Mapmaker releases new album

By Brianna Wellen

Blending equal parts rock, pop and funk with strong jazz influences, the members of Mapmaker have a sound outside the typical college garage band genre. Saxophone and clarinet riffs play alongside guitar and drum solos. After finding their stride playing a steady rotation of local music venues, such as the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., and Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., they released their second full-length album “House on Stilts” on April 8, thanks to the support of their fans.

The six-piece band met at Loyola University Chicago in 2009, and despite jobs, classes and other obligations, they put their music first. The Chronicle caught up with Mapmaker to talk about the spontaneity of jazz, collaborative songwriting and the cost of making and selling an album on your own.

The Chronicle: How did the band start?

Max Martini: The Mapmaker story is that regardless of what actually happened, we would have ended up being together. Maxx [McGathey] and I, we share a name, initials and birthday. He plays piano and I play drums, so we decided to jam. At the same time, the rest of us got together under different circumstances. We slowly ended up coming together, and then Maxx started introducing songs he had written.

The Chronicle: Why is the jazz influence an important part of your music?

M. Martini: As performers it’s really important to all of us that things feel live and spontaneous. We keep this element of improvisation as much as we can within a framework. That ends up being a lot of jazz influence, even on funk and rock and indie, whatever, it comes down to [a] jazz mentality.

Nick Cardelli: A lot of our songs are pop tunes, but then the second half of the song, it’s all-out jazz free form.

Nick Bush: That’s how they’re written, too. There [are] chords and structure, but then they’re written as a jazz musician would improvise them.

The Chronicle: How do you guys collaborate on the songwriting process?

Maxx McGathey: One of us will bring something we’ve been working on to the group—usually it’s like chord, melody lyrics, something you can play on an acoustic guitar, piano or sing. It’s like, here [are] the bare bones of the song, now as the six piece to cover that we create the sound of Mapmaker from these basic skeletons of songs.

NC: The finishing touches take weeks but the song generally is there after a few hours. It’s like everyone has [his] color and [his] background, like Nick Bush brings jazz saxophone every time while, Max McGathey or myself have these different textures with [guitar and keyboard] effects.

M. McGathey: There’s not a certain formula for a song. Each song is a completely different experience as to how we create it.

The Chronicle: How did your new album come together?

M. McGathey: We had a Kickstarter account, and the support was unbelievable. We surpassed our goal in two and a half days.

NC: We asked for $3,000, and we ended up with $3,780. The community was like, “Bam! You want to make an album? You got it.”

M. Martini: For three months before we recorded, twice a week we played the album.

NC: It was down to the point where we would be like, “Oh, man, that one snare hit at 2:36 isn’t working out.” We played every possible combination.

The Chronicle: Why sell your album using the pay-your-own-price strategy?

Aled Fain: It was really cool that we got to pay for it before we got in [the recording studio], more or less. Last time we had to sell the album because we were in the hole a couple thousand dollars. This time we raised the money beforehand, so we can afford to put it up like that.

The Chronicle: What’s next for the band?

M. McGathey: We’re going to go back to normal Mapmaker stuff if you can call it that. For the two years prior to this project it [was] if we have a show, we’ll practice for that show, if we don’t have a show, we’re writing new songs. [Now] we’ll be working on getting bigger shows and keep writing new music.

To download or stream “House on Stilts” and for more information on upcoming shows, visit