The Men on embracing Wikipedia, Sacred Bones, and ditching their day jobs
Influence and genre can be sore subjects with rock acts, especially those burgeoning towards that national arena. After all, no band wants to reconcile their creative output against the backdrop of taller, more established shadows.
But for all the lifted riffs or left-field Gram Parsons moments scattered through The Men's latest LP, Open Your Heart, co-founders and guitarists Mark Perro and Nick Chiericozzi have guided the Brooklyn group's current quartet roster to such a distilled place of confidence that most topics roll over them with the same brand of aloofness that drips from their records. Gimme Noise had the chance to discuss their kaleidoscopic ways with Perro before the Men bring their country-tinged, post-punk, neo-shoegaze tunes to the 7th Street Entry tonight.
You know, you guys are one tough act to research. I noticed the band doesn't have a Wikipedia page. Do you or Sacred Bones Records ever think about making one of those?
Mark Perro: I personally never thought of that, but I don't know how that stuff works. If someone else wants to make one, that's cool. We're not the most tech-savvy band. I don't really have Internet or anything, so I'm not about make one. But it would be cool if someone made one. I'd like to read about it myself.
Maybe I'll do that right after this.
MP: [laughs] Yeah, Based on this conversation alone.
So do you guys still have day jobs or has the Men been a full-time endeavor for a while?
MP: We don't have day jobs anymore. We've been touring pretty heavily for the past year. Nick and I used to work full-time. We worked in downtown Manhattan, and we both quit around May last year- right around the time Leave Home came out. We've just been doing the band since then.
What did you guys used to do?
MP: I was a customs broker for an art museum, and Nick was in finance actually.
Looking at "Leave Home" and now the new record, it seems like you guys are really conscious of how you begin an album. What kind of process guided the way you started Open Your Heart?
MP: I think the way we did it was the way we approached the new record in general. With Leave Home, we were going for more of a soundscape playing with noises and textures. With Open Your Heart we were trying to be a bit more direct, I guess, and trying to cut some of the fat of that stuff and just be direct and concise and focus on the songs.
From what I've listened to of your older singles, it seems like you guys have always celebrated the ability to bounce around stylistically. Since Leave Home was a bit of a breakout record, did you guys consciously choose to do something different from that?
MP: Not really. We never really approached any of our records trying to have this wide palate of stuff. Me and Nick write songs. [Bassist] Ben [Greenberg] writes songs now. We have a lot of different voices piping in with their own ideas, so it kind of turns into what some people would say is this wide array of stuff. I don't look at it like that. I always thought of it all as what we do and who we are. I never saw it as disconnected or all over the place. We're people with a lot of different influences and ideas and things we want to try and do. I think we just try to not put any limits or expectations on what we're doing. So we just go with what sounds good at the moment.
So talking about what sounds good at the moment, Open Your Heart is a comparatively positive and life-affirming collection of songs. Was there anything specific that led to that sound at the time of writing?
MP: For myself and trying to reach a place of positivity, I think I wanted more of a hopeful record. It's like, I don't want to be in these dark places. I want to be in places of positivity. Life-affirming, I guess, is a good word -- something to feel good about. Music can fill any sort of hole in your life. It can make you feel worse and it can make you feel better. Life is hard enough as it is, and you've got to try and find things that make you feel happy in life. I think that with this record we were just trying to make something that would make us feel a little better.
One of the most striking songs on Open Your Heart is "Candy" just because of how melodic and atypical it is for you guys. Have you guys written songs like that before?
MP: Nick and I have always dabbled in that stuff. We always write on acoustic guitars. We've love country music and have always messed with those things. But we come from a punk background, so we're always playing punk shows with punk bands. You know, there's kind of always this unspoken pressure about what you can do and what you can't do. With that song, we were finally like, ""Screw it. We believe in this song." We finally found the confidence or felt that we got a song like that to a point that was good enough that we could feel good about it.
So was it more of a challenge do write a delicate song like that?
MP: That song was actually one of the easiest songs we had on the record. Nick and I got that together in my apartment the night before -- [the song] was Nick's idea. None of the band had heard it before, and we just banged it out in the studio. I think we did it in two takes or something, and everything was live. It's just a very simple, natural song, and it came together as such.
There's a line on that track that goes, "When I hear the radio play, I don't care that it's not me." I get the impression passion will always trump career ambition for you guys.
MP: It's always been passion. When we started, Nick and I were still working full-time, and we didn't really have any ambitions of not working. That's our thing. We're musicians and we want to play music. For a long time, we put out our own records, we did a couple tours, and we still worked and we were happy with that. Opportunities presented themselves to let us to this full-time, and we've taken them. But we haven't sought them out. We do this because this is what we want to do. If everything falls out from under us and we go back to getting jobs, we're still gonna be playing music.
You guys also have a knack for orchestrating your albums in movements. The way "Country Song" works against "Oscillation" is a standout on the new record. Where does that happen in the creative process?
MP: We definitely do think in terms of albums, so these things are in the back of our mind. With "Country Song" and "Oscillation," that was a very natural thing. They're both very loose jams. There wasn't a very defined structure. There was no conscious intent to contrast different styles. It just worked, and when things work out easily and naturally we try to trust those things.
I'm curious about the Sacred Bones family. Even now, they seem to have a very small-label identity, but a lot of you guys on that label are really starting to balloon out of Brooklyn.
MP: I'm very happy to be on Sacred Bones. When we first were on Sacred Bones, it wasn't even a thing. They're our friends. They live within minutes of all of us, and we hang out. I didn't think of it really as being on a label. It's just "Oh yeah, [Sacred Bones Founder] Caleb is gonna put out the record." Since then, it's turned into this thing of, "Wow, how does it feel to be on Sacred Bones?" It's interesting, because we've been on Sacred Bones for a while, and now it's becoming a thing.
That national reach surprises me, because I still get the impression that it is a very small operation there.
MP: Yeah, it's mostly two people really and a couple of interns. With "Open Your Heart," I know at least the first few runs, it was still hand silk-screened, and our drummer actually silk screens tons of records for Sacred Bones. They definitely take a lot of pride in their record appearances. They kind of see it as an art project in of itself. It's interesting to see how they're dealing with stuff now, because I think Open Your Heart is doing pretty well. It's on a different level than Leave Home was. It's hard to keep maintaining those things when it's on such a bigger scale. They are definitely a label that is concerned with that stuff, and that's one of the things we like about it so much.
The Men. With Buildings and Stereo Confession. 18+, 8 p.m. Monday, June 18 at 7th St. Entry. Tickets here.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.