In case you didn’t know it yet, we at PunkRockTheory have something of a man-crush when it comes to The Menzingers. With the band getting ready to release “After The Party”, the highly anticipated follow-up to 2014’s “Rented World”, we figured it was the right time we talked to guitarist/vocalist Tom May about the new album.
PRT: Your new album is called “After The Party”. When you start out as a band, I imagine it is indeed all one big party. But after having toured for a couple of years, the novelty probably wears off as you start approaching things more seriously. So can we take the title quite literal?
Tom: The novelty of just straight up parting has worn off a bit, sure. That doesn’t mean the party is over though - not even close! There is always something new to love and discover in life if you look in the right places. Anything can become tired and monotonous if that’s the attitude you approach it with. As far as the title of the record goes I think you can take it literally a little bit, more so in that things have become clearer.
PRT: You are doing the band full-time and I was wondering… do you look at playing in a band as any other job? Or is it still something different?
Tom: No, I don’t look at playing in The Menzingers as any other job. I look at “any other job” in my life as something that gets me from one point to the second. With playing in the band there is no second point. The journey is the destination.
PRT: Nostalgia is a word that keeps coming up when reading about you. Someone else who sort of used nostalgia with his ‘make America great again’ slogan, is Trump. Not that I want to compare you in any way to Trump. But how do you look towards the next four years?
Tom: Donald Trump did use nostalgia amongst many other things to exploit the fears, uncertainties, and frustrations of a lot of people. Personally when I look towards the next four years I am starting to look inwards. I want to know how we got to this point and what I can do as an individual as well as a member of the community to foster more love and acceptance. I’m also tired of hating “them.” Too much “they” and “them” and not enough “us” and “we.” Just because I disagree with someone it does not make them an evil person whom I must be focused on destroying.
PRT: And do you think you have a role to play as a punk rock band in actually making America great again?
Tom: While we are not politicians or priests or teachers people do still listen to what we have to say. I hope that what we bring to the table tips the scales a little bit for the better. There will be a lot of focused anger over the next four years and punk rock is a hell of place to put it. We can accomplish some great things together.
PRT: One of the main things I have always liked the most about the Menzingers are your lyrics. You have a way of telling a story that feels completely open and honest. But isn’t it weird to have people come up to you thinking that they sort of ‘know’ you because of your lyrics?
Tom: It can be strange I suppose. The things we sing about and the stories we tell are rooted in real life emotions and experiences so it’s the truth that they ‘know’ us to some extent. It’s actually quite a nice feeling to meet someone with whom you already have a connection.
PRT: On that same note, are there songs that were originally about one thing and that have taken on another meaning throughout the years?
Tom: There are songs that may have been about a specific person or place in time that have grown and shaped to represent more of the broad emotional and spiritual themes that they encompass. As time goes on you look at people and situations differently as well. It’s all relative to the current time and place of the journey.
PRT: When I talked to you a couple of years ago about how you wrote a majority of “Chamberlain Waits” in the two months before entering the studio, you told me you prefer working in a shorter block of time. Is that still the way you like to write songs?
Tom: Give me as much time as possible! We spent a few months writing and preparing for After the Party and let me tell you, it was fan-fucking-tastic! If there was a day that we weren’t feeling the vibes we just worked on jamming or went to the bar or something. The pressure was gone. We were able to play and write for hours and hours on end. As I get older I feel I’ll look upon the time that we spent writing this record as one of the finest moments of my life.
PRT: For the new album you found musical inspiration in everything from Regina Spektor’s off-kilter song structures to Meat Loaf’s sense of melody. But what were some of your biggest non-musical inspirations for “After The Party”?
Tom: I can’t speak for everybody but for me one of the biggest non-musical inspirations for After the Party was martial arts. A close friend of mine introduced me to that world about halfway through our writing and it completely changed me. Learning Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai brought a new physical and mental concentration to the whole thing. I can’t get enough of it.
PRT: For “Rented World” you wanted to work with a producer who was not used to recording punk albums. For “After The Party”, you worked with Will Yip, who seems to have worked with nothing but punk bands. What made you want to go with him?
Tom: Will actually has a varied background in several genres including R&B and hip hop which had a great influence on the recording process of After the Party. We built the songs one at a time as opposed to knocking out an entire album’s worth of songs instrument by instrument. I’ve never worked with a more focused and talented individual than Will Yip.