Interview The Men: ‘We Didn’t Know We Had This Record In Us’

With five albums in five years, The Men aren’t resting on their laurels.

There’s a wonderful sense of symmetry to the career of Brooklyn punk band The Men. The band has been together for five years and in that time has released five excellent albums. It’s an astounding hit rate. The band’s latest record, ‘Tomorrow’s Hits’ is another significant development. The five piece’s commitment and work rate is almost unparalleled. For The Men, rest is a dirty word: even as singer and guitarist Nick Chiericozzi is on the phone from NYC, he’s en route to a band practice. Despite their remarkable work ethic Nick insists that it wasn’t planned that way, but momentum irrevocably took hold. “We had always hit the ground running,” he says. “We started out with a demo and we recorded the demo maybe two weeks into forming the band. It’s the way that I think bands should operate with an album a year.” When you distil it down The Men’s philosophy is refreshingly simple, as the guitarist explains, “We’re just trying to put something out that’s solid that we’re psyched on each year.”

‘Tomorrow’s Hits’, the latest album the band is ‘psyched on’, is a further progression in refining their ragged punk and introducing some classic rock influences. The result is uproariously fun, and positively bursting with excitement. It’s not quite the record the band intended to make though when they started rehearsing last November. “The album came together because we decided to rehearse in a new way,” begins Nick. “We didn’t have a practice studio because we’d been touring so much. We always had our gear with us so there was no sense in paying for a space that we didn’t need. Mark’s living situation changed so he had a lot more room in his house, so he converted his bedroom into a rehearsal studio. We intended the record to sound a lot different than it does. It came out really well but it kind of has a big clear sound to it. We wanted to make a smaller sounding record because we were playing in an apartment and it was really quiet and subtle. You never know what you’re going to get though.”

It’s almost as if the band’s ability to make a bright, bold, classic rock record that they went on to record in a high-end brand new studio surprised them in a way. “We sort of didn’t know that we had this record in us. We had twice the amount of songs than are on the album but we just looked for a flow and whittled it down to eight songs. It was a goal to be concise. There’s a lot of records that are 45 minutes to an hour long. We thought it would be really cool to just give a short blast of poppy but exciting songs lasting only half an hour.” The album’s tongue in cheek title is a humorous take on the classic approach of the record. “It’s kind of a joke, a little bit. It’s a throwback to years gone by when bands were repackaged and put out records labelled as the next big thing.”

Perhaps the best example of the riotous spirit that informs the album is lead single ‘Pearly Gates’, a track described by one critic as sounding like both Creedence and Ike & Tina’s version of ‘Proud Mary’ playing at the same time. It’s a perfect description, one at which Nick laughs with delight when put to him. A lot of that party atmosphere is down to the horn section that frequently appears on the album. “That was just cut in two takes. It was all live. That’s our modus operandi, just really live sounding. The horn players had never heard the song before, but by the second take, they were dancing and getting into it. I had never even met them before. It was exciting to do it live in the studio and for it to come together that quickly. You know then that you’re on to something really cool.” As the song careers through its six minute duration you cant help but feel enthused by the sound of a saxophone that sounds like it’s about to explode. “He was definitely red in the face by the time he’d finished with that,” laughs Nick with glee.

As The Men have gradually shorn the hardcore chaos of their debut album ‘Immaculada’ and 2010 breakthrough for Sacred Bones ‘Leave Home’, they have introduced more and more new instrumentation and nuances - ‘Tomorrow’s Hits’ features copious use of piano and horns. Nick rejects any notion of backwards looking classicism though. “All good things come when you look backward and try to move forward. That’s a loose idea that we have, you can only really draw on what you’ve heard before, put it through your senses, and push it out in a different way. I just think to pull that off we got lucky. When bands introduce a horn section or something it’s an experiment and it can just fall flat. When it works and you feel emotion from it then I think you’re doing the right thing.”

There’s no doubt that The Men have changed in the time that they’ve been together. That change is a combination of circumstance and the natural churn of being in a touring rock band. “You start to listen to different stuff; it changes a lot because we were touring a lot. We were going to places like the UK and all over the world. You can’t help but not be changed by that. Adding new members and losing new members, all that changes you. It’s just being in a band. All those life experiences you have on a daily basis add up. I’m really happy with the band though. I wouldn’t have thought we’d make a record like ‘Tomorrow’s Hits’ in a million years when the band started but I like it.”

As exciting as The Men are on record it’s an excitement that’s amplified tenfold when they take to the stage. When Nick describes their live plans, his voice positively ripples with enthusiasm. The excitement that they generate is set to be a bit different this year. “We’re trying to develop a whole new show. We’ve been experimenting and rehearsing a lot to get something that’s really sharp because we haven’t played in a while. I love the high-energy rock’n’roll shows but I think it will be good to change it up a little in the middle. The dynamics are always something that you try to work on. I think less is more. We’re a five-piece band, there’s a lot going on. We’re still learning to lay back at times. It can get really busy, it’s cool on the chaotic moments but you don’t need that all the time.”

Over the course of The Men’s short but packed existence, you can trace the development of a band that are getting better, more proficient and more ambitious with each release. Their commitment to music and getting better at their craft is what drives them to stick to their arduous release schedule. “It’s small different pieces that when you put them together they give you something different each time,” concludes Nick. “Our main goal as a band is to bring different sounds each time we release something.”

The Men’s new album ‘Tomorrow’s Hits’ is out now via Sacred Bones.

Tags: The Men, Features

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