The Men's Mark Perro Talks Sonic Evolution, Hardcore Ideals and How Rumors Get Started.
The Brooklyn-based punks in The Men are in the midst of quite a run.
Since the 2010 release of their debut LP, Immaculada, the band has released a new full-length in each successive year, culminating with the release of Tomorrow’s Hits this March.
On Sunday night and in support of that latest LP, the five-piece will hit Club Dada with Cleveland lo-fi heroes Cloud Nothings. And, with those co-headliners and openers Nude Beach in tow, the show looks like one of the most stacked front-to-back bills we're likely to see all year.
To prepare, we caught up with Mark Perro — who founded The Men with Nick Chiericozzi in 2008 — about working in a real studio for the first time, punk fundamentalism and how rumors get started.
You guys have been really prolific the past couple of years, which is kind of refreshing when a lot of artists seem to be taking two or three years between records now. Is that something y'all have intentionally? Or is that just how it's worked out in the creative process?
It's intentional and it's how it worked out. I think it's a very natural flow with how we function as a band. The biggest thing for us is that we're making new music, and we're constantly doing it. We're not the type of band that goes to the studio and labors in there for weeks and months on end. We go in there with our songs, and we play our songs. There's not a lot of tricks, there's not even a lot of real mixing to be done. This record that we just did, we recorded everything live, including the vocals. We go in the room, and we play the songs, and it is what it is. When you have that approach, how long does it take to make a record? It's just a collection of songs. So we do that. And that's what's exciting for us. Those moments? That's why we do it. That's just naturally how we work.
You mentioned recording things live. Do you think that contributes to why y'all have a reputation for being such a strong live act? Because there's not any studio tricks you have to replicate?
I think maybe that's the case. Our things is, we don't really use too many synthesizers or effects or things like that, y'know. We're very into the human side of playing music. Everyone in this band, everyone that I play with, is an amazing musician and they're very focused on being a musician and playing music and playing in a band with people. We're the kind of band where what you see is what you get. There's not really anything behind it. It is what is. Y'know, we play together, and we play all the time together, and we enjoy playing together. We enjoy playing music and we view music as a craft, and it's something that I work on all day, all the time, every day. It's the only thing I care about, and I think everyone in the band feels the same way. Paying attention to that side of things is what's important to us. That's one of the biggest things about us — paying attention to the performance, paying attention to the playing and not the bringing it in, getting it in the [studio] and then making it sound good. We want to sound good. That's what we focus on.
I've read that Tomorrow's Hits was actually written before your last album, New Moon.
That's actually not correct. I've seen that, too, and that's actually wrong. It was recorded before New Moon came out, after New Moon was recorded. We recorded New Moon, went on tour, wrote and recorded Tomorrow’s Hits, and then New Moon came out. Then we went on tour again and now we are where we are now.
So that's just a weird rumor, then.
Yeah. Someone was confused, or misheard or misunderstood and then published it. And that's the story. And it's like, well, actually that's not true.
But Tomorrow’s Hits was actually the first record you guys recorded in a high-end studio, right? What were some of the differences — not necessarily anything good or bad — about doing that?
Well, it was the easiest record we've ever made, from just a strictly technical standpoint. Y'know, when we did New Moon, we recorded that at a house, and we basically built the studio in a house. So there were technical issues, there were problems, we were always troubleshooting. “Why isn't this working?” “Why isn't that working?” Y'know, trying to figure stuff out. This time, we rolled into this beautiful studio that was all set up, and it was so comfortable and so easy. Just the level of equipment they had there is just stuff we didn't have access to. You're walking into this place that is just completely setup to make amazing-sounding things. When you can work that easily, you can work much better, much more efficiently and play better. If you're not worried about making sure the tape machine is rolling because it might be stuck, you can just focus on playing. As a result, the performances end up better, too.
Is there anything that the casual listener or casual fan will be able to tell that's different in listening to this album compared to any of your earlier stuff?
I know I'm in it a little more than the casual person, but this album sounds incredibly different than New Moon. New Moon sounds raw. It sounds like the process that went into it. This record sounds fucking good. Excuse my language, but it sounds like its production is awesome. I think that's a noticeable thing. We haven't had that kind of production on our earlier records. The other records are more of the kind of do-it-yourself [variety]. We built them, we made those records with what limitations we had. With this record, we really had no limitations whatsoever.
There's still some of that DIY approach, though. Wasn't most of Tomorrow’s Hits written in your bedroom?
Yeah. We still have the same approach. The band still recorded the album. We were in a studio, but we still recorded it ourselves. The guy who runs the studio was there, but [bassist] Ben [Greenberg] was still running the board. He was still the one recording. He was still the one doing it. We still self-produced the album. We still have that approach where we're controlling our own destiny. With this album, we just had so many more tools at our disposal that we normally don't have access to.
Is self-production ever something you could see the band moving away from? I don't imagine y'all would do an album with, say, Danger Mouse.
I don't know. I'm very interested in working with [a producer], because we've never worked with an outside producer before. The earlier records, Ben produced. Before he was in the band, he produced those earlier albums. He was still playing on the album, he was still part of the crew. He wasn't this outside person. So, I think it would be really interesting to do that. Whether or not it's going to happen, I don't know. But I think it would be really interesting to work with a completely independent party, just to see what happens as a collaborative experiment.
Whether it's self-produced or you were to go with someone outside, is there going to be another album next year? Are you going to keep this going, the one-a-year model?
I don't know. Every other record that's come out, we've always had another record done at the time it came out. This is the first time that's not the case. We made a conscious decision to put the brakes on and let ourselves catch up. We're really only focusing on the present moment. Once these tours are done, then we'll think about it. Maybe there will be, maybe there won't be. I don't really know. We're really just focusing on the moment right now — these shows — and making sure these shows are awesome.
We talked about what’s changed in the recording process as you guys have evolved. How has touring changed? Is it getting harder as you get older, or is it easier since you have more experience?
It's a little bit of both — for our band, especially. When we first started, we were a three-piece and I was the drummer at the time. Nick [Chiericozzi] and I started the band as a two-piece. I played drums and Nick played guitar. Then we had [former member] Chris [Hansell] playing on bass, and it was just the three of us. Now there's five of us and I play the piano, and we have a different drummer and Kevin [Faulkner] plays bass and we have a second guitar player in Ben. That's an enormous change There were steps along the way that happened. We went from a three-piece to a four-piece to a five-piece, and then, within that five-piece, we've changed the instrumentation. It's been a constantly evolving process. In some senses, it is easier because we know how to achieve the things we want. The physical toll definitely starts to get harder, though. The road is tough. It's a cliche, but it's true. It takes a lot out of you. We just do the best we can.
At least among some of my friends, you guys seem to be the noise or hardcore act that appeals to people who aren't really into noise or hardcore. Is that something that's intentional? Maybe with the softening of your sound that began on New Moon?
I don’t think it was intentional. That's just how it is. We're into that stuff, but we're also into other things. With a lot of noise and hardcore bands, they say “We're a hardcore band and we're going to play hardcore, and we’re going to play with other hardcore bands, and we’re going to play hardcore shows, and that 100 percent defines us.” We've never really subscribed to that ideology. I mean, I've been going to hardcore shows and I've been in hardcore bands since I was 14 years old. But I've always been into other stuff, too. With this band — from day one — it’s been about not putting those limits on yourself and not putting some sort of restriction on what type of a band you are and what type of a musician you are. So those elements are there, but there’s also a lot of other elements that people can pick up on. We're all into songs as much as we're into sounds and noise and intensity. We're all fans of songs. With that, songs inherently require things that you can connect with. And so we try to do that. We try to write songs.
Cover photo by Benjamin Trogdon. The Men perform with Cloud Nothings and Nude Beach on Sunday, April 27, at Club Dada. For tickets, head here.