual musical instrument) when he snapped shots of the band in the studio for the Pioneer sessions, but since following the band on their cross-country trek on the 2009 Vans Warped Tour, he settled into a role as the band’s de facto photographer.
Monaco confesses that it always feels weird to be around photographers. Most photographers besides Mai, that is. “We view Dirk as family at this point,” he says. “He became one of our best friends, and he’s been really crucial to our story for the past half decade.”
The summer of Warped Tour generated This Is Real Life, The Maine’s first foray into the world of getting published. After “kind of a collaborative decision,” Mai recollects, the photographer would follow the band for four years of touring, recording, writing, and all the behind-the-scenes minutia the every day fan blinks and misses. The idea: four years, no bullshit.
“I really like capturing real, raw moments, opposed to ones that are contrived and posed,” Mai says firmly. “So I tended to like the racier, more controversial shots I took — the real drunken nights that show a side the fans haven’t seen before.”
The globetrotting, the nights spent backstage or in the studio: that was the “easy-go-lucky” part for Mai. Spending four years traveling with The Maine meant Mai had all-access to shoot and capture any and every moment he could, through the band’s South America tour. “We cut it off there to start the next chapter,” Mai says.
The downside to capturing any and every moment in four years of The Maine’s gig life was, well, having to go back through every moment in four years of The Maine’s gig life when it came time to settle on which photos would make the 500-page cut. Mai spent “intense” marathon sessions — hours and hours — in front of his computer, trying to pick out which of his shots best told the band’s story. How do you possibly tell a four-year story in 500 pages?
“There’s a lot of photos that spoke to me,” Mai says, “And it was a very back and forth process. I’d send some selects to the guys and I’d be like, ‘Do you like this image? Is this one cool to use?’”
Each The Maine bandmate handpicked 15 photos to caption, and for Monaco, who has “such a bad memory,” (“I can gauge when the photo was taken by the length of my beard,” he admits) remembering the story woven into each photograph became a kind of nostalgia.
“For some, we really had to dig deep, but it was cool to go back and remember, and see a picture of all of us walking home from a bar in the UK or playing Bamboozle on the West Coast, which I almost forgot about,” Monaco recalls. “And the coolest thing is that fans flipping through the book will point to a photo and say, ‘yeah, I remember that too.’”
Monaco said the no-bullshit approach to storytelling, crossed with Mai’s all-access, no-holds-barred photography, gave the book a candid feel: intimate, personal, and sometimes downright goofy. Looking through the book, he felt like Mai simply took The Maine’s life over four years and cross-sectioned it. “It’s weird to see your life as a timeline and how much has changed,” he says, “Whether it’s a stupid haircut or a silly look you wore.”
“It’s kind of a tell-all,” Monaco further explains. “There’s some shocking photos, so people might laugh, cry, or whatever they do when they see them.”
He paused, working out the band’s scale of how questionable the questionable photos in Roads actually are before breaking the silence with a burst of laughter.
“It kind of boiled down to what our parents would see,” Monaco joked.
Dirk Mai has fully embraced his role as The Maine’s documentarian, a camera-wielding historian of-sorts. Though he admits that the book finally hitting shelves is a huge weight off his shoulders, he doesn’t see their working relationship calling it quits any time soon. That’s the thing about chronicling an ongoing history: there’s always a new chapter to write — and photograph.
“Most photo books get published 20, 30 years after a band is done, like with the Rolling Stones and the Beatles,” Mai says. “We made this book while the band is still current and fresh and touring, and that’s just really exciting.”
Monaco can’t remember exactly how many words a picture is worth in the old saying, but what he does know is that Roads is a collection of photos of who The Maine was as a certain point in their lives, and the still frames leave more open to the imagination: the backstage antics, the onstage performances, the studio sessions, and every little detail in between.
“Getting a look behind the scenes is something people will always be interested in,” Monaco says. “I love getting to see artists how they are as people, and I think this book will give fans a deeper insight at who we are.”
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