It’s been well over three years since Dave Elkins and the rest of Mae came to the Pacific Ocean on a tour, but the veteran indie rockers are finally making the journey west once again in support of their latest release, November’s Multisensory Aesthetic Experience (which also happens to be what the band’s name stands for).
As anyone who went to the mind-blowing virtual reality-centric album launch in LA can attest, the group’s fourth full-length (and first since 2007’s Singularity) takes the 17-year-old band’s catchy songwriting abilities to the next dimension with what could just as easily be a memorable soundtrack to a highbrow sci-fi drama as it is an endearing rock record. It’s a sonic experience every Mae fan should want to see live at least once and an appropriate result of the grueling writing/recording/producing schedule the band went through to make it.
“In October of , I moved into my own studio, and that’s where we made the Mae album,” Elkins says. “It was about 10 hours a day, 6 days a week for about 10 months straight. Sometimes it was hard to see the forest for the trees and sometimes it was wonderful to dive that deeply into something that we have so much passion and creativity for. It was exhausting, but once it was finally done it was definitely one of the things I’ve been most proud to be a part of.”
Having lived in Nashville since the originally Virginia-based band went on hiatus in 2010, the vocalist, guitarist/producer was glad to put the skills he’d developed working with other artists to use on something he could call his own. But knowing that none of that would really matter if everyone else despised Multisensory Aesthetic Experience, Elkins admits that he spent a good amount of his holiday season reading the reviews and reactions to the band’s new record on the internet. Thankfully, not only were the online critics relatively kind to Mae’s latest release, but even the band’s hungriest fans have seemed perfectly willing to take their time getting into what Elkins describes as a “slow burn” of a record and listen to it several times in order to fully interpret it.
The departure from some of the more straightforward subject matter (see: 2005’s “Someone Else’s Arms” ) may be a shift from Mae’s older material, but the band isn’t about to forget their first few records just because the new one goes in a different direction. As their breakout sophomore effort, The Everglow, nears its 15th birthday, Elkins can appreciate more than ever both what a lasting impact the album had as well as how much he and his bandmates have changed since then.
“Fifteen years ago feels like a lifetime of memories ago for me personally, but it feels like it just happened the other day,” Elkins says. “I’m really grateful, because when I was writing and recording with the band for that record, we just had these goals that were right in front of us like ‘Let’s make a song that sounds like this’ or ‘Let’s make the best version of this song that we can write these days.’ Fifteen years pass, and those songs have been a part of other people’s lives, journeys, and soundtracks. You forget about all of those other things, and it’s just about how the music has connected you to these people and how the music has connected these people to each other.”
After hearing numerous stories of couples walking down the aisle at their weddings to Mae songs or naming their daughters after the band, the songwriter is fully aware of how much his early work means to a lot of his most dedicated fans. It’s one reason why the trio offers intimate experiences like last year’s Mae Day, sells VIP meet and greet packages, works with chefs to add taste to the “multisensory” aspect of the band, and generally goes above and beyond for their fans whenever possible.
Now, the West Coast fans who’ve felt neglected while the band’s had no shortage of hometown shows in Virginia, Tennessee, and various other locales in the eastern half of the country are finally getting their turn this winter.
“It’s been a while, and it’s a cool time to be on tour on the West Coast,” Elkins says. “It’s January, so there are plenty of places we can’t or don’t want to be because of inclement weather. We’ve had a lot of fans and made a lot of friends in Southern California especially, so I can’t wait to be back.
“I’m excited to play some of these songs live for the first time,” Elkins continues. “When we come through Southern California, we’ll be playing some songs that we’ve never played before and some others that we’ve only played a handful of times. We’ve been on break and haven’t put out music in so long that if anyone is interested in our band right now, [the new album and tour] is a really great place to start. It’s a self-titled album, so it’s purposefully what we think is representing us right now and the true essence of the band.”
Mae is at the Constellation Room inside of the Observatory in Santa Ana on January 17. Tickets cost $20 and are available online .