As Ashley Emery answers the phone with “Sorry I missed the first call man, I was just finishing up giving life guard lessons” it’s an early reminder that I, The Mapmaker are still very much at the precipice of their career despite a solid debut EP release in Searching. The EP dropped the band into the landscape of melodic hardcore without much prior warning, and if you feel like I, The Mapmaker seem to have come from nowhere to all of a sudden be tipped as a potential hot prospect going forward – you’d be right.
Not exactly a young project, Mapmaker are a collection of late twenty to early thirty year old’s that seem to finally be a part of their first opportunity to leave a mark on the industry they’ve followed passionately for almost their whole lives. The true beginnings of the Southampton crew were a disjointed time with several swaps and changes within the lineup, until the band finally settled on a lineup, name, and concept.
“We were looking for a name and I kind of already had one set in my head” explains Ashley “The lads asked what the story behind the name was and it turns out I had this giant concept already written, so we sat in down in a Wetherspoons, ate hot wings, and went through it all… as you do”.
Sitting at a table with beers, food, and like minded people while putting ideas for a band together is all well and good, but Mapmaker had the added bonus of finding not just a group of like minded individuals – but individuals with their own life experiences ready and waiting to contribute. “I’d already had several lyrics written, based off some of my life experiences. Everything I’ve ever written has always had double meaning, it has a personal meaning that people can relate to, but it also has a hidden underlying story to it that people can pick up on”.
Band departures, financing, and studio issues all culminated to result in the timescale sitting at around a year and a half’s worth of intermittent writing and recording before the band could hear their full efforts in completed form. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary for an outfit just starting out, but throwing in a merry go round of lineup changes did its best to try and halt their progress – they didn’t let it: “It did get to the point where were like ‘we just want it out now’ because we’d been listening to the same songs for the best part of a year, but when people started hearing our songs and liked them as much as they did, it put a lot more life back into us”.
Listening to Searching you get the sense of a band that are trying to fit the mould of two worlds, the huge scale of tracks like ‘Ghostwalker’ act as the sweetener to the more skull crushing ‘Disbelief’ but Emery claims there was no particular mindset on tonality going in. “We didn’t want six songs that sound the same, because who wants that really? But the tracks just sound how they came to be. We like to write so that the subject matter fits the song, ‘Disbelief’ is quite an evil song about my disliking for a certain someone, whereas ‘Ghostwalker’ is about not letting failure stop you”.
It’s easy to pick up from the Southampton boys’ EP that there’s an attempt to create an emotional link into the lyrics of Emery. Make no mistake – Searching is as personal a record to Ashley as you’re likely to find elsewhere, but this focus on a personal touch doesn’t alienate the other members of the band, in fact: they embrace it.
“Unless you’re a band who set your stall out to say ‘we will only write about this’ I think it’s really difficult to not write something personal, for me anyway. My catharsis with dealing with the negative things in life is writing, I write a lot, and every song on the EP has a very personal meaning for me, but there’s no exclusivity. I think I’d really struggle to write something if I had no personal connection to it”.
Away from the content of Searching, an element of its success can most certainly be laid at the feet of producer Lewis Johns (Rolo Tomassi, Employed To Serve), described as a “wizard” by Emery, recording the EP at The Ranch gave a lick of paint to the recording process that seemed to knock everything up two steps higher.
“He [Johns] is just remarkable, at no point did he ever tell us what to do, he just gave us ideas. He knows what works and it never felt like this was a job for him, he always seemed really interested and excited. Recording with Lewis is such a comfortable experience, because he’s SO good at what he does, I can’t fault him – one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met”.
At this point it would not only be understandable, but also expected for I, The Mapmaker to take their time before planning out their next plan of attack, this is far from the case though; the band are already writing new material: “We’re already writing again, we’ve got three finished and I expect we’ll get another two done soon. Hopefully we can get a new single that wasn’t a part of the EP out before the end of the year”.
“I think where we’ve had a big wait with Searching to be released, we’re keen to not have to wait that long again. We’ve toyed with new ideas and where the concept goes from here, but our tracks don’t really come in chronological order – so I’d like to be able to [in a few records time] be able to show people how everything has pieced together over time. We just wanna get songs done, get on new tours, play places we’ve played, meet people we’ve never met, and just see more of our songs taking effect”.
So in I, The Mapmaker we’re looking at another band dropped in to the whirlpool that is melodic hardcore bands, however here we have a band that are much more mature than many of their counterparts; they’ve experienced the party band lifestyle and have already leapt into a more professional lifestyle. The mindset is there, the concept is there, but more importantly: the music is there too. Let’s not fool ourselves, it’s an incredibly long road ahead for Mapmaker, but who’s to say they aren’t going to travel down it with ease? You’d be brave to bet against them.