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The Maxes were a Manhattan-based musical duo headed by Josh Max and Julie James. Max was the guitarist, singer, songwriter and arranger of music for the group and James was vocalist. Live, the act usually had four pieces; standup bass, drums, guitar and vocals, but piano and brass were occasionally added.
The band released two albums, 1999's Make It Snappy (under their former name Josh Max's Outfit) and 2007's "The Maxes". "Snappy" has sold over 12,000 copies independently. In August 2008, The Maxes completed a 12-song CD of the music of Songwriter Hall Of Famer Al Hoffman, and signed a publishing deal with Music Sales Group to promote the songs on TV, Radio, in movies and elsewhere throughout the United States, Europe and parts of Asia.
The act, originally called Josh Max's Outfit, was formed on the tail end of the new Swing movement in the late 90s made popular by the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Unlike those acts, Josh Max's Outfit performed their jumpy, at times kitschy but heartfelt music with a power trio of standup bass, acoustic guitar through a slapback echo delay, doing without traditional horns, saxes or keyboards. From the start, the band decided to dress in loud clothing.
The band performed their first shows at CB's Gallery, The Duplex, Arlene's Grocery and branched out to Fez Under Time Cafe, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, B.B. King's, Joe's Pub and other noted New York City venues. Through word of mouth and without a booking agent, the band was invited to perform at colleges like Yale, Princeton and Stonybrook universities as well at numerous weddings and private parties where it was requested they perform their own music.
The band played three songs, "Cuban Pete", Del Shannon's "Runaway" and their own "Diva With a Fever". The show was televised and seen by over 7,000,000 people and the band subsequently had a hit in that country with their song, "Silent Movie".
A break, a cover band blizzard, and a resurgence
The band took a break from live touring in the early 00's as Max focused on a new career as a writer for the New York Daily News, New York Times, Newsweek, Salon.com and other publications, though The Maxes still performed a few shows a year in the NYC area. In the meantime, Max formed a series of one-shot cover bands to keep a foot in the business and for fun. During this period, he was the Elvis Costello in a band called "Elvis Prestello and the Distractions". During shows, Max wore an Elvis Presley Las Vegas '75 costume complete with cape. The band performed Costello albums in their entirety such as My Aim Is True, This Year's Model and King of America. The band opened for DJ "Doctor Demento" at B.B. King's in Times Square, and also headlined shows at Arlene's Grocery to capacity crowds.
In 2005, Josh Max and Julie James headlined a show in the Central Park SummerStage program, performing the music of late British orchestral folk musician Nick Drake. The show featured an 18-piece orchestra conducted by Drake collaborator and arranger Robert Kirby, and was attended by over 3,000 people. In order to accurately represent the complexity of Drake's music, Max played 6 different Gibson acoustic guitars during the show, each tuned differently, and learned a completely new way of playing, without a pick. James sang each Drake song in the original key, an octave higher, while Kirby played trumpet on "Hazey Jane II".
Following the performance in Central Park, Max concluded this period of interesting cover bands formed and dismantled, and threw his entire life back into his own music. Renamed The Maxes in 2004, Max and Julie James began work on their follow-up CD, The Maxes. The disc was released April 12, 2007 on their own label, Swipecat Records, and is now represented by MPL Communications.
The Maxes disbanded in 2010. Josh Max is a solo performance artist and Julie James is, as of 2013, forming her own cabaret revue.
- Josh is the grand nephew of Songwriter's Hall of Fame member Al Hoffman.
- Julie sang the national anthem a capella at Fenway Park in 1995 to an audience of 34,000.