Say Anything's Max Bemis: "We're Lucky We Continue to Grow"
Since their breakout album Is a Real Boy came out in 2004, emo/pop-punk band Say Anything has been the soundtrack to many a teenager's life. For this blogger, Is a Real Boy skirted the clichés of many emo albums of the times by being more personal and honest.
Photo by Kendra Berglund Say Anything's Max Bemis at Warehouse Live in 2010
Front man and principal songwriter Max Bemis didn't write universal songs, he wrote from his heart and mind about his life at the time. It connected more with me than other albums because while he was speaking about his experiences, not mine or any other fan's, we could relate to its reality.
But people grow up and change. Just as myself and other fans have outgrown our teenage angst, so has Max Bemis. His band's latest album, Anarchy, My Dear, dropped last month to positive reviews and the highest chart showing in the band's history.
Anarchy, My Dear is a mature album that showcases Bemis shifting his lyrical focus to greater horizons. Even still, Bemis has a way of connecting with his fans that transcends their age or place in life.
Say Anything is currently on a tour around North America and hits Warehouse Live in Houston Friday, with support from Kevin Devine and Fake Problems. I called Bemis a few days ago to ask him some questions about his work, new and old, and about the tour.
Rocks Off: How are you doing? How's the tour going so far?
Max Bemis: Tour is...it's been spectacular. Considering we're playing these new songs live for the first time, getting to see how much they're resonating with our fans. That's like a big deal to me, so it's cool.
MB: I do. I have like...it's such a weird shift for me as a person because I'm like kind of a hermit. So the amount of social interaction, the people, the streets are clogged with people, it's kind of overwhelming for me, to some extent.
But I actually enjoyed it, like this time around I didn't feel overwhelmed, I just kind of went with the flow. Although it's not like I went to many shows or did anything social. Like I sort of enjoyed just walking through the crowds and seeing everyone going and enjoying music, and it was kind of an inspiring whole of things so I'm looking forward to playing it again.
RO: Awesome. I know you live in Tyler, Texas, now and Say Anything plays here quite a bit. How do you like Texas?
MB: Oh, I love it. I love it very much. It's my favorite place I've ever lived, and I've lived in a few places.
RO: All right, I want to ask you some questions about the new record, but first I wanted to ask about growing up. I think for a lot of people, Is a Real Boy was so inspirational for them when they were around 16 years old. That's when I first heard it and it just blew me away. How do you feel about growing up and now playing those songs these days?
MB: There's more of a sense of joy and fun attached to it for me. The darker ones, at least. I mean, some of the ones that are more universal, I still 100 percent relate to it, like a song like "Belt" or "[An] Orgy of Critics" or even "Admit It!" I definitely still relate to them.
The ones that are like "Woe" or "[Every Man Has a] Molly," where it's seemingly just about the growing pains of a young man and how dark that can be, I look at it with a sense of whimsy. You know what I mean? It's like nostalgia.
And when I'll sing those songs, I don't know, I feel free. I feel like I can remember what it was like to be there, put myself there, but at the same time, here I've come up at the other end at a good place. It gives me this new way of approaching the songs.
RO: And so for the songs on Anarchy, My Dear, how has your songwriting process changed from back in those days, from Is a Real Boy to now?
MB: To be honest, it hasn't changed at all. You know, in the guitar parts and words that you improvise to the guitar parts when you come into the studio...So basically, like, I'll have a sort of basic guitar part going in and now I really [focus] on it and the chords to use, and the lead guitars obviously come up completely at the time that I'm recording rather than originating before we go in. Therefore it can be more complicated. So that's something that's changed.
But beyond that, it hasn't really changed at all. I think the best songs that I write are ones where everything just flows to paper like that. There's a certain feeling I get when that happens that hasn't changed since I was young.