The Men Return with a New Album of Noisy and Boisterous Rock N Roll
The Brooklyn band’s fifth album, 'Devil Music' is due November 11 on their new label We Are Men records. Listen to their new song "Lion's Den."
In 2011 Brooklyn's The Men released Leave Home, their first album on Sacred Bones records. Taking its name from the Ramones' second album, it was rich with ragged melody that brought to mind the fuzz of early Dinosaur Jr. and Spacemen 3 with the energy of New York City punk.
Around the same time, Olympia's Milk Music had released their Beyond Living EP, Tampa's Merchandise were exploring abrasive fuzz, and in the Arizona desert, Ryan Rousseau was tinkering with his Destruction Unit. Things were good for loud and twisted American guitar music.
Of these bands, The Men seemed to have the best handle on gripping melodic rock, and their 2012 follow up Open Your Heart saw them driving towards more classic rock and roots music. If Leave Home was about punk, Open Your Heart was more Cheap Trick, Big Star, and Bob Dylan's Street Legal.
Live, the band remained a ferocious but focused unit. I helped on their 2013 Australian tour and can say that their shows were exhilaratingly loud. But on record the band was moving to more subtle territory. The Campfire Songs EP was just that, a collection of songs recorded around a campfire, and by their fourth album, 2014's Tomorrow's Hits, lineup changes and a new focus saw a move towards the more earnest, blue collar rock of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen.
A new album Devil Music, sees the band—now made up of Mark Perro and Nick Chiericozzi on guitars and vocals, drummer Rich Samis and bassist Kevin Faulkner—playing live again and returning to more turbulent and boisterous rock. Released on their own We Are Men label, it's a record that Chiericozzi says was recorded in a relaxed and loose manner in the band's practise space.
There's nothing too 'relaxed' about "Lion's Den", the fourth song on the new album. Opening with Chiericozzi's squawking saxophone, the song builds into some Lubricated Goat type territory with guitars that breathe fire and demented vocals. It's a brilliant piece of dirty rock dirge.
Listen to the track below and read the chat we had with Nick.
Noisey: What's it like playing shows again? How do the new songs feel?
Nick Chiericozzi: The shows have all been fun and we're learning how to not think again. The new songs are what we're about right now and they feel great once we get into it them. Once the amps get going, I can't really explain it, we just try to sync with each other and go with little thought. We took some time off from playing and it allowed us to change and make something I believes sounds beautiful
Is your current set list across all your catlagoue?
The setlist lately includes songs from Devil Music and a couple of tunes that were written just after we recorded. We played "Night Landing" from Leave Home to close out a set at Honey's (our friends from New York) record release show and that felt good. Maybe we'll get into those older songs later and maybe not.
Were you surprised by the reaction to Tomorrow's Hits?
What was the reaction? I didn't really pay attention because we headed out of town so quickly after it was released. I always liked the horns and the drums, but it wasn't much of an experience recording. I just showed up. I didn't put the attention into that experiment that I probably should have. I felt like an extra in a busy scene. There were a lot of people. We were doing interviews in the studio during the recording. The lightning was bad.. you know?
Why are you releasing the new album yourselves?
At a certain point you want to work for yourself because the payoff is greater. Sacred Bones are busy with projects and aren't able to get us on the schedule until next year and we thought, "Well, let's do this now and do it like we used to." Doing it ourselves just feels right. We just have our way of operating that from the outside might appear ridiculous or absurd. We're unmanageable. So we're doing it all again; bringing it all back home.
Jordan Lovelace recorded the songs to the tape machine in our practice space, which also doubles as a recording studio that a few people built out over the last few years. It doesn't have a name that the community of people who use the space refer to it as, though I've heard it called Spice World. We took two days and one short evening to record. The second day was probably the loosest I've felt while recording. We were laughing most of the time, bouncing out of the live room and into the playback spot to hear what happened.
What is "Lions Den" about? How did it come about?
The song started out as a slow acoustic guitar part that I tried to feel out like Boubacar Traore. I brought it to Mark and we psyched it way out to the point of a dry spoken vocal while he painted some great sound under noise behind the riff that went towards Pink Floyd. Then it morphed into something no one was really feeling for a while even though the beat was spot on. It's obvious when something isn't working because there's a tense silence afterwards until someone says, "Let's try this other one." Pretty soon though, I started the saxophone and we just played it with a faster tempo with this sort of free sax part over it. It keeps getting w shape and it keeps getting wild and rowdy and really fun to play.
I remember the last show of your Australian tour was in small room and you were amazingly loud. After playing on a large stage for most of the tour you seemed in your element in the smaller and more intimate room.
That was fun! That was in Perth in a circus tent. I remember turning around and rushing to the amp to get feedback and watching Julia Holter walk out, fingers in ears, but hey, I was digging it. The vibe was just great. That's cool you picked up on the smaller room thing. This year we've stuck to the smaller rooms and it feels right. There's something to it. You know, feeling? Feeling something, it's all about wanting to feel something. Like the penguins huddling together keeping the egg warm all winter, we're four souls together in the freezing night.
What do you think about now when you look back to 2011 and 2012 when you were touring hard on the back of Leave Home and Open Your Heart?
I think of travelling and lots of motion. We went to so many cities and played so many shows. We took something out of town with the intention of having a good time. We didn't take it out without any professional considerations and we let music take care of things … until we didn't and it grew boring. I have to say though, that I'm more excited for this moment. I feel we can do anything now.
You have been involved in music in New York for a while now. Is it becoming easier or more difficult to be a band in the city?
New York is always in flux, so it's changed since we first started. The building we formed the band in is now totally levelled. The geography has shifted, too. We exist on the fringe of the economy, so you have to be prepared for drastic and total change. Bands are always reshaping and adapting to what happens around them. I'm not sure if it's harder or easier, but it feels like time is the precious element at play. To live here, you got to work and hustle to get money so you can get some gear together and start crafting some cool material. That becomes harder and harder the more time you spend working just to survive.
You have been playing as a band now for a while. What's the most fun thing about it?
I feel special doing it. I don't know, time doesn't seem to have any hold on you when your'e playing. I love hanging out with friends trying to solve innumerable puzzles that pop up. I can't do anything else that well. I don't finish what I start and I philosophise the hell out of situations but making music with other people just is. It just takes cares of it. There's a lot of living in it too.
The Men - Devil Music
3. Ridin' On
4. Lion's Den
7. Hit the Ground
8. Devil Music
'Devil Music' is available November 11 on We Are the Men Records.
The Men launch the album November 10 in Queens, New York at Trans Pecos. Ticketsavailable here.