The Maine's John O'Callaghan Dishes on Their New Song 'Sticky' and What to Expect From XOXO
This is a very exciting time for fans of rock band The Maine.
With last month's announcement that the group would be dropping their eighth studio album, XOXO, on July 9, and the release of new tracks "Sticky" and "April 7th," the news just keeps on coming—leaving us wondering what else they might have in store for us all. We were also lucky enough to hop on a Zoom call with The Maine lead vocalist, guitarist and pianist John O'Callaghan to chat all about the new music and what we can expect next from the band. Here's everything he revealed to us.
Sweety High: What was the songwriting process and the inspiration behind "Sticky"?
John O'Callaghan: That's a good question. I haven't thought about it in a while, to be honest. We wrote it so long ago, in about January of 2020. It was the first song I wrote for the record. The way I operate is I'll have a ton of working titles. I'll just spread them across my laptop when I sit to write, and as I'm messing around with the guitar or piano or whatever, I'll glance up at song titles and think about whether anything stands out. That song title specifically stood out at the time.
At the time, I was writing with a buddy, Andrew Goldstein, and we both looked at each other and said, "Let's go with that." And as we started to dive deeper into what it meant to each of us, it started to make more sense in my head as the idea of someone that gets stuck in your head—in a good way— and a feeling that sticks, and you can't really shake it, but you don't want to. What's crazy is the track came together, and for all intents, it's pretty much the same riff the entire song. When we went to record it, it just didn't feel good going to anything else but that riff, and just adding and subtracting from that as the foundation.
Lyrically, I didn't really overthink this one, which is rare for me. I didn't really allow myself the neurotic phase I go through where I think it sucks, or it isn't good. I didn't allow for that to happen. Everything about the song felt natural and like it was meant to be.
It's weird. It's the longest that we've had a song done before releasing it, and it's been especially weird for our band releasing music and not having that be associated with a tour. It's really interesting for me, because a really good indication of how people are feeling about the song is how they're reacting to them live, and not having that experience right now is like, well I think people like it, I'm not 100%. It's definitely been an adjustment but I think people are digging it thus far.
SH: In writing a song about a person who gets stuck in your head, how important was it that the song itself was also an earworm?
JOC: I think it was really important that we didn't overthink it and we just really leaned into that element and doubled down on it. I tried to veer from anything that visually would be "sticky" in the verses. I shouted out the Neil Diamond song "Sweet Caroline" in that he kind of repeats lines in his songs. I think we doubled down on the idea of the sticky earworm aspect and repeated the chorus quite a few times, but I think it would have been overkill had I said something about honey or gotten too crazy with it.
SH: Besides how long you've had to hold on to it, how do you feel this track differs from what you've done in the past as a band?
JOC: I can sometimes be reluctant to give into the pop elements of our band. I have such a huge spot in my heart for pop music, and for whatever reason, I was apprehensive to go all the way there with too many of our songs. This one has a feeling of one of our songs like "Am I Pretty?" but this one specifically leans into it fully. I think we actually take it all the way there with the pop influence, and not being ashamed about it and really just trying to own it and making it sound like our band.
That's the thing that artists, and bands in general, can forget—that when whoever it is that will be singing the song sings, that's what immediately makes the band unique and makes the song you. That's the biggest thing. When we first started out as a band, we didn't have time to think, "Is this too poppy?" The songs we were writing were just what we were writing.
I feel like we've circled back to that same mentality with this record. There are elements of our earlier stuff, even in "Sticky." I don't think every song does it like that, which I hope is good for the listener, and important for the vibe of the whole album.
SH: Do you have a favorite lyric from the track?
JOC: I think the start of the second verse is probably my favorite. It says "I've made mistakes, but you were not one." The way that I sang it just came from writing it down and then trying to fit the words into my melody, and Andrew, the dude I wrote it with, was like, "What are you saying right there?" And I like that kind of stuff, where it takes you a few times to really understand what's being said. That's my favorite part of the song.
SH: Are there any songs that have particularly been stuck in your head lately?
JOC: There's a Gus Dapperton song called "Post Humorous" that's really been stuck in my head for a minute. There's also a song called "Guilty Conscience" by 070 Shake that I was pretty much relentlessly playing when we were recording XOXO, so that might be one everybody was forced to get stuck in their head by me.
SH: Is there much you can tease about the upcoming album?
JOC: I guess the biggest thing is we're premiering a music video for the song "April 7th." I think that's another huge difference from XOXO to UROK, in that for UROK, we didn't really have visuals to accompany the record. We were too late to the game and we were already on tour and we didn't have any time in our schedule to make way for visuals. Just by way of having a music video "Sticky" and now a music video for "April 7th," I feel like those just help bolster the idea of what we're going for on the record, and hopefully help people attach visuals to XOXO and make it feel more like it's coming to life than any of our records prior.
We're definitely going to be releasing more songs. We don't want to give too much away, but it's really exciting. It's just an interesting thing not to be on the road while we have songs coming out. It's cool, for a change. It's easier to get lost and caught up in banter online, but it's really fun to hear people's perspectives on what they think the songs are about, how they think the record's going to shape up to be and it's always really exciting.
Can't get enough of the band? Click HERE for our favorite lyrics by The Maine to use as Instagram captions.