Maximillian Newman was sitting in a backyard playing with the chord progression to “Maggot Brain,” the sprawling ten-minute instrumental that kicks off Funkadelic’s 1971 album of the same name. So much time passed at the height of pandemic lockdowns.
“I hadn’t played with people that much, so I was just doing a lot of backing tracks online,” Newman recalls. “One of the backing tracks I kept coming back to was ‘Maggot Brain’ because it’s legendary. solo.”
Newman, who plays guitar in the funk band Main Squeeze, didn’t know it at the time, but he was in the early stages of “Sun Goes Down,” an epic nine-minute track on the band’s latest album. To be determined.
The Main Squeeze, consisting of Newman, Corey Frye, Ben “Smiley” Silverstein, Reuben Gingrich and Rob Skywalker (Walker), will play the Westword Music Showcase on Saturday, September 10th.
While Newman was playing, vocalist/frontman Frye started singing over the track. They both liked what they heard.
“I had never heard anyone sing in that chord progression,” says Newman. “It kind of evolved from that. We put our own spin on it. We wanted a song that was very raw emotionally and we weren’t afraid to stretch it.”
Newman thinks the song is — at least sonically — akin to an LSD trip.
“We just wanted that energy,” he says. “It’s kind of psychedelic and raw. We wanted her to scream and cry and be dynamic and be loud and be quiet and just take you on a journey. I was happy with it when it was done, and it was the best to do live. You can drop it to that tune.”
Frye wrote most of the lyrics, which Newman says are based on the fear of being alone in the world and the desire to find someone.
“When the sun goes down, who will be around?” says Newman. “In a nutshell, that’s what I consider the song to be — having someone there when the shit hits the fan, but also, at the end of this journey, who’s going to be there with you.”
He adds that when Main Squeeze play the song live, Frye sometimes dedicates it to a friend who died young, while Newman often finds himself thinking about another friend lost to a drug overdose. The song evokes a sense of longing and appears as a kind of prayer.
“In many ways, it feels that way,” Newman says. “Obviously there’s a deep sadness in it, but I’d like to think there’s also hope in it. It’s just kind of raw and it’s about loss and loneliness, but also pushing through and finding someone to go through it all with. That’s what the whole album was about.”
He says another track on the album, “Hold My Hand,” explores a happier side of the emotions covered in “Sun Goes Down” and has the feel of a Motown ballad. Elsewhere, “Grape Jelly” touches on the concept of first love and finding that person, while “Purple Flowers”, which people often characterize as romantic, is actually dedicated to the band members’ mothers.
“There’s a common thread of someone who’s there for you and supports you through this crazy life that we all go through,” Newman says.
Although originating from a Funkadelic song, “Sun Goes Down” has a strong Pink Floyd vibe and is particularly reminiscent of “The Great Gig in the Sky”, from The dark side of the moon. “That album, and Pink Floyd in general, was definitely an influence on this album,” Newman admits. “We’ve always covered Pink Floyd songs here and there. Generally, we make one cover per set. It’s always a pleasure to choose the cover and Pink Floyd has been the backbone of that.”
Born in Bloomington, Indiana, now based in LA, the band rests comfortably in the realm of funk, but Main Squeeze’s sound often stretches beyond genre. The group draws strong hip-hop influences into its style, sometimes channeling the Roots and jazz-inflected hip-hop trio Digable Planets.
While Newman notes that To be determined is the band’s most accomplished album to date, he still thinks the band’s self-titled debut is hard to beat. It wasn’t a mature job, but it was “a lot of us,” he says.
“There are about five different genres [first] album”, he adds. “But it’s really us. We came from really different backgrounds and really different upbringings, both in life and musically.”
To be determined is available for streaming Spotify. For more information, visit mainsqueezemusic.com.