“It took life for us to get to this point – Everybody was so free.
From the first notes, it sounded like an explosion of sound; we went where the songs took us with a singularity of purpose.
We came in to make music as grown-ups, to make music as men.”
– Raul Malo, lead singer of The Mavericks
The Mavericks are back. The country-steeped garage band with a Cuban American lead singer that had emerged from Miami in 1989 with their sultry debut that was equal parts innocence, intensity, and vintage influences has reunited in 2012 after an eight-year hiatus. Time has a way of melting when you’re busy living life – and two decades have passed since their polyrhythmic brand of post-modern country has given the world “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down,” “Here Comes The Rain,” and “Dance The Night Away.”
With their new album, time melts once again, and the band that defied definitions, blurred genres, and made everybody feel good is back. The “most interesting band in the world” has captured the infectious energy and robust sound from their live shows on their new Valory Music release In Time. Songs like “Dance In The Moonlight,” the Orbison-esque “Born To Be Blue,” the horn-punctuated retro noir “Back In Your Arms Again,” and the Tejano-esque “All Over Again” show that the Mavericks have once again found the way to make genre-defying soul music.
For Raul Malo, the lead singer with the rich supple voice that’s second to only Roy Orbison in its ability to convey lonesomeness, desire, and vivre; drummer Paul Deakin and multi-instrumentalist Robert Reynolds; as well as longtime collaborator keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden and seasoned guitarist Eddie Perez, life has become richer in terms of experience, playing acumen, and a sense of their own musicality. It has also deepened the connection between them in a way that heightens the singular chemistry that made the Grammy-winning band one of the most exciting live acts in any musical genre.
“Maybe the space has given us a sense not of how it can happen, but what can happen when we come together,” says Deakin, who has spent the years apart balancing master-level carpentry with touring with David Mead and Jason White. “Just being there, and experiencing it, you don’t think about it. But there is definitely something when you get Raul, Robert, Eddie, Jerry Dale, and I in a room together that’s magical.”
“The way this record happened really fostered the passion, the urgency and the hyper-listening of being in tune with each other. It’s a way of being in tune we don’t have with anyone else.”
This is ironic, since other than a disjointed album eight years ago, the Mavericks had gone their separate ways. Through happenstance, serendipity, and a collective convergence of the cosmos, the band members found themselves entertaining the notion of some live shows for major festivals; then the idea of recording emerged.
Eight years had passed; they’d barely spoken, hadn’t been in the same room, hadn’t given the band more than a passing thought.
But the Mavericks have never been conventional. Indeed, with the passage of time, their legend has grown – and wherever the individual members went, the question of reuniting seemed to grow exponentially.
“I’d always dismissed the people who asked (about The Mavericks) as just holding on to the past,” laughs Malo. “A moment in their lives, some notion that was more fantasy than fact. But the years passed, I kept making music and they never died – those questions.” Malo, the man who feared re-treading what had once been began to rethink whether there was more music to be made.
“It’s funny,” says Perez, who has made music with Chris Shiflett of the Foo Fighters, Dwight Yoakam, Miranda Lambert, George Straight, Lee Ann Womack, and Raul as a solo artist, “it was a maybe to some touring dates, and then what was a few shows turned into, ‘Hey, maybe let’s make a record.’ It just snow-balled, because I think everyone of us lives to make music, and together, we all know it’s like nothing else.”
The time apart has also strengthened everyone’s musicality.
“I expected everybody to play their asses off,” Malo confesses. “That they’d step in like men and make music. And they did. ”
What Malo doesn’t say is that the band did zero pre-production. He was on tour in Europe. Other band members had commitments. Everybody simply showed up and allowed things to happen.
Harvesting a sea of influences – from Dean Martin to the Sir Douglas Quintet, from Hank Williams and Ray Price to tangos, polkas, and Ravel’s “Bolero” – this album is as bold as it was exciting to record. Or, as Perez laughs, “It’s so many genres… if you had to call it something, I guess it would have to be ‘inclusive’.”
“I think it took 30 seconds,” Malo says of the band’s inherent chemistry. “We started playing, and it just happened. It was that explosion of sounds! There’s this beautiful simplicity to this, because when we play together, we know each other so well.”
“There was a sense anything could go wrong at any moment,” Deakin concurs. “So there was this immediacy – and this notion of really being ‘in’ it. Raul didn’t let us hear the songs on purpose, so we were all really listening, really paying attention because we didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Paul Deakin outlines the band’s album history: “Crying Shame was our first real recording session in Nashville with major producers, but it remained the ‘raw us’,” said Deakin. “Music for All Occasions was recorded in the basement of Sony Publishing, and Trampoline was a massive live production. In Time feels really, really good. Like when we were making music in the warehouse back in Hialeah (FL). In the end, we went all the way back: we’re like a garage band behind that voice.”
For all the polish and sophistication, sold out shows at the UK’s Royal Albert Hall, cultural blurring and tours of South America and Europe, United States and Canada, The Mavericks are, indeed, a post-punk band with deep retro-fittings from Miami’s indie scene. That existing beyond the lines is why the lush ‘50s stroll of “That’s Not My Name” is as comfortable as the jukin’ “As Long As There’s Lovin’ Tonight,” the stoic tenderness of “In Another’s Arms,” or the epic build-and-recede “Call Me When You Get To Heaven,” featuring the legendary McCrary Sisters, which went down in one take.
“I see this as a record everyone’s invited to,” Malo explains. “It’s a mix of different rhythms, different places and times. From rednecks to Cubans, Mexicans to gringos to WASPs – you can imagine this band pulling into a country festival and playing ‘Dance In The Moonlight’” – and everybody dances. It’s taking people to new places, but knowing it’s all one world.”
“We constantly struggle with the definition of mainstream,” explains Reynolds. “There were moments obviously when we were ‘in’ it, but it’s more the mainstream embracing us from where we exist on the musical fringes. But rather than being something we’re not, we’ve always stayed true – and by being square pegs, we also probably reflect America, because America’s roots are a melting pot.”
Reynolds continues, “listen to Raul’s writing: that strength and passion! He paints a larger universe. Big love, big loss, big joy – and party, live! It’s exciting musically, but it’s tricky because it can feel joyous, but sometimes it’s actually this really big pain.”
“Raul’s ability to write a simple lyric,” Deakin states, “reflects the mass of humanity, even though it’s one man. When you add his voice, and that sense of melody, it moves people.”
On the new album, “Amsterdam Moon” celebrates the sensual jolt of being alive. Even the Spaghetti Western-inspired “Come Unto Me” ripples with drama, as Malo’s voice grows bolder and more epic in its bravado.
Keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden, who started with the band in ’93, says, “The new music results in a magic that happens when we play together. You don’t recognize that our work was labored over. No, instead, we make it look like it’s music that we just started playing.” McFadden believes In Time will be applauded by old fans and will likely attract a new audience as well. “We made a great record, and there are plenty of folks who will discover this music and vibe for the first time.”
“This is a very masculine record,” Malo says. “There’s a little bravado in there, I’ll say that. It’s the bullfighter with the flower in his mouth, but it’s also about men… and women… and how different we are, but how much we want and desire each other.”
Getting back to being what they are underscores everything about The Mavericks’ return to form – the ferocity of their playing, the singularity of their intent – and yes, the copious sense of exuberance that infuses every note of the album.
“Our relentless pursuit of fun and our selfish notion of pleasing ourselves has always driven us,” Deakin concedes. “But pleasing ourselves creatively has also always worked for us, creating an immediacy that makes us true to the songs. We don’t create for a niche or a genre, but to capture the spirit – and that’s always been our strong point.”
“When we were the new kids, there was this excitement,” Reynolds continues. “Maybe even a naiveté that came off as brash, but we were always sincere. We were never trendy, because we weren’t chasing anything. Maybe we were rebels because we were different… But I think people realize now, this is who we are, what we do. It’s not hipster, it’s who we are.”
“The fans have always understood us,” says Raul. “We made them feel good – and that was something then, as now I think, people wanted. Life is so serious; even for a moment, let’s forget and enjoy!”
“One of the best parts of our relationship with our new label Valory Music is that Scott (Borchetta, Big Machine Label Group CEO) understands what makes us what we are. He was there when we were happening, and he was very supportive! No one at the label wanted to put handcuffs on us. They just wanted a Mavericks record… and I think we gave them one.”