Catching Up With Semi-Local Max Bemis Before Say Anything Hits Trees on Saturday.
Max Bemis, the front man of Say Anything, is a busy man these days. In March, the band released their fifth album Anarchy, My Dear through Equal Vision Records after a departure from RCA. And, while touring in support of the album, Bemis is also working through his current batch of Song Shop orders — a service he started in 2008 for his fans to get a personalized acoustic song written by Bemis based on their experiences.
Plus, as if touring and writing music weren’t enough to keep him busy, he’s also preparing for fatherhood. He and his wife, Sherri Dupree-Bemis of the band Eisley, are expecting their first child in February 2013.
In advance of his band’s Saturday night performance at Trees this weekend, we caught up with Bemis to talk about his impending fatherhood, his upcoming, new projects and everything else he has going on at the moment.
So how’s the tour going?
The tour’s actually really, really, really amazing. We kinda don’t know what to expect outside of the major markets, but every show’s been really packed and the kids have been really passionate. It’s really rewarding.
So, everyone’s been really responsive to the new album?
Yeah, that’s another thing about the shows. They’re all crazy, and then we play a new song and it’s like a wicked curve. But they’re really into the new material.
You live in Tyler now, and one of the last shows on the tour is in Dallas. Do you consider these home shows?
Well, I think there a few different places that I’ve lived that I consider to be like a hometown show.
So, like, L.A., New York and Dallas all feel like hometown shows because friends and families come out and we’re usually close to getting off tour. And then you got places that we’ve played a million times that are really dedicated to us like New Jersey and Seattle. Those kinda feel like home shows now, too. It’s kinda cool.
What’s your favorite part of touring?
Well, obviously, there’s the playing the shows — like the literal experience of performing would be technically my favorite part.
It’s a really nice mix of my two favorite states of being, which is like being really excited and really nuts and it’s kind of an adventure and then also sitting on your ass doing nothing in a really homey environment. After you have this invigorating experience, then you go back and just kinda go back to your comfy little zone. And then you develop this kinda pattern.
Is it hard to adjust back to normal life when tour is over?
Yeah, it is a little hard to adjust to and, technically, I’m kinda looking forward to getting home just because home’s home and you can’t top that.
Like, to me, as much as I love the experience of performing, my favorite thing is being at home. Even still, it is pretty different, though. The first couple days you get back are a little disorienting to like not have a show.
And I’m sure you’re excited to get back home considering you have a baby on the way, right?
Exactly. Basically, we have three or four months off and then we’re having the baby then we have another two months off before we do anything, so it’s kinda like this long chunk of regular life, which I’m really looking forward to.
Normally, I might not be as excited to get home but because that’s coming up and we have so much time off all in a row, it’s even more exciting because it’s really nice to feel like a normal person sometimes and not have to go and do anything.
So are you prepared for fatherhood?
I don’t know if anyone’s technically ever prepared to be a father, strictly speaking, but I’d like to think I’m as prepared as someone could be, being that I have no idea what it feels like.
But, I mean, y’know, honestly, it’s just a sense of excitement and slight nervousness about how my life’s gonna completely change and I have no idea what that’s going to be like but I’m too excited for it to be worried in any way.
How are the song shops going?
It’s going great.
We just opened it a couple months ago and this is probably the fifth or sixth time we’ve opened it, and we sold the most we’ve ever sold and now I just have to, because I love it, just kinda hunker down and get through all the songs over the course of the next couple months, then I’ll probably open it again.
When you first started it, did you think the demand for them would be so great?
Y’know, I wasn’t sure. I definitely didn’t assume it would be, but there was something about the idea that I had — especially the idea that I’d do them in a longer quantity and, because it’s not super extensive, it would probably be a good amount of kids. And every time I opened it, I’d get nervous and I’d wonder, “Oh my god, many kids are still gonna want this.”
The truth is, I guess, if you are kinda in love with a band, you could end up spending much more than $150 over the course of a few years when it comes to like buying records and buying hoodies and T-shirts and concert tickets and everything involved, so I think kids are willing to invest between $75 and $100 for something that is really permanent. And I guess that’s sort of why it continues to do well, knock on wood.
When did that idea hit you?
It was really random. I just came with the idea in the middle of the night kinda right when I was thinking about how I was going to be able to afford a family and make a living and I came up with this idea of selling one personalized song just to make a few bucks and see if it was fun and the person enjoyed the song. And I think I did maybe 10 songs to start out and I realized there was a way I could go about doing it where not only would the kids really appreciate it and love the songs but it was really easy for me to do. Even outside the content itself, when I sit down and make the decision that I’m gonna write a song, it takes a lot for me to get writer’s block.
You’ve always been a transparent person with your lyrics, is that something that’s always been easy for you?
Yeah, it has been easy for me. What I struggle with is when I try to be mysterious or abstract and profound. I think I find being transparent is probably almost my biggest strength as an artist. It’s been attached to my songwriting and I think, without it, we’d suck. Because a lot of what we do is with a lack pretentiousness almost to an awkward degree.
There are plenty of bands that aren’t pretentious — even some of the biggest bands in the world like Coldplay. They’re really not trying to be too cool, y’know, they’re pretty transparent. And that’s what makes us different than other bands, that we’re so transparent that it’s almost bizarre.
So, how has life been switching from a major label to a smaller label?
Amazing. They made doing the first record with them a really easy, fun experience. And everyone was pretty happy. So, I’m all for working with them very closely on a bunch of other projects under my imprint on their label, Rory Records. And it’s really, honestly probably about the closest to like a family-type environment that we’ve had. We were close with people at both the other labels, but I feel like I almost work at the label at this point, so it’s kinda cool.
What do you have coming up on your imprint?
We’ve signed four artists at this point — or, like, are in the process of signing four artists. And they’re all right at the beginning, except Tallhart, the first one we signed who are doing really well. And the others, we can’t talk about yet because we have to announce them properly.
Do you have any advice to bands signing with labels for the first time?
Wow. I guess follow your gut and don’t let the label intimidate you or make your artistic decisions, even though you have to compromise sometimes.
I think there’s definitely like a clear cut line when you become a tool of the label and you don’t have your own artistic goals. Because the label may not always be there or money may not always be there. These things that are superficial are minimal compared to your own real, honest desires to accomplish certain artistic goals.
Is this advice from your experience or something you’ve always maintained?
I do think it’s something we’ve done almost to a fault. I remember being like 14 or 15 and when we first started talking to labels and a part of me was just so excited and intimidated that there were labels even wanting to sign me and let me do music for a living. I mean, that blew me away. I had no idea. I was just literally someone that played my music for someone and they wanted to sign me and I was like, “What?! This is possible? I could actually do this for a living?” But, at that stage, with those emotions, being really excited and intimidated, I still definitely stuck to my guns to the point where sometimes it alienated me from people. Sometimes it feels like three steps forward, one step back to get the band progressing.
Are there any plans for your project with Sherri, Perma?
Yeah. It’s very abstract, but I know that’s the next thing. Me and Sherri really plan on getting down to it and writing a Perma record. I’m not exactly sure how it’s gonna go down and when we’re putting it out or who’s putting it out, but it’s something we really wanna put out.
When did Perma get started?
We kinda just started writing songs about each other after we first started liking each other and then we thought it might be fun to release those songs and then realized they were a band and we should name it. From there, we thought we should be a little more proper about it.
I know you’re really into comic books, what are you reading right now?
I’m an obsessive comic book fan. Right now, I’m actually reading Season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — the continuation of the show in comic book form. Ironically, even though it’s not a comic elitist’s comic, it’s really amazing actually. Beyond that, I’m constantly reading, so asking me what I’m reading now is really changing by the day. I grew up reading comics. It was a passion. I even drew like shitty comics when I was in like second through sixth grade. I liked them more than books and I was always a big collector. Then, sometime around maybe ninth grade, in high school, I got into film and sort of shifted gears into that, then shifted gears into music and was kinda obsessed with music like crazy. Then I got back into comics when I was around 22, I wanna say? So for the past, like, seven years I’ve been a really serious collector. It’s an obsession.
Say Anything performs Saturday, October 27, at Trees in Dallas.