Manhattan singer-songwriter MAX is excitingly preparing the release of his highly anticipated third studio album ‘Colour Vision’ which will be finally unveiled in it’s entirety on September 18. Having released a string of singles in its lead up, he’s further showed listeners a playful and endearing side of his artistry as he grows his DIY pop sound into this bigger funk driven sound.
Following in the footsteps of ‘Love Me Less’ featuring Quinn XCII and ‘Missed Calls’ featuring Hayley Kiyoko, he’s delivered listeners one more exciting collaboration before the album is out in the world, and he’s chosen ‘Working For The Weekend’ featuring bbno$ to be that little gift.
The playful pop song produced by AJR is an explosion of funk and attitude that plays as an anthem for every creative person to proudly blast. The song reflects on the constant grind and hustle that creatives have to keep up to simply “make it”. This usually includes working multiple jobs to successfully pay your bills, and having to hustle through the weekend to just get everything done. It’s a lot, and learning to find a balance is important, but it’s not always as easy as you’d think.
So this song explores the passion that drives someone to work themselves to the bone because it’s everything they are.
I recently chatted to MAX about the creative process behind his new single ‘Working For The Weekend’, the important lesson of healthy balance he’s had to learn along the way, as well as explore the evolutionary moments behind his new album ‘Colour Vision’. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your new single ‘Working For The Weekend’ is a playfully funky track that exudes this natural charismatic energy. So can you explain how this song creatively came together?
MAX: I did this song with my friends AJR who are incredible producers and artists, and we grew up in Manhattan together and have done shows together forever, so we’ve just been very close for a long time. They came to my house when I was finishing the record, and were like “we obviously need to do a song together”, so they came in and were like “we can obviously start something from scratch, but we actually have this chorus idea that we think would work really well”. So they played me the idea, and I instantly loved it. We both resonated with the idea as artists, as it’s been a grind for both of our careers, and for so many that’s the reality of it. And the more you think of it, its really the magic of it. The accolades, and the pieces that are great awards do eventually come, but it’s really about the work, loving what you’re doing, and being so passionate and digging so deep into it.
So we wrote the song, and then I asked my friend bbno$ who is an independent hustler to jump on the track for a verse. We spent eight hours on a day that I was driving in the car for what was supposed to be a weekend day with my family, which was ironic. But I loved that we were going back and forth on a song when I was supposed to be on a road trip going to a farm to pat some donkeys. It was meant to be a wholesome day, but here I was sending notes about lines being tweaked. It was organic and came together exactly like the message of the song, which is we are working for the weekend, it never comes but we love what we’re doing”.
TB: I did see you tagged AJR on Instagram over the title of this song on the track listing which created a little bit of excitement from fans in the comments. Have you ever worked with them on a song before?
M: Yeah, it’s actually really funny because we wrote a song on my last record called ‘Home’, and it was in a time when I had just started dating my wife and I had this pregnancy scare with her. We had just started dating, and I had this night where she might’ve been pregnant, or she might’ve not been, and the whole song was about how I woke up every hour of that night imagining my life. It’s so funny because the coincidence is that now we are about to actually have our first baby in December! So for me and AJR to have our two songs in these two different times in my life is very cool.
What’s also funny is that when I wrote ‘Home’, I told my wife that I shared this story with AJR and wrote a song about it, and she was a little taken aback by it. But It was in that moment that she realised how deep songwriters and artists connect without even knowing each other that long or deeply. But that was definitely the moment that me and the AJR boys got really close, because when you reveal a story like that you are in it for life baby.
TB: It’s interesting when you do start dating someone new as a creative because not everyone realises or understands the parallels that are drawn, but really they should accept it. I always relate back to Lorde’s song ‘Writer In The Dark’ because I think it puts that sentiment so beautifully and honestly. Like if you give me trauma, I’m going to write about it. That’s that.
M: Absolutely! I dated a few different girls before I met my wife, and they were definitely less understanding about my creativity and my lifestyle.
There’s another song on this new album called ‘Love Me Less’ that I released last year, and it’s about an ex girlfriend who threatened to get my wife deported because she’s British. I’ve had friends of that ex reach out to me like “how could you say that” or “how could you reveal that story” and I just keep saying “that’s just the truth”. It was a moment, she apologised, but the song did come from that moment of me being so afraid that the person who is the love of my life might not be with me anymore because of my past and the things I couldn’t help. There’s nothing against those past relationships, but they are the things we have to use to create what we are going to create.
TB: The song is about the hustle of working towards a dream and burning out in the process. So when you have found yourself in that situation, how have you directed yourself to take a step back? Has it been a genuine struggle to do that?
M: It’s definitely a struggle, but what I find helpful to create that balance is to do those no phone days with my wife, family and best friends. My wife hides my phone from me, and then we will go on a road trip to a farm and hang out with chickens, and they are my detachment days.
But aside from that, something I realised about when I did burn out was that there were so many things I was doing for other people to maybe appease what I thought success was. But what I learnt was to not do anything that doesn’t feel right to you, that your gut doesn’t trust and that you’re not passionate about.
TB: What is one of your favourite lyrics from the track?
M: My favourite is “I guess we’ll hang when I’m dead”. Thats the line that AJR and I are extremely proud of. Because the line in the pre-chorus is “I guess Iʼll sleep when Iʼm dead”, and everyone knows that classic line, but we wanted to give a spin on it. Because sometimes you don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve seen your friends because of how hard you’re working, especially during these times. So when I said that line, Ryan from AJR was like “omg, that’s it”.
TB: Your new album ‘Colour Vision’ will be finally released on September 18. What is going to be one of the most surprising things that people are going to hear or discover on this record?
M: There are a few songs that feel like really evolutionary moments for me and my music. One of them is ‘There Is A God’ which ends the record, and I’m excited to see how people react and relate to it.
I think I’ve taken a lot of creative risks with this record. Like, when you said that loved the album intro when we were chatting before, that was so special because it was something I got fought on so much. Some people were like “you don’t need an intro, you’re a pop artist”, and I’m just like “no”, because some of my favourite pop artists create bodies of work. You have a start and finish. So I hope people react to those creative risks in a positive way like you did, as that will mean the most to me.
TB: Your production is very funky and has some quite intricate layers to them. What song on the record took the longest to really hone sonically and altogether finish?
M: I would say the one that took the longest is probably a tie between ‘Love Me Less’ and ‘There Is A God’.
With ‘There Is A God’ we actually went back into the studio with a full live string section, and I had my boy Daniel Seavey from Why Don’t We come in and do some incredible cello parts. And we just kept adding to it.
It started with computer strings as many producers do begin with, but it just didn’t feel right to me. It needed to be raw, live and real. I wanted you to feel those strings. That song took six months to finish in full, and every second was honestly worth it.
TB: The album’s colour palette is very bright and bold. There is a lot of yellow happening with the imagery, so what colour would you say best represents the record as a whole and why? Would you say yellow?
M: It’s definitely yellow! I started with yellow for ‘Love Me Less’ as I had just come out of this really dark time, I lost my voice for four months and I couldn’t speak. The whole concept for this record is rebirth. It’s about reclaiming yourself, and yellow was a colour that represented hope and that sentiment for me. Even when we are finishing all of these videos and things around the album, you get so deep into it that you need a reminder of what you’re fighting for, and I think the colour yellow has always given me that.
TB: You are someone that has done a lot of collaborating throughout his career. So what would you say is something that you’ve learnt about yourself and your artistry through collaborating with other artists?
M: It has to be natural! It has to come from a place where you connect, whether it’s a friendship or mutual respect. That’s genuinely how all my collaborations have come together. Whether I slide into bbno$’s dm’s, or I meet Suga in Korea and we both love basketball, and then I’m suddenly at a basketball game sitting next to him, and ask him to listen and jump on a song. It never happens from me asking a big label for someone to jump on, it always happens organically and through giving respect. So I’ve learnt to collaborate with someone you need to build those foundations.
TB: A collaboration that people are very excited to hear on ‘Colour Vision’ is ‘Blueberry Eyes’ which features Suga from BTS. So how did that collaboration come together creatively? Because it’s got a very dreamy aesthetic to it that gave me a bit of a Willy Wonka sonical feel to it.
M: Totally! We took a really creative recipe with this song, especially at the end of it. We really went for it. So I love that Willy Wonka reference you gave it because it’s so fun and different. It happened that because I literally sent him every song on the album was like “literally Suga, whatever song you wanna hop on you let me know. I’m not even going to be picky”.
I originally was kinda steering him towards ‘New Life’, but he was like “that’s a little too happy for me, I want something a little darker”, and he ended up saying he loved ‘Blueberry Eyes’. I was a little bit surprised as I always thought that was a riskier song for me, so for him to respond to it was so humbling. But now that I’ve gotten to know him from doing this collaboration and ‘Burn It’ with Agust D, and since becoming closer friends, I can see why he chose that song as he takes creative risks in everything he does. His lyrics are so potent.
We have something really fun for the music video that we’re doing with my wife for his verse, and it’s so cool because the english translation of his verse is so beautiful. He has such a kind soul,, and I love what he chose to say on that song. It’s very particular, and I’m honestly so glad he chose that song.
TB: You also collaborated with Jonas Blue on his infectious track ‘Naked’. I actually recently interviewed him and he explained how he really wanted to pull from Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson and all the different kinds of Philadelphia soul music the he grew up with but hasn’t experimented with before. So is there a sound that you grew up with that had a big impact on you that you haven’t really touched yet sonically and want to?
M: That’s a great question, man! I grew up similarly to Jonas on soul music. It was a bit of classic pop with NSYNC and Britney Spears, to the likes of TLC. But then on the soul side, I was really drawn to Marvin Gaye, Etta James, Princes, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. Those soulful songs that when they’re singing you feel like they are baring their soul to you.
I do feel like on this album with a song called ‘Where Am I At’ that I really tried to channel that inspiration from Etta James, and how she would’ve done a song like that. But I always think there is more to dive into. I think those are the artists we are all inspired by, and why we want to keep on making vinyl. We don’t want to lose the beauty of what we all fell in love with the world of music for.
TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions. You ready?
M: Let’s do it baby!
TB: The emoji that best describe my new album ‘Colour Vision’ is…
M: The monkey emoji being sassy to the side, that’s my go to. But, If there was a rubik’s cube emoji it would be so perfect!
TB: When I think of Australia I think of…
M: Best coffee! No one talks about how Australia has the best coffee in the world.
TB: A TV show I’ve binged during isolation is…
M: The Bachelor! I had never watched it before isolation, and since I’ve now watched eleven seasons! It’s so ridiculous!
TB: My pre show ritual involves…
M: Classic warm ups! But I try to treat every show since my vocal surgery like it’s the last show ever.
TB: Pineapple on pizza is…
M: Not my vibe!
‘Colour Vision’ is out on September 18!