First of all, big hails and congratulations on your debut full-length album ‘Quid Pro Quo’. But before we get more into that, please tell a bit about the band in order to introduce yourselves to our readers…
Hail Nima! Firstly I want to say thank you very much for having us interviewed on Lords Of Metal. It is an honour, my friend! We are happy to finally have 'Quid Pro Quo' released. I will introduce you to my partners in crime, on drums we have Mr. Mike Ross, my brother, Ryan Sebastian Balfour handles the guitars. Richie Diver takes care of the bass, and finally on the guitar we have 'the new guy' (but not really) Mr. Ric Cardwell! Oh, and I’m the singer, apparently, haha! Maverick was initially formed as a hardrock cover band, until we tried our hand at writing original material and discovered we were not too bad at it. We liked some of the newer hardrock bands coming out but (in our opinion) we felt that we could add something kinda 'new' to an already well-trodden genre. We took the things we loved about 80s (and especially American) hardrock and combined them into a sound that we hope will be seen as different from the crowd, with a strong emphasis on big vocal hooks and melodic guitar solos, as opposed to singing as high as humanly possible at all times and constant shredding. Plus, we are big fans of guitar riffs. Too many modern rock bands have standard chords instead of interesting riffs, so that is something we definitely wanted to have in our music. First and foremost we are huge music fans who absolutely LOVE making music, so we hope our enthusiasm comes across in Mavericks' sound.
Things have gone pretty fast for Maverick in 2014. Apart from the many successful gigs, building a fan base and spreading your name, you have also signed a deal with Massacre Records, released your debut LP, and you have also shared the stage with Y&T! Quite some achievements don’t you think? How do you look back on the band’s first years?
Yeah I think it’s been a phenomenal year for us. 2013 was a good learning experience for us, we were very ropey live in the early days, as we were a band that was just starting out and having fun. But we believe in the latter half of 2014 we have become a much more polished and tighter unit live. So 2014 has certainly been my favorite year out of Mavericks' two-year run so far We got the contract offer from Massacre at the end of 2013 just before hitting the studio to record 'Quid Pro Quo' – so that gave us the inspiration to really put in 110% in the studio! I still remember getting the phone call from my brother whenever I was in work telling me about the contract! I honestly shouted out loud 'YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!' in front of about 6 customers, haha. We sent off our debut EP 'Talk's Cheap' to all of the big European record labels we could think of and although it was a very raw recording where our songwriting abilities were far from realized but it served its purpose in getting us the attention from Massacre, who have been very cooperative to work with, friendly, supportive and behind us 100%. That makes it much easier to believe in yourself as a band and meet criticism head on. We have always been strong believers in online PR work in promoting the band, and have had help from great radio show hosts across the world in spreading the word of Maverick. So as much as 2013 was great for establishing a base of local fans and had some very memorable gigs, 2014 is what I believe to be the start of our drive forward to bring Maverick onto the European music scene perhaps supporting a bigger band or doing club shows in support of the album.
Yeah man, supporting Y&T was honestly one of the very best moments of our lives, the crowd was massive, loud and expectant to see the great Californian rockers on their 40th anniversary tour, and we had the pleasure of warming them up. It was nerve-wracking but talking to Dave Meneketti beforehand went a long way into giving me confidence; he told me of how he had heard great things about us and that he and the rest of the band were going to watch our entire set or as much as they could. He was friendly and genuine towards me and seeing Brad Lang (bass) and John Nymann (guitar) make statuses, comments and uploading photos to their FB pages and ours about how well we done really made me so happy I could explode! it was amazing. I just hope 2015 will be even better again. I can’t wait to get stuck into the next album.
I have followed your career online ever since the beginning, and according to what I have seen you have played yourself in the picture quite a lot during the past three years. You have also built up quite a fans base. What I see in Maverick is a hardworking and determined band, working itself to the top. Your opinion please, and please tell a bit about the promoting formula you chose for to bring you this far…
Thanks man! There is one thing that we noticed from day one, and that is that there are many bands that believe success will come to them and that all they need to do is sit there, make their music and it will just happen. We have always taken the bull by the horns, asking for everything and shoving our music unashamedly down everyone's throats. We don’t take no for an answer, and criticism and negativity truly spurs us on and forces us to work double as hard to prove every naysayer wrong. Whether or not we do that is another thing, haha, but what we do is work harder and harder and push more and more toward our goal. We were criticized at times for getting attention and slots that others believed 'undeserved' – what I say to those people is that age is no measure of quality, nor is it a criteria upon which a bands merits or slots should be measured. We believe in working hard and earning everything you receive. I think people can see that whenever they follow Maverick, we work hard and we are very enthusiastic, and loving every second of what we are doing.
I think that also comes across in our live shows and the songs on 'Quid Pro Quo’. We believe in networking hard and getting to know lots of people from lots of different bands in many different countries. Showing them our music and whether the response is negative or positive, using it to give us even more power. We also are strong believers in humor. Not Tenacious-D or Steel Panther humor, but the ability not to take ourselves entirely seriously and be able to enjoy the silliness of being in a band and at the same time taking it very seriously on the creative and live side. Our ethos is work very hard and play very hard is working so far, I guess!
Let’s talk about your musical influences; your debut EP ‘Talk’s Cheap’ already made clear that Maverick has its roots in the eighties hardrock, heavy and glam metal, with influences from all the greats like Twisted Sister, Skid Row, Mötley Crüe, but also AC/DC and ZZ Top and associates. Can you tell us a bit about your musical influences, and the direction you chose for Maverick to bring them all together?
Yeah, I think we let our favorite music shine through brightly in Maverick’s. ‘Talk's Cheap’ was a little simpler and a little more raw, with Skid Row, ZZ Top and Motley Crue coming through very strongly. But in 'Quid Pro Quo' I think we have drawn more from the likes of ‘Pyromania’ and ’Hysteria’ Def Leppard, Winger, Aerosmith and early Bon Jovi. But we try to take small facets of those bands’ musical styles that we adore, and combine them almost as pieces of clay to an overall statue. We love the vocal harmonies that make the huge choruses in Def Leppard, the guitar and riff intricacy of Winger, and strong lead vocals in a narrative style (almost story telling) like Bon Jovi, mixed with pacing like a lot of mid-late 80s Judas Priest.
So although there are certainly pieces here and there which sound alike to those bands, I like to think we actually do not sound that much like any of them. A few reviews we have received reflected this stating whilst sounding in parts similar to our influences we are a different animal in our own right. That to us is a huge compliment! We hope that by the next album we can have a sound which might be identifiable as sounding very much like 'Maverick'. I think proudly displaying your influences is very important; after all we are playing a genre and style which to many people was perfected in the 80s. I believe where we can take that into 2014 is using influences since then in the 90s and 2000's and applying parts of those eras that we think had great merit, making a slightly more different style of hardrock/heavy metal. If you want endless sweep picking, double kick drums for the sake of it and a vocalist who does his best to imitate Rob Halfords highest parts throughout, then look elsewhere. Maverick is all about the catchy choruses, great riffs and melodic songwriting that gives you that feeling of power inside! We make music and songs, we don't individually 'wank-off' to show off!!. We also try to draw upon NWOBHM heavyweights like Saxon, Maiden, Priest and others, but with the added groove of the likes of Aerosmith. I’m going on too long here but I guess I’m just very enthusiastic about these bands, haha.
’Talk’s Cheap’ raised pretty high expectations for you debut long player. As I mentioned in my review you have exceeded all expectations and to be honest I couldn’t believe how good the material on ‘Quid Pro Quo’ is. And you have taken everything to a much higher level on all matters. Although the music is still quite youthful with ditto enthusiasm, you have let ago of the “teenage” and “child-like” vide and show a very mature band, concentrating on unadulterated hardrock and AOR. In how far can you agree on this? And can you please tell a bit about what you had in mind for your debut?
Thanks very much for those compliments! They make me very happy because that is precisely what we tried to do with 'Quid Pro Quo'. Don't get me wrong; we are still very fond of 'Talk's Cheap' for what it is, a bit of fun with some good-time songs and good-time lyrics. But with 'Quid Pro Quo’ we wanted to incorporate more melodic themes with more advanced songwriting – both lyrically and musically. Sure there are some 'party songs' such as 'Rock N Roll Lady' and 'In Our Blood' on the album, but overall we wanted to have a more serious and darker lyrical and musical theme, which are best displayed in 'Shackled', 'Quid Pro Quo (One More Day)’, 'Side By Side' and 'Last Addiction'. I love feel-good songs but I think for an album to be well balanced there needs to be more going on than that. And I guess ‘Quid Pro Quo’ was us trying to “mature” our sound. Not because we felt that we had to, but because we felt it was the direction we were going in musically, and reflected the music we were currently listening to and enjoying. We wanted to let go of the “sleaze” part that people were attaching to us, and hit them more with ballsy hardrock with groove and AOR elements, and I believe that the next album will go further in this direction.
'Talk's Cheap' was also a reflection of our budget at the time; we had limited money and little time to record the EP, plus we were a more naive band who were not really used to the recording process. By the time came around to record 'Quid Pro Quo' we knew what to expect and had put aside over two weeks to record the album in one stretch. Also as a vocalist I think I have improved a lot which I think helps ‘Quid Pro Quo’ sound superior to 'Talk's Cheap'. In fact, everyone has improved significantly at their instruments since then, and with the addition of Ric and his great backing vocals this also expanded the melodic possibilities. We set out to make a great hardrock album that sounded like the very late 80s/early 90s sound where heavy-ness was secondary to groove and melody. Bands like Lynch Mob exemplify a style we collectively enjoy as a band, so it makes myself – and I’m sure the rest of the band – very happy to know that you noticed these changes and believe them to be for the better.
Something else I also mentioned in my review is that the music brings you straight back to the 80s, but doesn’t sound dated or old whatsoever, but very much timeless. That’s quite an achievement in my opinion, and a hard task to realize. There is obviously a lot of work and effort put in the songs, yet the whole thing sound spontaneous and Of course the fantastic production of the album plays a part in that as well. Your opinion please…
Yeah well our very favorite bands were from the 80s and early 90s! We love how those bands incorporated massive choruses into more straightforward metal music. We are very much big advocates of the 'vocal hook' and many 80s hair bands and hard rock bands were very much fixated on the great vocal hook also, which probably shines through and draws comparisons between the two styles! Also we are big fans of blues rock and heavier metal, and always loved how 80s hair bands struck a unique and great balance between blues rock and heavy metal. So I think it is natural that our love of these same themes will make us at times sound similar. But we appreciate you saying that we do not sound dated! Our intention is to incorporate those same stylistic themes into our music without trying to mimic those older bands. Our songs are usually built around massive vocal hooks or great riffs and they just naturally grow from there which might make for the kinda spontaneous feel, despite the careful planning and hard work involved. 80s music fills me with a happy, nostalgic and empowering feeling, and it is a feeling we wanted the listener to feel when listening to Maverick. There is one thing we do religiously and that is work on a song until we think it is as good as it can be, and we do try to cut out parts that are not working; you won’t find many Maverick songs with parts that drag on and on – at least we hope, haha.
As you know in the last couple of years a lot of new bands are falling back to the eighties sound. Also in your genre of music there are many bands that use old-school sleaze and glam as the basis. The distinctive point about Maverick is that unlike many of those bands, I don’t get the feeling that you’re trying to “reinvent” the scene and are also not trying too hard to sound like the 80s, but play genuine and honest music that you love? In how far can you agree and in how far do you thing Maverick distinguishes itself from the many current old-school rock and metal bands?
Cheers, man! Once again that is something that we try very hard to get across in Maverick's music. We are not trying to be an 80s band in any way! Sure we have the odd bandana and maybe a bit of eyeliner at times – Ric, that is, haha – but that is because we like that image and feel that it reflects the style and attitude of the music that we play. Plus, who wants to come and see bands playing rock and metal whilst dressed in shirts and trousers haha.
There are many great bands these days that to many may sound similar to us, but we feel some of them try to emulate the 80s too closely, to the extent it is almost a parody, you know? Whilst we respect that and think it rocks in its own way, it is not what Maverick is about at all, and we hope that by the end of the next album, people can start saying “Wow, that sounds really Maverick-ish!”. We believe we have a reasonably unique melodic style that can stand on its own, sure we take ingredients and atmosphere from the 80s and early 90s, but I guess that is only natural. Also I believe that our lyrics are quite good; we cover a diverse range of subjects like real life situations and losses, but also fantasy situations and 'what if?' situations. I think too many of the current crop of 80s-style bands write lyrics that are too derivative. I know that ‘Rock N’ Roll Lady’ is not exactly lyrically advanced, but I don't think songs about women or sexual situations need to be, haha! Songs like that are easy to write because they are about tangible real-life situations, that we all find ourselves in and think about, as opposed to singing about demons, murder, medieval castles etc. – which is fine in its own right of course – but it is not something we would want to write about. I am aware that Maverick songs from 'Talk's Cheap' such as 'Top Heavy' are cheesy and possibly derivative, but we hope that people understand that they are purely for fun and for sing-alongs. Also as I said before, I think our guitar players believe in tasteful melodic playing, solos which accompany and add to the songs theme and feel, where many modern melodic hardrock bands’ guitarists can take the approach of play as fast as possible, loads of sweeps, tapping and super-fast scales. That’s cool, but it’s not what we are about. We are all about the melody.
I think that another distinctive aspect of Maverick is the fact that you can apply to a broader audience than many bands. Your music is quite heavy in the first place and will definitely apply to fans of melodic hardrock, AOR, glam and heavy metal. But at the same time the music is quite accessible enough, without being commercial, to appeal to a non-metal audience as well…
I think you are right! Songs such as 'Got It Bad' are melodic enough that I believe any fan of music could appreciate them in some way or another. I have actually put on the album in my work without telling customers or colleagues that it is my band, and I have noticed that they not only enjoy the music but also pick up on chorus lines and are humming along by the final chorus, haha. That’s a great thing because appealing to a broad audience can never be a bad thing! We love bands like Aerosmith because they can write any style of song and still be accepted by their fan base. We would love to be a band who write the music we love and have our fans accept and enjoy it! But first and foremost we want to have metallers and rockers pumping their fists in the air, as we are all metal and rock fan. We feel that if we personally enjoy it and want to sing along and rock out, then it is good! It is a simple way to measure quality, but I guess it works. Bu bottom line is that we are a hardrock band and we feel that hardrock is a broad genre! At the same time writing “commercial music” never comes into our heads, we write music we feel is catchy and good!
And in what way does the album title represent all of the in the abovementioned? I mean, there are different definitions for the term ‘Quid Pro Quo’…
Well, we think there is a recurring theme throughout the album, which deals with the general concept and idea of 'every action has an equal reaction'. So there are many songs throughout the album that deal with cause and effect. For example if someone is going to treat their significant other badly or take them for granted, then it is likely they will lose them as a result. Or if you decide to join the army and go to war that at some stage that action may result in your death, which is of course the very result of war. Or whenever you are addicted to a drug, that action will consequently effect everyone around you and your relationship with them. So we thought that it was a broad and cool term which was to do with 'something for something'. The idea for the 'Quid Pro Quo' title actually came about when I was watching the ‘Lion King’ one day while very hungover, haha. Not very rock n’ roll, but I heard it mentioned during a song in the film, loved the sound of it, researched all of the potential meanings and how they can be applied to real life situations, many of which are tackled in the albums lyrics. We never wanted to create a cliché 'party rock' album, and we felt that an album title such as ‘Quid Pro Quo’ would make that clear from the outset. Plus I think it sounds great and looks great written down, haha.
As mentioned before, you have quite played yourself in the picture, especially in Ireland. Are there plans to take the band back on the road to support the album and maybe across Europe sometime next year?
Yeah I think by this stage we have played Northern Ireland as much as possible, we will have some great slots down south this year coming including a metal festival called 'The Siege of Limerick' which is usually for much heavier bands, so that will be a big challenge for us to survive that crowd. But hey, I may sing about broken hearts and stuff but I am a pretty big guy so we will hopefully not get into too much trouble, haha! Also we will be supporting the 'Metal Allstars' featuring James LaBrie, Geoff Tate and many others which we cannot wait for. But we have plans to play a tour of Europe this summer supporting 'Quid Pro Quo' – if it has to be self-financed, it will be, but we are looking at management and booking agents etc. and hopefully between now and then we can get something that works for us, but either way we will be in Europe this summer in some way or another and we can’t wait!. We’ll have to play a few Dutch dates too I think, hehe.
Speaking of gigs, nowadays it is not that easy to get a decent gig, let alone planning a decent tour for up and coming bands. How is the situation regarding shows for a band like Maverick at the moment? Both nationally and internationally.
Yeah you are totally correct! If you do not make huge money no one cares about you at all and no one will help whenever it comes to a tour, But we are strong and firm believers in persistence and hard work. Locally we have proved ourselves enough that we get quality gigs thrown our way which is great! But on an International/European level we will be starting from the very bottom all over again, which will be difficult but we are damn well willing to do it! As i said we are looking a booking agency or management to help us out with trying to book a small club tour of some kind playing alongside respected local bands as we go, but if we cannot get help then we will do it the old fashioned way, as we always have. Do it ourselves! We have never had anyone help us too much thus far, we have had amazing support from our regular friends and fans which has helped us immensely, but with reference to help from those higher up we have not got anything we did not deserve. The Massacre deal has helped us reach FAR more ears than we otherwise would have using their excellent PR machine, we have seen Maverick Reviews from countries we have never even heard of haha, so Massacres exposure has helped us A LOT, but now is the time to capitalize on that and make the most of the opportunity we were lucky enough to get! It won’t be an easy road but hopefully we can get some local level club shows, or even better a tour supporting a bigger band if we got lucky! But we will see.
Now that your debut is released, what’s the next step in world domination for Maverick?
Get playing the rest of the UK and Europe with other great bands. We want to get our music out to as many ears as possible and play alongside other quality bands in this genre, bands such as Crazy Lixx are fantastic and we believe that we would appeal heavily to their fan base! Luckily as it took us so long to release the album, we have been afforded a lot of extra and unexpected time to write new songs, so I’m happy to say that the next album is already well underway. So we will continue to write in our spare time, improve individually and as a band, and concentrate on promoting ‘Quid Pro Quo’ and getting into Europe. We believe that if we manage to get people to see us live we can impress anyone – we have always been told that we are a 'live band' whose home is the stage, it is where we live, breathe and feel at ease. Even if people may not love the album we believe that the energy, enthusiasm and power of our live show can win people over. Also we have released two videos to date, 'Paint By Numbers' and 'In Our Blood' which are both on Massacre Records official YouTube channel. But we plan to do at least two more music videos for songs off the album, to keep us ticking over online! There is a lot of work ahead and a lot of naysayers who would like nothing more than to watch us fall, but I can guarantee we will meet the challenge head on and will not stop until we have brought Maverick to the next level! As you know it yourself Nima, there is no better feeling than performing live, so the more we can do that, especially in foreign countries, the better!.
Alright David, I guess we can call it a day for now. Unless of course there is something left that you’d like to mention…
Cheers Nima, it has been a pleasure, thanks to yourself and everyone at LOM for giving me the time to chat to you about the band, there is one more thing I’d like to say to the readers though: Listen to our album, crank it up to 11, and sing your asses off!