Say Anything has never been afraid to do things a little differently. In February, the band shocked fans everywhere when they suddenly released their new album, "I Don't Think It Is," without warning. Lead singer Max Bemis spoke to International Business Times about why he decided to drop the new Say Anything record out of nowhere, more potential new music this year, and why he still has a problem with the negativity that's spewed about the band.
Bemis dropped "I Don't Think It Is" as a surprise on all digitial platforms on Feb. 4 because, he told IBT, he wanted to do something different instead of "the same old song and dance" leading up to the release.
"We didn’t plan it and by the time we were getting close to being done, it had kind of developed this identity where it made more sense to drop it without warning," Bemis explained to IBT. "The music and the vibe of the record felt really immediate. The immediacy of the record and making it took on this kind of ‘we don’t give a f---’ uniform of the record."
Bemis said his best friend, Josh Sultan, was the inspiration for the material on the record. The "Six, Six, Six," singer also got to make the album with his brother-in-law and Mutemath drummer, Darren King. King and Bemis made the album over the course of a year and had fun recording with each other when it felt right. The ball really got rolling for them after King helped Kanye West with a song.
King helped Kanye work on the song "Real Friends" for his new album "The Life of Pablo." Through King, Bemis got to hang out with the rapper, which he said was a cool experience. After this, Bemis and King started working on the new record, which Bemis said was inspired by hip hop. The album even contains a song called "Varicose Visage" that was inspired by Kendrick Lamar's "Backseat Freestyle." Bemis wrote it as a rap song and sang it "like a dude in a hardcore band."
"I Don't Think It Is," is different from the band's last release, 2014's "Hebrews." Bemis said "Hebrews" was "painfully choreographed" in comparison to "I Don't Think It Is," which was more improvised and done on feeling.
"I wrote every note of that record ['Hebrews'] and then it was played on strings, which is kind of how you have to do it with strings. It was still an amazing, fun process, and a big epic deal to make that record and I’m very proud of it. But after that I needed something where I just felt like that primal joy you feel of making music for fun and that sort of translated into the lyrics and how we released it. Everything became this sort of idea of fun, a little bit of punk rock and just chaos," Bemis dished.
While the new record is different from "Hebrews," there was still a good amount of collaboration done on the album. Say Anything has always been a band that isn't afraid to collaborate with other artists on their albums. In the past the band has worked with other artists like Hayley Williams (Paramore), Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance), Brian Sella (The Front Bottoms), Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra) and Bemis' wife Sherri DuPree-Bemis (Eisley). On "I Don't Think It Is" Bemis worked with King and DuPree-Bemis, while Dylan Mattheisen (Tiny Moving Parts) and Christian Holden (The Hotelier) contributed to songs.
Bemis feels that many bands in the genre don't collaborate with other artists because of pressure to not cross boundaries. Say Anything has a different dynamic now than it did years ago, as Bemis is basically the sole member now. He chooses artists to record with based on liking their work and to add something other than himself to an album.
"The situation with Say Anything is different, it’s not really a real band, it’s a collective. If anything it’s more just me and whoever I gather around me on each stage, at least that’s what it’s proven to be over time," Bemis said. "I think I have no choice but to constantly change and evolve because there’s no anchor really besides myself and my tastes change all the time."
Despite having success as a band and getting to work with many different artists, Bemis still finds himself being bothered by negativity that comes with a bad album review or internet comments. Bemis still fires back at haters in his music and said he still feels he has to respond because it's a part of who he is. He said he tends to be very self critical of himself and also has a problem with others who project negativity out into the world.
"I should not care, but because I do have a part of me that wants to be accepted and wants to just feel awesome all the time, that stings. It’s the same with anyone, I think I’m just more honest about it," Bemis revealed. "I really don’t think there are any artists or musicians who genuinely do not give a single f--- about anyone’s opinions. I don’t think that state exists in the human mind. We all have self-doubts and we all get brought down by the opinions of others even when we shouldn’t."
While Bemis still takes on this idea of outside negativity in his music, he said the way he approaches and writes music has changed throughout the years. His writing style is currently "amorphous" right now, which could vary from writing a song on guitar to writing a song around a drum beat. When Say Anything left RCA records in 2010, the "Do Better" singer said there was an adjustment for the band after parting ways with a major label.
"I kind of had to rethink everything. If I’m not trying to be the biggest band in the world what am I doing this for? I went back to why I started doing music, which was for pure creative reasons ... I had no idea I can do it professionally at all," Bemis said. "Now I’m kind of in a place where I can pull from both, it comes from a pure place but I can still work around this legacy that the band has built and take advantage of the fact that we have certain resources and we have a cool fan base."
Right now the new album ,"I Don't Think It Is," is only available digitally. bBut the album will get a physical release on April 15. Bemis said those who waited for the physical release will be rewarded because there will be an additional four to five new songs.
Following the upcoming "I Don't Think It Is" tour, Bemis said he will likely reopen his song shop, where fans can pay to have him make a custom song for them. Bemis could also be back with more new music later this year that's "sort of" Say Anything related. He said one of his side projects, "maybe" Two Tongues, could be getting something together. After that he hopes to get back on the road with Say Anything.
Next year, Say Anything's "In Defense of the Genre" will celebrate its 10th anniversary and Bemis said he wants to do something for it. "It's going to be tough because it’s such a long record for a whole tour, but I definitely want to do something for sure," Bemis revealed.
Say Anything will be on tour with Mewithoutyou from April 20 through May 28. You can find dates and ticket information here. "I Don't Think It Is" is available everywhere digitally; the physical release is due out April 15.