The Maine’s John O’Callaghan remembers what it was like idolizing a band when he was a kid.
“I was 14 years old and the bassist from Matchbox Romance (Ryan Kienle) came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you have a cool hat.’ I didn’t take that hat off until it fell apart.”
O’Callaghan was watching a crowd gather in front of Indianapolis’ Old National Centre on Tuesday, during a phone interview to advance his band’s Saturday (5/25) gig at the Blue Moose Tap House in Iowa City. Seven fans were hanging out on a chilly, dreary morning about 11 hours before The Maine would hit the stage.
After a few minutes chatting about the new album, “You are OK,” released in March, O’Callaghan, 30, said more people had arrived.
After the chat, O’Callaghan intended to leave the cozy confines of his tour bus to greet The Maine aficionados.
“I’m going to go over and be the adult and make sure they’re drinking water and they’re warm,” he said.
Not every band that’s headlining theaters fraternizes with fans.
“I don’t understand why that is,” O’Callaghan said. “Without our fans we have nothing.”
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After every show, members of the band, which formed in Tempe a dozen years ago, greet their fans.
“We’ll talk until the venue won’t let us or until the weather gets too uncomfortable,” O’Callaghan said. “We operate in a community, and I love it. I enjoy hearing the stories and love how our band impacts their lives. There’s got to be bands more successful than we are that connect with fans.”
On a hot and humid afternoon a quarter century ago, U2 bassist Adam Clayton asked any fans were hanging around before their stadium show in Philadelphia. He invited them in to see the soundcheck.
O’Callaghan like to hear that. “It makes sense to me to be able to touch people’s lives by interacting with them,” he said.
The Maine definitely touches people through song. The band, which also includes guitarist Jared Monaco, bassist Garrett Nickelsen, guitarist Kennedy Brock and drummer Patrick Kirch, is touring behind its seventh album, “You are OK.” The project hearkens back to its first album, 2008’s “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.” Both feature hook-laden, anthemic rock.
“We wanted to explore that again,” O’Callaghan said. “It took us out of our comfort zone, since we haven’t made an album like that in many years. But we had help with (producer) Matt Squire, who helped achieve the sound we wanted.”
It’s evident from the start of the album that The Maine is all about the big sound. Vocals are stacked with the opening cut, “Slip the Noose,” which recalls Queen. “Heaven, We’re Already Here” and “Flowers on the Grave” are moving and baroque tracks. Strings are used throughout the album.
“We were excited about that,” O”Callaghan said. “We’re seven albums in and we’ve never used actual strings before, so that was so neat. We needed to challenge ourselves and expand with this album.”
It isn’t easy for The Maine to come up with a set list.
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“It’s really difficult, since we play for an hour and 20-minutes,” O’Callaghan said. “So we get to do maybe 16 songs. The good thing is that we switch up our set every night, and so fans who see us more than once can see a different show. We know a number of fans follow us around the country. We have one fan who has seen us more than 150 times.”
O’Callaghan even knows some of his followers by name. He takes time with his fans and gets to know them.
“I’m going to go out and say hi to this group of people now,” he said.
Maybe he should tell one of the fans he has a cool hat. “Not a bad idea,” O’Callaghan said with a laugh. “If it has the impact that it had on me, that would be amazing.”
WHAT: The Maine, with Grayscale opening
WHERE: Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave., Iowa City
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday (5/25)
TICKETS: $20 advance, $25 show day; (319) 358-9206 or Bluemooseic.com
BAND’S WEBSITE: Themaineband.com