My Maiden Name carved a place in the scene with the release of their 2016 EP "My Thoughts, The Same." Now, Savannah’s most eclectic alt-rock band—the group is inspired by Brazilian pop, new wave, '90s alternative, and hip-hop—is back with a full-length record. Join the band as they debut Thanks of a Grateful Nation at El-Rocko Lounge this weekend.
We chatted with guitarist Jason Beck, vocalist Anne dos Santos, and bassist Dennis Barber about the band’s evolution, the new release, and their unique writing process.
You released your debut EP last summer. Tell us about the approach to that release versus the full album.
Beck: It’s actually been quite similar. We were all pretty pleased with the EP and the release event so we built on that for the album.
Dos Santos: I’m not sure we approached the album differently but since we learned a lot from the EP perhaps we approached the album with more experience.
Barber: The recording process was similar; however, it seemed that we were more flexible and creative during the process to allow for the songs to change as we recorded. One of the changes that stands out is that we have a full-time drummer, Rhett, that we did not have for the EP. During the development of the EP our relationship was new and the songs were pretty much developed.
I feel a lot of live energy from these recordings; does playing shows impact your songwriting?
Dos Santos: Playing a song to an audience keeps it alive and, vocally speaking, I tweak our songs in subtle ways the more playtime it gets. I think My Maiden Name likes live energy music and playing gigs definitely help our songs have more of that feeling.
Barber: Actually, the relationship goes both ways at least for me. I am much more aware of how lyrics or rhythm will be experienced by listeners. This has certainly impacted choices that I’ve made in the creative process. Also, once we come together with ideas and input on a track, I remember that moment often when we are performing and try to embrace what the song means to the other band members and not just my interpretation.
I remember your past EP, lyrically, being a very collaborative writing process. Is that the case on this release?
Beck: Yes, very collaborative in the sense that we all contribute lyrically, but we actually don’t work side by side together very often. Either one person will provide all the lyrics to a certain song, or we’ll collaborate, each person independently writing a different part. For example, in one of the songs, “See it Thru,” I came to the band with the music for the song and with lyrics for the chorus but not for the verses or bridge. Dennis wrote those lyrics and the song came out great. Dennis wrote all the lyrics for “My Part,” Anne wrote all the lyrics for “Conto Sem Fim.” I wrote “Weak Case.” I frequently wonder if listeners can tell a difference between what each of the three of us write. It seems really obvious to me but maybe it’s like when you get a haircut and you think you look totally different but most people don’t notice.
Barber: It is a siloed but collaborative process. I have learned more about what Anne and Jason will be open to or not. That has not necessarily kept me from bringing ideas that they would not, at least at first, be accepting of but I am aware that we all have to be comfortable with the performance and the outcome. I have also learned quite a bit about melody from Anne and Jason. Jason and I work together on the arrangement most of the time. As Jason said, I wonder if the audience can pick up on the nuances of our different writing styles...certainly for us it is obvious.
What have you learned as a band playing together these last few years?
Beck: I’ve learned that it’s okay to lean on these guys a little bit. Writing music is usually easier for me than lyrics, and I’ve learned that it’s okay to pass off the music to a song and let them work out the lyrics. The biggest change in the writing process for me has been that now I write songs more for Anne’s voice. After a few years, I’ve gotten to know what she’s really going to be able to kill and I try to write to that.
Dos Santos: I can definitely see how we have all evolved in our crafts. I would say that we have grown in the way that we play together as well and that has been awesome to experience together as a band.
Barber: Once again, I have learned about what Jason and Anne can do and what appeals to them. This has guided me in my writing. We have also grown and learned more about our specific role in the group. This has led to better communication and understanding. Our music has always been a bit pop and this new album, in my opinion, is digestible for a diverse range of people. Rhett and I have learned to work together on rhythm.
What are you hoping listeners glean from this album?
Beck: Someone once asked me what I hoped to get out doing this, the music. The only answer I could come with was “a good time.” So I suppose that’s what I hope the listener gets out of it.
Dos Santos: As for me, and not just for this album, I express myself unapologetically when I sing and I always hope the listener can feel that somehow. This is playtime and we always have fun playing together so ultimately I hope the listener will join the party.