Typically at this point in a Maritime article, the band is referenced as the new project of two former members of The Promise Ring. Perhaps the writer did their research and realized members of two other seminal Milwaukee acts—The Benjamins and Decibully—are also part of the indie rock quartet’s roster. Invariably, the band (that was founded with the direct intent of doing something different, mind you) is compared to one or all the defunct projects upon which the writer is wistfully looking.
Forgotten in the tired formula, though, is the fact that Maritime has been a band for 12 years—nearly twice as long as its most routinely-referenced predecessor—and has outlasted its other two well-respected associated acts. Moreover, this week’s release of fifth full-length Magnetic Bodies/Maps Of Bones not only pushes Maritime’s discography one record past the amount The Promise Ring managed, it finds the oft-undervalued veteran band further distancing itself from anything its earlier acts have accomplished with outstanding results.
In February, Maritime convened in its south side studio space to begin recording songs written, reworked, and perfected during the near-four-year span since releasing 2011’s Human Hearts.
“Because of the luxury of the time we had to write the songs, a lot of the songs that weren’t really working, we’d ignore,” drummer Dan Didier says. “We’d go to the well of our demos, strip that all down, and build it back up. We have a lot of dead ends, but the cream rises to the top, as far as these songs.”
The ability to meticulously chip away on writing, recording, and fleshing out material in the comfort of its homespun studio over the course of a few winter and early-spring months yielded some of Maritime’s most intricate and dense songs to date. In the process, songs were workshopped, demoed, and occasionally even abandoned altogether, leaving them with 10 formidable tracks, many of which seem tailor made for regular radio rotation.
“It was easier to get more creative on this one. It was all done here,” bassist Justin Klug says. “We didn’t have to go somewhere for X amount of days, and then track for five days. In that respect, there was more time to explore other things. In that respect, I feel like we had more creative opportunities.”
The most evident instances of creative exploration in Magnetic Bodies/Maps Of Bones are displayed in the band’s sudden implementation of auxiliary electronics.
“Most of it is Dan [Didier]’s influence because he’s doing a lot more than just playing drums these days,” guitarist Dan Hinz says. “He’s got a sampler back there. He’s got a keyboard. Whenever he has the free moment to get in there with his little bleeps and bloops, he’s kind of taken over more of that stuff.”
The shift has seen singer Davey von Bohlen relegating his vocal contributions to the backseat of many songs, as Hinz—now virtually free from part-time keyboard constraints—devoted increased attention to playing guitar.
“As far as songwriting with this album, [von Bohlen] made a conscious effort to back off vocally to give himself more breaks. That’s why most songs have a middle instrumental part,” Didier says. “This is an album of instrumental bridges, which is new for us.”
Though Maritime’s latest is noticeably different, more intensive, and arguably better than anything the band has managed in its dozen years of existence, the project’s trajectory has not changed. Now in their 40s and all fathers with day jobs, the band now functions as a creative outlet for four longtime friends that allows them to make time to get together, recap their weeks, and have what Didier calls a “dude’s hangout.” The Magnetic Bodies/Maps Of Bones tour spans just four cities, culminating with Saturday night’s Milwaukee release show at Cactus Club.
The prospect of European tours is gone and the daunting task of overtaking their previous projects is, frankly, not a priority. That might not serve contrived narratives of music writers well, but it works just fine for Maritime.
“We’ve all been done chasing musical commercial success. We’re all past that. We’ve all got kids and careers independent of music,” Klug says. “The fact that the four of us with completely different lives have still managed to concentrate on this one this is impressive to me. I have no idea what will come in the future, but the common ground is what keeps us here doing this.”