Say Anything Interview
Say Anything has entrenched itself in the spine of all alternative and emo music that has been made in the last decade. Since the release of …Is a Real Boy, Say Anything has stayed relevant and continued to push out music and push the border of the genres. Not a single album that the frontman, Max Bemis, has released can really be heard on any other album of the band. It’s safe to say that Say Anything will always have a place in the ever changing scene because they are the one changing it. I got to sit down with Max before their show at the Summit Music Hall during their most recent tour with Museum Mouth, Teen Suicide, and mewithoutYou.
How’s tour been going so far?
The tour’s been amazing. Just another great tour. It’s always nice when you put out a new record and the tour goes really well, it’s encouraging.
The new record I Don’t Think It Is is amazing.
Ahh, thank you. Thank you.
It’s a complete step back from what you did with Hebrews and has a lot more guitar and hard, loud noise that hasn’t been around in your last two albums. What made you decide to try this approach this time?
Not a lot of thought went into it, for the first time. Usually a lot of thought goes into the direction that I want to take on a record. But, in this case, it was more so the fact that me and Darren (King) wanted to do some stuff together and once I had the idea of Darren being the co-writer and drummer and co-producer of the record I, kind of, imagined what the coolest record we could make together would be. Knowing his style very well. And guitars, obviously, felt like they should be a part of that. It wasn’t necessarily something like, “Oh, people want the guitars back.” I knew people would be stoked, but I think it was more so that it just fit the aesthetic that I knew I could create with Darren.
You and mewithoutYou covered one of each other’s songs for this tour. It was weird hearing those songs for the first time because they are completely different sounding from the originals. How did you approach including your own style into songs that aren’t your own and don’t fall into your category of writing?
I tend to cover songs and change them radically when I do. Otherwise, it’s just not as fun for me. In this case, I knew that Aaron (Weiss) was changing the lyrics and the composition, so I got excited and was like, “Oh, I’ll do that same thing.” So it was kind of a lead from him, in terms of changing the lyrics and all that stuff.
I ran into your daughters, Lucy and Coraline on the way out of the bus. How is it to bring your whole family on tour? I know you’ve done that since you had them, but is it a hassle at all?
No, it’s amazing. In fact, it’s really hard to do without them. Tour seems to speed by when they’re around because you miss your family when they’re not on the road. When they’re here it’s kind of like business as usual, except even more fun because I get to play shows and we’re not at the house worrying about what’s going on in the house with the upkeep and shopping. It’s like summer camp with your family so it’s kind of like the best of both worlds. There are times when I wish I could see more of them during the day because I sleep really late because I get really tired from shows. But beyond that it’s awesome
Do they ever want to come out on stage with you?
Lucy’s a little bit shy. But they used to come on stage when they were really small. When they were just babies. Well, Coraline’s not a baby but she’s old enough to realize there’s a thousand people in front of her. But you never know, in the future that might be awesome.
You write a lot of comics and free comic book day is coming up this weekend. Is there anything that you are looking forward to?
I’m never super aware of what free comic book specials are coming out, or anything like that. I just kind of… The week before I’ll check it out and see what’s coming up. There’s nothing in particular that I’m looking for. I just have my normal pull list of comics that I read and stuff like that. So nothing in particular.
Do you take a different approach to writing comics than you do with music or are there any similarities?
Yeah, for sure. With music the first stage of it can be very impulsive and very free form, like when I’m writing music or lyrics. But eventually you have to record it and arrange it. And there comes a point where you have to solidify it. You edit writing. You edit your scripts when making a comic. But more often than not, I find myself… It just pours out of me. And that’s just kind of it, when it comes to comic writing. There’s not that extra step of… I’m not the one drawing the comic, I’m not the one editing it, or putting it together. So I really only play a pretty, important, but still a relegated role. Whereas, with the music, I tend to be involved in every step and it takes months to go from and idea in my head to a finished, recorded piece of music. My job as a writer, in comics, can go really quickly.
What’s your favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?
My favorite is Donatello because he seems humble. He’s smart. He’s the smartest one and he’s a little understated. But I admire Leonardo. Michelangelo gets on my nerves a little bit and parties a little too hard. But yeah.
You incorporate a huge amount of guest artists to join your songs. Especially on In Defense of the Genre and Hebrews, and for I Don’t Think It Is you had Dylan from Tiny Moving Parts and Christian from The Hotelier join you. How do you decide who you want on the album?
I go to them. And it’s usually a mixture of what I’ve been listening to a lot, at the time, and what I think is appropriate and needed on the record that I can’t contribute or that might add a layer of interesting quality to the work. For instance with Dylan specifically, he can shred really interesting parts on the guitar in a way that I can’t do, naturally at least. I was looking for someone who plays a certain style. There were a few people that I had in mind and Dylan stepped up and he flew out to Tyler, Texas and we had an amazing time together. In the case of Dylan it was looking for a particular style of playing and knowing that he’s so great at it. When I write a vocal part that I imagine someone else could sing, I try to envision them singing it and if it works. Then it usually ends up sounding even better than I could ever imagine, as with Christian’s part.
This is a really weird stretch, but there’s this fan theory between you and the Brian of The Front Bottoms. On “My Greatest Fear Is Splendid”, you say “My girlfriend is a stripper named Steve”. And on The Front Bottoms song, “Summer Shandy” he says, “She asks me why they call me Brian instead of Steven”. Is there any correlation between that?
Wow. No there’s no correlation but I mean… If I had to pick a girlfriend, named Steve, he would definitely be a great candidate. There’s nothing more that you can ask for out of a man. No, no. That’s a great theory though. I don’t want to shatter it entirely. Maybe on his end. (Laughs)
Well he did release the song after yours, so maybe he’s trying to reach out to you.
Maybe he heard the song and then wanted to put out a bid and keeping it in mind in case anything happens. (Laughs) Yeah, I love him.
You have been teasing a new music video. Are you allowed to say which song it’s for?
It’s for “Give A Damn”. It’s definitely a really awesome video. I think fans will be pleased. It’s pretty intense.
On “Jiminy” you say “So destroy our first LP, if you know what’s good for me.” Is that saying all of your fans during …Is a Real Boy, who don’t like your new style or sound, should stop listening to you entirely?
It’s more metaphorically. I would never not want people to listen to …Is a Real Boy, but it’s about destroying the idea that we’re a one album band. And that falsehood. And it’s an image to think about when I’m frustrated with that phenomenon. Like, saying to people, who can’t get past the first record, “Just burn it.” But I love that record. It’s part of our legacy and I don’t want to distance myself from it. But in theory I want people to move forward with us.
Do you have any advice to aspiring artists?
Yeah, just be really ambitious. But also, back up your ambition with working really hard. I think you need both of those things in order to succeed. Just to have realistic goals but also real goals of something you really want to happen and then work hard and be reliable. Do those things so that they actually happen. That’s what’s worked for me. I had pretty realistic goals, even though they seemed far fetched for me. Like the bands I wanted to play with or the type of fan base I wanted to accrue or the type of band I wanted us to be. It wasn’t like the biggest band in the world, selling millions of records, and being bigger than The Beatles. It was having this dedicated fan base and being able to do it for a living and having integrity and changing things a little bit in the scene. I was able to do those things by working really hard behind the scenes for five or six years before we had even been signed or even done one single tour. So there’s a lot of local playing, building up a fan base, building up a history of the band, and just making a lot of music. In this age of internet things, where things can go really quickly for bands, I think it’s important that people don’t expect that suddenly, on their first record, to blow the eff up.
You and Chris Conley got together for Two Tongues. Is there any time frame for when that’s coming out?
I don’t want to give out the time frame but things are happening and solidly. Like there’s no going back at this point. It’s no longer just hype. We’ve recorded most of the new record. I can say that. And a lot of cool things planned for the release.
Possibly a Two Tongues tour?