The Menzingers' Tom May Discusses Touring With His Heroes, Like The Descendents and Bouncing Souls
Punk is just too stubborn to die. Because of the genre's tenacity, some young bands are lucky enough to tour with artists that have been making music for decades. The Menzingers have played shows with The Descendents, and the group is currently on the third leg of a tour with The Bouncing Souls.
"We grew up listening to them. Some of the first shows we went to were their shows, so to have it come full circle like this a couple years later is pretty gratifying," says vocalist and guitarist Tom May.
We recently caught up with Tom May to discuss the band's latest album, On the Impossible Past, his first time meeting The Lawrence Arms' Brendan Kelly, and how the punk community responds to stolen gear.
Up on the Sun: How is the tour going so far? Tom May: So far, it's going amazing. It's almost like it never stops. We went to Europe with The Bouncing Souls and then to Canada, and we're going to spend the entire summer . . . It's going to be like how it's been the last eight days, it's gonna be a great time.
What's it been like playing shows with The Bouncing Souls? It's great. We grew up listening to them, some of the first shows we went to were their shows, so to have it come full circle like this a couple years later is pretty gratifying. Looks like you have a bit of that coming up since you're playing with The Descendents at Riot Fest. We got to play with them a couple of times last year, and we're playing with them at Riot Fest Brooklyn in a month or two. That's going to be amazing.
On the Impossible Past has been met with lots of positive feedback. Was the final product what you set out to make? Speaking in absolutes, it's the album we eventually set out to make. We always want to challenge ourselves to get better. It definitely came out the way we wanted it to come out when we were writing it. It came out even better than we thought, we wrote this one all at once, so we came up with a couple of ideas and wrote the album all at the same time. It wasn't really a collection of songs -- it became more of an album. One thing that really stands out is the vivid songwriting. Are most of the songs based on actual experiences? A lot of songs are based on actual experiences, experiences you hear, or things that happened to people that we knew, things like that, yeah, they relate back to personal things.
You guys worked with Brendan Kelly on the song "So It Goes," and he had a lot to do with you guys getting signed to Red Scare. What was it like when you first met him? It was funny for me when I first met him because I didn't recognize him. I had never seen The Lawrence Arms before, but I liked them a lot. He was at our merch table at The Fest and we were all drunk already. He was like, "Uhh, hey do you have any t-shirts?" And we were like, "No, we don't have them, sorry." He was like, "All right, come watch my band later on." "Oh, cool, what's your band?" "The Lawrence Arms," and I was, like, ah, dammit.
It was funny. He came and watched our set that day. My guitar broke, so I didn't even play guitar for the whole set. I didn't have a belt, so I was using a lanyard to hold my pants up, and it was just big chaos and he really enjoyed it, so he introduced us to Toby [Jeg] and that's how we got signed to Red Scare, it was a lot of fun.
CM Punk came out to one of your shows recently. Did you get to meet him? Yeah, we did. He's a really, really nice guy, he's so down to earth and cool . . . and big and scary.
So, as crazy as meeting Brendan Kelly? No, that was crazy, but I didn't recognize him, either, when he walked in. Someone was like, "That's a champ right there," I'm like "Oh, my god, a champ?" I'm not really into wrestling at all. I was real into it when it was Ultimate Warrior and Jake the Snake and all of that. A couple of my friends still follow wrestling -- they were all really jealous.
What does your band name mean, and how did you come up with it? We came up with it a couple years ago; it's a secret. There's no soul-crushing ironic genius behind the name or anything like that. It's just kind of a goofy thing that we stuck with. You guys got robbed last month. Has there been any resolution regarding your gear? It's been resolved in the sense that the entire punk community across the world kind of came together and helped us out. It was almost absurd. It was amazing. A lot of names came up of people that donated that we hadn't talked to in years. That was really reaffirming of everything we're trying to do. As far as the people that robbed us, they didn't catch them, and the security cameras weren't working or whatever and that put a big damper on it, but The Bouncing Souls really helped us out and took really good care of us while we were in Europe, and all of our friends were there, and so I would say, yeah, it did get resolved. It seems like I'm hearing a lot stories about bands getting their gear stolen. Is that just what people are talking about, or have you noticed a bit of that happening to other bands as well? I think it would be difficult for somebody to get the actual numbers of bands getting ripped off and things like that, but we have been in quite a recession for a long time, and I really think that there's a correlation between that. I think that hitting a band is a really easy score. You're going to get a bunch of high-value stuff that's not guarded very well. It's very easy to get rid of it, taking the serial numbers off. Some bands are insured and some aren't, but I just think that all kinds of small crimes like that are on the rise, especially with bands.
I guess the silver lining is it's such a tight-knit community that people are willing to help out. Absolutely. I almost feel bad that people that get their house robbed or their small business robbed aren't a member of a community like that.
The Menzingers and Bouncing Souls are scheduled to perform Sunday, July 8, at at Nile Theater.
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