Don’t let The Office fool you: Scranton’s music scene is a whole lot bigger than Police cover bands. Scranton, Pennsylvania, is the stomping grounds of the almighty Menzingers.
Formed in 2006, The Menzingers consist of Tom May and Greg Barnett (both sharing guitar/vocal duties), Joe Godino (drums), and Eric Keen (bass). Not a lot of bands can pull off having two frontmen without it turning into some nasty power struggle (case in point: Husker Du), but The Menzingers pull it off gracefully. And few bands benefit from having two songwriters working at the peak of their craft: 2017’s After The Party was one of last year’s most affecting records, a bracing 13-song collection about watching your 20s receding in the rear view mirror.
“Waiting for your life to start, then you die,” they sing on “House on Fire,” perfectly capturing the weird combination of inertia and eagerness that afflicts so many of us in our 20s: the feeling that our life is about to start for real any second now, and we’re just killing time until it happens. And the even more sobering revelation that awaits us down the road: That feeling doesn’t go away when you get older.
The album also spotlights another quality of the band: their great taste in music videos. The band’s earlier video work is full of examples of memorable clips, like the video for “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore,” which features Friday the 13th’s Jason trying to be a better person by reading self-help books, and using his machete skills as a line cook. “That video was wild,” Barnett says. “We’d do interviews at places like Sirius satellite radio, and people were coming up to us from the hip-hop and R&B departments to tell us that everyone in the office is sharing that video. It almost became bigger than the band.”
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The video for title track “After The Party” tells the story of a relationship in less than four minutes, depicting all the ecstatic highs and crushing lows two people can put themselves through, while also giving us a sense of what their city is like. “We wanted to make sure it felt very Philadelphia,” Barnett says about the video.
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After The Party boasts a richer, more muscular sound than their past records. Part of the credit goes to producer Will Yip, whose ear for dynamics, and ability to make guitars sound as searing and rich as molten gold, also helped groups like Title Fight put out their best work to date. And while The Menzingers are riding high on the success of After The Party, they’re not resting on their laurels. Between long touring jags, they’ve been recording new material — like the surprise single “Toy Soldier,” which came out at the end of May.
Barnett says that the one-off single is the band playing around with a different approach to releasing music. “It’s cool to have the freedom to record and put out a song right away, instead of waiting so long for the album process,” he says. “We didn’t really know what we wanted to do with ‘Toy Soldier’ — do we save it for an album, or an EP … So we thought, why don’t we release it as a single?”
While the band hasn’t confirmed if there’s a new full-length or EP coming out later this year, Barnett says that “Toy Soldier” wasn’t the only new song in their vaults. Just because After The Party’s party is over doesn’t mean they can’t start up a new one. And who doesn’t like a good surprise party?
The Menzingers will be playing on Friday, June 15, at The Van Buren in downtown Phoenix. Tickets are $35 at thevanburenphx.com.