The pop-punk band the Menzingers
formed in Scranton just over ten years ago with modest aspirations. So when the band had the opportunity to sign a deal with Epitaph, a SoCal punk label that has been home to iconic acts such as Rancid and Bad Religion, the guys jumped at the chance.
“Epitaph was our dream label to sign to,” explains singer-guitarist Tom May in a recent phone interview. The band performs at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, at House of Blues
. “A lot of the bands we grew up listening to — Rancid and Offspring — were on Epitaph. For some of us, it was the first time we were on a plane when they flew us out to California to talk.”
With that resulting record, 2012’s On the Impossible Past
, the band established itself as a player in the pop-punk world.
Produced by Will Yip (Title Fight, Balance & Composure, Pianos Become the Teeth), the Menzingers’ latest effort, After the Party
, suggests another chapter in the band’s history and shows the extent to which the group has matured. May and Co. adroitly mix pop and punk on tunes such as the punchy album opener “Tellin’ Lies,” a song that features just the right mix of snotty vocals and snarling guitarist. The tunes document a coming of age as band members write affectionately about their twenties from the perspective of someone who has matured.
The album’s 13 songs reflect a variety of influences too as the songs contain the kind of urgency that typified the punk rock of the ’80s.
“We all listen to different music,” says May. “We listen to electronic music, and Greg is a big fan of Bruce Springsteen. Some of the pop things come from that. And there’s the huge influence of the Clash and Green Day, which are some of the poppier punk bands who write catchy songs. One of us had said that the album is like a love letter to our twenties. We spent our twenties in this band living out of a van and playing shows, and it’s been a real whirlwind. It’s like one long house party. It’s not going to stop, but we’re in a different place in our lives, so we can live through and understand the twenties. Some of it is tongue-in-cheek and hyperbolic about the crazy shit we got into. But we’re at an interesting point in our lives where we’ve gotten married and had kids.”
Working out of a vintage studio that he's updated, Yip helped hone the band’s songs and contributing to making the album into the band’s most palatable effort to date.
“He is the most focused and capable person I’ve ever worked with,” May says of Yip. “They’ll write about him some day. He brought things out of us that we didn’t know were there. He could articulate our thoughts in a way we would never be able to do. His studio is an assuming place underneath an awesome restaurant. You would never know it’s there. We used Billy Joel’s old piano and Sheryl Crow’s acoustic guitar on every single song. It’s an ambient-ly lit place that was great. It’s very cool.”
With the mid-tempo “Midwestern States,” the band sings fondly about crashing at a friend’s place in Chicago and identifies with the heartland mentality.
“Greg wrote that song,” May says. “I can speak to how much time we spent in the Midwest and how much it feels like Scranton. Scranton has things that make it an East Coast city but the fleeing industry and changing economy are more like a Midwestern city. It’s sad or weary and we would see that when we played Flint or Lansing. A whole mess of people from the Midwest have been close friends. We relate to that romantic notion of being stuck in the middle and it seems like its own world that spawns those kinds of relationships. The Midwest is awesome."
Given that the songs on After the Party
come off as refined and well-written, what’s it like for the band to go back and play its more raucous tunes from the past?
“It’s exciting,” says May. “The new songs are more challenging than the songs from the past. They’re new and fresh and we’re looking forward to that. When people come to see us, they want to hear all the music, and I get it. It can be daunting. But this time, we paid more attention to our vocal registers, so some of the new songs are actually easier to sing than the old songs.”