The guitarist mashing up prog genres to build his ultimate wall of sound.

I want it to be a celebration of instrumental guitar in all its forms,” says Michael Astley-Brown, the man behind Maebe. Raised in The Cotswolds, Astley-Brown grew up on grunge and pop-punk before discovering the joys of post-rock at university, where hearing Mogwai proved a transformative experience, because “It made me realise I don’t need a singer to get my ideas across.”

The love of guitar led to a career in music journalism writing for //Guitar World// before a series of personal upheavals provided the impetus for Maebe’s eponymous 2020 debut. “I was like, the shit has really hit the fan, why don’t I try to do this thing I’ve always wanted to do? I’m going to make an album.”

On 2020’s debut and now //Rebirth. Relive. Repeat.// Astley-Brown played or programmed everything himself, cherry-picking concepts from multiple progressive genres. “I wanted to pull from the post-rock soundscapes, the math rock slightly wonky riffs, and I’m a big Joe Satriani guy, I grew up on that shred stuff as well,” he says. “That sense of melody is something I felt I could bring into a post-rock, math rock context without it verging into cheesy ‘80s shred territory. It’s striking that balance.”

From the first album to //Rebirth. Relive. Repeat.//, Astley-Brown wanted everything to be dreamier, heavier, and more melodic. “It’s a bit of a cliché but I do want to take the listener on a journey, and I want each song to be almost its own dimension that the listener can get lost in,” says Astley-Brown. “That’s what drove me to do so many guitar layers and different sounds, but also keeping the melody very much at the forefront. I tend to make every song quite epic. It’s probably that Smashing Pumpkins euphoric, happy guitar explosion thing and I lean into that on some songs.”

While Maebe began as a one-man studio project, it’s grown into a live beast powered by three guitar players. “It’s very much a wall of sound because I wanted to replicate those layers on the album and I didn’t want to use tracks or loops,” says Astley-Brown. “Meeting a group of like-minded individuals who have all grown up on the same weird musical diet has really helped to solidify the sound of the band. And the feedback we’ve had from live shows has been amazing.”

Maebe marked the release of the new album with a headline show at Rough Trade in their hometown of Bristol, where the vibrant math rock scene has embraced the band. “To start playing a riff and someone goes, ‘Yes! I love this song!’, that’s what I dreamt about as a kid,” says Astley-Brown. “I grew up in Gloucestershire, there is no music scene, all this stuff seemed impossible to me. So, to be doing it now in my thirties, even though my body is a wreck after every show, I feel like I’m finally where I want to be musically and in my life. It’s genuinely a really powerful thing.” DW

Prog File

Line-Up: Michael Astley-Brown (lead guitar), Will Thomas (rhythm guitar), Duncan Stagg (rhythm guitar), Patrick da Costa (bass), Nicholas Appelgren (drums)

Sounds Like: Flying over a beautiful undulating landscape then slamming into turbulence. Fire the thrusters, blast through the atmosphere and drift freely into space. With guitars.

Current Release: Rebirth. Relive. Repeat. is out now via Bandcamp.


— David West

From "Limelight - Maebe" Prog Reprinted with permission.

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