If a band sings depressing songs, but make you feel happy, what is that? A contradiction. A clever device. Considering the Maroons, it's most likely an accident. But when you talk to John Moen, vocalist and guitarist for the decade-old Portland band, you can tell where this contrast comes from. He laughs as he self-deprecates.
The band has put out two albums in almost ten years--the paradoxical I am to Blame, and the latest You're Gonna Ruin Everything. John explains, "We've been together a lot longer than you'd think, considering what we've accomplished." It almost sounds like he's giving himself a compliment, but it's really just a positive-sounding cut-down.
Their music is poppy, with clear guitars, hyper drumming, and lavish piano-style keyboards. In some songs, the Maroons almost sound like they're from the '50s. You can picture them with their bowl cuts, hopping around in Elvis Costello floods and bright-colored shirts in some well-lit recording studio. In the early days, they actually used to wear "uniforms," meaning that they all had to wear green and orange outfits, but with maturity they've become more jaded and lost the gimmick.
Occasionally, the Maroons rock, tearing into the guitar riffs on the song called "9 1/2." But they never completely lose the pop, because of John's cute, drawn-out, "I'm so happy I'm crying" voice. When I asked him to categorize his music, he said, "Everyone says it's pop music and I kind of flinch when they say that, but I guess that's what I'm stuck with. I guess I write sissy songs."
With age, the band has become more realistic about their expectations, which is kind of refreshing considering the amount of indie rockers who are crying into their hoodie sleeves because they're not on MTV2 yet. "The whole thing that's great about the Maroons is that we don't put a lot of pressure on it, so it can be what it is. There have been so many goals over the years. After the first album, we were talking to major labels. I wouldn't say that's a goal anymore, though. I'm just kind of flying with it. I'm kind of waiting for the rest of the band to quit, but they haven't."