UK Exclusive: Max Bemis - 22/11/09
Max spoke to ATP! about the success of the new album, the change to RCA, his new side-project 'Perma', the future of Two Tongues, when the album will see a UK release, the Max Bemis Song Shop and more.
Alter The Press: This is the last night, of a pretty much sold out US tour, how has it been?
Max Bemis: It's been really amazing. We went through a really emotional process when making this record and had an amazing time too. I went through a lot in my life, especially during this record, and this tour seems like a reward for all the work we put into the band because the crowd are giving back so much. I'm having a really good time performing, I feel like my job is something amazing. It's something that seems obvious to people who, on the outside say, 'Being in a band must be so much fun and all you get to do is tour out of your music!' but, like any job, when your in it, you forget how amazing what you’re given to do actually is. So that's the general impression that I've gotten from this tour.
ATP: On this tour, you said you would play 'Colorblind' from 'Baseball' (debut album). Do you think you will play any other songs from that album eventually?
MB: Yeah, we actually haven't played it yet, but we have gotten a lot of requests, so I hope we will eventually play some older stuff.
ATP: You've considered the new record as a new start for Say Anything. Could you expand on this?
MB: On several levels: on a philosophical level and on a sonic. It's sort of like cleaning out the garbage of all the things we've built up in our head. Like, how we felt the band should be and taking it back to the reason of, 'Why did we even start playing music? What's the point of this? Like all bullshit aside, what is Say Anything about? What sticks out to people?' Really trying to make an album with the least amount of pretension possible. Basically, we felt we defined what the band is about, what it stands for politically, socially and how we sound musically as well, which is capsulated in this record. As much as we love the records we've put out in the past, we see this as a new start as well. We want this to be the records new fans pick up.
ATP: How would you describe the new record to fans that haven't heard of Say Anything prior to this release?
MB: It's a dark record but the soul of it is really uplifting. It's a story of hope. I think we had to ultimately decide whether we were a band who stood for progress and positive thought or were just negative and angry about everything. There is a lot of anger on the record, but I like to think of it as righteous anger, it isn't a novelty. I say it's a record you can have a great time listening to but it actually means something. It's punk, it's anti-establishment and if you’re someone who feels somewhat alienated and needs someone who understands, I think we are a band you can listen to.
ATP: The band has no UK label and there is no UK release scheduled. What is going on?
MB: We felt like every other time we've released a record in the UK, we've half assed it. We love our UK fans and have had some amazing shows there. For me, I grew up with British culture as a part of my life. My favorite comedians, actors, writers and directors were British and I feel there is a lot of humor in Say Anything, and it has this ironic element which comes from being 12 years old and being obsessed with Monty Python. I think that when we put this record out there, it should be given a fair shot for the best possible situation and that comes from the album picking up a little in the US; it's already starting to do really good so we're off to a good start about it. We want the release to be perfect when we release it, instead of just throwing it out there. We feel lucky that we've garnered such an impressive fan base in England, based on not having it pushed that much, but we would rather the people over there working for us be really motivated.
ATP: Have there been discussions about who will release the new record?
MB: It's all in the hands of our management at this point. I have a good relationship with our manager, and he knows how much I want this record to come out as soon as possible in the UK, Europe and even in Asia, Australia. We want to come to the table offering something, it's not like we didn't have anything to offer before, as our records were doing alright in the US, and selling a few 100,000 records is great but we wanted it to be like, 'Do you want us badly?' If you look at Kings of Leon, love them or hate them, they had something to offer the US, and the UK took them really seriously and took the record seriously, and it became a phenomenon over there. I think we have the potential, not to pat ourselves on the back, but, based on the shows we've played there, that in theory, I think this is a perfect record for the UK so I can't see it not getting released in the UK. I would be very surprised.
ATP: The switch from J Records to RCA in the US. Why the change?
MB: Basically, we really didn't fit on the roster on J Records. It's a very urban/pop based label and they were trying to sign some rock acts so that's why we got placed there instead of RCA. There are amazing staff there, it's a great label, but when we signed on, we had all these friends at RCA and we seemed like a band who should be on RCA, so why not just do it? It didn't even involve any paper work to my knowledge. It's the same label.
ATP: You recently performed 'Hate Everyone' on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (US late night show). How was it?
MB: It was amazing; he was really nice and is actually the nicest talk show host we've encountered. I felt really loose and enjoyed performing, instead of usually being really nervous.
ATP: This has been the most popular Say Anything record so far. It got to number 25 on the Billboard 200 Chart, number 9 on Billboard Rock Album Chart. What was your response to the band’s success?
MB: I don't know, it's weird. It's only been a few weeks and the attention it's got has made me really happy. It's funny because it's our most successful record commercially so far, but only in terms of the state of the music industry right now, because everything is down in business; but we are doing well. It's kind of shocking but it makes me feel very gracious towards our fans. I think we have a really dedicated fan base that gives a crap, who actually went out and bought the record.
ATP: You and Sherri (Bemis-DuPree of Eisley/Max's wife) have you're own side project, 'Perma'. What can people expect from this?
MB: It's too early to describe in detail, but the idea of the band is something which is pure and really based on two people who love being around each other, love playing music and just wanting to do it for the sake of doing it, more so than anything else. Me and Chris (Conley - singer of Saves The Day) started Two Tongues and though Two Tongues was also based on just wanting to write songs with someone I admired, part of the whole idea of the band was playing on how the public would perceive me and Chris playing songs together, and our personas. Like what do people think of me and Chris, and how can we play with that notion, and write a record about our relationship. With me and Sherri, it's less complex. We are both completely in love, we love writing songs, we love writing songs about each other so of course, we’re going to start a project eventually because we love being near each other and love each other’s music. When it comes to the sound of it, you can expect probably something more delicate than Say Anything has ever done and even Eisley. I've thought about it maybe being possibly more lo-fi.
ATP: What has the feedback been to the demos you've been selling on this tour?
MB: Great. It's been quiet because we've sold only 15-20 of those at every show. It's only a couple of songs but, we don't tell anyone anything about the band, except that it's exists.
ATP: Touching on Two Tongues, are there any future plans?
MB: I'm sure we'll make another record and eventually go on tour. I predict that we'll make a second record and go on tour in support of it.
ATP: You started the Max Bemis Song Shop last year, where you were offering fans the chance to have their very own song written by yourself for $150. Where did the idea come from?
MB: To be honest, it came from the situation of us being off tour for a year and a half, and making no money. I was like, 'What can I do which can justify making a good amount of money, which is creative, and be able to help me as there is no income for a year and a half?' I was sitting in bed and I thought, maybe I could sell a song on eBay, and I was thinking that, I can write songs in 5-10 minutes and probably do 5 a day if I have the time. I did 10 a day, maybe up to 500-1000 songs now. It was a really rewarding experience as a musician trying to find his niche in the new economic climate. Kids can download you're album for free, and as the music industry is kind of falling apart, you have to find a way like this to make a living.
ATP: Obviously a lot of fans response was that it is fantastic, that they're favorite band can write a song about them. There must have been some negative response?
MB: Negative feedback came from people who aren't Say Anything fans. They would say, 'Why the fuck would I pay $150 for this kid to write me a song?' but in reality, I would never expect them to want that, which they fail to realize. Personally, as a fan of many bands, if Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters frontman) was charging $400 a song, I would do it.
ATP: When is Say Anything coming to the UK?
MB: Definitely the first part of next year. There is no reason why, we love coming over. The fans are amazing and the press has been really awesome to us. The thing I would like to stress is that, I want to give the UK fans the idea of Say Anything being a band in the UK, as well as the US. We are not rushing into anything with this record; we are giving it a fair shot. We trust people are finding a way of getting hold of the record and will be there at the show; maybe even more people since we've had a little bit of a break. We haven't forgotten about you guys.
ATP: Has it been spoken about yet?
MB: Of course, we've always spoken about it. Right now the record has just come out and we've just done a short US headline tour and then we want to get on some US support tours, we have to fit it in with everything. What we would love to do is come to the UK with another great band. We love taking out local bands but we’d love to take out Say Anything and Saves The Day. We've mentioned the idea of a Say Anything/Saves The Day tour, but who knows? Those are some of our best friends; they have a new record coming out, so it's a total possibility.
'Say Anything' is out now on RCA Records.
- Jon Ableson