The Maxes' material covers pop, blues, and generally skitters like a pinball over country, lounge and the Sun Records catalogue. If you examine the band's recordings and know where and what to look for, you'll find nods to American music of the first 2/3 of the 20th century as well as the music of Hanna-Barbera, Warner Brothers cartoons of the 40s, the Monkees and the music in the first five movies The Marx Brothers made for Paramount Pictures.
The band has 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 group formed in 1998 under the name Josh Max's Outfit and quickly become a local favorite of lounge, swing and rockabilly music lovers in Manhattan. The act was formed on the tail end of the new Swing movement in the 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 performed 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".
In 2001, the band took a break from live touring as Max focused on a new career as a freelance 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 legendary DJ "Doctor Demento" at B.B. King's in Times Square, and also headlined shows at Arlene's Grocery to capacity crowds.
Max was also the John Lennon in a Beatle band he hand-picked called "Big Bang". The band performed With the Beatles, Rubber Soul, Beatles for Sale, Help!, Let It Be… Naked and their own set, Beatles at the Movies, featuring a selection of the music of the British quartet's soundtrack songs for A Hard Day's Night, Help!, Yellow Submarine, Magical Mystery Tour and Let It Be at the Cutting Room and Arlene's Grocery, again to capacity crowds.
Max also put together a one-night only performance of Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin II, this time assuming bass and keyboard duties. Instead of employing a Robert Plant soundalike, Max recruited acclaimed Broadway, television and movie actress Mary Birdsong for lead vocals.
In 2005, Josh Max and Julie James headlined a show at Central Park's 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 followup CD, The Maxes. The disc was released April 12, 2007 on their own label, Swipecat Records.