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After 14 years playing indie rock, the Maccabees frontman has taken on something more sedate: an illustrated children’s book and new album, The Gritterman, which draws on his relationship with his grandad to explore ageing and obsolescence
Orlando Weeks is describing the revelatory moment his father looked at the main character of The Gritterman, Weeks’s first illustrated children’s book, and saw his own dead father looking back at him.
Although unaware of the resemblance until that very moment, suddenly, Weeks – who has spent the last 14 years as the frontman of indie rock band the Maccabees – could see it too. “I wasn’t consciously basing the Gritterman on my grandad. But there’s something in the way he looks that you can tell …” He trails off, struggling to pinpoint the exact similarities between his character, who spends the winter gritting the roads and the summer selling ice cream, and his grandad Bill, who repaired traction engines and heavy farming machinery in Devon and Cornwall, and who died in his late 80s when Weeks was a young teenager. “When I knew my grandfather, I felt that he had been a big strong man and now was less of a big strong man. Age had taken some of that broadness out of his shoulders. And there’s something about the way the Gritterman looks … there’s a shadow of a bigger, stronger version of himself, in the past.”