When the call with The Menzingers’ Tom May finally comes through it becomes clear that the guitarist and vocalist is at the end of a rather long day of endless interviews, media and publicity. Yet as soon as our conversation begins and our attention turns to his bands upcoming Australian tour, May speaks with an enthusiasm and honesty of a man who is truly excited at the prospect of getting to grace our shores once more. “Last time we had a lot of fun just hanging out and going to the beach and just trying to find out as much about Australia as we could,” he says. “And just trying to see it from the perception that you see it from, it’s just incredibly interesting.”
According to May, the Pennsylvanian natives have also made sure that they have scheduled in enough down time in between shows in order to check out a bit more of the scenery; particularly the beach . “Besides playing at the shows which were so much fun last time, that’s what we are really looking forward to coming to Australia for,” he admits.
Kicking off in August, the tour will not only see The Menzingers take in most major parts of the country but will also see them supporting legendary punk rock veterans Pennywise. “We haven’t played with them before and we’ve never met them before but I mean we grew up listening to them,” admits May. “So it’s one of those situations where it’s going to be our first experience playing with them in Australia. It’s like a dream come true; it’s going to be awesome.”
Things have certainly changed a lot for The Menzingers in the last year or so. Originally born out of the Pennsylvanian pop punk scene, the band slowly started carving out a name for themselves through the release of two full length albums (2007’s A lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology and 2009's Chamberlain Waits) as well as a number of EPs and singles. Their straight up, heart on the sleeve-type punk rock tunes starting gaining them more and more admirers but it was in May of 2011 that things really changed. Having caught the attention of Epitaph boss Brett Gurewitz, The Menzingers were handpicked by the man himself to join the infamous label. “A lot has changed,” admits May reflecting on the past year or so. “We’re getting more and more opportunities then we were getting before, our record seems to be a bigger deal than any of the records that we had before, people seem to really enjoy it at the moment. People are sometimes more excited about those songs than the older songs.”
The exposure The Menzingers have received from being a part of the Epitaph family is up until not so long ago, something the four members could have only dreamed about. A number of high profile tours with the likes of The Gaslight Anthem and Against Me! have further increased their reach as well as their fan base. “I think on Epitaph; it’s definitely a realised dream,” admits May. “You know, we grew up listening to all the bands on Epitaph and it was always like a joke with our friends – 'Oh yeah, maybe someday we’ll get signed to Epitaph.' And we did! So it’s still pretty surreal.”
Perhaps the most important aspect of becoming part of the Epitaph family was the release of The Menzingers third album On The Impossible Past. Released earlier this year, the record is awash with anthemic punk rock, retrospective lyrics and delivered with real honesty and passion. Recorded at Atlas Studios in Chicago, it was the bands relationship with producers Matt Allison and Justin Yates which helped them realise their vision for the record. “They’re becoming really, really good friends of ours and the record would not have come out the way it come out [without them], that’s for sure,” says May. “He (Allison) is so good at getting out of us what we need to come out of us. He just has such a grasp on those things, he’s just such a good person and we spent, with the recording probably ten hours and in the night we’d just sit around and drink shitty beers and talk about music and life and I think we ended up becoming best friends. I think he’s just an incredible person that I'll hopefully know for the rest of my life. I think that Matt definitely affected the way the record came out.”
Being afforded the opportunity to get away from their hometown and record in another city also allowed The Menzingers to draw inspiration from a different atmosphere, a different vibe, as well as letting them completely focus on the task at hand. “The recording in Chicago; Chicago’s such a great place,” he says. “Its about 13 hours drive away from Philadelphia so all of the things in our life, our normal life, were not distracting while we were recording. So I think that’s why recording in Chicago was so important for this record.”
The recording process for On The Impossible Past has certainly been paying dividends for The Menzingers with the number of glowing reviews seemingly growing by the day. And according to May, the new songs have been going down just as well at the shows. “It’s been received incredibly,” he says honestly. “When we play the new songs there’s a huge response even more so than the older songs sometimes. It’s been received really well. While we’re touring now we play mostly songs off the new record. Its going over really well and it’s so much fun to play live.”
BY JAMES NICOLI
THE MENZINGERS play with Pennywise and Sharks on Sunday August 26 at The Palace. On The Impossible Past is out through Epitaph.