sábado, julio 05, 2014

COOL MUTATIONS (an interview with THE MEN)

The english versión of our interview with THE MEN, one of the best bands we've listened to lately. They come from New York, and they have turned from some excellent noise polluted punk to a more classic Rock&Roll approach in their new álbum, "Tomorrow's Hits" (Sacred bones records), where traces of Creedence Clearwater revival, The Saints or Big Star can be found, perfectly mixed with the strong, blatant personality of the band. A collection of hits and fresh masterpieces, the album deserved a long talk. So here it is: Nick Chiericozzi (guitar, voice), one of the three songwriters in the band, answers our weird questions about life and how to live it. Enjoy. (you can find the spanish versión HERE)

- “Tomorrow’s Hits” was the first record of yours that I listened to, so I was not familiar with your previous work. Later, I checked those other records and loved them, too. The permanent change is quite evident. How did it happen? How did the fan base recieved the new directions?

- Thank you. It was a deliberate effort to make different sounding records each time we started recording. The foundation for the band's sound comes from guitar rock and roll in all it's cool permutations. The new album came from us passing songs back and forth in a basically acoustic format with us playing a lot quieter than usual. I'm still surprised that the new album sounds the way it does although I don't listen to it… if that makes sense. We've gained and lost fans along the way with each recording. I'm sure people left us after Immaculada LP and new people arrived for the next one.

- What are your first memories related to music? How did your love for music began and how did it develop?

- The first music I remember hearing was in the Catholic church. I don't think I understood that it was music, but everyone was standing and singing. It must've been around Christmas because the congregation was singing "Joy to the World". I can still hear my aunt sounding like a man with her deep raspy delivery and my mom looking at me expecting me to sing out, which she still does when I visit them. The idea that music could be fun unfolded in sugar pop songs played by my then teenage sister. This was around 1986-87. We sang "Dancing with Myself" by Billy Idol and danced together on her bed. I loved it. My brother was more into "badass" stuff like the Beastie Boys and Motley Crue. He played "Smoking in the Boys Room", which I thought was a great tune.

- What can we expect from your gigs? A mix between the old, noisier stuff and today’s hits? You’ve said that you try to deliver a whole different approach to music in each occasion…

We're trying to move into older material that we never played live before. We've been playing stuff from our first LP and songs off of Leave Home. We're going to rehearse next week, so it's a bit unclear what the set will be at this point. Of course my first step at a show is to get a guitar sound that I'm happy with and one that sits well in the mix, which is difficult when you're using rented gear. We don't have the money to bring our own stuff abroad, so we try to use equipment that is tried and true like older Fenders, Vox's, Marshall's or Ampegs. I used a weird new Fender amp for a festival and I'll never do that again. When what you're bringing to the show sounds good it allows you to get comfortable and go to places beyond the stage and sometimes - the corporate banner.

- Personally I love bands that evolve fast, Hüsker Dü, to give a classical example of evolution and change. That changing gives me the sensation that the minds inside the band are fast, fresh-thinkin’ entities and care more about art than about getting a position in the business. Is it hard to keep that changes flowing, not to settle down at a particular sound?

- Evolution is a success. When we're in a positive frame of mind I feel we can do anything as a band. If business is your main concern, that's fine, a lot of folks are very keen on that side of things. I want to survive as a musician, but I'm not going to let us go into the studio with songs that sound like rewritten versions of the last album's stuff just because the last record was successful. What's going to last? Certainly not money, it's your music and how you navigated the times you were forced into.

- “Tomorrow’s hits” is indeed a collection of hits, for me. A collection of perfect singles. Is there any concept that connects one song to each other?

Thanks a lot. That's nice to hear. Conceptually I don't believe there's an overall theme to the record except maybe in the artwork and the consistent drum tones from track to track. I hear themes pop up within each songwriter's head (we had three guys writing on the album). For example Mark's songs seem to evoke nighttime and exhaustion.

- The beginning of “Dark Waltz” reminded me of The Creedence Clearwater Revival, some other songs brought Neil Young, Big Star or The Saints (“A little madness to be free” album, in particular) to my mind. One of the things I appreciate about you and about most of the bands I love nowadays is that the huge amount of influences that the listener can distinguish don’t make that bands be a rip off at all. Anyway, “plagiarism” has always been a tool in the rock&roll world. What do you think about this?

- Absolutely, I had CCR in my head when we were recording that song. It's cool you could hear that. Actually the only CCR bit I had in mind was some of the lead stuff right before the vocals come in. The song was written on a Nashville tuned acoustic guitar and then I brought in to the guys. We've had a long history of blatantly co-opting material and celebrating our heroes with no masking whatsoever. Today, I would like to evolve into songwriting that is less borrowed and less appropriated. At the same time I realize we are living and building onto a tradition (music) that is older than language, so you are going to eventually sound like something that has come before. The most obvious example in rock and roll of plagiarism is Elvis. Presley got his music from other sources (hillbilly, gospel, blues, etc) and when it was all said and done it was this new thing that changed so much. I'm not sure Sam Phillips and Elvis gave enough credit to all the people that made rock and roll pop into the world, but I don't think people did that in the 50's, especially when the money was rolling in. His early records are very good though, so what do you do with that? You listen to them (if you want). Music has to stand on its own. Before analysis. Before genre and classification. It has to be felt.

- I would like to know what influences you aesthetically, philosophically, etc, apart from music.

- Aesthetically the noir films and novels with all their woe ridden outcasts, the messes they create for themselves and their quest for resolution through alcohol, greed, sex or violence. Philosophically, I find the two beer philosophy to be best. My favorite things are created from coffee in the morning or from an afternoon when the sun doesn't slam into us too hard.

- How do you work? (how many times a week you rehearse, how does your composing method works, the space you need to create, etc…) It really depends on if we are scheduled to play live on whether or not we rehearse. We know our stuff. If we're writing and there is a general sense that the new material is good, we'll practice a lot. I typically write on my Yamaha FG-135 acoustic guitar or on my Les Paul into a one 12" Fender Princeton Reverb.

- What are your lyrics mainly about? What’s the importance you give to the lyrics in the context of an album?

- The new album has three songwriters, which is a blessing and curse. It's amazing this thing even works. Recently, I've placed more importance on lyrics. This came about after the new album was finished. I noticed myself not relating to some of the prior songs I had written while we were playing shows. If you're going to be playing songs and singing them for 30 years the lyrics better be good and some of mine haven't been.

- I think that music can define –even unintentionally- the lapse of time and history in which it is composed and played. Do you think that what you do defines or describes somehow the place and times you live in? How?

- Sometimes. I think time and recording and documenting are very interesting because they're both inventions of humanity. Music can destroy time and you forget that you're aging and losing skin and hair while the universe expands. That's a cool thing. I've written lyrics about the future and the past and sang them in the moment so we have a pretty weird non linear thing happening. A very simple statement can define our time and maybe the entire experience of men and women. I think Dylan spoke to a whole group of people, but not for a group of people at a particular point. Lady Gaga, the MC5 and the Ramones too. Those are major cultural figures, I'm just trying to craft something that sounds good to me.

- What’s the importance the city you live in has over the music you play?

New York is why I'm here doing this otherwise I'd be some place else.

- Can you live out of your music? Does Rock&Roll pay the bills?

-  I do make a living so to speak. Touring is really the main source of income for us since we don't sell a lot of records.

- What are your intentions as a band? Can you see a limit because of the kind of music you play? Would you like to be commercially as big as, say, Black Keys, or you prefer to stay a litter bit lower in the scale and not be forced to play with johnny Deep?

- Our intention is to make something that keeps the world OK for a while without noticing time. 14- What would be your definition of success? I feel successful right now. We've made albums, toured to a lot of different places, helped other bands out and made new friends. We didn't get rich, but whatever. This band has given me a lot more confidence as a person. I don't see it as my total identity which I think is important. There's a whole other world out there than the music scene. Musically and tonally I hope I'm never totally satisfied. The quest to write better lyrics and different kinds of songs keeps me hungry.

- What does the word punk means for you nowadays?

- Freedom.

- If there’s a message behind your music, what would it be?

- There's no message in our music other than a continuation of what music is to people since it began: beauty, disruptiveness and enjoyment - oh and you can do this too.

- Name me five new bands we shouldn’t miss.

- Remnants (Brooklyn, NY), Gun Outfit (Los Angeles CA), Mercury Living Presence (Port Jefferson, NY), Purling Hiss (Philadelphia, PA), Warthog (Brooklyn, NY).

- What comes after death?

-Another turn of…

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