Exclusive Interview with the Rock Band Mae

Rock band Mae, named for the concept of multi-sensory aesthetic experience, is one of the most innovative bands out there. With their latest release, Dave Elkins, Zach Gehring, and Jacob Marshall were inspired by synesthesia and decided to create art for the whole body, connecting the fields of virtual reality, music, engineering, neuroscience, haptics, and animation, making it the first release of its kind. I talked with Jacob about this concept, how the band came together originally, what they nerd out about and so much more! Keep reading to see what he had to say.

For those who haven’t heard of Y’all, can you give us a brief history of the band and how you guys came together?

Dave and I met on New Year’s Eve 1999 and hung out for 10 straight hours, into the new millennium, discovering our shared passion for music. It seemed unusually serendipitous. Later the following year, we decided to turn that passion into creation and began recording what would become our debut record, Destination: Beautiful. 1,600 shows and 8 recordings later, we are honored to still be playing music for people around the world. 

I’m totally intrigued by the name Mae. Where does it come from?

MAE is an acronym for Multisensory Aesthetic Experience. This is a term I created after a mystical experience I had when I was 17 that included beauty expressing itself to all of my senses. It is an art form that explores how harmony in sound can move into the languages of our other senses. It has come to stand for a kind synesthetic synchronicity that’s oriented toward self-transcendent states of awe and wonder. 

I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. How would you describe your sound without using genre names? What kind of music do you produce?

The music that we aim to create, and are most inspired by, tends to be both emotionally and technically capable of holding some facet of the human experience. We love building worlds and taking people on journeys. 

Going off of that, who are some of your musical influences?

We each have our favorites but the overlaps are bands like The Beatles, Sigur Ros, and Death Cab for Cutie.

Tell me about your latest single, “Let It Die.” What’s the story behind that song?

Growth is a manifestation of life, yet it is also a form of death. New life requires an expansion beyond the boundaries that previously contained it. The birth of the sprout is also the death of the seed. And often, pain is where growth lives. 

You guys released an EP and a full-length project a few months apart. What made you want to put out the full album so close to the release of the EP?

The first song from this album was released almost two years ago. And we’ve been slowly revealing more of the story along the way. This record has taken a long time to create and we wanted it to slowly unfurl in a way that let people into the journey with us. 

I know there is a unique story behind the vision for this album. Can you briefly explain what inspired it?

This album is self-titled because it represents the first time we’ve been able to invite people into the experience we’ve been dreaming of since the beginning of the band. New technologies have become available that help us take people further into the music than ever before using virtual reality and haptics (which turn sound into tactile sensations on your skin) and even fragrance as a part of the design of the album experience. We were inspired to make this album after we created the first large-scale collective virtual reality experience in Jerusalem to close out Forbes Under 30 Summit. We put over 600 [people] together in the VR visual animations of the music. The performance happened in the oldest venue on earth, the 3000-year-old Tower of David. It was a beautiful invitation to consider how the newest technologies could be harnessed to make us more human instead of less human. 

You guys collaborated with artist/animator David Lobser, violinist Tim Fain, and neuroscientist David Eagleman. What was it like bringing in collaborators from all different backgrounds, ranging from arts to science? Did you guys find it easier or more challenging than expected to bring together all the pieces?

The difference between music and noise is how the notes are connected. Collaborations can lead to chaos or extraordinary beauty based on if there is a connection around a greater vision for people to align around and surrender their individual ego to. We’ve been humbled to go on this journey with so many talented people who are the best in the world at what they do. 

I know most of them have passed now, but explain what “Mae Days” were. Where did you guys come up with the concept?

We love lowering the barriers between the band and our listeners. Because there is such a world to explore in this album, we wanted to try a new context for how to experience it. These Mae Day experiences always involved a unique location, included a meal with the band, one-on-one virtual reality journeys, conversations, a listening party to the new album and acoustic performances. It gave us a chance to really engage with our fans who’ve been with us for a long time.

Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd. What is something you all nerd out about?

I think this interview should make it pretty clear we are complete nerds about music. It’s our lifeblood and what we’ve dedicated our time on this planet to making and sharing. It’s a true privilege. 

For more information, you can visit the band’s website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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