Today’s Hits: An interview with Mark Perro of the Men

[5 March 2014]

By Nathan Stevens

“A huge wall of port-o-potties.”

That’s what Mark Perro remembers about his gig at Houston’s music festival Free Press Summer Fest.

“We were just staring at a huge wall of port-potties…It was surreal,” he admitted.

That’s not the only surreal thing that’s happened to the Men, the punkish New York band that Perro plays guitar and sings for, over the last few years. The quintet is one of the most prolific bands in rock and has been gaining serious buzz thanks to fantastic albums like 2012’s Open Your Heart and 2013’s New Moon. Their combination of noise-rock, punk, country, and whatever else they can stuff into their records has earned them a dedicated following and critical acclaim. On March 4th the Men will drop their newest album; Tomorrow’s Hits, which follows New Moon with an excellent set of classic-rock inspired tunes infused with the Men’s mad energy. When I called Perro we talked about the Men’s constant output, Tomorrow’s Hits, and property damage while on tour.

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You guys have made an album every year since 2010, two EPs, and you’ve been touring and recording constantly. Do you guys ever sleep or eat?

(Laughs) Yeah we definitely do.That comes up a lot, that issue and I don’t think any of us really think we’re all that prolific. We do tour a lot, but we also make sure we always leave some time to work on new material because that’s the most important thing for us. Coming up with new material, that’s the most exciting for us. So it gets hard when you’re on the road and you don’t get to create new songs. So we always try to leave time… we recorded Tomorrow’s Hits at the end of 2012, but we blocked off three months or whatever and we’re like “we’re not playing any shows, we’re not doing anything, really just practice every day almost.” [We] just wrote, and wrote, and wrote and now we made the album. This is just what we do, we don’t do anything else and we don’t have any job[s] or anything… it’s not that crazy.

Do you get any ideas for songs on tour?

Sometimes. Once in a while a riff will pop out or an idea will come up, but you don’t always get to see them through because you have a show, or you have a soundcheck or you have other things that you need to do and so a lot of times it can actually be a little frustrating on tour because you have these new ideas starting to bubble up in your mind and you can’t exactly seem them through, you know? You don’t really get to practice or jam or anything other than the soundcheck, which is a limited area to do that, but I think we try to focus on the shows and getting a good vibe and get in a zone to play together and when we get home try to focus on other stuff.

The new album was recorded in an apartment. How did you deal with the small space?

Not the recording, we wrote most of it, well I guess because we’ve been touring so much that we gave up our practice space, uh, like a couple years before and we came home with this three-month period of time and had nowhere to practice. My relationship ended and my girlfriend moved out of my house so I was like “you know what? Like let’s just practice in my room.” And I have a pretty big bedroom and live in Bushwick. I live under a subway train so we can make a lot of noise and stuff. So we just loaded all our gear in there and for a couple months we just practiced in my room every day. When we recorded, we went to a studio. a very nice studio called Strange Weather and we booked two days. We were very well rehearsed, so we just went in there and busted out these songs and that’s what it was, but the bedroom stuff was when we were writing the record.

Your sound seems to have really evolved from record to record where are the changes coming from?

I don’t think that anything [was] that um predetermined you know? We don’t go into it kinda deciding to do a certain type of record. The thing that happens with all those records is we jam together a lot before the ideas start to come out and we start to play together. Things just start to happen, maybe just a natural kind of vibe develops, but we never really put any sort of “well we’re this kind of a band so that’s not going to work” or “we’re that kind of a band.” We let things happen naturally and we take it as far as far as it will go. We’re all open to all different sorts of stuff… If there’s an idea we’re going to see it through until it’s done and maybe that’s why it’s different, but you know it’s not anything that we try to do it just happens.

What was the idea behind the Campfire Songs EP?

That’s literally is what it was. It wasn’t even really intended to be recorded. When we did New Moon in the mix, we had about a month break from tour. We rented this house in upstate New York and Ben [Greenberg the Men’s bass player] had just joined the band, so we were all kind of like anxious to gel and start playing together rather than just touring and stuff. So we played up there and we wrote and recorded that record all in that time period. There’s a firepit out there and one night we went out there and we were working on songs and had some guitars around and stuff and we decided to just set up a couple mics just because we could really and I don’t know we liked the way the sound came out you know the label liked it and they wanted to put it out as an EP.

During the recording of New Moon you had 40 demos bouncing around. Thirteen went to New Moon and eight went to Tomorrow’s Hits. What are the rest of them going to do?

I think a lot of them are just dead to be honest. Maybe some of them will come up, but in the process there are always things that fall by the wayside that lead to better things. An idea will come out and it might not work, but it might lead to something better and we’ve never been afraid to just completely abandon something… just because it’s been presented doesn’t mean it has to become a song or it has to be whatever. If something doesn’t work, we just move on and we like to let things come naturally and, if it’s not clicking in, if it’s not happening. We tend to move on quickly, but since we’ve been practicing in this spot, we were recording everything, there’s three of us who write songs and we come out and “oh I have a song” “I have a song!” “oh let’s try it lets jam lets record it lets hear what it sounds like.” And some of them work. Some of them didn’t work and then some of them were you know were the song started as one thing and by the end, four demos later, it’s a completely different song. We recorded 13 when we did Tomorrow’s Hits, so there’s other songs. Not everything needs to be released. We really wanted to focus this time and really make a very no bullshit, you know, just concise, direct album. And so we really tried to whittle it down, and whittle it down, and whittle it down, and whittle it down until what was absolutely essential was on there and that’s really cool. 

The new album sounds really sleek, what were you listening to while recording?

We were all listening to stuff, but I think what lead a lot to the sound was where we did it. Like I said we went to Strange Weather studios, a studio in Brooklyn and it’s a really pro place, a really high end studio. We’ve never done that before. We’ve never been to a place like that and it’s really easy to work there things sound really, really great. And I think that place had a lot to do with how that record sounds, if that record was recorded somewhere else there’s no way it would sound like that and that’s cool I like that place is very much a part of the record.

You guys have toured with Destruction Unit before and they often live up to their name live and you’ve been known to be pretty raucous on stage. Have you caused any major property damage while on tour?

(Laughs) I think Destruction Unit is a little more raucous than we are and you know Ryan [Rousseau Destruction Unit’s Frontman]… I’ve seen him climb on balconies and hang from P.A. speakers and do all that stuff. We’re not that wild, but we try to bring it and leave everything out there and bring everything we’ve got to the show and there’s one thing when I play I like to, not to be corny, but I like to get my rocks off. I need to exert a certain amount of energy in order to feel like I’ve done something so we uh so we try to do that. You know Destruction Unit, they’re fucking awesome band I’m happy…We’ve know those guys for years and years and it’s very awesome. They’re a band we’ve toured with a bunch of times and they’re an inspiring band to tour with because they have so much energy and we feed off of that. They’re great.

The European leg of your tour is coming up. Are you looking forward to that?
Yeah, we’re looking forward to that. We’ve been touring a lot. Around the middle of last year, we were starting to get pretty burnt out on the road in general. We kinda had to slow down for a little while and I’m excited now to start picking it up again and get back out there. It hasn’t been that long. We took a four-month break, but for us that’s the longest break I’ve had from touring in like four years or something. So you know it was well well received on my end and I’m looking forward to going to Europe again.

Who are you touring with?

In Europe I’m not really sure. In the U.S. though we’re going to have some really good bands with us. In March we’re taking this band called the Ukiah Drag out with us who toured with Destruction Unit in the fall actually they’re another band of really old friends of ours and…um like Cult Ritual and American Snakeskin and Neon Blood and all of those bands all those dudes have this new band. Playing with Gun Outfit at a bunch of shows and a band called Nude Beach from New York who are amazing and we’ve toured with them a few times. [They’re] gonna be pretty good shows all the way around I think.

What are the after tour plans?

We have a couple shows. We play a few festivals over the summer and I think we’ve always been a band that’s had like a record…like go out on the road oh we have a record already done… we always live a year in the future and like for this time around we’re living in the present and I don’t really know what’s going to happen after the, we’ll think about it afterwards you know we don’t have a new record, we don’t have anything we’re just going out on the road and when we get home from the road we’ll see what’s going on.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/178940-todays-hits-an-interview-with-mark-perro-of-the-men/