After the release of Monsters In The Closet, American band Mayday Parade felt they were becoming too predictable, and they needed to shake things up. The aggressive, darker but strangely refreshing Black Lines seemed to be the right response: the dramatic and ‘never-too-crazy’ approach got an honest and powerful boost and made the Tallahassee five-piece again the talk of the town. LLUID sat down with bassist Jeremy Lenzo before their show in Dynamo, Eindhoven to talk about their musical aspirations from now on, beards in the studio and the importance of social media for bands.
Your latest record Black Lines has been out for a while and it sounds a lot more aggressive than you usually do. Why is that?
“We wanted to do something that was different and something we felt strong about. Weve been a band for ten years now, we grew up. What we listened to then is different than what we listen to now. For this record, we wanted to do more rock. Thats kinda where we lean now. We felt if we ever wanted to evolve into a new band, we would have to take risk and do things different. Black Lines is some sort of a crossover record, and the next record will be even more different.”
How far will you take your musical experiments in the future? Can we expect different genres?
“Its our fifth record, and when we look back all our other albums sound a bit the same. As a band you need to push your boundaries and experiment. We’ve been taking it easy, but now we wanna see what we are capable of doing and what type of sound we can get away with. It might be a lot different or a little, who knows. It will probably still be rock, but it will have influences of other things. Normally we just do pop rock, but we wanna be more experimental with guitars. People know what to expect. You need to push yourself as an artist, try different things.”
Black lines are often used to censor things or words. By naming your record this way, are you uncensoring yourself?
“Thats one way of looking at it, we defenitely had that aspect of the title in mind. All of our previous records have been influenced by things others wanted us to do, we wrote songs we knew people would like. This time we wanted to write songs we’d like and to things we wanted to do. That’s kind of the same of uncensoring of distancing ourselves of things we’ve done in the past. We still feel like there are some subjects we wouldnt approach now. People say that you should never talk about politics and stuff. You can say the wrong things and lose a lot of fans. Just look at Justin Bieber; he said a lot of stupid things some time ago and lost a lot of fans, so you don;t wanna ever get in a situation where you say the wrong things without thinking about the consequences.”
Last year you released the documentary Three Cheers for Ten Years, about your career as a band for the last decade. In that documentary you say that MySpace helped you gaining popularity. Can social media nowadays still help bands like they helped you ten years ago?
“Social media is a big part of getting your name out there, but when we started there was just MySpace. Facebook was only for college students, it was all so different back then. I think its harder to get noticed now because there are so many bands pushing their stuff on social media. It is becoming harder to outdo one another. With just MySpace it was pretty easy to focus on one thing as a band, and now you need to be on Twitter, Instagram and all the other stuff. I think that spreads a band out and people lose attention, because their spreading themselves thin over multiple social sites. We’re probably the worst band to do social media, we always talk about how we need to do more. When we grew up, there wasn’t as many social media and the majority of us don’t like to do social media. I rather text someone than tweeting it, or send pictures to friends instead of putting them on Instagram. It’s all foreign to me and I’m not familiar with it, but you have to it as a band.”
In Three Cheers for Ten Years, which was shot during the recording of Black Lines, you have these beards you normally don’t have. Do you grow them as some sort of recording ritual?
“Normally, we start growing our beards out when we start writing for the record. Five months before recording the songs we start writing as a group. We start growing then and wont shave them off until the record is done, so overall we grow them for seven months. At the end of this record Alex and I had the biggest beards. I usually grow my beard, so I’m pretty used to it.”
During the AP Tour last year, you played with the bands As It Is, Real Friends and This Wild Life, who are younger than you are. What are the differences between bands that have been around for a couple of years and a band like Mayday Parade?
“There are some differences, but most of those differences are related to the amount of experience. We try to really give them advice on their career, like “okay, you’re signed now, make sure you do these things right”. We try to give them some advice here and there. But most bands that are signed are good bands: somebody noticed that they were special, so you never critique anyone’s music. You give them advice for ways they can make their band grow. A big part of it is just to be hospitable: you invite them on the bus, play some games and throw a pizza party. I’m not very good at giving advice, but I try to make the others feel welcome. Derek normally gives the advice, haha. And they showed us how to keep having fun. We still have fun, but we don’t party as much as the younger bands normally do. So they pull us out and let us party with them, they show us how to still have a lot of fun with our careers.”
Photos: Thomas Smit