Christian Mayes started the band Maze with a changing cast of players. “In the beginning, that was kind of the whole idea about the thing,” he says. “That as long as I had a microphone and I could get another two dudes to play whatever, I could fill in dates.”
The beginnings of Maze happened when Chronic Jester called on Mayes to fill in on bass for some gigs during Thunder Beach, Panama City Beach’s bike week. Mayes also had some pending band gigs on his books, so they leaned on each other and gigged over the course of a fall season.
Maze then went on a hiatus, while Mayes and guitarist Shane Curle began to perform together in the short-lived band Triple Distilled. From there, the pair bonded over music and life, and Maze had a new foundation.
“We would like to be able to start traveling around a little bit, and we have other musicians lined up as auxiliary players—keys, horns, and other vocalists to help us build a much larger sound,” Mayes says of the ever-evolving project.
When it comes to a genre tag, Mayes skirts the typical. “I have been calling it ‘nu-wave,’ but they (the other band members) are not quite a fan of that yet. What we are going for, as far as the sound, is we want to do dance-y, evil, gypsy jazz music. We want to just get weird and throw in chords all over the place and add harmonies where they shouldn’t be. We are trying to break the conventional foundation.”
Part of the influence comes from the idea that 2020 is near, and it’s an opportunity to pay an homage to the vitality of the Roaring ‘20s. “Jazz was what was up, so why not make some dance-y jazz to go with it?” says Mayes. “Let’s catch up to the ‘20s so we can wear some nice suits.”
The band’s goal of evolving is similar to that of Mayes himself. “I play closer to 20 instruments than not at this point,” he shares when asked about his primary role as Maze’s vocalist, bass player and keyboardist. “I’ve played guitar for forever because I love to sing. I was singing quietly and playing loudly so I could get over my stage fright.”
He learned bass and keys out of necessity playing in various projects, but his collection doesn’t end with the ordinary. “Slowly over the years, I’ve collected an accordion, harps, and, of course, there’s always my favorite instrument of all, the kazoo. We practice heavily with that, and this next album…let me tell you, there is going to be some kazoo work on that.”
Kazoo? Perhaps Mayes paying homage to last year’s April Fool’s article in which I claimed he was looking for “a proper opportunity to beat the Guinness Book of World Records holder for the largest kazoo ensemble, which is currently at a respectable 5,190.”
“It was really funny, because at the time you said that, we were actually researching how to electrify kazoos,” says Mayes. “We figured out how to do it on the cheap, so we have a strong box hidden away from the masses full of electronic kazoos. We were like, Let’s see what happens when we put a kazoo through distortion. And it is not pretty at all. Or maybe I just suck at kazoo. I’m not really sure.”
Maze’s plans are as unconventional as a juiced-up kazoo. They are working towards a conceptual show that will create space for other artists, comedians, and even actors. “At the end of the day, we might be good at music, but we are entertainers,” says Mayes. “We are performers.”
With a live album already available, a special Earth Day event in the works, and a full-fledged studio album around the corner, the current goal of Maze—and Mayes—is to “just stay ahead of the ball, to keep it rolling and keep trying.”
Keep up with all things Maze at facebook.com/nomapsallowed.