Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs
The days, over the last half-decade, have been fairly storied for Say Anything lead singer Max Bemis. He's spent these years going out of his mind and reeling himself back in to a place where he's better, for the time being. It's possible that you'd never feel entirely fixed after going through some of the episodes that Bemis did, living through the delusions and scary, tumultuous mental contusions that he did. He was not well for a good long time and, under the care of his mother and doctors, was able to pull himself back to some life, where doubts are reasonable and uncertainties are justified, not bizarre and disturbing flares of craziness. It seems that it's easy to get to a similar place, if we let ourselves. The excursions might not take us to the lengths that Bemis' did, but they can get nasty and they can get uncompromisingly serious. The downward spirals could gain speed and, suddenly, before you know it, you're at the bottom of the hole looking up and there's no one hearing your pleas, or if they do, they don't have a rope long enough to send down to you to pull you out of your trap. You're there and you're helpless and there's nothing quite like the feeling of being cornered, with no one to call on but yourself. You've lost your wits for the whispers and the asides and you've tumbled into a small bit of madness that could clear up or leave a sticky residue, depending on how it's diagnosed and treated. Bemis' internal struggles are his own to understand and wrestle with, but those that he deals with in his songs - the ones that he writes for himself and those that he's penned for his band - are ones with universal impact, the kinds that are often tucked away behind veneers and walls, keep well out of the light and swept under the rugs until they've grown into the kinds of boogiemen and monsters that can't be shooed away like horseflies or moths. Bemis sings about treating this sore or that sore, the pain of today or the pain suspected for arrival tomorrow, with a bottle of booze. It was the method that he turned to for so long and he found that to be a big broom, but one that ultimately still left everything as dirty as it ever was. The issues never got the attention they deserved and yet, in song, they seem like they shared some features of the garden-variety miseries and others that were specific to the young man, or ones that we might all discover at our own pace. They can take us down or change us irreversibly, depending on how we deal with them. For instance, what do we do when we begin to realize that someone we love is actually lonelier than we'd ever recognized before? If someone we'd always taken for a person with it all together, living a life that they were proud of and satisfied with suddenly came into view as depressed of an individual as we've ever seen and there was little to be done about it. Those were their own pains, internal and rotting. Although we could be concerned, we were not going to be solutions for those loved ones. It's hard to take. Bemis seems to have found some balance to those realizations, those insights into his own troublesome heart and those measures that need to be taken to not let it all unravel into a pool of despair. He sings, "I'll look out for you/Til I die/Til I rot/Oh, I'll remember you/Til I die/Til I rot/You're what keeps me beliving the world's not gone dead/Strength in my bones, put the words in my head/When they pour out to paper/It's all for you/Cause that's what you do," and it's the only light he's looking for anymore.