The Men Frontman Mark Perro Talks 2014's Tomorrow's Hits, J Dilla's Donuts, Brainfeeder & Their Forthcoming Fireball of a Hardcore Punk Album, Devil Music (The Witzard Interview)
"Today, we announce our forthcoming full-length record, Devil Music, on our very own We Are The Men Records. The LP will be available on Friday, November 11, 2016. We found a [farm] and scratched down the songs on this LP after just a couple of days in our practice space. Luckily, our space and our studio are the same exact f**king room!, so the proceedings went quickly. “Gun” was [cut on] Friday after our shifts and some messing around with a Harry Nilsson tune. The rest were recorded on Saturday and Sunday, the holy days. You haven’t heard much from us lately, have you? It’s good to be alive and playing music," read a typewritten statement, addressed to "Everyone," published to The Men's Blogspot-run band site Monday, September 12th. It's an odd coincidence, since I was just listening to their infectious Creedance, Bob Dylan, and Rolling Stones-influenced 2014 album, Tomorrow's Hits on my Nexus 7 recently at work and wondering when the next, normally annually-released, The Men album would likely surface. Nick, Mark, Kevin & Rich additionally wrote that while Devil Music will be released on their own newly-formed We Are The Men Music, "Sacred Bones Records will carry copies and your record store should have it" and that LP copies will become available for pre-order within the 'Store' section of their site. Devil Music, equal parts a new beginning and return-to-form for Brooklyn's The Men, is reminiscent of Black Flag's righteous Free Jazz and Hardcore Punk-melding Process of Weeding Out EP meets Dead Kennedy's frantic 1987 anti-hits collection, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. I've been lucky enough over the course of the past month or so, to have been in contact with The Men founding member, frontman, and guitarist Mark Perro and conduct the in-depth, 14-question interview, to effectively align with Consequence of Sound's premier of "Crime," which you now see transcribed below; Perro candidly spoke on everything from the departure of bassist and guitar player Ben Greenberg to recording New Moon, Tomorrow's Hits, and Devil Music to his recent affinity for J Dilla's swan song, Donuts, as well as Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder collective.
Your Punk Rock Purveyor,
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
I. How has The Men’s core line-up changed since the recording and release of Tomorrow’s Hits–most noticeably, the recent departure of bassist, guitar player, and in-house producer Ben Greenberg (2011-14)?
Was he in the band that long? My memory doesn’t serve me as well as it used to. He was always kind of around, even when he wasn’t in the band–he produced Leave Home and Open Your Heart, we’d play with his bands, Pygmy Shrews and Hubble. He was close. [Ben] joined officially right before we went to Australia for the first time. He joined as the bass player, which was probably a foolish move on both of our parts. He’s one of the most talented guitar players I know, so, I dunno, it caused some friction. Too many egos in the room for a while there. We tried to make it work–we recorded New Moon and Tomorrow’s Hits together. They were both recorded in 2012, actually. Then, we were just on the road forever–we didn’t really write any songs at all until 2015, which just shows you where all of our heads were at. We’d never gone that long before without writing new material.
So, to answer the question–it’s now just the four of us: me and Nick [Chiericozzi] on guitars, Kevin [Faulkner] moved full time onto bass (he was playing lap steel primarily, although, he’s a natural bass player), and Rich [Samis] still on drums. Everything got so crazy with the sound and just all the stuff surrounding the band. We wanted to trim it down, get back to where we came from.
II. Sound-wise and stylistically, how did you guys manage to seamlessly transition from New Moon (“Post-Punk”) to Tomorrow’s Hits (“Garage Punk”) to your forthcoming Devil Music (“Punk/Noise”)?
I don’t think it was anything conscious. [We were] just doing what we do; trying to follow some sort of muse. New Moon was kind of a mess, in hind sight, we were all over the place. Chris [Hansell] just left the band, Ben [Greenberg] was brand new and Kevin [Faulkner] was moving full-time into the band. With that said, that was one of the most free times creatively I’ve ever felt in my life. We were experimenting with every possible sound. We took over a house upstate [New York], build a studio from nothing, and just went to work 16-20 hours a day for two weeks or something like that, just going for it. Somebody had an idea, "f*ck it, let’s do it. That was the attitude.
Tomorrow’s Hits, on the other hand, was a mess in a totally different way. We were touring so much, we had publicists and managers and agents up our a** every second. We were trying to fit in time to keep writing, but we kept getting side-tracked. I think we all had different ideas of what we wanted that record to be. Devil Music, we just wanted to get back to where we came from, find ourselves again. People forget where we came from; I think we forgot for a while, too.
III. Your recent type-written press release attests that “we found a [farm] and scratched down the songs on this LP after just a couple of days in our practice space. Luckily, our space and studio are the exact same f**king room!, so proceedings went quickly;” was Devil Music really 100% fully recorded over the course of a 3-day weekend? How!?
Yeah, it was–but honestly, that’s nothing unusual for us. We have always recorded live, and with the exception of New Moon, we’ve always been prepared. We had been playing those songs for six months or so, at that point. The songs were there and we went in and laid down a few takes and moved on. We’re not perfectionists. We’re much more interested in the energy of a take. So, we went in there, played the songs, and moved on.
IV. I remember reading that Tomorrow’s Hits was heavily influenced by Classic Rock artists such as Credence Clearwater Revival, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen, and Tom Petty. Who would you likely say were amongst your greatest sources of influence during the January 2016 recording of Devil Music?
I dunno, man; it’s tough to say. I think on this one, I personally had the least outside direct influence. I was very motivated by the emotions I’d gone through over the past few years with the band and everything that happened about it and surrounding it. Anything I had to say on this record was very selfish and pretty frustrated, but it goes to show you that music is a beautiful thing because now that I got some of those songs out, I feel much better.
V. "'Gun" was [cut on] Friday after our shifts and some messing around with a Harry Nilsson tune,” reads your Devil Music press release. Which Harry Nilsson tune was it and does that then, make “Gun” a cover... or was Nilsson simply a source of influence?
Nah, "Gun" really has nothing to do with Nilsson... It’s not a cover, although, the song is indirectly ripping off probably 20 other songs, but that’s fine. There’s nothing new anymore. We were jamming on "Jump In The Fire," just playing that riff over and over again, while we were getting our sounds together. I think a song like that is indirectly an influence. Simplicity–one riff–over and over again. I like that repetition.
VI. While it appears as though you’re still planning to work closely alongside Sacred Bones Records, what ultimately made you decide to form your own We Are The Men imprint to coincide with the release of Devil Music?
I think it’s along the same thinking of the way we made this record in general. We got so lost, caught up in nonsense and checked out. We wanted to get a hold of ourselves again. That’s how we did it when we started–our first two LP's, We Are The Men and Immaculada were self-released. We were planning on doing Leave Home that way, as well, but then [Sacred] Bones came along. And honestly, Sacred Bones has been so unbelievably supportive of us. I don’t even understand it sometimes. We are so difficult to deal with; we really have some left field ideas and are stubborn and pig-headed, but they’ve always stood by us. Our new arrangement is a perfect example of that and we really appreciate it.
VII. Tomorrow’s Hits’ deluxe edition vinyl had some awesome packaging: glistening red vinyl encased in a wax-sealed, silk-screened newspaper-style outer sleeve collage... are you planning anything special for Devil Music’s yet-to-be-unveiled LP packaging?
Yeah, our drummer, Rich [Samis] handles all of our artwork and he’s come up with some really cool stuff over the years. There’ll be a special edition of the [Devil Music] artwork that you can only get from us or Sacred Bones.
VIII. What were the band's intentions including a zany 1970's-reminiscent THE MEN OFFICIAL FAN CLUB order form within Tomorrow's Hits' deluxe LP packaging? Did anyone actually mail the order forms back in requesting merchandise, such as The men Official Fan Club vacuum cleaners, potato chips, TV remotes, dog food, etc? I've always been half-tempted to just mail it back and just see might come in the mail!
Yeah, that whole thing was really a play on those actual fan clubs bands used to have pre-Internet, I guess... when we were kids, there was no Internet period, so this mysterious fan club thing was pretty exciting. You'd mail away and then, some package would show up with some exclusive sh*t. There's nothing exclusive now; you can literally have any song, patch, T-shirt, ever made within seconds of clicking a button. Very bizarre times... so, we just wanted to have fun with that! Unfortunately, no one ever mailed anything in–we've still got that The Men [Official Fan Club] Vacuum Cleaner sitting around.
IX. Tomorrow’s Hits only yielded one lone music video (“Pearly Gates”), which I believe, is The Men’s first and only proper music video. Do you currently have any forms of visual accompaniment planned to go along with Devil Music?
Not yet, but we’re open to it... we actually did make one other video for “I Saw Her Face,” which was on New Moon.
X. Do you fellas have any immediate plans to tour behind Devil Music? And if so, will you likely stick solely to Devil Music or delve back into a career-spanning set?
No real immediate plans. We’re doing a show in New York and a show in Chicago. We’re open to other possibilities, but we’ve got a lot of things going on that make us want to stay close to home. We’ll see, we’re just going to let it play out. I wouldn’t expect much [older] material at the shows, though; we’re pretty forward-thinking these days.
XI. What can you tell me about the recording process behind your 2014 Tomorrow’s Hits-leaning Live In Zagreb cassette? Now, was it actually recorded during a show held at Klub Močvara (“Swamp”) in Zagreb, Croatia?
Yeah, that is an actual live recording of a show we did in Zagreb–that’s the venue’s true name, as well. Our sound man, Kyle [Keays-Hagerman] would record sets here and there, while we [were] in Europe one time. We thought that one sounded pretty good and [Sacred] Bones was looking for something special to release with the record. It worked out [really] well!
XII. We, here at The Witzard, pride ourselves on being a primarily Hip-Hop-centric publication with one foot firmly planted in Punk Rock and the other in Indie Rock; with that said, what would you likely name as a few of your favorite Hip-Hop releases of the past 12-18 months, Mark?
I don’t listen to that much Hip-Hop, honestly. I do like J Dilla and I recently discovered [Donuts] so late in the game–but that’s a great record. I really like Flying Lotus, also and that whole Brainfeeder scene; although, I guess that sneaks into Jazz, but I like that cross-section I seem to be hearing in Hip-Hop these days. I’ve always loved Hip-Hop artists that have the live band going behind them!
XIII. How does your work with band mate Nick Chiericozzi as Cheap Trick-referencing Dream Police affect your creative process with The Men... or does it simply serve as an alternate creative outlet entirely unto itself?
Dream Police pretty much always existed as a side-outlet, when things with The Men weren’t going in the right direction. Our first two tapes came out of ideas that just didn’t fit into what we were doing at the time. The Hypnotized LP happened because The Men had creatively ran into a brick wall and we wanted to keep doing something. I’m really proud of that record!
XIV. You recently directed me towards your Sacred Bones-helmed Bandcamp page, wherein I was able to stream a good chunk of The Men’s sprawling back catalog and delve into on-site album descriptions. What ever happened to the remaining five as-yet-unreleased songs recorded live during Tomorrow’s Hits’ sessions? I love this album and it’s what initially got me into The Men- might these shelved Tomorrow’s Hits-era tracks ever see a proper release, Mark?
Ah man, I don’t know what happened to those songs. I don’t remember liking them that much. They will probably stay in the vaults. More likely, you will hear more new songs than those [older ones].