To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Say Anything’s seminal album In Defence of the Genre, the band is headed to Australia for a 2018 tour starting in late February. The shows are made extra special by the fact they are playing the album in full over two nights. We caught up with Say Anything vocalist and songwriter Max Bemis ahead of the tour to reflect on the album. 
 
SCENEzine
Firstly, how was your Christmas and New Years Eve night?
 
Max Bemis
Christmas and New Years Eve were great. We did absolutely nothing because it was in between tours. We are homebodies so we just sat around and got excited to watch our kids open their presents.
 
SCENEzine
Have you had a chance to watch Star Wars Last Jedi yet? If so what are your thoughts?
 
Max Bemis
I haven’t seen it which is crazy but only because I haven’t seen Rogue One yet. I haven’t seen literally about twenty of the films that have come out in the last four years that I have wanted to see. I have this weird obsessive-compulsive thing where I’ve put them all off. There’s going to be a point where I break the law and suddenly watch all those movies I’ve been waiting to see. Unfortunately, Star Wars has fallen into that category. I think I’ve seen one movie in the past two years. I spend a lot of energy reading and playing video games lately (laughs).  
 
SCENEzine
You are currently celebrating the 10th anniversary of In Defence of the Genre. How have the American shows been going so far?
 
Max Bemis
They’ve been amazing and certainly exhausting. Definitely some of the coolest experiences I’ve had on stage so far. It’s emotional for both us and the audience. It definitely tests us as performers as it’s a two-hour set.
 
SCENEzine
The album itself was quite ambitious. How much did the original vision change from the writing stage to final recordings?  
 
Max Bemis
There weren’t many demos for this record. So a lot of it was in my head and we worked out a lot of it in rehearsal. The original vision tends to be what is on the record with a lot of the songs because I make up guitar parts as I go along. Usually the rhythm section gets dialled in and then everything on top of it is improvisational to some degree.  
 
SCENEzine
Was it always the plan for the album to feature so many guests or did it just snowball?
 
Max Bemis
It snowballed (laughs) I probably had the idea to have one or two and then it quickly snowballed into a concept for the record. Probably because at the time we had gone on tour with the bands we loved I was like ‘I should get a couple of these dudes to sing on the record’. It was a statement on emotional punk and how it fits into society. The best way to represent and make a statement that there are a lot of talented people in this subgenre is to have a bunch of people sing on it.
 
SCENEzine
Is there a story behind how you decided on the album cover art?
 
Max Bemis
Yeah, I conceived it probably because it was time to decide what was on the cover. A lot of my records will come from me just thinking about the concept and narrative of the songs if there is one. On this one there decidedly was. A lot of it is about how antiquated culture tries to put things in a box conceptually. That makes the youth suffer. It’s a love story but it’s also about how the love couldn’t really take flight because society poisoned both people involved. It’s really society is to blame not necessarily the people. A story about the youth versus the establishment. Jeff Smith is one of my favourite comic artists so when we were thinking of illustrator’s I immediately thought of him.          
 
SCENEzine
What was the experience of filming the video for “Shiksa (Girlfriend)” like?
 
Max Bemis
Really fun, one of the most fun experiences I’ve had filming a video. I remember there was a jubilance around the set, everyone from the band was really involved in it. There wasn’t as much pressure on me to perform and do weird stuff. It was weirdly a performance video even though we weren’t playing any instruments. It’s a happy go lucky video, it was a really fun experience.

SCENEzine
One of our favourite songs from the album is “Baby Girl, I’m a Blur”. Do you remember how that one came about in the writing process?

Max Bemis
I remember wanting to write a Depeche Mode, The Cure type pop song a dark 80’s style of pop song. Those songs are always really romantic to me and at the time I was talking to a girl. I incorporated the courtship into the song then later was talking to a different girl, not to make myself seem like some kind of man whore. I broke up with my girlfriend then was talking to a girl then got back together with the original girlfriend. So the song metamorphosed as an ode to one girl then the other, then fused into one when I broke up with both of them eventually in the end (laughs).

SCENEzine
It’s not long until you’re back in Australia touring. Do you have a favourite Australian memory from a previous visit?

Max Bemis
I remember being in Sydney standing under a huge bridge and being by a body of water at night. I don’t know what body of water it was or what bridge it was. Chris Conley from Saves The Day was on tour with us I remember that being really cool, he’s one of my best friends. It was one of those cool moments where the whole band was standing around chatting at night and it was beautiful. It was a cherished, still moment that you get on tour.

SCENEzine
Lastly is there any chance you might play your cover of “I Got your money” at one of your Australian shows?

Max Bemis
I’m not going to play it at these shows but I have played it before. If people keep seeing us in Australia maybe next time when I come back I’ll play it.

(Interview by Christian Ross)

 

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