4 Records That Changed Our Lives: The Maple State

It’s been 10 years since Manchester three-piece, The Maple State, played their ‘final’ gigs, in the summer of 2008. Since then brothers Greg and Christian Counsell, and Richard Higginbottom, were busy making the world a better place; University lecturing (Richard), saving wildlife (Greg), and working for the European Space Agency (Christian). But you just can’t keep a good band apart, and this week The Maple State returned with brand new album, The Things I Heard At The Party.

So to celebrate, Vulture Hound asked Greg, Christian, Richard, and newly recruited keyboardist/long time friend, William Pearson, to tell us about the records that changed their lives…

Greg Counsell (Vocals and Guitar)
The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God


I always knew of the Pogues, but it was when I heard the title track to this album that I truly knew what the Pogues were about. I listened to that song on repeat for two days in December 2010, after which I never looked at song writing in the same way again. I had always judged my creativity against my ability to write something entirely new, but here was Shane Macgowan using folk frameworks, where melodies are allowed to move unhindered through their natural progression while at the same time being entirely new and unique. I discovered through my obsession with Shane’s writing that what really moves me in song is character, imagery and energy. From that day I left experimentation and invention to other people and focused on telling stories worth telling with the energy they demanded. This was my most liberating experience as a songwriter.

Richard Higginbottom (Guitar)
The Streets – Original Pirate Material

Original Pirate Material is an album that, in my opinion, has all of the energy and excitement that a debut release should have. Thinking back to the way those first 3 tracks hit me when I was listening to a lot of guitar music back in 2002 still excites me now. It’s a bold statement but I think this is the best opening to any album I’ve ever listened to. ’Turn the Page’ has such a powerful introduction and this incredible suspenseful tension with its mix of strings and fractured beats. There’s a real honesty and beautiful mundanity within the lyrics. Mike Skinner had an amazing ability to make the British day-to-day feel expressive and important. I wouldn’t think about songwriting, or music for that matter, in the same way if I wasn’t exposed to this album when I was.

Christian Counsell (Bass Guitar)
Elliott Smith – Either / Or

I always found Elliott Smith fascinating. How could this guy who looks like such a punk make this music? I think he taught me how to challenge the stereotypes that are so easy to fall into with music. My brother and I got into Either / Or when we were young… it was probably after us seeing Good Will Hunting. I was still in the early stages of learning guitar. I loved the record cover – Who took the photo? Where was he? Did he always wear black? I never had lessons, like many I figured out how to play guitar my own way. Some of the movements and progressions on Either / Or had a huge impact on my learning and understanding of music. ‘Ballad Of Big Nothing’, ‘Rose Parade’ ‘Say yes’ the way these songs could have so much space whilst simultaneously feeling cinematic and close to me.  

William Pearson (Keyboards)
Green Day – Dookie

Having grown up in a musically-inclined family in Manchester, I was exposed early to the power of song making through Oasis, other Brit Pop and Manc bands, and classic older music like Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, the Beatles etc. That stuff is great, I love it, I still listen to it now and I always will, but Dookie, at that point, proved to be the absolute bridge into punk rock and American alternative music and a massive expansion of my musical horizons. I clearly remember the first time I heard that unique sound aged 14 when Greg (yes that Greg) pulled me aside midway through a year nine maths class to listen to the album on his Walkman. All that crunching guitar, hammering drums and bass and most importantly those wild-worded, anthemic melodies. So simple but so impactful. It was an eye-opener and genuinely one of those mad, life-altering moments.

The Things I Heard At The Party is out now on Far Out Records. Read the VH review, here.