Whether your knee-jerk reaction upon hearing the infectious whistle from “Moves Like Jagger” is to turn up the volume or to change the radio station, it’s hard to deny that Maroon 5 has become a force to be reckoned with.
The group has come a long way since its early alt-rock days as Kara’s Flowers, which included four of the current band members when they were still in high school. Following a failed album, the band added lead guitarist James Valentine and regrouped as Maroon 5 in 2001. Eleven years and three Grammy awards later, the band has consistently maintained its place on the forefront of mainstream radio.
Lead singer Adam Levine’s current role as a judge on NBC’s reality talent show “The Voice” hasn’t kept the band from churning out a fourth studio album that’s packed with all the glossy dance-pop glitz we’ve grown to expect from the quintet, and then some. Just when you thought the band had reached its peak of radio-friendly sheen and club vibes, Overexposed presents an shiny new array of synth hooks and commercial beats (many co-produced by the likes of Max Martin, and Benny Blanco) that are bubbly enough to make you forget the band’s previous forays into more diverse territory.
In their 2013 Honda Civic tour featuring pop singer Kelly Clarkson (born and raised in Texas) and keyboardist PJ Morton, Maroon 5 partnered with Malibu Rum in a collaborative effort that encouraged fans to nominate and vote for their city as the destination for a final concert following the current tour. On Sunday, September 22, the band announced that the Malibu Island Destination concert would be held in New York City on November 16, 2013. “We’re very happy that it’s New York,” said lead guitarist James Valentine, adding that the entire group always looks forward to their performances in the Big Apple.
Before they joined the rest of the group onstage for their performance at the Gexa Energy Pavilion last Sunday night, Valentine and bass guitarist Mickey Madden sat down with us to talk about Maroon 5’s latest album and how the band has changed– or not – since its earliest music-making years.
Front Row: In the past, members of the band have talked about how the group struggles to find an identity, and your previous albums have covered a lot of stylistic ground. How did the group come to embrace the pop elements that are so prevalent in Overexposed?
James Valentine: Well, I think after the success of “Moves Like Jagger,” we kind of had a mandate from the public that that’s kind of the direction they wanted the band to go, so we started experimenting with more of the pop sounds, and we were just having fun.
Mickey Madden: It was just new for us, it was different. We just get antsy, if anything.
JV: And we were having fun and then before we knew it, we had a record done, so we just sort of went with it. And, obviously, it’s resonated with people.
FR: One could say that an entire generation has grown up listening to your music. To what extent do you keep a specific group of people in mind as you’re developing your work?
MM: We do always consider our fans and it’s nice to see the same people coming back to shows again and again, but we just keep trying to write good songs. Not to sound cliché. We’ve been lucky that people have come along with us in the various directions we’ve gone in. I think everyone’s gonna like certain records better than other, or certain songs, but on the whole, we have a really loyal fan-base that we’re really grateful for.
JV: And I think we’ve always aimed to try to write songs that would have a multigenerational sort of appeal, just in that we’re fans of pop music that appeals to a lot of people.
FR: For your upcoming work, should we expect a similarly unapologetic pop album, or are you taking your work in a different direction?
JV: The most recent stuff we’ve been working on for sure is in that vein, but who knows what will happen in the future.
MM: Yeah, that remains to be seen.
FR: After more than 10 years of working together, how has the dynamic between all of the band members evolved since Songs About Jane?
JV: It’s pretty similar. We’ve sort of agreed upon the band dynamic pretty early on, and everybody sort of knew their place. At the base of our band is our friendship, which has remained unchanged over the years.
MM: It’s very similar, that’s the remarkable thing, rather than shifting over the years. It really is true, because the basis of the band is friendship, that’s why.
JV: I mean, Adam was always a diva even before he was legitimately a diva. [Laughs.]
MM: That’s true, nothing’s really changed. [Both laugh.]
FR: Speaking of Adam, he’s been working as a judge on The Voice. If you guys could send all of the judges from the show back to 1995, how do you think that they would have reacted to some of the earlier performances by Kara’s Flowers?
JV: Interesting. I mean, I feel like Adam would definitely turn the chair if Adam was singing.
MM: [Laughs.] That’s true.
JV: I think at the heart of it, Adam’s voice has been the line through everything we do. I think he has a great voice, I think he’s a great performer, and I think the chairs would turn. I think he would get some good feedback.