Such Nice Boys!
Photo by Tim Owen"We write to apologize."
That's the first line on Mae's debut album, Destination: Beautiful. But why the regrets?
"We're nice guys," says singer/guitarist Dave Gimenez. "That's what people say when they let us crash on their floors. 'Anything for such nice guys.' Hopefully they like our music, too."
But the word "nice" meshed together with large, gloppy servings of repentance are more renowned for inspiring ridicule, not a rocking good time. Luckily for Mae, their music is pretty good. It's loud but tuneful, with dashes of Beatle-y harmonies and U2-ish aural spaces, the kind of sound for those angry life moments when you want to blast the stereo but your flagging sense of shame barely keeps you from making a complete ass of yourself. Label-hungry pundits would call this sound emo, but don't tell Gimenez that or you could really piss him off. Which would make him seem, well, not nice.
"I don't know what that means anymore," Gimenez says of emo. "I don't think anyone knows what it means—it's used so poorly, so often. Our music is just modern rock."
Being nice guys, Mae have no overly vain plans to become rock stars. They were originally a bedroom studio project for Gimenez and bassist Matt Beck while Gimenez tried to decide on a major while attending Virginia's Old Dominion University. Two years ago, the pair posted their songs on mp3.com just to see if anyone would listen, and they started getting around 20 hits per day (a figure that has since ballooned to more than 5,000). Their next step could have tried even the nicest of guys—they had to put a band together.
By the end of 2001, they were gigging steadily around their Norfolk home. A slick LA management company, Caliente Entertainment, called and said they liked the mp3s they heard, and soon, Caliente's people were flying to the East Coast to catch Mae's shows. Eventually, they found a label home at onetime OC-based imprint Tooth & Nail.
The rewards of this quickie signing weren't immediately grasped by Gimenez during our chat. The band was stuck in Tulsa, Oklahoma, braving freezing, 35-degree weather and iced-over highways between shows in Texas and Oklahoma. The unfriendly skies barely concern them, though—after all, they're on tour, playing music, not stuck back in Norfolk.
Unlike other famed ear-bleeding bands—Motrhead and Led Zeppelin come to mind—Mae's tours are anything but a debauched rampage through the heartland. They stay faithful to their girlfriends and avoid snarky jokes and drinking.
"We had a 'no drinking' rule for our first tour. We didn't want to screw everything up," Gimenez says. "We only drink now to celebrate a cool occasion; we're trying to become more lenient with ourselves now."
Then again, there could be a crack in their nice veneer. "Maybe one of the band members will get fed up with our drinking rules," Gimenez predicts. "Maybe we'll ease our way into alcohol and drugs and substance abuse. So instead of diving straight down, we're going to experiment with experimenting."
Nice! Mae perform with Never Heard of It, Running Late, Unsung Zeros and Punchline at Chain Reaction 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067. Thurs., March 13, $8. All ages.
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