I Want To Know Your Plans: The Max Bemis of Past, Present, and Future
Words: Jack Appleby
Photos provided by Say Anything
Most will take the new Say Anything record and immediately start dropping …Is A Real Boy references like it’s nobody’s business. It’s a comparison both expected and intentional, and Max Bemis knew it would be this way. While the back-to-basics approach certainly favors long-term fans, Anarchy, My Dear is as much a return-to-form as a new birth for both the band and Bemis himself.
“We were on a major label for six years, and now we’re on an indie, we’re working with Tim [O’Heir], and we have full creative control; it’s the most exciting time to be in this band. When we first had this level of freedom, we were little kids who didn’t know anything about life; now we don’t take things for granted, and we have an awesome situation,” Max excitedly said. “It was kind of the perfect time to go back and work with Tim.”
O’Heir famously produced ...IARB in 2004, back when Bemis was breakdown-prone. Despite the singer’s then-questionable health, Tim got the most out of Max, helping create a record that is continually celebrated even as it approaches its ten-year anniversary. Reuniting with O’Heir inevitably romanticized the new recordings while bringing that raw sound the band was looking for. That familiar rough touch brought out deliberately imperfect sounds in an experienced band, making Anarchy an organic, yet veteran album that will appeal to each generation of the band’s fans.
When the tracklisting was revealed, more than a few eyebrows raised at some of the song titles. Amidst the usual and obscure came “Say Anything” and “Admit It Again,” two names that only bolstered the …IARB associations. Explaining the former was simple (‘It was Coby [Linder, drummer]’s idea to have a song named after the band just for fun – we always wanted a flagship song, and it represents our sound in a primal way’), but there’s an obvious appreciation in Max’s tone when speaking about the sequel to a Say Anything classic:
“We know how much that song means to fans; a lot of what we put into making this record was just trying to make it for people who love our band – for the people who really love our band, true devotees who are just big huge fans of that first record. We wanted to give them something that would really excite them, which excited me and made it really fun to write the song. I had so much fun writing and redefining now that things are so different in counter-culture, and now that it’s really taken over the mainstream, it’s even more fun to try to tear it down for different reasons, now that I’m a grown-up.”
It’s those adult traits that not only influence Bemis’ Say Anything songs, but the songwriter’s personal future as well. It’s no secret that Max is married to Eisley’s Sherri Dupree-Bemis, and his talented wife is going to be around a lot more if all goes according to plan. Sherri snuck into Anarchy thrice and will be her husband’s partner-in-crime with their personal new band, Perma, a project started long ago that is beginning to take shape.
“Our goal is to have Perma either be the next thing I do or sometime in the next one or two records. We’re gonna do a full-length and make a full-time thing out of it. I don’t mean taking over Say Anything at all, but I don’t see it as a side-project. We get to be with each other and the type of songs we’re writing really come straight from the heart, because we’re writing about each other, and there’s nothing more pleasant than having a band where I get to tour with my wife. I think it will be really nice for Say Anything fans to hear me attack music from a completely different angle, without angst; it will be something else.”
The plans don’t stop there. Along with Perma, expect Max to build on all his other projects: he revealed there will be another Two Tongues record, Song Shop, and maybe some Painful Splits in the future. “There’s other things I’m interested in too, from screenwriting to graphic novels and other parts of the music business I can’t talk about just yet,“ hinted Max. (Ed's Note: Max has since announced Rory Records, his imprint on Equal Vision). No matter how much is on his plate, though, he promised that Say Anything will always be around.
“We want to be one of those bands that keep putting out music long until we’re old. There are always other things we can do, but we don’t really see the need to take Say Anything from the kids it means so much to. I had a talk with Coby and we said ‘why ever stop?’ Even if we had day jobs, even if we have to take five years off because someone has a kid – we’d come back.”
The future can wait for now; no matter what you’ve heard so far, the era of Anarchy, My Dear is only just beginning. The album’s official release is less than a month away, and a full U.S, tour with Kevin Devine and Fake Problems will follow shortly after. No matter when you subscribed to the band, enjoy the latest from Bemis and know that Say Anything will continue long past 2012.