Beyond Eve 6: An Interview with Max Collins

You may recognize Max Collins as the tattooed, redheaded singer from Eve 6. While still with that band, Collins has ventured into a solo project. With his first album, Honey From the Ice Box, on its way, we spoke to him about the past, present, and dark comedy of his music.

Patrick Emmel: Max Collins is coming back to start a solo project. Before we get into that, we have to deal with Eve 6. How did you become the bassist and singer? Bassists always have a bad rap in the band. So were you the lead singer that had to pick up the bass because you didn’t have a bass player or are you more like Sting, or Fat Mike from NOFX, where the bass was your thing and you just happened to sing as well?

Max Collins: Believe it or not, I started out by playing the bass. My dad, when I was a little kid and we drove around listening to the radio, he would always point out the bass line: “You hear that? You hear that low bit there? That’s the bass.” So I guess I had kind of a curiosity about it. There was something about it that was just kind of cool to me about the instrument of the member of the band that’s sort of holding it down. And it probably suited my kind of natural disposition.

The singing thing actually happened perfectly conversely to the way that you described it. One of the first garage bands I was playing in, the singer was trying to sing something, and I suggested: “Why don’t you try singing it like this?” And I heard myself sing and I was like, “Huh. I sort of hit a couple notes there.” Soon after that, I had gotten enough moxie up to try and write a song, and that became it. The bass became totally secondary.

Patrick: So did you pretty much kick the lead singer out and that became Eve 6, or was it a couple bands after that?

Max: You know, Jon Siebels, the guitar player for Eve 6, was definitely [there]. I don’t know if you could even call what we were doing at that time a band. We were just kind of jamming with friends. So yeah, maybe you could say that was a very early incarnation of what would become the band.

Patrick: Have you ever walked into a place where a cover band was playing, and they just so happened to be playing “Inside Out?” I know it sounds too coincidental if that would happen, but you never know.

Max: I try not to darken the doors of too many karaoke establishments, but I probably have. Back in the day when I was a big fan of, uh… beverages alcoholic, I would often find it hilarious to sing my own songs at karaoke bars. I remember doing “Here’s To the Night” or something at a karaoke bar once and I was forgetting the words. It was a pretty pathetic, albeit hilarious display for myself and my buddies.

Patrick: Now, was that one of those private karaoke bars where you rent out a private room, or were you out in the audience for everyone to see that Max Collins can’t sing his own songs in karaoke?

Max: Oh yeah, this was a good, old-fashioned everyman’s karaoke bar. Nothing fancy.

Patrick: Did anyone try to follow you up and sing [the song] again?

Max Collins: I don’t have much of a recollection of that night except I know that much happened, but [laughs] yeah…

Patrick: The beverages alcoholic….

Max: [laughs] Yeah…

Patrick: Is it flattering that bands play your music like that or is it almost insulting that they think they can play it as good as you?

Max: Oh, no. It’s totally flattering. It’s totally strange and wonderful. You write the song and people like it and then people want to play it. It’s great.

Patrick: So how did you decide to branch off just a little bit from Eve 6 and do Max Collins in… Max Collins?

Max: As Eve 6, we’re still doing shows. We’re doing a tour this summer and I still love those dudes and enjoy playing loud rock with them. I just feel, creatively, I’m in that place where I sort of need to be completely kind of selfish and uncompromising and follow my whimsy wherever it goes and not really concern myself with other people’s expectations or opinions or anything. I was in this band, Eve 6, for basically my entire, not just adult life, but young adult, teenage life. So I guess I just have this burning desire to just kind of totally do it my way and shed any perceptions and create these strange little pop songs, record them the way I want to with my friends and make weird videos and put it out into the world. And I intend to continue doing that for as long as I’m around.

It’s been a really gratifying process for me. To have both things is cool for me. I’m nothing but grateful for the fact that Eve 6 has given me kind of a platform, a fan base, a listenership, devoted people who care about my songwriting . And I’m happy to give them Eve 6 songs when I’m with Eve 6, and I’m thrilled to get my new stuff out there as well.

Patrick: I’m guessing the tour you’re talking about is the Summerland Tour, obviously, this summer?

Max: Yeah.

Patrick: Are you going to try to hijack the whole tour and do the Max Collins solo project before Eve 6 goes on stage? [laughs]

Max: [laughs] Yeeeeeah, I don’t think that would go over too well. You know, [the solo stuff] is pretty different in a lot of ways and the people coming to this tour want to hear Eve 6 music. They don’t want to hear Max Collins music. What I might end up doing, depending on whether or not we go to Triple-A radio with the single “Sports Bar,” [is] some little radio appearances and playing my new solo single and stuff like that. I’m doing a residency here in LA at the Viper Room in May with Jody Porter, the guitar player of Fountains of Wayne. He and I have been friends for a long time. And he has a record coming out, too. I do plan to do some solo touring hopefully in the Fall, but I’m kind of keeping busy with local stuff, and I have a solo show in Oakland June 3rd as well.

Patrick: Now you say residency. Every time I hear “residency” I think of doctors.

Max: [laughs]

Patrick: Does that mean you have a weekly gig at the Viper Room?

Max: That’s exactly right, yeah. It’s every Monday night. My friend Jody, he has a record coming out called Month of Mondays. He’s doing that and he came down and saw a show of mine I did last weekend and was like, “Why don’t you play on mine?” and I said, “Sure.” It’s just going to be me and an acoustic guitar and a percussionist. I made this video for my single that’s kind of weird and dark. To me it’s funnier than it is scary. Some people love it and a lot of people, it makes them angry. Dave Navarro saw the video and loved it and had me on his “Dark Matter” show to perform it and, of course I write everything on the acoustic guitar but, I hadn’t performed publicly these new songs with just a guitar and percussion. We did that there and it just felt really good.

Patrick: The video you’re talking about, obviously, is for “Sports Bar?”

Max: Yeah.

Patrick: When you played that on Dave Navarro’s show, did you happen to have anybody in animal outfits in the background?

Max: No, but you would almost expect there to be. No, it was just myself and my compatriot, my brother in rock Brian Young, who is also the drummer for Fountains of Wayne and now The Jesus and Mary Chain. It’s just me and him and we just rocked in there.

Next: The strange story behind “Sports Bar”

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