When The Menzingers were in Winnipeg opening for the Gaslight Anthem, I got to sit down with singers/guitarists Tom May and Greg Barnett for an interview:
The Gaslight Anthem tour just started recently, howís that been going for you guys?
Tom: Itís been great, itís been a lot of fun. Yesterday was a little weird in Fargo. Just for me because I got sick. But so far itís been great. We havenít seen these bands in awhile and itís been a lot of fun.
Whatís your favourite thing about touring Canada? I always have to ask every American band this question.
Greg: I like the little strange differences you find from here in the States, you know? Everything is pretty close, itís all kind of the same, but every once in awhile youíll find little strange things.
Tom: Like loonies and toonies.
Greg: And potato chips. Dill potato chips.
Tom: Metric system.
Greg: Yeah, metric system.
A big theme on Chamberlain Waits seems to be Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Greg: I think just everyone has something special for the place they grew up in and itís no different for us. I could never talk bad about anywhere I grew up, I actually grew up in a town outside of Scranton actually called Lake Ariel. Iím the only one that did and most people hate it, but you know, you gotta like where youíre from. And weíre in a special spot because thereís not that many bands that get to do this before from our neighbourhood. So we just want to make sure everyoneís focusing on the bands that are from there and everyone gets attention.
Tom: Yeah, it definitely feels great to have a place that you grew up in and that you know what to expect when youíre there. Itís very comforting. Itís where all our friends and family are. We moved to Philadelphia awhile ago and that also has an older East coast vibe that we really enjoy. We had some of the best shows there. And I think some of the best bands. Like Tigers Jaw, Title Fight, Captain, Weíre Sinking. Those are all the shows we played and weíre really proud to be from that scene and those are all of my best friends.
Whatís your favourite part of working with Red Scare?
Tom: Toby! Thatís my favourite thing.
Greg: Yeah, itís great. Heís fun. I love all the bands that are on the record label. Heís [Toby Jeg] a great guy, Brendanís [Kelly, The Lawrence Arms] a great guy. I have nothing negative to say, I love Red Scare. All the bandís on the label weíve gotten really close with and it feels like family. Itís fun. Plus it made Chicago feel like a second home so thatís really cool.
You also recorded this record in Chicago with Matt Allison.
Greg: Yeah, it was great. Heís full of so much information that weíve never experienced before. I mean, you walk around the studio and you see all these Alkaline Trio and The Lawrence Arms recordings. You get a vibe of how those bands did it and Matt is full of so much information. Heís a smart guy and it was a privilege to work with him.
Tom: Heís just a great optimistic guy, thereís nothing pretentious about him. He showed us a lot, got the sound out that we wanted and he was great to hang out with too. And we drank a lot of Busch Light.
Greg: Except it was really cold when we were there.
Tom: And I rode Matt Skibaís bike too, that was kind of cool.
What is your favourite song on the new record?
Tom: Thatís a tough one, my favourite one to play is probably ďWhoís Your Partner.Ē The lyrics are kind of important to me. And my favourite one to listen to is ďTasker-Morris Station.Ē
Greg: Iíd have to say my favourite song on the record is ďTime Tables.Ē Itís a personal song and I just like the way it turned out. Weíve been kicking it around for a long time and Iím really happy with it.
How would you say youíve grown since your first full length came out?
Greg: Thatís a tough one too. Clearly the first thing that comes to mind is that we learned a lot, I think any band does. When you put out your first record you learn how to be a band as it goes on. Weíve learned how to tour smarter, we still donít know how to tour, weíre still learning. Still learning the little things. But yeah, I donít know.
Tom: I think the period for when the first record was written and the period where the second record was written was a time in our lives where we changed a lot. We changed as people and our world views kind of changed, like most people do at that age though.
How did you learn to tour smarter?
Tom: Find out whoís going to drive, donít let everyone get all wasted.
Greg: I think for the majority of bands, especially for us, is that first tours are like a vacation, you know? You donít expect anyone to show up at the shows, you just want to party and make friends and have a good time. And thatís still our most important part of touring that we want to do. But youíve got to realize that there actually are people coming out that want to see us so you canít just stay up drinking all night and think youíre just going to play whatever. Playing is the main priority. And meeting people.
Tom: There are little things weíve learned differently about money. And ways to get your psyche prepared. Because you go day to day from running in a routine and seeing the same people every day, then you get thrown in every day into a new city and a completely different group of people that you donít know. Itís fun, but it takes getting used to. It certainly sharpens your social skills.
Speaking of touring, youíve played the Fest in the past and youíll be back this year. Do you have a favourite story to share about the experience?
Tom: Weíve got a lot of bad stories. [Laughs]
Greg: Yeah, I was at the police station a lot and the hospital a lot. But yeah, good stories? There were a lot of late night pool parties.
Tom: Itís all a blur.
Greg: Yeah, it is. Itís just the best to see all of your friends and weíre looking forward to that this year. You meet new friends and you see all the old ones you only get to see once a year.
Tom: One time our friend Steve-O from The Holy Mess crashed a wedding and ended up sitting down and talking to the bride because she wasnít sure how married she wanted to get. So this guy walks in and sits down to give this girl relationship advice. And then the party finally found out he wasnít supposed to be there and gave him the boot.
Greg: And then directly after that, I convinced him not to steal a BMW. He stole the keys from the valet and I told him that was probably a bad idea and he was probably going to go to jail. He was like ĎOh shit, really? I guess I should return these keys.í And I was like ĎTell them you found them at the bar and go over to that guy or else heíll lose his job because the keys are gone.í And he did. That was awesome, I love that kid.
Tom: Yeah, me too. And he just got married so congratulations to him.
Crazy. Anyway, I read in some previous interviews you did that youíre planning to release an acoustic EP. Can you go into detail about that?
Tom: Yeah. Itís going to happen.
Greg: We have a very rough idea of when it will come out, hopefully sometime around November, December or January when we get everything together. We want to record it ourselves, we want to have the time to do it and experiment with it and just have fun. We want to have all our friends play on it. We really donít have a strict deadline right now.
Tom: Yeah, we want to do it right. Sometimes too we work well under pressure too. Thatís the way we wrote the last record. And the EP.
How long did it take you to record Chamberlain Waits?
Tom: We did it in 17 days. We did the first 10 days and then we went on tour with Anti-Flag for a week and then we came back to the studio to finish it up.
Greg: It was really nice that way because we had this nice break to feel where we were at and clear our heads. Going on tour, playing some of the songs live and hearing what we wanted to tweak. Itís nice to do it that way and break up recording sessions.
Tom: It was good to get our voices all warmed up and everything too.
What are some other plans for the future you guys have?
Greg: After this, we go on tour in eastern Canada with Anti-Flag. And then weíll do a tour down to the Fest with Outbreak and Hour of the Wolf. Then a few one off shows with Strike Anywhere and the Flatliners and then we fly to Europe. We have like seven days off and then weíre doing our first European tour, weíre going to do 10 days in the UK and then 3-4 weeks in the mainland.
Who will it be with?
Greg: Weíre doing the UK with Leagues Apart. Theyíre an awesome band you should check out. I donít know who weíre doing the rest of the tour with though.
Tom: And then in the spring, weíll hopefully start writing a new record. And then weíll get some wives, have some kids, get divorced, become disillusioned, get married again, then retire.
Greg: Break up, take a few years off, write the comeback record.
Tom: Write the comeback record, go on tour, say weíre never going on tour again, then go on tour again.