Interview: The Menzingers

There’s something in the water of Scranton, PA, bringing us the likes of Tigers Jaw, Captain, We’re Sinking and, of course, The Menzingers who are over in the UK for the first time. So, ahead of their Newcastle show, Faye got talking to them about their local scene, the release of Chamberlain Waits and weed cookies.

Faye: Can you introduce yourselves?
Tom: Sure, I’m Tom, I play guitar and sing.
Greg: I’m Greg, I do the same, play guitar and sing.

Faye: How are you today?
Tom: Great, it’s not as cold as it was in Glasgow, that’s for sure, which is where we were yesterday, but there’s no Buckfast here.
Greg: That’s true, which is a good thing.
Tom: It’s this insane caffeinated spirit, it’s pretty intense.

Faye: Can you tell me a little bit of history about The Menzingers?
Tom: Well, we all played in separate bands when we were younger, they were ska bands. Then since we graduated high school and we kind of started that summer. Greg had played in a band with my brother, and Eric, Joe and I had played in a band together, and then we just kind of started jamming and took it from there.
Greg: We come from a town called Scranton, Pennsylvania and the scene is extremely small, so we all kind of played in the same kind of bands, so it just kind of went from there. Everyone knew each other because we always played shows together.

Faye: It still seems like a pretty good scene, with Tigers Jaw coming out of there too.
Greg: Yeah, the band I used to be in was with some of the guys from Tigers Jaws, and let me go on the record to say, I was the first member of Tigers Jaw. I didn’t play the first show, I quit, it was a battle of the bands thing, and I didn’t want to do it, so then Tom’s brother jumped in and played. They probably won’t say that, though. [laughs]

Faye: Aren’t Captain, We’re Sinking from there too?
Greg: Yeah, that’s my brother’s band too. Everybody has played in each other’s bands and dated each other’s girlfriends and everything. [laughs] It’s a very small scene.

Faye: Are there any other bands emerging from there?
Tom: I’d just say Captain, We’re Sinking, Tigers Jaw, and Title Fight who are from a little outside of Scranton, anyone else?
Greg: Yeah, those are probably the ones you’ll hear of, but there’s other bands in the States that are doing really well like The Holy Mess, Highlites and Dirty Tactics from Philly who are good friends of ours.

Faye: You said you used to play in ska bands, are you still into that kind music?
Tom: I am, The Specials are one of my favourite bands, for sure. I don’t really listen to many ska bands that are around now, actually, at all, except The Slackers, but it’s rhythmic music, it’s fun.
Greg: Yeah, kind of the same thing, I like it, but I don’t really listen to any modern ska bands, but I love The Specials and I love two-tone ska.
Tom: Both of our bands were really heavily influenced by ska-punk like Leftover Crack at the time and all that.
Faye: You can kind of hear it in your earlier records, they’re a lot more bouncy and upbeat.
Tom: When we first started, yeah. Then we got all jaded and angry.

Faye: So, it’s your first time coming over, how’s it been going for you?
Tom: It’s been amazing, especially with Leagues Apart, those guys are incredible people.
Greg: Yeah, we’ve been having a blast. We’ve toured the States numerous amount of times and it’s really fun to go somewhere where you don’t really know anybody. It’s a lot of fun, all the shows have been great. We had no idea what to expect, so seeing everyone singing along has been great, it’s been a lot of fun. Kingston was a great show, it was sold out. It was a fun one.

Faye: Did none of your band friends tell you want to expect?
Tom: We knew we were going to see Stonehenge, which we did and was awesome, but our friends that had been over before had just said that it’s a great place and people are really excited about music here, and they have been excited, so it’s been great.

Faye: The first time I heard about you was a couple of years ago from Broadway Calls, they always hype you in interviews.
Greg: Those guys are awesome, they took us on tour around the west coast for the first time and they’re still some of our best friends.
Tom: We’d love to tour with them again next year, that’d be great.
Greg: We were talking with them for a while about coming over here with them, but it just fell through.

Faye: Can you tell me some Broadway Calls gossip?
Tom: Ty brought weed cookies over and gave them to us at the Fest on the Friday and it wrecked our minds, totally. That was great, it was a lot of fun. Where he’s from on the west coast, in some states, you can buy baked goods for medical marijuana purposes and he got his hands on some and brought them to the Fest, and we stumbled around like zombies for the rest of the night. [laughs]
Greg: Yeah, the Friday night, they brought that over and I was already drinking, this was like really early on and I put it in my mouth, and I was like, ‘Why?! Spit it out, spit it out! Don’t do this!’ Then I was like, ‘I can do this!’, swallowed it, lost my voice all day Saturday just from partying so hard on the Friday night, so Saturday I didn’t drink at all because on Sunday we had to play.
Tom: I kept drinking, though. [laughs]
Greg: Yeah, he did all right, I didn’t do too well. [laughs]
Tom: I just remember regaining consciousness almost while The Suicide Machines were playing, feeling really high, then I just walked outside and it was pretty great.

Faye: So, you had a good time at the Fest?
Greg: Yeah, it was a blast, it’s always fun, we could say a million things about it, but it’s really fun running into everybody that you’re friends with.
Tom: You don’t see people for a year, and then you see everyone at once, it’s weird.

Faye: It seems like since that west coast tour with Broadway Calls, you’ve been getting on some amazing tours.
Greg: Yeah, it’s been absolutely crazy. I never thought at the beginning of this year, when we were recording the record that everything would have happened. We’ve been able to tour with some of our all-time favourite bands, so it’s definitely been a blessing and we definitely don’t take it for granted. It’s been awesome.

Faye: Do you feel that there’s hype around you guys now?
Tom: Well, we pay people to do interviews and things like that… [laughs]
Greg: It’s a tough question to ask the bands. [laughs] Things have been going really well, so I guess if you want to call it that.

Faye: It seems that this gruff punk kind-of sound is pretty popular these days, how do you keep it fresh?
Tom: Gruff punk? I’ve never heard of that! To answer that though without sounding pretentious, all four of us write songs, we just get together and smash them out using all our different influences and that’s what we come up with. It’s fun.
Greg: When we were writing the record, we made sure that every song didn’t sound like the exact same song we wrote before, because that just kind of gets boring, so we wanted to write a record that could flow real easily, but have every song sounding different, so I think we kind of did that. I hope so.

Faye: Chamberlain Waits was pretty different from your past releases, it seems a lot more punky and mellow, why was that?
Greg: There wasn’t any deliberate difference, we never went into it saying we were going to write a record that sounded like this or that, it was just the way the songs came out and I think it was just the time period.
Tom: It was the middle of the winter as well, I think that had some influence as well.

Faye: What do you say to people that say Chamberlain Waits sounds like Anti-Flag?
Tom: I’ve heard people say that, we were trying to figure it out, probably because it’s more up-tempo punk rock with harmonies and sing-a-longs, and they’re one of our favourite bands growing up, then they took us on tour twice this year, which was incredible. I think it’s a compliment

Faye: The Hold On, Dodge EP got amazing reviews, was there a bit of pressure with Chamberlain Waits?
Greg: There definitely was.
Tom: Especially time pressure.
Greg: Yeah, the time pressure was the main thing, and there was pressure to write good songs that you’d think everybody would like, but in the end, we didn’t really care as long as our friends in bands liked them, I couldn’t really give a shit if anyone else likes them. So, I knew if my friends like it and I liked it, then I didn’t really care if someone from Australia thought it was a rip-off of whatever, but it worked out.

Faye: Didn’t you release Chamberlain Waits the same day as The Flatliners’ Cavalcade? They’ve always hyped you as well in interviews. They told me you swapped records on the release day.
Greg: Yeah, that’s our next tour in Canada with The Flatliners! But, yeah, we found out we were releasing records on the same day, it was funny. I love Cavalcade, it’s one of my favourite of the year. I’m really excited to tour with them.
Tom: They’re lots of fun and they’re about our age, so a lot of stuff clicks.

Faye: Chamberlain Waits will probably be in a lot of people’s top 10 this year, what records will be in your top 10?
Greg: I think it’s going to be a lot of indie bands, no one will probably know who they are, but there’s a lot of great records like Frightened Rabbit put out a great record, and so did Titus Andronicus, they’re some of my favourite records that I’ve been listening to a lot. There’s also great punk records like The Flatliners’ Cavalcade.
Tom: The new Tigers Jaw is awesome, it’s incredible, that’s probably my number one favourite.
Greg: Tigers Jaw are some of our best friends, so I’m real excited for them to come over. It’s funny that we’re from this little tiny town in the middle of nowhere and it’s crazy to hear people that excited on another continent about the things we were doing five years ago, so that’s cool. Actually, looking at my iPod, the new Best Coast record is my favourite record of the year, and the new National and Gaslight Anthem records were really good, there’s been so many. Oh, and the new Fake Problems record is great too.

Faye: Are you hardcore dudes at all?
Tom: For a band called Dangers. We definitely enjoy hardcore, it’s just that it’s a different scene sometimes. We play a lot of shows with hardcore bands, like Outbreak are a great band and we’ve played hardcore festivals, but that’s kind of a different scene a little bit.

Faye: So, what’s next for The Menzingers after this tour?
Greg: We’ll be doing The Flatliners tour in December, then we’re going to play Home For The Holidays with Bouncing Souls and Leftover Crack in New Jersey, which should be fun. Then we’re going to be playing one really big show in Philadelphia at the First Unitarian Church, with Tigers Jaw, Algernon Cadwallader and Glocca Morra, and then after that, we’re going to write the next record. We’re going to be putting out an acoustic EP.
Tom: We’re working on it right now, so it should be done kind of soon.
Greg: Then we’ll pick up with touring after that, I guess. Take a break for a little bit because we’ve been pretty busy this year.

Faye: Do you know when you’ll be coming back here?
Greg: Hopefully, at the end of August.
Tom: We’ve been talking about a Scranton, PA tour over here, that’d be ridiculous, it’d be us, Tigers Jaw and Captain, We’re Sinking.

Faye: Change The Record, who should we be listening to?
Greg: I guess the bands we’ve mentioned that are local to us, those are the bands we support and go see all the time.
Tom: Of course, The Flatliners, Broadway Calls, Fake Problems, Cobra Skulls, all the bands we love to play with. Dead To Me, we got to tour with them this year and we ended up getting along with them really well, we love those guys so much.

Faye: I think that’s about it, is there anything else you want to say?
Tom: We love the UK!

Faye Turnbull.

Many thanks to The Menzingers for the interview, and for more information on the band, visit:
www.facebook.com/themenzingers
www.twitter.com/themenzingers
www.myspace.com/themenzingers

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