Max Cohen embarked last year on a 10-day Birthright Israel trip, a free journey for 18 to 32 year olds with Jewish heritage to discover their culture and explore various issues of Jewish life. That was part of a more than two month trip to Europe to clear his head, get in touch with his roots, and ponder his future in music, hoping to answer the question “Why am I doing this?”
Cohen had success with the South Bay band Atomic Walrus, but, after four years of playing to crowds as large as 7,000, they split up due to musical differences. But Cohen had released a couple singles under the name Mr. Max.
“I was playing for everybody sitting around the campfire, just doing songs... playing for five people,” said Cohen during his trip where he also played open mics around Europe. “I was having more fun doing than I probably did playing to 7,000.”
Cohen realized he wanted to completely commit to his music.
So, he left his desk job around a month ago.
He will celebrate the release of Mr. Max's first video and latest single, “Let's Get Cucked Up,” Thursday, March 14, at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach. Joining him on stage for the evening are The HiGrounds and Hunter Porter.
Cohen said the new video is about a guy, a character in the song, who is being taken advantage of by a woman. He said the song is inspired by “experiences I've had and situations I've seen.” Produced by Rob Schnapf (Beck, Foo Fighters), the song is a “snarky” punk single.
“I want to make it fly; I want to make it ridiculous; I want to make it a little bit tongue-in-cheek,” Cohen said.
Cohen's punk influences come from growing up in Manhattan Beach, skating and surfing, while going to Mira Costa High School where he graduated in 2010.
He picked up the guitar and began studying music when he was 11. He took guitar lessons from local teachers while in high school and received some training in guitar, songwriting and singing while attending USC. He didn't sing a note until he was 20 years old.
“I want it rooted in punk energy, attitude, but also I want to fuse indie rock and funk and psychedelic rock elements,” said Cohen about his new music. “I'm still trying to find what my sound is.”
When Cohen graduated from college, he worked for a music publishing firm and worked as a composer on film, television and commercials. But he “realized I didn't want to do that” and now is solely committed to making new music and performing live.
“I'm putting all my energy into my music and I realized… speaking to mentors and doing soul searching, I realized that I have to do exactly what I want to do,” Cohen said. “If I don't then I'm not going to be doing it wholeheartedly.”
Mr. Max is expected to perform again at Saint Rocke on April 18, as the opening act, where he will release another single.