Of the Everymen’s 2012 album New Jersey Hardcore, PopMatters Associate Music Editor Matthew Fiander wrote, “This is as populist as a rock party gets, and yet despite the common tropes the band visits (and revisits), the emotions still feel specific and dig almost as deep as the hooks do.” That assessment rings true about the Everymen’s new album Givin’ Up on Free Jazz and then some: Expanding from a core pairing of Mike Venutolo-Mantovani and Catherine Herrick to a full-on nine-piece act, this latest effort runs the gamut of retro-y rock styles, with a good humored camaraderie that they’re enjoying what they do holding it all together.
Venutolo-Mantovani shared some thoughts on the album via email in advance of the release of Givin’ Up on Free Jazz, which premieres on PopMatters. The new album comes out on 20 May, via Ernest Jenning Record Co.
PopMatters: What was the dynamic like recording the new album, after bringing more members on board for it?
Mike Venutolo-Mantovani: It was great. Up until this point, creating music as the Everymen has always been a very solitary endeavor. Shows were one thing, of course. But when it came to making records the process was always me with co-conspirators coming and going as needed. What I’m trying to say is that it’s basically just been my callous exploitation of my best friends’ talents…hehe.
Seriously, though, I think a lot of the reason behind that is my dislike of being in the studio. To me, it’s just so tedious. So boring. So counter intuitive. I hate talking an idea to death. I feel like by the time you’ve overthought and overdiscussed a given part—be it guitars, vocals, drums, whatever—that all the soul, all the guts, all the beauty of whatever you played from your heart is drained. I’m a firm believer in the first thing you play is the best thing you’ll play for the song. And I think the studio setting just tends to destroy that a lot of the time. In the past I’ve just worked as quickly as possible. Get the drums down. They down? Good. Bass next. Done? Guitars. Ya know? So it didn’t really leave much time for discussion or collaboration. But on the converse, it never left much time for ideas to flourish.
On this record I really tried to make sure we were spacing things out. That we were giving the tunes the room they needed to breathe and grow and mature as time went on. Also, I wanted to make sure that I still loved the songs at the end of the process as I did at the beginning. So from the start we set out to make this as collaborative an effort as possible. We’re a band now. It’s not just me. And I wanted us to sound like a band. And I wanted our tunes to have the fullness and the panache that we all bring to the table.
PopMatters: There seems to be a pretty diverse sound to the album.
Mike Venutolo-Mantovani: I mean I’ve always strove to not make albums that have the same song 11 times, ya know? Not to ever, ever put myself or our band as the same universe as the Beatles, but I always think of The White Album when this type of question arises. How many albums can you put on the stereo that have “Rocky Raccoon”, “Helter Skelter”, “Piggies”, and “Dear Prudence” on the same sides? That album has no unifying sonic factor and that’s fucking awesome. To me, that concept is what makes the album what it is.
I try and take the same approach to making my own records. We’re not gonna write the same batch of barroom stompers. We’re trying to take people on a ride. We’re trying to take ‘em on a 40-minute trip. You have to start. You have to end. You need peaks and valleys and twists and turns. Sometimes you need to slow down. Sometimes you need to speed up. Sometimes you need a fucking psychedelic freakout. What you don’t need is 40 minutes of the exact same vibe. I think that outlook on the process of making records, paired with the idea that you have so many people involved, is a recipe for sonic diversity.
There is no such thing as not sounding Everymen. If I’m writing the song and Scotty [Zillitto]‘s blowing horns and Catherine is singing and [Stephen] Chopek is bashing away and everyone else is doing their thing, how can it NOT be an Everymen song? Just because it may not sound like what you think we should sound like, doesn’t mean it’s not us.
So it’s this crazy amalgam of the nine of us, all coming from vastly different sonic backgrounds, all trying to put our own stamp on the tunes that I write. I’m not saying we’re reinventing the fucking wheel here. We’re not. We’re playing rock ‘n’ roll music. But we’re trying our best to make it interesting. And we’re trying our best to make you feel something.
PopMatters: Still, even with all the styles and approaches on the album, the one constant seems to be a high-spirited sense of humor to it. Was that the kind of mood you were aiming for?
Mike Venutolo-Mantovani: We weren’t aiming for anything necessarily. That’s just what came through, ya know? I think that’s us. We like to have fun. That’s the point of playing in a rock band, right? There are times to be serious. There are times to cry. There are times to hold each other. For us, when we strap on our guitars and hit the stage, it’s time to put your fucking foot to the floor, to work up as much of a sweat as fucking possible, to whip the crowd into as wild of a frenzy as we can and to make people have a good fucking time. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll show. It ain’t church. It ain’t surgery. Let’s have the greatest night of our lives. Let’s dance and drink and make out and move and sway and sweat. Let’s do it all. And let’s do it together, ya know? I always say that if you can’t have fun at a rock show (or playing in a rock band) then you’re probably the type who only likes to have sex with the lights off.
So yeah, we try and make it as good a time as possible. But if you dig deeper and uncover some of those layers, you’ll find there is some serious shit going on there. Some really intense emotion. Some very real feelings, ya know? But who wants to be bombarded with that? Who wants to put on a record and be laden with my sadness or guilt or the fact that I lost my mother and was—and still am in a way—completely fucking lost? People don’t wanna hear that shit. They wanna have fun. And drink beer. And enjoy the simplicity and the warmth of a rock ‘n’ roll record. So in a way it was this fine balancing act of me being able to exorcise some of my demons and to find solace in the writing of songs and creation of music, all while making the experience as enjoyable and smile-worthy for the listener as possible. For me it was therapy via emoting. For the listener I hope it’s therapy via inclusion. Or at least therapy via ass shaking.
But a lot of it has to do with the Everymen, ya know? They’re a hell of a lot of fun. A real special crew to hang with and be around and a lot of that comes through in the album. The way it was made, the people who made it, the love it was born from and the fun we all had doing what we love to do, it was impossible to not have that feeling, I think. I’m so glad it came through. Hopefully, it has that effect with everyone. Or at least with someone.