Max Winne of the Maykit: "I've always preferred reading to actual music."
Those who know Max Winne from his current folk project the Maykit might be surprised to learn about his first band. As a teenager, Winne played in the hardcore band Call to Arms with Jeremy and Adam Fisher (the latter was a founding member of Fear Before). But as he grew out of his teens, he became more interested in the literary possibilities offered by folk.
"To be perfectly honest, I prefer lyrics to actual song structure," says Winne. "Obviously, if it's a bad-sounding song, the lyrics aren't going to matter. But I've always preferred reading to actual music.
"I liked writing, and I wanted to write stories," he continues. "Folk music was the way to do that. When you're yelling, you can tell a story, but when I would do it, it felt less involved. I felt like folk music made it easier for me to say what I wanted to say."
The Maykit began as a solo project -- just Winne playing alone in his basement with the wide variety of instruments he'd accumulated from his earlier bands. And aside from a brief, early experiment with a full band, Winne played shows largely alone.
But during the past two years, he's been collaborating more regularly with Noah Matthews, who also currently plays in Rachel and the Kings. Though Winne writes all the songs, he says that Matthews finds little fixes that render them complete.
"I don't know if I fix them," Matthews demurs. "I think that I've played in enough bands in different genres that I kind of have an ear for it. I have a hard time writing songs myself, but I love to take a song and push it in a direction that I think is good for the song, and I love coming up with different parts."
The new Maykit record, Moon Boy, is rooted in folk, but for the first time, Winne extensively employs electric guitar. Other instruments featured prominently on the album are the electric-autoharp-like Omnichord and a Moog Slim Phatty synthesizer. "I didn't want to overdo it, because it takes a long time to get sounds that you're happy with," says Winne of his use of synthesizer on Moon Boy. "So when I found some sounds that I really enjoyed, I just peppered the songs with them."
But despite the new instrumentation, neither Winne's knack for bright, shimmering chords nor the literary quality of his lyrics has changed.
"The people that I write like, I used to love a lot when I was younger," says Winne. "Like Bukowski, where it's dark and you can't help but laugh, because this guy's life is such a wreck. Now I read David Sedaris and other stuff that's still darkish but lighthearted. Sedaris is pretty much all I've been reading, whether it's Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk or Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls. What I like about it is that it's hard for me to decide whether or not it's a real thing that happened or if it's fiction."