When I found out I was going to interview Max Bemis of Say Anything (and Two Tongues and Perma), I was beyond ecstatic. When I first heard “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too” (the inspiration for the title of this post) back in 2006, well, it was love at first note. I’ve been following Say Anything’s career ever since.
From Max’s personal ordeals to line-up changes, Say Anything has been through a lot since its inception. Many fans, like me, are aware and even feel like they’ve gone through it with them. Max’s lyrics are very personal and are capable of evoking a myriad of emotions. That’s one of my favorite things about this band.
Despite any rough patches along the way, the current incarnation of Say Anything is on point. They are polished, but not overly so. They seem ready to grow in a new direction without losing any of the qualities that make them awesome. Say Anything has a new self-titled album out and will be touring with Angels and Airwaves this spring.
Read all about my conversation with Max after the jump…
DH: I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Say Anything 4 times here in Chicago. You’ve always been the headliners. You’re going to be a supporting act for the upcoming Angels & Airwaves tour. Why did you decide to tour as a supporting act this time around?
MB: There’s only so much you can do as a headliner winning over new fans. Some bands go years without supporting someone else and can get away with it, but it doesn’t hurt to play with a like minded band to be exposed to a new fan base. Say Anything has its audience, thank god; it’s not going to go away. This was a good time to challenge ourselves.
DH: The Angels and Airwaves fan base is probably a little older than the typical Say Anything fan, right? Do you think this tour could potentially expose you to an older crowd?
MB: It’s weird, we have a strange demographic. Everyone from really young teenagers to 40 year old dudes. Our fan base is actually similar to that of Angels and Airwaves.
DH: Let’s discuss the new album. To be honest, as an avid fan, I wasn’t wild about it at first, but it has really grown on me. You’ve been quoted as saying it’s the catchiest and most mature Say Anything album yet, but that it skews towards a younger audience. Can you elaborate on those contradictory statements?
MB: I think in a way the lyrics matured and the music was written to be anthemic. It’s the type of record that an adult can enjoy. When some bands say they mature, it can mean they are becoming boring. I wanted this album to be an uplifting catchy, youthful record. We didn’t want to alienate any fans.
You can put it on to feel youthful, like a child a heart. The lyrics are more intellectual and more mature. There’s a cool duality to this record, the ideas have progressed but the music stripped away the pretension. You can listen to it and jump around the room, while taking a drive or to get hyped. But at the same time you’re singing along to weird, dense and intellectual lyrics.
DH: When I saw your show at The Vic last October, one thing that really stood out to me was the band’s matching outfits? What’s the story behind those?
MB: I thought we’d done the dirty looking band guy with too tight jeans thing for a long time. It is the uniform of rock and there’s nothing wrong with that. We wanted to change this time around. We thought it would be funny. Some bands try to get expensive clothing sponsorships, but we wanted to look like your dad. When juxtaposed with our punk performance, it really allowed everyone to stand out.
It wasn’t about the image, entirely. It’s not fashionable, but not stupid. It’s projecting the image of not looking like slobs but still paying attention to what we’re wearing.
DH: What was the writing process like for this album? How did you write these songs?
MB: This record was written in tandem with the producer, Neil Avron. I wrote the songs. We were hard on ourselves picking the songs for this record. A lot got cut. Neil is a brilliant producer. He and I talked for weeks about songwriting, shifting things, moving song parts around. This was the first time I let someone come in and work with my music. Neil hates dumbing down the music, but wants to make it accessible to everyone. The goal was to not turn anyone away. This is more of a come in, check out Say Anything. We’ve been touring for 10 years. Come and see if you like it. If you do, we have more music out there for you.
This record is an open book. The other records are polarizing; you either love or hate them. This was more of an introduction to Say Anything.
DH: Like Say Anything 101?
DH: I know you didn’t sign up to be the poster child for young Jewish America, but as a young Jewish person myself – I was happy and surprised hear so many references to the religion in all of your music. How do you feel about being looked at as a mouth piece for this demographic?
MB: Its awesome, I’m very proud. It’s funny because Say Anything is really the first eccentric, dark and sometimes obscene openly Jewish rock band. It evolved once I started talking about my life and Judaism. How it plays into my psychology and it will always be a part of my life.
It’s so funny, there are so many Jews in music, but so few that discuss it in the music. They talk about it movies all the time. There are also tons of Christian references in songs.
I consider myself now partially Christian, partially a Jew. I’m an existential thinker; my belief in God is not traditional.
It’s funny to be known as a Jewish band, but I’m this crazy guy that has weird views on God and different faiths. If singing about the culture of being a Jew can help preserve that, it’s great. We’ve gone through a lot as a people.
DH: I did read recently that you now consider yourself both Christian and Jewish and that your wife’s family is very active in church.
MB: Yes, my wife’s family, my adopted family… Actually my wife really influenced my faith. Our faiths are similar despite being raised in different backgrounds. Hers Christian, mine Jewish. I was even an atheist for a long time. When it was time to go back into the pool of being religious, I started taking the items I liked from all religions and teachings that influenced me. My wife’s teachings vocalized so many thoughts I already had. There’s no one I respect more. Not to say we don’t disagree on things, we do. But for two people from two different backgrounds we share many of the same ideas.
Christian bands get a band name, there are so many preachy bands out there. At the same time it’s dangerous to stereotype a religion such as Christianity.
It’s like racism to discriminate others based on their beliefs, especially based on a title that can be misconstrued. Not every Christian is like George W. Bush. There are so many different ways to interpret Christianity.
DH: You love comics. I just purchased my first graphic novel ever. What do you recommend to someone new to comic books? “Training wheel comics”
MB: What comic did you buy?
DH: The Fringe graphic novel, you know, based on the television show.
MB: Yeah, I was just checking it out at Borders. The most important comics to start with are: Watchmen, Bone, Swamp Thing, Preacher, Y: The Last Man, Criminal and anything by Grant Morrison. It’s an amazing medium, it’s my favorite art…above music.
I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Say Anything. As a long time fan, I have such a renewed excitement about the band and where they’re headed. If you’re not familiar with the band, you should check them out immediately. Pick up their new self-titled album, Say Anything, and enjoy!
You can see Say Anything opening for Angels and Airwaves this spring.
ON TOUR WITH ANGELS & AIRWAVES:
04/05 // San Francisco, CA // Warfield Theater
04/07 // Seattle, WA // The Showbox SODO
04/08 // Portland, OR // Roseland Theater
04/09 // Vancouver, BC // Vogue Theater
04/11 // Edmonton, AB // Edmonton Event Center
04/12 // Calgary, AB // MacEwan Hall Ballroom
04/14 // Fargo, ND // The Venue
04/15 // Des Moines, IA // Val Air Ballroom
04/16 // Kansas City, MO // Uptown Theater
04/17 // Milwaukee, WI // The Eagles Club
04/18 // Minneapolis, MN // Epic NIghtclub
04/19 // St. Louis, MO // The Pageant
04/22 // Columbus, OH // PromoWest Pavillion
04/23 // Cleveland, OH // Time Warner Cable Amphitheater
04/24 // Chicago, IL // Aragon Theater
04/25 // Cincinnati, OH // Bogart’s
04/27 // Detroit, MI // The Fillmore Detroit
04/28 // Toronto, ON // Sound Academy
04/29 // Rochester, NY // Main Street Armory
04/30 // East Rutherford, NJ // Hoodwink Festival
05/02 // East Rutherford, NJ // The Bamboozle Festival
05/03 // Baltimore, MD // Rams Head Live
05/04 // Boston, MA // House of Blues
05/06 // Washington, DC // 9:30 Club
05/07 // Philadelphia, PA // Electric Factory
05/08 // Wallingford, CT // The Dome
05/10 // Norfolk, VA // The NorVa
05/11 // Charlotte, NC // The Fillmore Charlotte
05/13 // Tampa, FL // The Ritz
05/14 // Pompano Beach, FL // Pompano Beach Amphitheater
05/15 // Orlando, FL // Hard Rock Live
05/16 // Atlanta, GA // The Tabernacle
05/18 // Houston, TX // House of Blues
05/19 // San Antonio, TX // Sunset Station
05/20 // Dallas, TX // The Palladium Ballroom
05/22 // Denver, CO // Fillmore Auditorium
05/24 // Salt Lake City, UT // In The Venue
05/25 // Tempe, AZ // The Marquee
05/28 // Las Vegas, NV // The Joint/Hard Rock Hotel & Casino