It’s been over 15 years since Max Bemis started Say Anything, but some things never change. The band’s continued to put out a new record every 2-3 years, Bemis is still the driving force behind Say Anything’s albums and live shows (more now than ever), and those live shows keep filling venues across the country
Having just set out on tour in support of their latest album, February’s I Don’t Think It Is, Say Anything will be making one of their first stops at the House of Blues in Anaheim on Sunday, April 24.
“We have such a great time at every single show, because it’s always very interactive and very cathartic,” Bemis says. “It’s the place where I feel like I become unhinged, and it actually works. It’s art.”
The raw energy and emotion of Bemis is one thing that his fans appreciate. Whether it’s at an intimate live show or through a stereo (or laptop/phone) speaker, Bemis has never been the type of artist to hold back. Of course, the 32-year-old singer has different problems and thoughts than the teenage Bemis had, but the songwriter certainly can’t be criticized for losing his passion after seven records. I Don’t Think It Is might be more mature than Baseball (2001) or …Is a Real Boy (2004), but it’s more growing up than growing old.
“I’m super proud of [I Don’t Think It Is],” Bemis says. “I definitely think it’s our best record, and I’m looking forward to creating better and better records.”
But I Don’t Think It Is wasn’t released in the same manner as Say Anything’s previous albums. Rather than announcing it weeks (or months) beforehand, a few cryptic tweets the day before were all the advanced notice Bemis was willing to share. As he sees it, releasing a record without promoting it is a much more organic way to build interest rather than cramming it down people’s throats. Of course, there are also some benefits to a spontaneous release for an artist.
“Selfishly, it was the most fun I’ve ever had putting out a record,” Bemis says. “It’s kind of nerve-wracking in those months leading up to it, and it just reeks of the music business. The music business is over as we know it, and a lot of the more relevant artists are just putting music out when they want to. I looked at it as just because I’m from the punk community doesn’t mean I can’t embrace the spontaneity of what Kendrick Lamar or Kanye would do.”
As different as I Don’t Think It Is sounds when compared to previous Say Anything albums, it still has the distinct sound of a Say Anything album. Given the musical growth of the band over time, Bemis and his rotating companions have managed to stay true to their somewhat spastic, unbridled, drama-tinged poppy punk roots while evolving from a simple quartet to incorporate keys, strings, and various other sounds.
“I think (Say Anything) is just becoming more and more secure in being a nutball and eclectic,” Bemis says. “There’s always been an element of pop sensibility, no one can deny that, but I think we’ve gotten more secure in what we can offer as a band over the years. It’s also become more based around me, and I want to keep making music as Say Anything. If I don’t want to make music or tour for a couple years, I don’t have to break up the band, because that would be breaking up with myself.”
But aside from the musical and social changes a band makes over a decade, Bemis’ personal changes have shaped the current version of Say Anything. The frontman is the only remaining member from the band’s early days, but his troubled and volatile ways that caused those previous lineup changes have been swapped out for a family life. Now married to Sherri DuPree-Bemis (of Eisley) and father of two young girls, Bemis has quickly learned about balancing the grind of touring with the joys of fatherhood over the last few years.
“If anybody’s ever really listened to my lyrics or the progression of my output, it’s clear that (having a family) is all I’ve ever wanted,” Bemis says. “Even at the most hopeless, the songs are hopeless because I wanted something more. Now that I have that in my life, it doesn’t solve everything, and I still have plenty of bones to pick with myself and the world – even being a parent itself is really hard sometimes. This is what I wanted, I never wanted to be some drugged up lunatic, even if it may appear that way on the first record.”
Say Anything is at the House of Blues in Anaheim on Sunday, April 24 with mewithoutYou and Museum Mouth. Tickets cost $22 (plus $11 in fees) and are available through Live Nation.