Earlier this month we caught up with Tom May and Greg Barnett from The Menzingers. This was the first UK tour for Philidelphia-based four piece and they seemed to be enjoying themselves quite a bit. We chatted to them, in the bitter cold, outside Manchester’s Tiger Lounge about their new album, touring with Leagues Apart, working with Brendan Kelly and we retire an old favorite.
Anthony Barlow: Hey guys, how’s it going?
Greg Barnett: Pretty ace man.
Tom May: Everything’s going great, yeah. It’s our first time over here, so we’re really excited.
AB: I was just going to ask how the tour was going so…
TM: It’s been great so far. All the shows have been awesome. Everyone that we’ve met has been great. It’s been very drunken *laughs*
GB: Yeah, it has been very drunken. Wales was really drunk. Southampton was a lot of fun. We’ve had a lot of fun everywhere. The first night was Kingston, that was a real treat. We came over and there was a lot of people there and Leagues Apart are great dudes so it’s really cool.
Ian Crichley: Where did you play in Kingston?
TM: We played the Fighting Cocks. They sold it out. It was a blast.
IC: Manchester’s a ‘home show’ for Leagues Apart, has this date been hyped up?
GB: Oh yeah, they’ve been hyping it up the whole ride. They’re like ‘I can’t wait until you guys get to Manchester. It’s gonna be so much fun. All of our friends are gonna be there.
AB: And now us two have turned up and dragged you outside.
TM: That’s what’s really funny too. You never really get good shows on a Monday night and we’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now.
AB: It’s going to be good. Lots of other cool UK bands playing tonight.
TM: Yeah, it’s a great bill.
IC: It’s been a pretty big year for you guys hasn’t it? You’ve toured with Anti-Flag, Against Me!, The Gaslight Anthem and you’re heading out with The Flatliners and Fake Problems in December. What’s that been like? And are you looking forward to Canada?
TM: Oh yeah, it’s gonna be cold.
GB: That’ll be our fourth time there this year and every time we go there we have a blast. Especially in French Canada, I love it.
AB: You played with Fake Problems on the Gaslight tour as well. Were you introduced to the ‘Mr. Yucky’?
IC: Do you know about ‘Mr. Yucky’?
TM: I don’t think so.
IC: It’s where you lick your hand and put it on the other person’s mouth?
TM: Oh, I heard about that. They never did anything like that on the though.
GB: It’s lucky they didn’t do anything like that
TM: Very lucky
GB: I thought you were talking about those little green stickers they used to put on poison that said “Mr. Yucky”
TM: Oh yeah
IC: You released your new album in April, have you had a good response?
TM: Yeah. I was looking back on this year in the van earlier today, and it’s been a pretty crazy year. With all the tours and everything. I never thought I’d be standing here right now, In Manchester, about to play a show. It’s been a fun ride.
IC: It’s your second album, do you think you’ve progressed as artists?
GB: I would hope so. I mean, we’re not gonna be like ‘we’ve completely changed and made this concept album’, but I really think we’ve progressed as musicians for sure. And the writing, we took a lot more seriously and we put a lot of work into that album, so we’re excited to see that it’s doing really well. People like it. Our friends like it.
AB: You worked with Brendan Kelly on the track ‘So It Goes’, how was that?
GB: It was hilarious, man. He came in and said ‘I’m just gonna find a harmony for it’ or whatever and he did it whilst wearing a guitar, he was looking upward a little bit and he just nailed it. Like every one. He did a whole bunch of different things.
TM: He was just like ‘Listen, I always sound terrible when I do guest vocals for a band. Just tell me if it’s bad’. But no, I think it turned out great.
AB: Is there anyone else you’d really like to work with in a similar capacity?
TM: Yeah, we’re always down for those kind of things. Absolutely.
GB: Yeah, we gotta get some friends in on this next one. Like Ty from Broadway Calls or something like that.
TM: Yeah, yeah. We’ll definitely get some friends in on it.
AB: The first single has been released and the video for that is mostly tour footage. Was that a budget thing or a way for you to show people what The Menzingers are about?
TM: The way that we went into it, I think that it was the easiest bet and the most honest bet to make a music video. We didn’t really want to do anything that didn’t really represent us as people. We really wanted to portray our personalities though the video. We called up a buddy, he flew in from Florida, and he hopped in the van with us for five days and that’s what he got.
GB: It was all Northeast cities too. Kind of record release shows. It was just a lot of fun.
IC: Do you get a lot of naked guys on stage?
GB: Sometimes you get naked guys
TM: That’s our good buddy Andy from Philly
IC: *laughs* Oh, so you knew him then. It wasn’t just some random naked guy.
GB: He plays in a band called Luther.
IC: On the video you’ve got these blue sunglasses on. Are they from MacDonalds?
GB: *laughs* What? No, there’s tons of those cheap sunglasses in America. People use them for promotional things. They’ll just write something goofy on the side of it…
TM: Yeah, I’m pretty sure Toby from Red Scare gave me those. He went to a basketball game or something and then was like ‘hey, have some sunglasses!’
IC: On the YouTube video, some guy called SuperWhoa97 has commented and said: “One of the dude’s moms is my math teacher”
GB: *laughs* That’d be my mom. My mom’s a math teacher, yeah. It’s funny, she always pimps our band out. Well, she doesn’t pimp our band out… *laughs* Sorry, that was the wrong terminology, but she’s always like ‘you should check out my sons band’ or whatever. Writes it into word problems *laughs* She doesn’t do that, we should write her one though.
TM: Yeah, totally.
GB: ‘If the van breaks down this far from wherever and you only have six beers left”
AB: That’s the obvious problem of course.
IC: Since you guys formed people have compared you to the likes of Against Me! How do you feel about that?
TM: Yeah, sure. I think it’s fair.
IC: I’ve got a quote here as well: “How do you go on tour with a band you stole a whole record from?”
TM & GB: *laughs*
TM: Yeah, that’s definitely my favorite quote I’ve heard about our band. I mean, obviously, they’ve been a big influence on our band growing up. It was definitely a privilege to tour with them this year. It was a blast.
GB: That was one of the bands that we all really came together on after hearing all their music, so it was exciting.
AB: So you guys have been on Red Scare two years now. How’s it been working with them?
IC: Toby doesn’t work you too much?
TM: No, he’s the best.We love working with Red Scare. I think Red Scare is the best independent record label in the states and they’ve been awesome to us and we love them to death.
AB: Do you think working with them has given you a lot more freedom than you might have had otherwise?
TM: Oh yeah, for sure. We can do whatever the hell we want.
GB: Not only that, but whatever we want to do, even if Toby disagrees he knows how to do it. He helps us along. He’s great.
AB: It’s a big thing to think about, but would you ever consider moving to a major label?
GB: This is one of those questions that you hear and you have no idea if you would. At this point, with the way the music industry’s going now, I can’t see it happening.
TM: It just doesn’t seem likely really.
GB: Joe Strummer was quoted in Rolling Stone magazine and he said the one regret he had from the 20th Century is that he’d signed to a major label at one point in his life. When Jesus says something, you kinda have to listen. They’re losing so much power now anyway. Nobody’s buying CDs.
IC: Illegal downloading as well
AB: Has that affected you guys?
GB: It’s bigger. Less money, that’s for sure.
TM: Yeah. There’s two ways to look at it. I don’t think our band would be where it is today if people didn’t get the record for free.
GB: Plus, it’s not like we buy records *laughs*
TM: So it’s a trade off right there, I guess.
IC: As long as you give some back, that’s alright.
TM: I just think that there should be more musicians writing albums, because then we could all share *laughs*
GB: Then we could all share and it’d be an even trade. Even pirated software to record music is used. It’s a strange beast.
AB: Finally, and this is the last time we’re doing this because the results are getting handed in…
IC: We’ve been doing this poll for the past year of every band and every person we’ve interviewed and you’ll be the last ones
GB: Are we a swing vote? Is this close?
AB & IC: No
IC: So yeah, if Chuck Ragan, Henry Rollins and a shark had a fight, who would win?
GB: Oh shit.
TM: Are we in water? Are we on land?
GB: Are they on the deck of a sinking boat?
TM: Are we Chuck Ragan solo or Chuck Ragan Hot Water?
IC: Chuck Ragan solo
TM: I don’t know if you’ve seen the pictures that show how good of a fisherman he is, so I think he can beat the shark.
GB: He can beat the shark, but not if he’s in the water
GB: He’s a small dude right? He’s not a big dude.
TM: But he’s built.
GB: Henry Rollins is like intimidating
TM: Yeah, I’d probably go Henry Rollins
GB: Yeah, but I don’t want him to win
TM: Let’s go shark
GB: Tim Armstrong…No, let’s go shark. Fuck it! No, I’m gonna say Chuck Ragan
TM: I’m gonna say the shark.
AB: Well thanks a lot guys, it’s been fun.
TM: Awesome. Thank you so much.