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, how’s that been going for you guys?
Tom: It’s been great, it’s been a lot of fun. Yesterday was a little weird in Fargo. Just for me because I got sick. But so far it’s been great. We haven’t seen these bands in awhile and it’s been a lot of fun.
What’s 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, it’s all kind of the same, but every once in awhile you’ll 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 it’s 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. I’m the only one that did and most people hate it, but you know, you gotta like where you’re from. And we’re in a special spot because there’s not that many bands that get to do this before from our neighbourhood. So we just want to make sure everyone’s 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 you’re there. It’s very comforting. It’s 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, We’re Sinking. Those are all the shows we played and we’re really proud to be from that scene and those are all of my best friends.
What’s your favourite part of working with Red Scare?
Tom: Toby! That’s my favourite thing.
Greg: Yeah, it’s great. He’s fun. I love all the bands that are on the record label. He’s [Toby Jeg] a great guy, Brendan’s [Kelly, The Lawrence Arms] a great guy. I have nothing negative to say, I love Red Scare. All the band’s on the label we’ve gotten really close with and it feels like family. It’s fun. Plus it made Chicago feel like a second home so that’s really cool.
You also recorded this record in Chicago with Matt Allison.
Greg: Yeah, it was great. He’s full of so much information that we’ve 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. He’s a smart guy and it was a privilege to work with him.
Tom: He’s just a great optimistic guy, there’s 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 Skiba’s bike too, that was kind of cool.
What is your favourite song on the new record?
Tom: That’s a tough one, my favourite one to play is probably “Who’s Your Partner.” The lyrics are kind of important to me. And my favourite one to listen to is “Tasker-Morris Station.”
Greg: I’d have to say my favourite song on the record is “Time Tables.” It’s a personal song and I just like the way it turned out. We’ve been kicking it around for a long time and I’m really happy with it.
How would you say you’ve grown since your first full length came out?
Greg: That’s 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. We’ve learned how to tour smarter, we still don’t know how to tour, we’re still learning. Still learning the little things. But yeah, I don’t 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 who’s going to drive, don’t 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 don’t expect anyone to show up at the shows, you just want to party and make friends and have a good time. And that’s still our most important part of touring that we want to do. But you’ve got to realize that there actually are people coming out that want to see us so you can’t just stay up drinking all night and think you’re just going to play whatever. Playing is the main priority. And meeting people.
Tom: There are little things we’ve 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 don’t know. It’s fun, but it takes getting used to. It certainly sharpens your social skills.
Speaking of touring, you’ve played the Fest in the past and you’ll be back this year. Do you have a favourite story to share about the experience?
Tom: We’ve 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: It’s all a blur.
Greg: Yeah, it is. It’s just the best to see all of your friends and we’re 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 wasn’t 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 wasn’t 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 ‘Oh shit, really? I guess I should return these keys.’ And I was like ‘Tell them you found them at the bar and go over to that guy or else he’ll lose his job because the keys are gone.’ 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 you’re planning to release an acoustic EP. Can you go into detail about that?
Tom: Yeah. It’s 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 don’t have a strict deadline right now.
Tom: Yeah, we want to do it right. Sometimes too we work well under pressure too. That’s 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. It’s 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 we’ll 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 we’re doing our first European tour, we’re going to do 10 days in the UK and then 3-4 weeks in the mainland.
Who will it be with?
Greg: We’re doing the UK with Leagues Apart. They’re an awesome band you should check out. I don’t know who we’re doing the rest of the tour with though.
Tom: And then in the spring, we’ll hopefully start writing a new record. And then we’ll 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 we’re never going on tour again, then go on tour again.