THIS year’s Split Festival promises to be the biggest yet. Katy Wheeler speaks to Maximo Park, who enjoyed it so much in 2010, they’re back to headline again
A new location and a broader range of acts could be the recipe for Split’s longevity in the festival market.
But while this year’s festival boasts a stellar line-up of well-known names at the top of the bill including Dizzee Rascal, The Cribs and Maximo Park, it’s also staying true to its original ethos of celebrating local talent.
Maximo Park are of course both: well-known and local.
The alternative rockers will be performing a blend of tracks from fifth album Too Much Information, which was released earlier this year, as well as classic Maximo tracks from their 14-year career.
Frontman Paul Smith, famed for his suave sartorial stage style, says the band are looking forward to being back on Wearside turf.
It will be the first time the band, who recently played a small-scale set in Pop Recs Ltd in Fawcett Street, have played to a large Mackem crowd for some time.
“Last time we played Split Festival it was a very memorable show,” said Paul. “The people of Sunderland embraced us and have done in the past. So when The Futureheads asked us to play again it was dead easy to say yes.
“Split is a great thing because it allows the spotlight to fall on Sunderland instead of Newcastle for a change. I’m from Billingham so I understand that regional tension. I always ask the question why not Sunderland? Why not Billingham?
“People say ‘that will never happen in Sunderland’, but why not?”
Paul says the DIY approach to music-making in the region is one that should be celebrated for opening doors for future talent.
“I think acts like us, Field Music and Futureheads having a national breakthrough has helped, though I’m not saying it happened because of that.
“Frankie & the Heartstrings have set up their shop and it’s an example of the ‘Can Do, DIY’ philosophy up here, because the music industry is centred in London.
“Then there are other cities who have a romantic, musical history they can tap into, such as Manchester with acts like the Stone Roses and Liverpool with The Beatles and Echo and the Bunnymen.
“There are different phases in different decades. I’m not necessarily saying the North East is like that but there is a lot of activity at the minute.”
Paul says he is looking forward to seeing other acts on the bill, which includes Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals, Smoove and Turrell, Frankie & The Heartstrings, Hyde & Beast, The Lake Poets and School of Language, with more acts due to be announced.
“Sometimes you just have to turn up and plug in, but I really hope to see School of Language as I didn’t get the chance to see them when they did their little tour earlier in the year,” he explained.
“His music means a lot to me, but when you’re on tour yourself you often miss things you want to see and the amazing things your friends are doing.”
Paul has strong connections with David Brewis, of School of Language and Field Music, and his brother Peter Brewis.
The siblings, whose 2012 album Plumb was nominated for a Mercury Prize, have a recording studio on the banks of the River Wear.
“I’ve spent a fair amount of time back and forth on the Metro to Sunderland this year and last,” said Paul. “Five of the songs on Too Much Information were recorded there. We produced them, David engineered them and Peter was on hand with advice. It was a nice collaborative effort.
“So it will be nice to actually play a gig in Sunderland with the band after recording there.”
So what can fans expect from their set on August 10?
Paul explains: “We recently realised that it’s coming up to being ten years since our first record. Someone asked us if we’d be performing it, but that period is still part of our current history. We play those records every night because we want to give people a good summary of who we are and they get such a good reaction so why wouldn’t we?”
•Split Festival takes place in Mowbray Park, Sunderland city centre, on August 9 and 10. Tickets are priced from £30 for a day pass and £50 for a weekend pass. They are available from www.splitfestival.com and www.ticketweb.co.uk