Say Anything might be the last band you would ever consider to be punk, but remember doing things on your own terms is the essence of what punk is. For the latest release, Anarchy, My Dear, the band delivers a love letter to the core of what "norms" would believe to be punk delivering their most fiery album to date. And behind it all is Max Bemis.
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?
Iâm very excited. We havenât 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. Iâm pretty excited about getting out there and playing the new songs; we have a new bass player and a lot of coolânew era for the band.
Which of the other bands are you most excited to play along side each night?
Iâm excited about Kevin Devine to be honest. Heâs a super talented dude and Iâve been digging his new record. And thereâs a band, Iâm putting out their record, named Tallhart. Theyâve signed to my imprint under [Equal Vision Records]. Theyâre just amazing live so Iâm not only excited to see them but have our fans check them out for the first time.
Is there a city in particular youâre looking forward to getting back to?
I guessâ¦ Itâs always fun to play Boston and Chicago and Seattle, I guess are places I love to go, personally.
Youâve 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. Iâm 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 Iâve 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. Iâm starting to get an appreciation for the old school classics of comics. Itâs 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 wouldnât 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 likeâIâm bipolar and didnât 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, Iâm not pro using it at all for anyone but it doesnât bother me if a friend of mine smokes weed in front of me or something like that.
Youâve 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 itâs 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 thatâs moral to some degree. But I donât 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 Iâm not sure how that would work cause Iâm 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, itâs the centering on vapid, material possessions. Like people tend not to have a voice. The public really doesnât have a voice. Politicians are usually lying a lot of the time or are just trying to sugarcoat things. We donât know how to take care of each other. Weâre more interested in trying to get ahead then trying to show some love to your fellow man.
Itâs all the clichÃ© 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 arenât white are still pretty subjugated. Itâs only been a few years since theyâve had the right to vote. You know, our society is still evolving and itâs not in a place where Iâm comfortable to say that itâs in a good place.
Have you followed the Occupy Wall Street movement at all?
Not really. To be honest, Iâm kinda cut off from the world. Iâm sort of a hermit. I stick to my close knit group of friends and my loved ones. Iâm on twitter so once in a whileâI honestly got the gist of whatâs going on but Iâm not a political person by any means. From what Iâve heard, I support a lot of the ideas behind Occupy but I donât know the specifics of how it works. I canât fully get behind it.
Itâs the same with politicians. I tend not to vote. Even though I thought Obama was pretty cool compared to the other candidates. I just donât 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 thatâs one of our flagship songs. I thought that would really stoke people out and get them excited to know that thereâs 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 withâwould it screw with people that Iâm 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 itâs element of certain personalities. People who look down on other people, pretentiousness, no self-awareness that youâre 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 donât think itâs really "all" of those people.
Youâve recently started your own record label. Is that something youâve always wanted to do?
Umm, to be honest, no. Itâs something that just came up in relation to this first band that I wanted to see them get signed so bad, cause Iâm 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 Iâm starting a band with my wife called Permo. Weâve already started one and weâll be doing a record next year hopefully. So thereâs 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 compilingâ
Yeah, I own the rights to them but I donât publish them. I donât put them anywhere. So I try to think of it as likeâit 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 donât think so but it could happen, totally. I really donât plan on it in fact. There are hundreds of them that I donât have anymore and I have no idea what they sound like. I donât keep them on my computer. I just like the idea that theyâre all floating out there.
From what Iâve heard from people who have purchased songs, you donât want them to share them with anybody.
I want people to share it with their friends and loved ones. I really donât mind if someone puts in on youtube once in a while. I just see it as an intimate connection. Itâs like so many of the songs are so personally geared towards the people who itâs written for that itâs likeâwhen I write for Say Anything itâs like I said before, thereâs some element of taking the audience into consideration when I write and itâs fun for me but when I do Song Shop thereâs only an audience of one, or two, that Iâm 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 youâ
Ah, yeah, I think thatâs awesome. I was an asshole at that point. I think itâs funny that years laterâI 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 wasnât 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, itâs 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 wasnât a macho thing but over time I feel like our fans are growing up and I assure fans of your site are growing up itâs like, in a way weâre 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 beefâI donât think I even had a beef then. I was just trying to throw back a little bit of what we were getting.