Photo: Tina Brindel

20 Questions: Maritime

Born in the ashes of both the Promise Ring and the Dismemberment Plan, Maritime has upset expectations by forging their own indie-pop path.
Magnetic Bodies / Maps of Bones

Maritime’s journey has been one of upsetting people’s expectations.

When the group was formed, the excitement of merging the members of the now-defunct Promise Ring (Davey bon Bohlen and Dan Didier) together with the then-finished Dismemberment Plan (bassist Alex Axelson) was enough to send the writer of your nearest indie-rock Blogspot into a spasm of delight. Yet the group’s first-ever set, Glass Floor, arrived in 2004 with a hushed murmur, as this new band was intent on exploring exploring mellower, acoustic textures that caught fans of both the Ring and the Plan off guard. Despite its somewhat muted reception, Glass Floor contained some rather lovely, beautiful moments, along with “Someone Has to Die”, a song that was soon picked up by The Onion’s A.V. Club as the soundtrack to their long-running Undercover series, which, in an intresting twist, was updated in later seasons to “It’s Casual”, off of 2011’s Human Hearts.

That song in particular is one hell of a surging guitar rush (love those pedal effects), and over the course of the group’s latter efforts, the hushed Glass Floor turned out to be the band’s black sheep record, as each new set they released after caught the band making bigger, bolder pop decisions, soon leaving a trail of astoundingly great singles (like “Guns of Navarone” from 2007’s Heresy and the Hotel Choir and “Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts” from 2006’s We, the Vehicles) in their wake, swapping Axelson out for bassist Justin Klug in 2006. Although many viewed the band as born of a certain set of expectations, what Maritime has done since then has been taking ownership of their sound in incredible ways, resulting in a glut of fantastic rock music that they’ve slowly been building a legacy off of.

So in late 2015, the group released their fifth full-length album, Magnetic Bodies/Maps of Bones, which came a full four years after the great Human Hearts and continues to show the group exploring what a pop song is and what they can do to make it something unique. To celebreat the occasion, Didier himself swung by to answer PopMatters’ 20 Questions, here revealing an affinity for Alvy Singer, Jackson Pollock, and a drum set that he bought two decades ago and still plays to this day.

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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I took my daughters to see Inside Out and spoiler alert when Bing Bong jumps out of the wagon to his death to ensure Joy makes it up and out of the cavern I totally lost it. I mainly lost it because of how my youngest daughter reacted. She totally lost it. So, it was this little endearing moment in the theater where she is crying because of what happened in the movie and I started crying because of what happened to her (and the movie).

2. The fictional character most like you?

There is a part in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall where the young Alvy Singer seems depressed and the mother says to him “What’s wrong?” and he mentions that the universe is expanding and one day it will break apart. To which his mother says “You are here in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is not expanding.” I remember driving in my parent’s car when I was young and while looking up at the stars I had this sudden feeling of absolute fear. Not that the universe was expanding, but I had the realization that we were on an extremely small planet in a vast vast universe and no matter what anyone does in life we are still just this dust particle to the universe. That realization has left an impression on me ever since.

3. The greatest album, ever?

There are too many to pick just one. Often when I do listen to a record I love, I am like “This is the best thing ever!” That is until I listen to another one I love as equally and say the exact same thing.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars. Without question.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Watching other drummers play. I learn so much by checking out the drummers of the bands that play with us or that I see at shows. I see. I steal. That’s how it works right?

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I assume the accomplishment is you speak of is the new album. In all honestly I am just happy that we created one more album than my last band. I am also proud that we recorded it 100% at our own studio. It’s the first time we have done something like that.

7. You want to be remembered for …?

Being a decent guy, mainly. That said, I hope there is something in the 12+ records I released that someone somewhere thought was a good idea and in turn inspired them to do something creative.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

I’m an underdog rooter. Anytime someone is backed in a corner and all hope is lost, that’s who I am pulling for and success or failure there is inspiration in that.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Oh, anything that will allow for financial security, like the development of Minecraft or the iPhone. Oh fine, one: “Number 31” by Jackson Pollock.

10. Your hidden talents . . .?

I still skateboard. Been doing Sunday mornings at the local spot. It’s definitely something I really love doing.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

There has been a lot, but one advice that still sticks to me is from Blake Schwarzenbach. One time when The Promise Ring took Jets to Brazil out he mentioned how damaging reading record reviews can be. If you read a bad one it seems to stick with you and undermine your perceived abilities, but worse is if you read a great one you tend to overvalue your abilities which can be just as damaging. So, I still read reviews but keep this philosophy in mind and take them all with a grain of salt.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

I bought my drum set around 20 years ago from a friend and to this day I still play the same one. Best investment I ever made seeing it has probably paid for itself 1,000 times over.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

Levis. I literally have been wearing the same style of Levis for years now. I like keeping things simple. Black Levis. Black American Apparel or H&M shirt/sweatshirt (depending on the weather).

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

I have always admired the German artist Käthe Kollwitz. Her wood cuts especially have always fascinated me. So a conversation to get to know her and understand her works I feel would be an amazing opportunity.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Early ’80s D.C. to see Bad Brains at their prime.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Mindfullness meditation. My wife and I took a class a few years back and it really helped me. I am full of anxiety and nervous energy, so what I practice from this class really helps me center myself.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

Coffee for sure. Give me a skim cortado and I’m all set.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

City. I need to be able to walk to where ever I want to go. I appreciate the country, but I would be driven mad by the silence. London, Berlin, and NYC are all places I dream of living, but deep down, I am completely happy living here in Milwaukee.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

I appreciate the fight for equal rights to women, health care, marriage equality, and all the good you have done, but you need to return your Nobel Peace prize for allowing drones to kill innocent people in the Middle East.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

I work at a company that does mainly branded documentaries, but we currently are working on three music related feature documentaries that I am excited about. Definitely keeps me busy.