Max Schneider, performing simply as MAX, is an artist who leaves every ounce of emotion in the recording booth and bears his soul across his discography. Hailing from New York City, MAX grew up on Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Etta James and “anybody [where] you could hear their passion through their voice and their vocals.”
“I feel like it’s always so transparent when an artist is just leaving everything they have on a record or a video or whatever it is,” MAX says. “I’ve always gravitated toward those artists.” As a singer-songwriter, MAX has poured his passion into two full-lengths, a collaborative album alongside RyanEXOE as Party Pupils and a recent track with fellow Warner Records artist Ali Gatie called “Butterflies.”
Between their smooth instrumentals, how they relay love through music and their uplifting attitudes, it’s evident that MAX and Gatie are cut from the same creative cloth. Embracing the sultry sweetness of their voices, “Butterflies” acts as a love letter sequel to MAX’s 2016 hit “Lights Down Low,” which expressed his evolving love for his wife, Emily, and his newborn daughter.
Alternative Press spoke with MAX and Gatie on the creative process behind “Butterflies,” why they teamed up for the collaboration, how they created a story through the music video and more.
Max, you initially connected with Ali first via DMs, but what was it that inspired you to initially reach out to him?
MAX: He’s just the best singer, and his emotions are on his sleeve. Sometimes you communicate online, and then you wonder when you meet in person if you’ll connect in the same way. And we did. We just came from the same cloth. And I think that I’m definitely the type where when you respect someone’s work and what they’re doing, and you dream to work with them. Shoot your shot, baby.
It’s obvious through your contributions to the song that you have strong electricity with one another. You can tell there’s a friendship there as well as a musical relationship.
ALI GATIE: That’s very true. Almost all artists are cool that I’ve met, but sometimes it’s like, “OK, we did this song, and they’re a fan, and you’re a fan, and it just ends at that.” And there’s nothing wrong with that. And then sometimes you hang out, and, like you said, you see eye to eye. Me and Max are just very similar. I think we just saw eye to eye and both make pretty similar music. It’s different, but it’s very emotional. It was just natural.
So, Max, “Butterflies” marks your first release since your 2020 album, Colour Vision, but it also serves as your debut with Warner Records, which you recently signed to. And Ali, you’re also on Warner. What does this signing mean to you, Max? And how did you know that working with Warner was the right direction for you and your music?
MAX: It was amazing. The last place I was at became family, and they were awesome, but I always knew that I was looking for this sort of home that had more of a global reach. This song is really what made the Warner thing happen. They fell in love with the song, and then they heard of the music, and they were into it.
Ali and I were hanging and getting so close. And funny enough, I’ve almost signed to Warner like nine times in my career. [They’re] probably the label I’ve met the most with, which is hilarious. So it just felt like, “This has been in the works for my whole life. Let’s just make it happen. It’s time to go.” I really believe in universal moments where certain people that have been around my whole time were at other places, and now they’re at Warner. It all just came together. I make decisions quickly when it’s the right thing. When it’s not, I back off. Like with my wife, we got engaged in three months, and some people were like, “That’s crazy.” But with this, I was like, “Yeah, this is it. Let’s go. There’s no question.”
It really does sound like, from your signing with Warner to your friendship and collaboration with Ali, this was all serendipitous, and your life was leading up to these big moments.
GATIE: I think also, from outside looking in, people might think like, “Oh, he’s signing to Warner, and that’s why the song happened.” But I think he sent me the song in July last year. I think COVID had just become a real thing, and we weren’t on the same label. It wasn’t some typical L.A., “We’re on the same label. We have the same manager.” He just sent me the song, and then a year later, he was like, “Oh, by the way, I might sign to Warner.”
It all fell perfectly into place. Ali, since he sent you the song last year, you were probably one of the first people to hear the early stages of “Butterflies.” What ran through your head initially when he sent it to you? What was your thought process?
GATIE: So when he first sent me the song, I loved it. The problem with this song is I couldn’t get a verse that I thought was good, so after a month maybe, Max followed up. He was like, “Hey, you like this song?” I was like, “I like it, but I don’t have a verse.”
I think a couple months went by, and he posted a snippet on TikTok with his wife. I saw it, and I was like, “Wait, the song might come without me on it!” So I tried again, and I came up with my verse, and I sent him, not even a demo, just like a video in my studio. I was like, “Do you like this? I don’t know if I like it.”
Max and his team produced it, and they fixed it up, and we made it. We had a lot of back and forth to get it right. But it was cool because I almost passed on the song simply because I thought it was so good, and I didn’t think I brought anything to improve it. And I didn’t want to be on it just to be on it because it felt like a fake L.A. thing to do. But I’m happy that I was able to find my spot in the perfect way.
MAX: We were talking about harmonies, and then he laid these amazing harmonies that you hear in the final choruses. I know what it feels like as well when someone says something, and you’re like, “If I’m not enhancing this, I don’t want to be a part of it.” And Ali fully enhanced [the song]. And so it was an honor to have him lay his magic. It made it even better. And I scared him into it. [Laughs.] He thought he was going to lose it, so he put on the pressure, baby.
Going into this conversation about not wanting to be a part of a song just to be a part of it, you want it to be natural. You want to make sure that you’re actually lending something to what’s already there and amplifying it. Ali, you released The Idea Of Her In March, and now you’ve got this collaboration. What has been the biggest difference between when you work on your solo music versus collaborating with another artist such as MAX?
GATIE: So the difference between me and Max is we’re both emotional about our music because we write very personal stories. And so with this song, the reason why I was hesitant is because he sends me the song and is like, “I wrote this, and it’s me talking about my wife, and we’re having a baby.” And I’m like, “Damn, this is serious.” I’m not going to just add something to the song if I don’t feel like it’s as powerful. So for me, I think the only difference is I think we both make very meaningful music, and we write about things that are true to us, whether we’ve experienced it or we’ve seen someone close to us experience it.
I think Max is a little more methodical in his approach, and he knows the harmonies he wants and knows, “I want this to sound like this.” I don’t understand music as well. For example, my biggest songs have been one-take recordings, and I’m like, “Whatever. I’m just gonna keep it as that.” The demo becomes the final. And so that was a little different for me where Max is like, “Hey, I need you to sing this harmony.” And then I had to go back to my engineer and be like, “Wait, I don’t even know what harmony he’s talking about.”
MAX: I’m learning from Ali, too. I feel like recently when I write, I’m trying to be more like him or sometimes just to feel less methodical. Sometimes the magic comes when you’re not looking for it [and] you’re just open to it.
Obviously, this song is extremely personal for you, Max, and it really does represent a landscape of your life and what your future could look like. Ali, how did you relate to something so personal that is clearly about Max’s wife and his newborn daughter? How did you express your emotions and add that emotional touch?
GATIE: So the story Max had painted for me when I received the song was like, “This is a song not about falling in love. It’s about being in love for so long and a renewal of love. Like, I’ve been in love with you, and I fall more in love with you every time, every day.” So it was for his wife. And so I was like, “OK, I don’t have a wife. And so if I was just to come and say the same stuff he was saying, it wouldn’t make sense because he already laid [out] that story.”
So I took the story back to the beginning where it was when you fall in love, which I could relate to more. I took it back to my partner, who was like, “I still remember the first time I fell in love.” And I’m like, “Let me take you back to that first moment. And I still think about that first moment. That’s why I’m still in love with you.” And so that’s how I fit into the story. Max is well on his way in his journey, and I’m still in the beginning.
You can read the full interview in issue 397, available here.