MAX CHATS “LIGHTS DOWN LOW” & TOURING WITH FALL OUT BOY 48

With a flair for rather theatrical performances and a growing fan-base, especially in the US where his track “Lights Down Low” has been one of the biggest hits of the past year, MAX is a name more and more people are sure to become aware of in the next few months. Ahead of his opening slot supporting Fall Out Boy on their UK tour, ThisIsTheLatest met with him backstage at Manchester Arena to chat

TITL: For those as yet unfamiliar with you and your music, who exactly is MAX? How would you describe yourself in four words?

MAX: Energetic, soulful, glittery – it’s always hard to describe yourself – and slay. SLAYYYY – with a lot of y’s.

TITL: I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone use that word before…

M: Oh really? Awesome. I say it a lot!

TITL: What would you say your unique selling point is? What is it about you and your music that makes you stand out from your many other artistic counterparts out there?

M: That’s a tough question to answer on my own. I would say, for me, I try to bring a very theatrical show, while also having a very personal connection to my people, my fans. I like to be as personable as I can with my people, but also make them feel like they’re in another world when they come to a show of ours.

TITL: You’re signed to Pete Wentz’ record label DCD2. How exactly did he come to discover you and what was/is it about him and his label that made you feel that they were the right fit for you?

M: I’ve always been a Fall Out Boy fan, you know, “Dance, Dance”…every record. Patrick’s voice is unbelievable and he’s so kind. Being an OG Fall Out Boy fan, when Pete kind of naturally reached out after hearing some of my music when I was releasing independently, he invited me to one of their shows. I went along with two of my best friends who are also obsessive Fall Out Boy fans, and he brought me backstage; we kinda hung out for a little bit and I don’t know, I guess it was just nice to see how personable they are as people, and also just how hard they work. That’s how and why they’re still doing what they’re doing. So when he said he was relaunching Decadence, as DCD2, and asked if I wanted to be a part of it, it was an obvious no-brainer.

TITL: You’ve achieved phenomenal success in the States thanks to your track “Lights Down Low.” What do you think it is about that song that, for lack of a better word, has enraptured so many people?

M: It’s been really beautiful to see how people have connected with it. It’s the most transparent song of mine, I guess, that I’ve ever put out. I wrote it for my wife and I proposed to her with it. I love telling that story, and I think this song, even if people don’t know that story, they can connect with a piece of it, feel the energy behind it and I hope, and I think that’s why it’s connected more with people than any other song of mine, in a more global way, and I’m glad about that. The song portrays the message that love is love, and that’s what we believe in, no matter where you’re from.

TITL: How did you find the song having its own Snapchat filter for Valentine’s Day which was posted about by Kim Kardashian West, among others?

M: It was honestly the most unexpected thing that I probably have had happen to me. I guess some wonderful people, part of my team, were pitching this idea for Valentine’s Day, which is such a special day for us, and literally the night before, someone emailed me saying there’s a snapchat filter thing tomorrow and no one had ever done it like that before, I guess. They’re doing it a lot now wirh great artists which is so cool, but I guess we were kind of the guinea pig and I’m glad to have been the guinea pig. It was a wild time and it was so cool – they used my glasses and everything. I love that Snapchat is trying to make a filter that really represents the different artists that they’re showcasing. It was a cool surprise.

TITL: You just need your own emoji now…

M: That’d be wild! Emoji’s really encapsulate our lives so I’d love to be part of one.

TITL: Given that you’re currently on tour with Fall Out Boy here in the UK, have you noticed or are you noticing any differences or similarities between audiences here and back home?

M: My wife is from here so it’s kind of nice to come and visit her roots, hang with everybody. I’m loving it. Tour wise, this is our third show on the tour with the guys and it’s amazing. To play Manchester Arena is unbelievable – it’s so special to not only open for them, but feel the energy from the crowd. I think Fall Out Boy fans especially are so proud of the music they love that, even if they don’t know your music quite yet, if you reel them in just enough, then suddenly you feel a new energy which is just so amazing.

I think I would say UK fans really love music, especially live music, but I also think they might be a little harder to impress in a real way, which I really appreciate, especially as an opener, because it’s so rewarding when you get to a certain song and everybody is there. The best thing about UK fans, and European fans in general, is that as someone who loves to do a lot of crowd interaction, even if everybody’s not quite into it yet, they’ll get involved with every interaction I do and make. They’re doing that because they’re committed music fans and that’s the coolest thing in the world because it’s not at every show you get to see all the fans putting their hands up, clapping along, that kind of thing.

TITL: Do you have any headline shows of your own in the works for after this tour?

M: Oh yeah! I’ll be back here in January. I’m almost done with the second album and I’m hoping to put it out towards the end of summer, or early fall in the States and then come over here and hopefully people will discover us from these dates, and come out and see us again.

TITL: You’ve played some pretty big stages in your career so far but if you could play any venue in the world, which would it be?

M: Madison Square Garden, for sure. Being a New Yorker and just having it be such a special place in my life, getting to play there, or getting to headline the Garden, that would be a very massive accomplishment. Getting to play here, and to play the 02 is additionally pretty surreal.

TITL: You’ve had your songs streamed millions upon millions of times on Spotify and watched millions more on YouTube. With that in mind, how do you feel, both personally and professionally, about social media and technology, and the almost consuming power it holds for artists?

M: It’s so addictive and I’ve realised I probably spend a fourth or half my day, going through all the different social medias, trying to research different playlists on Spotify and things like that. It’s also such a connective tool that we’re lucky to have in this generation because, probably half of the collaborations that I do, I find via Twitter. Somebody like Matoma follows me on Twitter and the next thing, I’m talking to him then we’re meeting in person…the connective power it has is incredible, and not just between artists, but for fans too. It’s amazing to pinpoint one particular fan who is such an OG and get in touch with them to say something like ‘Wow, thank you so much for giving so much life and energy to this – do you want to be part of it more?’

With any incredible tool, there’s always going to be some crazy, negative aspect, and I think the addictive quality social media has is that aspect.

TITL: What’s next for you? Are there any plans or projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?

M: I’m excited about the second album, and my next single, is a duet with my friend Noah Cyrus – I was actually working on the mix today; slay! Then another song after that called “Still New York” with Joey Badass, which is, obviously about my home city, but also about repping your roots and everything else. There’s a bunch of songs after that, a bunch of collaborations I’m super excited for which I can’t quite talk about yet, and then yeah, hopefully more touring, more shows and then I hope to just keep on going.

TITL: Finally then, what’s your ultimate goal when it comes to your music? What would you like to have achieved 5-10 years from now and musically, what do you most want to be remembered for?

M: That’s a great question and one I think about a lot. I would say, for the 5-10 years part, I want to have that same connective tissue between myself and the fans that I feel and have now. I hope for that to grow, and for us to keep doing what we’re doing now, but hopefully on a larger scale. I think you remember energies more than you remember things people say and whatever else, and I hope that we…I…leave behind an energy that is positive towards people. We’ll all pass away one day, we’ll all be gone, and very tiny remnants of our existence will matter, but I think if there’s any way just a little speck can be left to hopefully inspire other people to bring some positivity to the world, that’s really all I can hope for when it comes to my music.

Check out the video for “Lights Down Low” below, and for more information on MAX, visit his website or follow him on Twitter .

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REVIEW: KID KAPICHI – ‘LUCOZADE DREAMS’ EP 27

Kid Kapichi are currently one of the most talked about up and coming bands in Britain, and, on the back of their previous EP, are so with good reason. However, some bands can and do often struggle when it comes to a second release. There’s more pressure and expectation, and sometimes it’s more than artists can handle well. So, how have KK fared with their sophomore EP, Lucozade Dreams?

The intro piece, at just over 46 seconds long could easily have been left off the EP, but given that it’s brashier and bolder than many opening instrumentals featured on albums and the like in recent months, it doesn’t fare too badly. It is however a good thing that “Cinderella” quickly follows on from it and ultimately sets the tone for the EP overall. With it’s big, catchy verses, and a chorus that’s even bigger, combined with a toe-tapping bass undertone, it’s an exciting little number, sure to impress and win over music fans who give it a listen.

The momentum and energy continues through “Puppet Strings” and although the instrumentation is good, ultimately it’s the impressive lyrics that make the track stand out. Meanwhile, anyone looking for a superb riff and a thumping, invigorating beat need look no further than “Jack Jones” and the slick production on “Machine Men” means the EP ends on a rewarding high for both band and listener.

While the group from Hastings might still be considerably unknown to some, they’ve been talked about for some time now, and the amount of said talk is only likely to grow on the back of Lucozade Dreams – a collection that’s fun, fizzing with energy and highlights just how much Kid Kapichi love what they do, and in time, more music fans might just find themselves loving them too.

Lucozade Dreams is available now.

DANIELLE PINNOCK CHATS ‘YOUNG SHELDON’ & THE BODY POSITIVITY MOVEMENT 56

With The Big Bang Theory having proven to be a global hit since its very first episode, it should come as no surprise to learn that its spin-off, a look at the childhood and early years of Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper, aptly titled Young Sheldon, has also become a phenomenon. With the show about to air its debut season finale, and with season 2 already greenlit, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Danielle Pinnock, who plays Ms. Ingram in the show, to find out about her very first audition, her role as a body activist and how she feels about the reaction to and her being part of the smash-hit series that is Young Sheldon.

TITL: At what age did you first realize you wanted to pursue acting as a career? Was there one particular show/actor you watched that made you think ‘I’d like to do that’?

Danielle Pinnock: When I was 19 I was in a production at Temple University called In Conflict. It was a documentary play about war veterans returning home from serving overseas. The show was so incredible. We were even pulled out of school for a year to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Off-Broadway in New York.  All of the vets we portrayed were real people, based on interviews done by journalist Yvonne Latty. The veteran I played, Sgt. Lisa Haynes, was the only one we were unable to get a response from during run of the show. I heard that during her initial interview, her PTSD was so severe once returning home that she may have “fallen off the map.” I didn’t want to accept this, so I took it upon myself to find Sgt. Haynes. I called every VA hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she was from, and was able to locate her and her family. During the run of the show,  I flew down to Tulsa and met Sgt. Haynes and her family. When I returned back to New York, I was determined to have Sgt. Haynes see the final Off-Broadway performance. So in the final two weeks of the run I managed to raise $10,000 to get Sgt. Haynes and her family members up to New York to see In Conflict’s last show. It was THAT show that made me want to act for the rest of my life.

TITL: Can you recall your very first audition? 

DP: Yes! Ha! My very first audition was for the middle school production of Aladdin. I played Halima, Jafar’s evil sister. It was like pulling teeth to get me to audition for this role. I never wanted to be an actor growing up, and was super shy as a child. My audition song was “Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill.

TITL: Which auditions, looking back on them, do you feel went really well or that you struggled with? 

DP: The reason I ended up in Los Angeles is because I auditioned for a production at the Geffen Playhouse called Barbecue by Robert O’Hara. At the time of the auditions, I was still living in Chicago and actually flew up to L.A. to be seen for the project. It was a risky decision and I would not recommend actors doing that, but I knew I had to be on point! I also knew if I was going to move to Los Angeles, I needed a job! Barbecue was one of my best auditions in L.A. Recently, I ran into Colman Domingo and he said: Danielle, you just walked in with your blue dress and commanded our attention. Working with Colman and the cast members was a dream realized. It was an honor to be included in that production.

My most memorable audition that I struggled with also happened in Los Angeles. I was going in for the role of a nurse on a sitcom. A lot of auditions in L.A. happen in “bungalows” which are really just trailers on the studio lots. I only bring this up, because the walls in most audition rooms are extremely thin so you can hear another actors’ entire audition. There was a young woman who went in before me, and her audition was so fantastic that the casting director actually booked her for the project IN THE ROOM! The entire waiting room, full of actors, heard the casting director call this woman’s agent to say the actor had booked it. However, in the waiting room, chaos ensued. People began to leave the audition and I had no clue what to do because I was NEXT! As soon as the actor left the audition room all I heard was: “Danielle Pinnock come on in.”  It was my worst audition to date. I forgot all of the lines and was just unmotivated to even give my all because I knew there was no chance of me getting booked on that project.

TITL: How did you hear about the role of Ms. Ingram for Young Sheldon? What was/is it about the character that made you want to audition for the role?

DP: Funny enough, this was a same-day audition. My manager called me on a Thursday morning and I had three-hours to prepare the sides for an Untitled project. I initially went in for the music-teacher and then Nikki Valko, the casting director, asked me to read for a brand new character they created that week “Ms. Ingram.” It was refreshing to see that casting was considering me, a plus-sized African American woman to play the mathematics teacher. Ms. Ingram is one of my favorite characters to play because she is so quirky, hilarious and extremely no-nonsense.

TITL: The show has proven to be a HUGE success in the US and is also popular here in the UK. Did you or your fellow cast members ever expect the show to get the response and reaction it has? 

DP: It’s surreal! This show is a hit internationally and I’ve never, in my entire career, been a part of such a phenomenon. Chuck Lorre is a genius and absolutely has the Midas touch when it comes to creating successful television! Working with the creators Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro has been a dream come true. My mom and I were in the grocery store and someone stopped us and said “That’s Ms. Ingram, Oh My God!” In the pilot, my character Ms. Ingram talks about attending Oral Roberts University and the school sent me a gift! I went to graduate school at Birmingham School of Acting UK, now known as the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, so it’s really cool for my friends, family and professors to see it overseas as well!

Aside from it’s obvious TBBT connection, what do you think it is about Young Sheldon that has attracted so many people to watch, and keep watching, it?

DP: The show is hilarious and the main cast give masterful performances. Iain Armitage who plays Sheldon Cooper is a brilliant young performer and is such a joy to work alongside. His portrayal of Sheldon Cooper is honest and relatable.

TITL: You’ve also appeared in Scandal and This Is Us. How important to you is it that you’re able to take on a variety of roles that really put your abilities to the test, and with that in mind, what’s your dream role? Which show would you most like to appear in and why?

DP: Working on those two shows was incredible. I was able to work on Scandal with the genius Kerry Washington; the legendary Viola Davis was the cherry on an already delicious sundae! I’ve had the opportunity to play some fantastic roles both in theatre and on-screen. To be honest, I don’t know what my dream role would be. There are so many great shows out right now. My favorites at the moment: Good Girls, Atlanta, How To Get Away With Murder and SMILF. 

TITL: The entertainment industry is cut throat and competitive, so what advice would you give to anyone looking to make their mark on it? Is there any one piece of advice you were once given that you still look back on?

DP: A colleague of mine once said: “In this industry, you must learn to be plural.” In this industry, especially nowadays, you have to be multi-faceted. This is why there is an uprising of artists creating their own content now.

TITL: Away from TV, you’re an accomplished writer/playwright, and are passionate about creating productions that address life, living and the many issues that come with it. Does your work in that field ever cross over into your acting work and vice-versa?

DP: Absolutely. I’m actually developing an improvised Instagram series with my friend, LaNisa Frederick called Hashtag Booked. Hashtag Booked is a hilarious, raw, and shocking portrayal of what happens during the short period of time in the audition waiting room.  These “characters” are based on real-life experiences.

TITL: How are you finding your role as a vocal activist for body positivity impacting both yourself and those around you? How did you first get involved and would you like to see more individuals, especially those in the public eye, using their status to speak out about important matters as you are?

DP: The first play I ever wrote was a solo show called Body/Courage. Body/Courage was created from over 300 interviews I conducted worldwide, and it was an exploration on body acceptance. This project changed my life. The show is about my journey to find my own beauty through the voices of others. The cool thing about the show is that it introduced a constellation of characters grappling with diverse body issues including weight, illness, disability, skin color, aging, and gender transition. It was this show that got me involved in the body positivity movement. Body/Courage, allowed me to find a courage in myself that I didn’t know I possessed. The body positivity movement already has some fierce voices and it can always use more so I would encourage others to speak out.

TITL: Are there any other plans or projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?

DP: This summer, I’ll be releasing an interview-style podcast called SHOOK discussing true stories of mental health in the industry. I’ve also been asked to be a guest contributor for Shondaland, so check out my essay I’ll be writing for them in the next few weeks.

TITL: Finally then, given that the industry is ever changing, sometimes at a pace even fans can’t keep up with, where do you think the business will go and be 5-10 years from now? What would you like to see happen and do you think that such things will? 

DP: My hope for the industry in 5-10 years is that we can begin to bring more stories by women of color to the forefront. I want to see more women of color on set, I want to see more women of color in the writers room, I want to see more women of color as producers and directors. I want to see women of color win in this industry now and in the future.

Young Sheldon is currently airing on E4 in the UK on Wednesdays at 8.30PM. You can keep up to date with Danielle Pinnock via her Twitter. Header photo credit: Joe Mazza.