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, Maxís Song Shop and his love affair with anarchy.
Are you excited for the new tour?
Iím very excited. We havenít 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. Iím pretty excited about getting out there and playing the new songs; we have a new bass player and a lot of coolónew era for the band.
Which of the other bands are you most excited to play along side each night?
Iím excited about Kevin Devine to be honest. Heís a super talented dude and Iíve been digging his new record. And thereís a band, Iím putting out their record, named Tallhart. Theyíve signed to my imprint under [Equal Vision Records]. Theyíre just amazing live so Iím not only excited to see them but have our fans check them out for the first time.
Is there a city in particular youíre looking forward to getting back to?
I guessÖ Itís always fun to play Boston and Chicago and Seattle, I guess are places I love to go, personally.
Youíve 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. Iím 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 Iíve 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. Iím starting to get an appreciation for the old school classics of comics. Itís 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 wouldnít 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 likeóIím bipolar and didnít 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, Iím not pro using it at all for anyone but it doesnít bother me if a friend of mine smokes weed in front of me or something like that.
Youíve 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 itís 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 thatís moral to some degree. But I donít 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 Iím not sure how that would work cause Iím 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, itís the centering on vapid, material possessions. Like people tend not to have a voice. The public really doesnít have a voice. Politicians are usually lying a lot of the time or are just trying to sugarcoat things. We donít know how to take care of each other. Weíre more interested in trying to get ahead then trying to show some love to your fellow man.
Itís all the clichť 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 arenít white are still pretty subjugated. Itís only been a few years since theyíve had the right to vote. You know, our society is still evolving and itís not in a place where Iím comfortable to say that itís in a good place.
Have you followed the Occupy Wall Street movement at all?
Not really. To be honest, Iím kinda cut off from the world. Iím sort of a hermit. I stick to my close knit group of friends and my loved ones. Iím on twitter so once in a whileóI honestly got the gist of whatís going on but Iím not a political person by any means. From what Iíve heard, I support a lot of the ideas behind Occupy but I donít know the specifics of how it works. I canít fully get behind it.
Itís the same with politicians. I tend not to vote. Even though I thought Obama was pretty cool compared to the other candidates. I just donít 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 ďAdmit It Again?Ē 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 thatís one of our flagship songs. I thought that would really stoke people out and get them excited to know that thereís going to be a sequel. I was like, ďWhat could I do? Would it be good? What do I have left to say about the subject matter?Ē
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 withówould it screw with people that Iím 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 itís element of certain personalities. People who look down on other people, pretentiousness, no self-awareness that youíre trying to be cool, forsaking others in order to be cool, stuff like that define who I sing both those ďAdmit ItĒ 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 donít think itís really ďallĒ of those people.
Youíve recently started your own record label. Is that something youíve always wanted to do?
Umm, to be honest, no. Itís something that just came up in relation to this first band that I wanted to see them get signed so bad, cause Iím 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 Iím starting a band with my wife called Permo. Weíve already started one and weíll be doing a record next year hopefully. So thereís going to be a lot of stuff outside of Say Anything.
You own all the rights to the songs penned in the infamous ďsong shop.Ē What are the chances of compilingó
Yeah, I own the rights to them but I donít publish them. I donít put them anywhere. So I try to think of it as likeóit 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 donít think so but it could happen, totally. I really donít plan on it in fact. There are hundreds of them that I donít have anymore and I have no idea what they sound like. I donít keep them on my computer. I just like the idea that theyíre all floating out there.
From what Iíve heard from people who have purchased songs, you donít want them to share them with anybody.
I want people to share it with their friends and loved ones. I really donít mind if someone puts in on youtube once in a while. I just see it as an intimate connection. Itís like so many of the songs are so personally geared towards the people who itís written for that itís likeówhen I write for Say Anything itís like I said before, thereís some element of taking the audience into consideration when I write and itís fun for me but when I do Song Shop thereís only an audience of one, or two, that Iím 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, ďStranger. Slower. Older.Ē on it, after a comment youó
Ah, yeah, I think thatís awesome. I was an asshole at that point. I think itís funny that years lateróI 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 wasnít like ďFuck you,Ē 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, itís funny the paradigm of who are ďhatersĒ 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 wasnít a macho thing but over time I feel like our fans are growing up and I assure fans of your site are growing up itís like, in a way weíre 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 beefóI donít think I even had a beef then. I was just trying to throw back a little bit of what we were getting.