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For this band interview, I turned to an old coworker … actually an old boss.
At one point, I had the pleasure of working with the lead singer of this gut crunching rock band. In a university setting Elliot can be pretty laid back, but when the show begins and the riffs start, he transforms and delivers.
After learning about Elliot’s double life as a rocker, I had to learn more about the band, and listen to some of their music.
Check it out …
Can you give us a brief overview of the members in the band? (What they play, where they are from, what to expect from them in a live show)
- Stosh Jonjak is a wildman we found wandering the woods. We put a guitar in his hands and discovered he could deliver a constant barrage of face melting solos.
- Kyle Duncan, U.S. Marine reservist, plays the drums on the stage and every instrument off it. Fueled by chewing tobacco and bad intentions.
- Eric Eckels, total tech head customizes all his basses with the skill of a former ATV mechanic. Owns a legit Gene Simmons axe that he won in a game of cards…against Gene Simmons!!!
- And then there’s Elliot Polak. He wears only the tightest pants and has the voice of an angel. Woman love him and men want to be him, me included.
For those of us who have yet to hear the magic of MaxXouT, can you tell us a bit about your sound?
Elliot: We’re a hard rock band inspired by the industrial wastelands we call home–Pittsburgh, PA and Detroit, MI. Musically, we hit you in the face with mammoth riffs, everything starts there. Those play off my classic rock vocals and our rhythm section of doom, that’s the dynamic of the music. Then we try to come up with a story everyone can relate to; facing the reality of incoming responsibilities (Narcan Atomizer), growing up fast (Steel-Toed Boots), or meeting a girl in the drunk tank (Utterly Insane). Check out the video for Narcan Atomizer, that’s us in a nutshell:
A successful band takes a lot of dedication. How do you balance working a job and being the frontman of a rock band?
Elliot: The key is coffee lots of coffee. But I had to give coffee up on account of my voice, and recently switched to iced green tea. What really helps us is a little piece of technology called JamKazam. We use it to practice live over the internet. I live in Detroit, MI and the rest of the band lives in Pittsburgh, PA. JamKazam gives us a low latency connection to each other, think Skype for musicians. Without it, I’m not sure I could even front MaxXouT and work a full time job.
What are some of the challenges of getting your music in front of people in our digital age?
Stosh: You have to employ a strategic mix of classic band promotion and new digital methods; you can’t commit to one extreme or the other. Digital promotion is great, obviously far-sweeping and geography is no longer a barrier so you can hit fans that would’ve been impossible to reach before, but, there’s also a lot of noise out there for the music fan; it’s a microcosm of the Information Age–relevancy becomes the most important factor in consuming information. So, the older school methods of promotion–playing shows, collaborating with local bands and musicians, having face-to-face conversations with fans, contacting local media, etc.–these all increase the “authenticity” of your band, meaning people see your band as an actual, real band, and, interestingly, are more apt to consume the digital promotion of your band. So, you have to build using both methods in conjunction with one another.
Who are some of your major influences that we can see conveyed in your music and stage presence?
Elliot: Guns N’ Roses, Wolfmother, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Black Keys, Mountain, Terror, Kiss, Motley Crue, Queens of the Stone Age, and Limp Bizkit (just kidding).
Talk about your gear. What are you working with in the studio? How about for live performances
Stosh: In the studio, I have a Blue Dragonfly mic I use with Elliot’s vox, and use the factory AIR compression and EQ plug-ins on his voice. This summer, I built an isolation booth in my basement using noiseproofing green glue and heavy vinyl. I re-amp all the guitars in the booth, and with saturating the tubes it’s nice to not have to worry about my neighbors filing noise complaints against me. To back up, I have a home studio I built in my basement, which is wonderful and one of the major reasons this band is possible.
I love your band’s logo. What was the influence behind it?
Elliot: Great question, the logo and album cover was inspired by the Lethal Weapon 3 pinball machine. We really just wanted something people hadn’t seen in a long time; big hair, bigger explosions, fast cars, something that really captures the “max out” spirit of the band. We sent the idea over to the comic book artist Jason Strutz of strutzart.com and were thrilled with the results
What are some future plans for the band in 2017? Any specific shows we should be on the lookout for?
Stosh: We are working on a new album. Our debut album “The Big Push” was like cooking gumbo; we threw in every ingredient we could find, tried every sub-genre of hard rock, ran from serious song topics, like me defeating cancer, to more tongue-in-cheek ones. And, through the process of writing and recording “The Big Push” we found out what we do well, where we can insert the most dynamics into our songs, and what direction we should go. Our second album is going to reflect this–we have three songs written right now, and the new direction is really exciting.
When in the Studio recording, what type of software do you use?
Stosh: We recorded our debut album “The Big Push” on Pro Tools LE 8 through a Digi 003 workstation. I custom-built the PC it runs on, so it’s a bit of a frankenstein. Right now, we are recording rough drafts of songs for our next album using the same gear setup. We will probably outsource recording the drums, and final mixes and mastering. I use the factory AIR plug-ins the most–primarily EQ and compression. I do employ some Waves plug-ins as well, but it’s a pretty production light setup.
I follow your band on Spotify, do you feel that streaming services like that help your circulation amongst fans?
Stosh: Streaming services absolutely help circulation. Once fans know about your band and like your band, streaming is awesome. Geography doesn’t matter and there’s no limitation on distribution. The only issue is there’s so much noise out their for potential fans. The onus has shifted from securing distribution to being adept at marketing and promotion. You have to find that special message that gets people willing to check out your band. And, obviously, you have to have good music too. One of the funny things that happened with us is before we even got on Spotify our album somehow leaked to rutracker, which is Russia’s big torrent site, basically the Russian equivalent of The Pirate Bay. Elliot and I were looking at the web traffic to www.maxxoutband.com and we had this huge surge in Russian traffic. So, we started checking out the referral URL addresses and they all led us to the rutracker page that showed our album had been downloaded 2,500 times the day before it even got on Spotify. Russia loves its metal! Watch out for our Siberian tour.
To a newcomer seeing a MaxXouT show, what is one thing you want them to remember about the performance?
Elliot: I want people to remember their jaws dropping. The best compliment I’ve ever received was from a dude who came in off the street and said ‘normally I wouldn’t pay a cover to come in here, but I saw you guys on stage, thought you’d be worth it, and you were!’ That is the type of reaction I’d love people to have at a MaxXouT show. Every show I have one goal, to exceed all expectations, if we can do that, I can go home happy.
Stosh: I want them to remember all of that too…and Elliot’s tight pants.