Max Bemis Talks the Past, Present, and Future of Say Anything

In Max Bemis’ own words, people tend to think his band Say Anything has only been around since 2004, the year it released its official debut, …Is A Real Boy. But SA actually formed in 2000, adding four years of mostly unheard material to its catalog. In order to share those rare songs with fans, the band released All My Friends Are Enemies: Early Rarities in January and are currently playing a mix of older and newer songs on the Rarities and More tour. We talked with Bemis about his imprint label, Rory Records, looking back on older songs, the perks of touring with his family, and SA’s next record. Say Anything play with Eisley, H RV RD, and I the Mighty at Showbox at the Market this Friday (7/05).

What’s it like having one foot in the music world and one in the business world? It’s cool because at the imprint, I really only do fun stuff. It doesn’t feel like business because I’m mostly finding bands and working with them on their records and artwork; most A&R guys have to worry about business and marketing.

What do you look for in a band for the imprint? Some of the bands I’m already a fan of, but when it’s a new band, what we’re looking for is something that’s left-of-center but also has mass appeal. It has to be stuff that genuinely reaches me where I can imagine the artist doing this as a career.

Where did the idea come from to bring the older songs on tour? It’s something that’s been asked of us for a long time, and we just felt the timing wasn’t right. We thought it’d be a shame to not play these songs live, especially now that more people are getting to hear them. We made a decision to distance ourselves from these songs when we put out …Is A Real Boy, and we branded that as our first official record. But over time I’ve come to accept that these songs have an important place in the history of the band, and I’ve become less repulsed by them.

What was it like to revisit those songs, not being in the same head space you were in when you wrote them? When I listened to them, at least initially, it would make me really uncomfortable because there’s so many things about the recording, how I sang it, certain lyrics, or the style of the music that would embarrass me. But some switch got lit, and now when I hear it, I feel proud that at such a young age I created this stuff.

Does touring with your wife, Eisley’s Sherri Dupree Bemis, and daughter make the process easier? Even before the baby, I had a hard time being away from my wife. But now, getting to see my baby before and after I play, it’s this extremely existentially assuring thing because playing shows is like an out-of-body experience. Coming off stage and being brought right back down to earth by seeing my baby and my wife is really nice. I’m getting the best of both worlds by getting to transform on stage and then watch movies and read with my wife. It’s a special thing, and I don’t take it for granted.

Has your daughter influenced the music you’ve been writing? For sure! The whole concept behind our next record is the first part is about my life before her, and the latter part is about my life after her.

Is there a release date for that album? Next summer, hopefully. I’m producing the record. It’s going to be a little sonically different, but it’s still very much so a Say Anything record. It’s returning to certain themes that I haven’t really touched upon since I was younger, especially the first part.

How difficult is it to balance Say Anything, your other projects (Perma, with Dupree Bemis, Two Tongues, the Painful Splits) and “Polarity,” your comic series? To be honest, it’s not that difficult. I find myself often doing nothing all day, even with all that stuff. It makes me feel like a human being rather than a spoiled musician, like I have some semblance of a real job. Even so, I still feel really lucky that everything I’m involved in is creative and fun, which makes it seem like there’s less to do. My mindset when I take on new stuff is, “You’re lucky that you even have the opportunity, so make the most of it.” A lot of people don’t enjoy the opportunity to do music for a living or any of that stuff I get to do, so I feel pretty grateful.

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