Interview | Photos | Max Bemis | Say Anything

By: John Ravert

Click here to see photos from Say Anything's show at Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA!

The Chameleon Club in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is located in a metropolitan setting, flanked by a series of fine art galleries and trendy upscale wine bars. Its surroundings and environment contrast to the rural, Amish farming communities so popularly associated with the area. We sat down with Max Bemis, the bold lyricist and front man of Say Anything, a few hours before their show at The Chameleon to discuss the 12-year history of the band and their latest release, Anarchy, My Dear.

JamBase: A lot of power pop/punk bands began their start around the same time as Say Anything and have since disappeared. What has held the band together and helped you to sustain?

Max Bemis: The truth is there were elements of our band that were radically different than those bands. That’s one thing that has helped differentiate us from that passing phase. I think that there were some amazing bands that came from that time, but one thing mainly was our sense of irony and a sense of humor; dark black humor about the entire thing. With some bands, there was no subtlety; your heart on your sleeve - but not in a good way; there was almost no artistry to it. We went the other route, to be awkwardly autobiographical but to be aware of that and poke fun of it. So I think that when people started becoming disenfranchised with that type of song writing we had always had a sense of knowing that it was a bit silly.

Say Anything by John Ravert
Who influenced you during your writing and recording of Is a Real Boy, your breakthrough record?

I have always been a fan of Woody Allen. I grew up Jewish and have always been steeped in this neurotic culture of self-awareness, a self-effacing Jew. I think that someone like Richard Lewis or Larry David, that tradition of fighting with the darkest part of you, exposing it like a raw, open nerve and letting people into it, and using it to entertain people was always a huge influence on my work. It came to a point where it struck a chord. It was our first proper release, but it wouldn’t have had the effect that it did if it wasn’t honest.

I find your lyrics to be very bold. Upon that release, were there any reservations about what you were to write and record?

I never had reservations about reveling personal things about myself through my music. There have been times where I have thought, “Is that too gross; will it offend anyone like my 12 year old niece who listens to the band?” I’d like us not to be exploitative but never have I thought twice about revealing something that might make me seem pathetic or pose as embarrassing. It’s a part of me that even in my day to day dealings with the people that are close to me, I am always able to reveal something that is potentially awkward or embarrassing as long as it makes other people laugh. That’s just who I am.

Was there a definitive moment when you realized “we made it?”

There were several benchmarks leading up to this moment, like getting signed, getting a great booking agent really early on and I thought “Oh crap – things are happening!” But I think the moment that most stands out was when we played the Bamboozle festival and they let us play the main stage, which was crazy to me. Thousands and thousands of kids singing along, knowing the words, and acting as if we were any of the other, more important bands on the bill. I remember being so overwhelmed that I threw up right after we played. I think that was when I realized that we were one of these bands that people consider to be well known.

What keeps you busy during free time?

I read comic books obsessively – literally.

Say Anything by John Ravert
What inspires you to keep writing and releasing new material?

The reality I have been dealt is that there are a lot of kids who this band means a lot to. The attention to detail and the respect to whatever I put out there inspires me to treat what I do with a lot of onus. I don’t know what it would be like to be a local band playing to our friends, not to say we didn’t do that in the beginning, but for your entire career, and I’d like to think that I’d still put as much effort into it. But it’s hard to argue with the amount of love and respect that we’ve been dealt. That, and my base artistic impulses of song writing, wanting to write a song I’d want to hear, and take challenges with new things. The fact that the audience is pretty open minded and likes when I flick the switch, adds convenience but it’s not something I take for granted; it’s something I play off of.

Tell me about your most recent release, Anarchy, My Dear

I’m proud of it. I’m glad that kids have latched onto it the same way they have latched onto our other records. That’s the most I can ask for. It makes me want to make another record and outdo it. That will hopefully be how it goes on perpetually.

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