Reinventing The Feel

29 June 2012 | 10:27 am | Daniel Cribb

“I was mentally preparing myself days before. I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is going to be the hardest thing ever.’

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Say Anything first set foot in Australia for their appearance at the '09 Soundwave Festival. And while they made a strong impression across the country, fans who found themselves watching the Californians at the festival really only got the tip of the Say Anything iceberg. “That was amazing. For a festival run it was really inviting and awesome; I had a great time in Australia our first time there,” frontman Max Bemis says of Soundwave. “There's always a mixture [of feelings] when you play somewhere that you haven't played before. There's getting used to each other – the fans and the band – and then there's also this really profound excitement because it's the first time people get to hear a lot of these songs live. For us, a headlining show is a pretty over-the-top thing. We don't just go out there and play the songs. It's a very involving thing; you're going to leave tired if you're a big fan. It's going to be a very different set to our festival set… The very act of how we perform makes every show different. It's not overly rehearsed and it's a pretty crazy punk show. You'll see something different every time you come see us,” he emphasises.

It's not only their stage show that will be different when they venture across the Pacific Ocean for their first Australian headline tour with Melbourne's The Getaway Plan supporting. Since flying home from Soundwave in '09, Bemis and co. have written and released a new album, which came out this year and redefines them as not only musicians, but individuals. And if you plan on questioning Say Anything's new self-image as a punk band, be ready to endure the wrath of Bemis.

“[Anarchy, My Dear] is my crowning achievement. It's my favourite thing I've ever done and I wouldn't change anything about it. It wasn't hard to write because my mindset shifted into a place that I think is definitely punk. And if anyone disagrees, you know, fuck them A, and B, it could have been arranged in any way and I think it would have still be as quote, unquote 'punk', because the record is written about rebellion and challenging the status quo and freeing your mind. To me, that is what punk is about. So whether it's an amazing record or a shitty record or it's loud or soft, it doesn't matter. To me, it's a punk record. It was definitely written from the mindset of what I consider to be a punk rock mindset.”

Punk usually comes with connotations of four-chord songs that anyone could play. And it's safe to say that you don't need to be a regular Joe Satriani to pick up a guitar and start a punk band in your mate's garage, but Say Anything has entered the realm whilst perfecting their performance. “I've definitely become a better guitar player. There's a lot denser, detail-orientated guitar playing on the new record. Whereas originally I just had a few tricks that I would just use over and over again. My methods of playing guitar have changed a lot and it sort of lends itself to the music changing in these big ways. Before I would just have to play a few open-ended power chords, but now I can build these complex arrangements. My voice is very different too: it's not just me gutter-screaming all the time. I think the biggest change is just refinement. I take a lot of stock in what I do. There's a lot more confidence and effort put into [Say Anything] at this stage.”

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But the band hasn't traded in their fun antics and imagery during their punk rock awakening; this much was confirmed with the release of their most recent music video for the song Say Anything. The clip, produced through stop-motion, took the band three days to shoot and features an impressive amount of attention to detail. At one point, Bemis' brother-in-law makes a cameo inside of a human drum suit taking on members of the band in a boxing match. Impressive doesn't quite sum up the end result of their hard work. Partnering their new musical direction with such comical imagery, in a tasteful way, is their way of telling fans they're still a fun bunch of guys to be around. “We were given a really decent budget, but it was actually a very cheap video to make because it was all making things and doing things with household items. As much as it took a lot of effort, it was mostly a very arduous, painstaking process of preparing that was different than the average music video. The average music video, you just throw a lot of money together and create a spectacle. Whereas, with this, every little tiny thing counted, and that's where the money and effort went – into making it very detail-orientated.

“I was mentally preparing myself days before. I was like, 'Oh my god, this is going to be the hardest thing ever.' But it turned out, once we got there and started doing it, that it was really fun. We were able to talk in-between the pictures and we improvised a lot, which was fun. I never got exhausted or pissed or frustrated. I was very aware that this was hard and that I just had to keep my head up and do it.”

So what's next for the Say Anything? Will they default back to poppy lyrics, or continue on their quest to educate the masses? “Until the world really gets its shit together – which is going to be hundreds of years, at least – I think those things will be pissing me off. I think I'll be pissed off at those things as long as I live. It's just more about making the effort to change them in a small way in my life, even though there's not much I can do, but I'll do what I can…I think the foundation of my personal development will be built upon this last record because, you know, it's just where I'm at, and every record is just a reflection of where I'm at as a person. A lot of the realisations that I had about the world that are encapsulated on this record aren't going to go away ever. So even if I write about something different, it's going to be coming from that standpoint.”