When former members of popular, influential bands move on to new musical endeavors, they usually discover that a storied past can open and close doors. Some “featuring former members of” bands succeed, but most don’t live up to old triumphs. The latter has been true so far for Milwaukee quartet Maritime, which features former Promise Ring guitarist-vocalist Davey von Bohlen and drummer Dan Didier, along with Justin Klug (who replaced Eric Axelson, formerly of The Dismemberment Plan, on bass) and guitarist Dan Hinz. When The Promise Ring split in 2002, it was no longer the face of cutesy emo, and it had changed its sound on its thoroughly unpopular final album, Wood/Water. Maritime’s often-quiet, understated pop was a natural extension of The Promise Ring’s later days. So it’s no surprise that Maritime’s solid 2004 debut, Glass Floor, went largely unnoticed. But with up-and-coming indie Flameshovel Records releasing the fantastic new We, The Vehicles, Maritime’s fortunes could change. Before their record-release show at the Empty Bottle—Chicago has always been their second hometown— von Bohlen and Didier spoke to The A.V. Club.
The A.V. Club: How was the first Maritime record received?
Davey von Bohlen: It didn’t really feel like it was received at all. There are times when I forget we put it out. It just seemed to go by the wayside. I don’t know why. I don’t think it was necessarily that poor an effort.
AVC: Do you think people were hoping for The Promise Ring Part II?
DVB: Even thinking about it makes you feel like you’re strategizing how to maximize your popularity. That’s just an ugly road to travel. I don’t know how far I’ve ever gone down that road, but trying to figure out why people like you or don’t like you is probably very unhealthy. We don’t do a whole lot of that.
AVC: Is there anything you wanted to do differently on this record?
Dan Didier: I think we made a conscious decision to be more performance-oriented and less keyboard- or strings-oriented, and keep the layers to a minimum. Glass Floor started with just Davey and I and a computer.
DVB: I don’t really spend too much time in the conscious realm for that. With respect to songwriting, I think we’ve always looked backward to look forward. What we’ve done is what we want to get away from, so that’s not necessarily special to this record or any other record we’ve ever done.
AVC: Do you have any specific goals for Maritime?
DD: The only goal that I really want is another record where we have the group that we have now, with Dan and Justin. I want to know what that record’s gonna sound like.
DVB: I think we’re at a life-transition point here—keeping the group together and functioning is going to be a huge victory this year.
AVC: You both have children on the way.
DVB: Justin is having one 10 days behind Dan. So it’ll be four babies by the time we start playing as a quartet. It’s not impossible or totally worrisome, but you start dealing with everyone getting a vote, and that includes everyone in each person’s family. It’s interesting to see how it functions, and I think we’re probably more excited to write music and see how our lives change. By the time we’re done writing the record, I think we’ll have a better picture of what Maritime is to us.
AVC: When you guys finally found a U.S. label and announced a release date for the new one, someone posted this on PunkNews.org: “Fuck Davey. he put this shit out like three months or more in two other countries. For that… fuck him. Everyone should download this and steal it off the Internet. I refuse to buy a real copy just for that reason.”
DVB: Awesome. Yeah, we are total sellouts. If I had to sum up my whole career in one word, it would be “sellout.” [Laughs.]
DD: Where’s the connection? How is releasing it elsewhere first gonna make you more money than just releasing it all at once?
DVB: I guess he thinks that makes him a fan. He wants to buy it, and it’s 23 bucks on Amazon or something. So I’m making all that money. That’s actually the master plan. What you traditionally do to get really successful and load your pocketbooks, we’re doing the exact opposite, and apparently he’s the only person who knows what’s going on. Everyone else thinks we’re losing our asses.
AVC: And clearly those two Promise Ring reunion shows last fall were about making money, even though they were for a charity. How did those go as opposed to what you imagined?
DD: I tried to go into that whole reunion thing with a completely open mind, with no preconceived notions of what I wanted it to be or how it should turn out. It was all about having fun, hanging out with Jason [Gnewikow, TPR guitarist] and Scott [Schoenbeck, TPR bassist] again and just having fun with it. I didn’t care if, like, three people showed up. It wasn’t about necessarily getting the band back together. It was more just hanging out.
DVB: We had a great time. We had a pretty blank page of what we thought might happen, and I’m still pretty shocked by how much fun it was.
DD: It was one of those weird things, like, you’re playing, and it’s totally déjà vu: “This is me six years ago”—in a good way. It wasn’t like, “Oh my God, my life is shit.”
DVB: We didn’t have to really revisit any of the weirdness. I would have expected a little bit of that, but it was pretty much all good and none of the weird.
AVC: How do you think the record-release show is going to feel?
DVB: Somebody emailed us, “No way! Monday night, Maritime at the Empty Bottle—it’s gonna be insane!” Apparently he’s never seen my band before. Insane? Mildly crowded would be a huge, huge success.