“Rockers” is an easy descriptor to throw in front of any band with drums and a guitar, but it would be hard to find a group for which the term is actually more appropriate than The Men. The Brooklyn four-piece hold nothing back, both on record and on stage, and over the past few years their heavy, guitar-shredding brand of rock has won the praise of critics and fans alike.
After self-releasing two albums, The Men broke through with their Sacred Bones debut, Leave Home, in 2010. Earlier this year, they followed it up with the equally superb Open Your Heart, which though still as heavy as previous releases, boasts a more polished collection of songs.
We recently caught up The Men in between gigs to discuss switching from a three-piece to a four-piece, expanding their sound and what to expect from their next album.
I’ve seen you guys play once, at a bike shop at SXSW this year, and I don’t know what happened, but at least a few of you ended up with blood all over your faces at the end of the set. Is stuff like this a common occurrence at your live performances?
Mark Perro: Not really. We do the best that we can when we’re playing. We bang our guitars around and stuff sometimes, but I think that was a one time deal.
You guys usually keep it pretty clean?
Perro: Well I don’t know about clean…
Blood-free then, at least?
Perro: Yeah, I’m not trying to bleed or anything.
Have you noticed a difference in the types of crowds that are coming out to see you guys now as opposed to when you were touring for your first two albums, before you were as successful?
Nick Chiericozzi: Yeah, more people seem to know about us over the past few years. That’s been really cool.
A lot of people have spent a lot of time trying to peg your influences and compare you to this band or that band. How would you describe your music?
Chiericozzi: We have a lot of influences, but we don’t think we sound too much like anyone else. It happens, but I think that’s just so people can relate to [our music] who are just picking up a magazine. It helps when you can pick out influences.
You’re pretty straightforward and don’t seem to associate with any particular scene. What do you think of the state of music today?
Chiericozzi: I like it. I’ve only really known [this era of music]. I don’t really know a lot about [other eras], but I feel like that one of the good things about the Internet is that it allows everyone to kind of have their own personal imprint and do what they want. Things have sort of flattened out, and I think that’s pretty cool. I certainly think that we’re doing what we want and we like being on our label, so it’s been good for us.
What have you liked about working with Sacred Bones?
Chiericozzi: It’s been real cool. They’re friends of ours and they pretty much let us do what we want. They give us the opportunity to put out records, so it’s been totally great.
Are there any other bands playing today that you guys particularly admire?
Chiericozzi: Yeah! There’s a band called Nude Beach that’s from Brooklyn that we really like a lot. A band called Organs from Brooklyn that we really like. Another band from Florida called American Snakeskin. Those three, I’d say.
You really broke through after switching from a three-piece to a four-piece set up. What was it about this new dynamic that took you guys to the next level?
Chiericozzi: It’s a lot more work for the guitars. Mark and I were writing the songs on guitar anyway, when we started, so it allowed us to have that same set-up that we do in our bedroom on stage. I think Mark was tired of playing drums and Richie [Samis] is a really good drummer, and he was able to step up and play for us. It allowed a lot more interplay with the guitars. I think that’s what’s been working best.
Your latest album, Open Your Heart, is still really heavy and still rocks, but it’s a little more polished than a lot of your other stuff. Especially a song like “Candy,” which is totally different from what people have come to expect from you. Where did the inspiration come for this song? What made you change it up?
Chiericozzi: I don’t know. I remember when we had it on guitar, I thought it was kind of like a Creedence Clearwater Revival song. I guess that was the inspiration. I’ve never really thought about it. A country tone, though, is what we were thinking.
Do you see yourselves writing more acoustic songs like this in the future?
Chiericozzi: Maybe. I don’t know, it depends. When we write we just kind of see what happens. It’s possible though. That influence has been there for a long time. I think now it’s just becoming a little more obvious.
What’s the vibe on the new album you’re mixing. Is it decidedly heavier or are there some more country-inspired songs like “Candy”?
Chiericozzi: We haven’t put together all the songs yet, but it’s certainly loud and electric, rock ‘n’ roll type songs. But there’s a lot more variety with acoustic instruments and pianos and harmonicas and stuff like that. We’re continuing to expand on that.
Do you know when it’s is set to come out?
Chiericozzi: Next year sometime. Probably in the beginning of the year.
Especially recently you have been getting a lot of attention and a lot of good reviews. Is this something you guys pay attention to at all? Your critical reception?
Chiericozzi: No, not really. We do a little. We do interviews, and might read a review occasionally, or sometimes our friends will send us something they’ve read, but we don’t really seek that stuff out.
What was the tour in Europe like? Were people as familiar with you there as they are in the U.S.?
Chiericozzi: We played to probably the biggest crowds we’ve every played with. We just played to 5,000 people in Spain. I don’t know if we’re bigger over there, per say, but there was definitely a lot of people that came out to see us.
The Men just finished up touring Europe and Canada, and on Saturday they kicked off a U.S. at the Pyramid in Grand Rapids, Mich. You check out a complete list of The Men’s upcoming dates below:
The Men Tour Dates
16 - Grand Rapids, Mich. @ Pyramid
17 - Madison, Wisc. @ The Frequency
18 - Minneapolis, Minn. @ 7th Street Entry
19 - Fargo, N.D. @ The Aquarium
21 - Spokane, Wash. @ Mootsy’s
22 - Seattle, Wash. @ Barboza
23 - Portland, Ore. @ Mississippi Studios
24 - San Francisco, Calif. @ Bottom of the Hill
25 - Santa Cruz, Calif. @ 105 Pioneer St.
26 - Los Angeles, Calif. @ The Smell
28 - Phoenix, Ariz. @ The Rhythm Room
29 - El Paso, Texas @ Lips Lounge
30 - Austin, Texas @ Red 7
1 - Beaumont, Texas @ Victoria House
2 - Jackson, Miss. @ Hal & Mals
3 - Atlanta, Ga. @ 529
4 - Belmont, N.C. @ Haunted Mill
5 - Washington, D.C. @ DC 9