Get Funky With The Main Squeeze at the Westword Music Showcase

The Main Squeeze
The Main Squeeze Courtesy of The Main Squeeze
Maximillian Newman was sitting in a backyard and toying with the chord progression in “Maggot Brain,” the expansive ten-minute-long instrumental that kicks off Funkadelic’s 1971 album of the same name. It was how he passed a lot of time at the height of the pandemic lockdowns.

“I hadn’t been playing with people as much, so I was just soloing a lot of backing tracks online," Newman recalls. "One of the backing tracks I kept coming back to was ‘Maggot Brain,’ because it’s got that legendary solo.”

Newman, who plays guitar in funk band the Main Squeeze, didn’t know it at the time, but he was in the early phases of “Sun Goes Down,” an epic nine-minute track on the band’s latest record, To Be Determined.

The Main Squeeze, made up of Newman, Corey Frye, Ben “Smiley” Silverstein, Reuben Gingrich and Rob Skywalker (Walker), will play the Westword Music Showcase on Saturday, September 10.

As Newman was playing, vocalist/frontman Frye started to sing over the track. They both liked what they heard.

“I’d never heard anyone sing on that chord progression,” Newman says. “It kind of evolved from that. We put our own spin on it. We wanted a song that was emotionally really raw, and we weren’t afraid to stretch it out.”

Newman finds the song to be — sonically, at least — akin to an LSD trip.

“We just wanted that energy,” he says. “It’s kind of psychedelic and raw. We wanted it to scream and cry and be dynamic, get loud, get quiet and just take you on a journey. I was happy with it when it was done, and it’s been the best to do live. You can let it out on that tune.”

Frye wrote most of the lyrics, which Newman says draw on the fear of being alone in the world and the desire to find someone.

“When the sun goes down, who's going to be around?” Newman says. “In a nutshell, that’s what I take the song to be about — having somebody there when the shit hits the fan, but also, at the end of this journey, who is going to be there with you.”

He adds that when the Main Squeeze plays the song live, Frye sometimes dedicates it to a friend who died young, while Newman often finds himself thinking of another friend lost to a drug overdose. The tune elicits a sense of longing and comes across as a prayer of sorts.

“In a lot of ways, it kind of feels like that,” Newman says. “There’s definitely a deep sadness in it, but I’d like to think there's hope in it, also. It’s just kind of raw and deals with loss and loneliness, but also pushing on and finding someone to go through it all with. That’s kind of what the whole album was about.”

He says another song on the album, “Hold My Hand,” explores a happier side of the emotions addressed in “Sun Goes Down” and has the feel of a Motown ballad. Elsewhere, “Grape Jelly” touches on the concept of a first love and finding that person, while “Purple Flowers,” which people often characterize as romantic, is actually dedicated to the bandmembers' moms.

“There’s a common thread there of someone who's there for you and supports you through this crazy life we all go through,” Newman says.

Although it springs from a Funkadelic track, “Sun Goes Down” has strong Pink Floyd vibes and is particularly reminiscent of “The Great Gig in the Sky,” from The Dark Side of the Moon. “That album, and Pink Floyd in general, was definitely an influence on this album,” Newman agrees. “We’ve always covered Pink Floyd songs here and there. Generally speaking, we do one cover per set. It’s always fun to pick the cover, and Pink Floyd has been a mainstay of that.”

The Bloomington, Indiana-born band, now based in L.A., sits comfortably in the funk realm, but the Main Squeeze's sound often stretches beyond the genre. The band pulls strong hip-hop influences into its style, sometimes channeling the Roots and the jazz-inflected hip-hop trio Digable Planets.

While Newman notes that To Be Determined is the band’s most accomplished album to date, he still thinks the group’s self-titled debut is hard to beat. It wasn’t a mature work, but it was "very us," he says.

“There are like five different genres on that [first] album,” he adds. “But that’s really us. We came up in really different backgrounds and really different upbringings, both in life and musically.”

The Westword Music Showcase returns to RiNo on Friday, September 9, with free performances by dozens of local bands at nine venues in the area. On Saturday, September 10, more local bands will join national headliners the Flaming Lips, Saint Motel,  Cannons and the Main Squeeze on three stages at the Mission Ballroom Outdoors; tickets are $55-$85. The Main Squeeze plays the Brighton Stage at 1:15 p.m. Saturday. Get more Showcase information at; for more music from the Main Squeeze, go to To Be Determined is available to stream on Spotify.
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