Max is just like us. He likes to read comics, enjoys watching movies and is aware that he himself is becoming stranger, older and slower. Eager to get details, Staff Interviewer Justin Dickman recently spoke to vocalist/guitar play Max Bemis about the new record, Max's Song Shop and his love affair with anarchy.
Are you excited for the new tour?
I'm very excited. We haven't got to do a tour in a couple years as Say Anything. Just like recording and sort of working on a lot of behind the scenes stuff. I'm pretty excited about getting out there and playing the new songs; we have a new bass player and a lot of cool-new era for the band.
Which of the other bands are you most excited to play along side each night?
I'm excited about Kevin Devine to be honest. He's a super talented dude and I've been digging his new record. And there's a band, I'm putting out their record, named Tallhart. They've signed to my imprint under [Equal Vision Records]. They're just amazing live so I'm not only excited to see them but have our fans check them out for the first time.
Is there a city in particular you're looking forward to getting back to?
I guess… It's always fun to play Boston and Chicago and Seattle, I guess are places I love to go, personally.
You've toured the country a number of times. Once you get settled in at the club, as a band, do you hang out there or go urban exploring?
Some of the guys go urban exploring. I'm kind of a homebody. Even on the bus I just sit in the back and read comic books for hours. Sort of my MO.
Lately I've been reading this giant Thor collection by this guy Walter Simonson. Kind of one of the best runs or best picks of Thor. But generally, I skew towards weirder, left of center stuff. I'm starting to get an appreciation for the old school classics of comics. It's sort of a slippery slope.
What did you think of the Thor movie last year?
I enjoyed it thoroughly. (laughs) I thought that Thor was really handsome.
Are you looking forward to The Avengers coming out this summer?
Of course I am, yeah. I can barely wait.
As a former drug addict, does it concern you witnessing others using?
I honestly, really wouldn't classify myself as an addict or a former addict, I just used to smoke a lot of weed. Frankly, I kind of self-medicated because I like-I'm bipolar and didn't have my drugs under control and I was in denial. But no, it really depends on how people are using it and the circumstances if it bothers me or not. Obviously, I'm not pro using it at all for anyone but it doesn't bother me if a friend of mine smokes weed in front of me or something like that.
You've described the title track [of the new album] as being a love letter to anarchy. Could that be said about the record as a whole?
Yeah! I would, I would. That one specifically takes the format of a classic power ballad in a way. Something that would definitely be written about a girl, by Whitesnake. But it soft of shifted around anarchy. But the entire record centered around on my idea of anarchy.
What are your personal beliefs about anarchy?
My personal beliefs center around the idea of anarchy being more of a metaphysical idea rather than a world without. Or rather than rioting in the streets and graffiti and the typical outfits and fashion trends that are associated with anarchy. For me it's more about freeing your mind from the constraints of order, traditional order. Because I believe we can exist in harmony without being told what to do essentially. I think we can figure it out for ourselves and still come out at a place that's moral to some degree. But I don't think you should be doing some stuff because you believe you have to, you know, imposed on you by society. Society to me is a pretty flawed machine. And I think the record speaks about trying to destroy that as much as you can in your personal choices.
I am in favor of the idea of there not being any nations in the world, but I'm not sure how that would work cause I'm kind of an idiot. I definitely believe in the literal interpretation as well but not in the sort of culture that sprung from anarchism.
What specially is flawed about society?
To me, it's the centering on vapid, material possessions. Like people tend not to have a voice. The public really doesn't have a voice. Politicians are usually lying a lot of the time or are just trying to sugarcoat things. We don't know how to take care of each other. We're more interested in trying to get ahead then trying to show some love to your fellow man.
It's all the cliché things a liberal arts college student would say is wrong with society and I think they actually are. I think those things are pretty messed up. You know women are subjugated. People who aren't white are still pretty subjugated. It's only been a few years since they've had the right to vote. You know, our society is still evolving and it's not in a place where I'm comfortable to say that it's in a good place.
Have you followed the Occupy Wall Street movement at all?
Not really. To be honest, I'm kinda cut off from the world. I'm sort of a hermit. I stick to my close knit group of friends and my loved ones. I'm on twitter so once in a while-I honestly got the gist of what's going on but I'm not a political person by any means. From what I've heard, I support a lot of the ideas behind Occupy but I don't know the specifics of how it works. I can't fully get behind it.
It's the same with politicians. I tend not to vote. Even though I thought Obama was pretty cool compared to the other candidates. I just don't feel comfortable enough to back one. I have other things going on in my head about my personal sphere and trying to affect change through my music. I try to look at the bigger picture. I know that sounds irresponsible but it comes with the territory about what I was just talking about how I see the world.
Would you describe yourself as an anarchist?
What was the inspiration behind "Admit It Again?" Why write a sequel to a song?
I really enjoy playing off our audience. Ever since we were gifted with the blessing of people listening to our music, even in high school, as I would come out with new stuff I would always feel some draw to play with the audience and toy with them in a playful, positive way. I thought one way I could definitely do that is by getting every really amped because that's one of our flagship songs. I thought that would really stoke people out and get them excited to know that there's going to be a sequel. I was like, "What could I do? Would it be good? What do I have left to say about the subject matter?"
When I sat down to try and write it, it really flowed naturally. I had so much fun writing it. It was a totally genuine process but it did start out with-would it screw with people that I'm actually writing this and get them really excited?
So is it more fun or are you genuinely angry at a group of people or the way they act?
Definitely not a group of people but a certain way of life. I would never generalize an entire group of people by classification. But it's element of certain personalities. People who look down on other people, pretentiousness, no self-awareness that you're trying to be cool, forsaking others in order to be cool, stuff like that define who I sing both those "Admit It" songs about rather than hipsters, quote unquote, you know what I mean? Cause honestly I could be classified as a hipster, or a punk or whatever, even though I make fun of them in the song. I don't think it's really "all" of those people.
You've recently started your own record label. Is that something you've always wanted to do?
Umm, to be honest, no. It's something that just came up in relation to this first band that I wanted to see them get signed so bad, cause I'm such a believer in their music. We were talking about doing an imprint under Equal Vision for my side projects and such cause I do a lot of stuff outside of Say Anything. It kind of evolved into something bigger through me getting inspired by this band Tallhart, who are just a group of incredibly talented young guys.
Do you plan on releasing more solo stuff or the [Max Bemis and the] Painful Splits records?
I think my goal with Painful Splits to do it as much as possible and have it be this endless well spring of songs. And I'm starting a band with my wife called Permo. We've already started one and we'll be doing a record next year hopefully. So there's going to be a lot of stuff outside of Say Anything.
You own all the rights to the songs penned in the infamous "song shop." What are the chances of compiling-
Yeah, I own the rights to them but I don't publish them. I don't put them anywhere. So I try to think of it as like-it belongs to me and it belongs to the person I wrote them for.
Have you ever thought about compiling some of them and putting them out?
I really don't think so but it could happen, totally. I really don't plan on it in fact. There are hundreds of them that I don't have anymore and I have no idea what they sound like. I don't keep them on my computer. I just like the idea that they're all floating out there.
From what I've heard from people who have purchased songs, you don't want them to share them with anybody.
I want people to share it with their friends and loved ones. I really don't mind if someone puts in on youtube once in a while. I just see it as an intimate connection. It's like so many of the songs are so personally geared towards the people who it's written for that it's like-when I write for Say Anything it's like I said before, there's some element of taking the audience into consideration when I write and it's fun for me but when I do Song Shop there's only an audience of one, or two, that I'm taking into consideration so I want the music to be appreciated at that level, if that makes sense.
Are you aware at Fest last year we sold a Punknews t-shirt with the words, "Stranger. Slower. Older." on it, after a comment you-
Ah, yeah, I think that's awesome. I was an asshole at that point. I think it's funny that years later-I was a really young kid when I said that about punknews. I like to think that it was even kinda playful at the time cause I wasn't like "Fuck you," but at the same time I find myself as a 28 year old guy who is slightly stranger, older and slower I relate a lot to the to what I perceive as the world as punknews a little more than I did as an obnoxious young kid. At that time, it's funny the paradigm of who are "haters" were got shifted because at that time being a group of young, like, we were these young skinny, annoying looking kids. We got a lot of flak from the older punk community and people who are like trying to be cool and the hardcore scene and stuff like that would hate on Say Anything, blah blah blah, Say Anything are wusses or pansies or stuff like that. But really, dividing us as new school to some extent, even though it wasn't a macho thing but over time I feel like our fans are growing up and I assure fans of your site are growing up it's like, in a way we're sharing a lot more of the demographic then when we did when we first came out as a band but I do find it funny that there is a t-shirt.
Do you still have a beef with them?
Oh god no. To be honest, I think I just read something shitty at one point and reacted very brashly. I have no beef-I don't think I even had a beef then. I was just trying to throw back a little bit of what we were getting.