The Maine, 'Birthday in Los Angeles' & 'Blood Red': Exclusive Song Premieres

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Arizona rockers the Maine are prepping a gritty new rock record produced by the Raconteurs' Brendan Benson, and Billboard has an exclusive first look at two of its standout tracks.

The first is a stripped down, confessional acoustic song called "Birthday in Los Angeles," which frontman John O'Callaghan wrote with a friend while walking through a cemetery in England. On the track's somewhat bitter origins, O'Callaghan remembers:

"Right before that trip… I had turned 23 and was talking to -- I use that term loosely -- 'talking to' a girl that lived in Los Angeles. For the first time I think I felt what it’s like to be on the opposite side of a letdown or the built up emotion of a relationship… also just being confused of things, what your role is in a relationship. So I came up with the metaphor of LA or Los Angeles being this girl."

Then there's "Blood Red," a driving rock song whose final incarnation benefited from the guiding presence of Benson. "It was a song that I had written a long time ago and the way that it turned out was a lot different than I expected," O'Callaghan says. "(Benson) felt like the song needed to feel like you were on an old pirate ship and you were swaying back and forth, which you hear in the intro and the re-intros, a lot of creeks and a lot of clanking noises." 

On the upcoming LP -- "Forever Halloween" (due June 4) -- Benson played a pivotal role in helping the Maine develop from the teenaged pop-punk of their earliest work into more confident, self-aware musicians. On previous efforts, studio gloss doctored O'Callaghan's vocals into registers he couldn't duplicate live; on "Halloween" all the songs were performed live, through analog tape without any computer editing. "I had talked to Brendan via email before we met," says the frontman. "I just kind of voiced to him that I really needed help with kind of dialing in my voice and who I was as a singer."

In the end, O'Callaghan calls it the Maine's "most honest" album to date.