The band came up with the name by flicking through the Bible and picking out a random word. Despite adopting a name with perceived religious connotations, lead singer Orlando Weeks has more recently affirmed, in an interview on Steve Lamacq's BBC Radio 1 show, that none of the band is religious. Their lyrics often include an atheistic theme, in particular their second album's title track, "Wall of Arms" and "All in Your Rows" from their debut album.
Their debut single, "X-Ray", was released on Promise records on 28 November 2005, and received some evening play on London radio station Xfm London. They received little significant exposure, however, until six months later, when they released their second single, "Latchmere", the subject of which is the wave machine at the Latchmere Leisure Centre in Battersea, South London, on Fierce Panda Records in April 2006. This was championed by Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq and received airtime on MTV2. The video, directed by Hugh Frost and Samuel Bebbington, also proved an internet hit after it was posted on YouTube.
The band were signed to major label Fiction Records, and released their debut album Colour It In in May 2007. Because an early copy of the album appeared on the New York Times website, Colour It In became available to download exclusively from iTunes on 16 December, before its physical release on 14 May, in an effort to combat the leak. The single "First Love" was their first to chart in the UK top 40, and was followed by "About Your Dress", which peaked at No. 33. Their album received positive reviews, and charted at No. 24. They then toured the United States with fellow indie group Bloc Party. A full UK tour followed from October 2007, culminating in a sell-out show at the Roundhouse venue in London.
On the run-up to the release of their second album, the band played two new songs to Steve Lamacq on his "In New Music We Trust" show on Radio 1 in May 2008, "No Kind Words" and "Young Lions". The band also played a string of small venues in the UK to test out new songs, in March and April 2008. The Maccabees performed at Offset Festival in London as well the Underage Festival in August 2008.
On Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show in February 2009, Felix confirmed the name of the follow-up album to be Wall of Arms, an announcement that coincided with the release of the free downloadable track, "No Kind Words". On 16 March, Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq played the band's first single from Wall of Arms entitled Love You Better, the video to which was posted exclusively on ClashMusic.com on 27 March.
Wall of Arms was released on 4 May 2009. It entered the UK albums chart at No.13 and received positive reviews with the NME giving the album 8/10. At the end of the year, Artrocker made the album joint No.1 Album of 2009 along with Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "It's Blitz!".
The band performed at NewcastleGateshead's Evolution Festival on 25 May 2009. They finished their set with "Love You Better". They played before The View and after Little Boots on the Spillers Wharf Stage.
In July 2009, second single "Can You Give It" was released. The Maccabees invited the Dodworth Colliery Band of Barnsley to record a rousing brass version of the single for the B-side. The Guardian interviewed Orlando and Felix during the recording session. The accompanying video for "Can You Give It" was filmed at the infamous Coopers Hill annual cheese rolling race in Gloucestershire.
Other performances in 2009 include Reading and Leeds Festivals on Friday 28th and Saturday 29 August respectively and Little Noise Sessions on 16 November.
On 3 October 2009, the five-piece band played a gig at Brixton Academy to finish off their Wall of Arms tour. The band pulled in a huge crowd for their homecoming show at the O2, as well as a brass section for many of their songs as they performed their entire 2009 album and a host of tracks from their 2007 debut Colour It In. During the set Felix White declared the Academy as 'the best venue in the world'. The Guardian ran a five star live review of the gig.
In November 2009, The Maccabees collaborated with rapper Roots Manuva on a heady re-working of Wall of Arms album track and live favourite "No Kind Words". The track, newly titled "Empty Vessels", features new lyrics and vocals from fellow south Londoner Roots. It was debuted on Zane Lowe's evening show on Radio One on 11 November. The single release of "Empty Vessels" was made available on iTunes from 24 November 2009 on Fiction Records.
The Maccabees were named as headlines for the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2010 with Bombay Bicycle Club, The Big Pink and The Drums in February 2010.
The Maccabees debuted new song "Child" in Brighton in August 2010, as well as playing the Main Stage at the Reading & Leeds festival 2010, debuting new song titled "Forever I've Known", displaying what seems to be a darker, deeper sound for the band.
They played new songs "Child", "Feel to Follow", "Pelican", "Ayla", "Went Away", "Forever I've Known" and "Grew Up at Midnight" at The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth on 8 August 2011.
On 4 October 2011, the band announced via their blog that their third album, Given to the Wild, will be released 9 January 2012.
The first single from the album was "Pelican", it was first played on 15 November 2011 on BBC Radio 1 by Zane Lowe. It has since been uploaded to YouTube as an audio, along with its release date of 9 January 2012.
It was released on 9 January 2012 to very favourable reviews, it currently holds a score of 72 on Metacritic, a site that averages out critics reviews. At the 58th Ivor Novello awards, held at Grosvenor hotel in London on Thursday 16 May 2013, "Pelican" won Best Contemporary Song.
The album was at No. 1 on the midweek chart update, at the end of the week it debuted No. 4 on the UK Album Chart, the highest Maccabees release to date there.
On 12 September 2012 the album was nominated for the 2012 Mercury Prize. On 24 October 2012 the album was certified gold in the UK.
In 2015 their song "Grew Up At Midnight" was featured in the film Steve Jobs.
In 2013 The Maccabees announced in an NME article that they were hoping to release a fourth album in early 2014. However, in January 2014 in another article with NME, guitarist Felix White stated, 'We started the record at the beginning of 2013. We went into the studio with the idea that it was going to be finished by now. And we've finished two songs. We've got a lot of songs but every time you write something new, it raises the standard.' Frontman Orlando Weeks added, 'we haven't really come across the songs that set the tone or mood for this record yet, we're kind of shooting in the dark. But I like that: there isn't a specific thing I'm trying to funnel stuff into.'.
In March 2015, it was announced that The Maccabees were going to release new single 'Marks To Prove It' on 11 May through Fiction Records. In May 2015, the band confirmed that ‘Marks To Prove It’ would feature eleven tracks. The album was recorded in the band's studio in Elephant and Castle and pays tribute to the area.
On 18 May, the band announced that the album would be titled Marks to Prove It, and would be released on 31 July 2015. ‘Something Like Happiness’ was released as the second single and streamed by the band on 11 June. It was released on 31 July, to coincide with the album.
In August 2016 the band released a statement saying that "After 14 years as a band we have decided to call it a day", with farewell shows to follow in summer 2017.Orlando Weeks – vocals, guitar, keyboards (2004–2016). He was educated at Highgate School and the University of Brighton.
Hugo White – guitars, backing vocals (2004–2016)
Felix White – guitars, backing vocals (2004–2016). He attended Alleyn's School.
Rupert Shepherd – bass (2004–2016)
Sam Doyle – drums (2008–2016)
Robert Dylan Thomas – drums (2004–2008)
Will White – keyboards, synthesizer, samplers (2010–2013)
Colour It In (2007)
Wall of Arms (2009)
Given to the Wild (2012)
Marks to Prove It (2015)