For a noisy, guitar-rooted Brooklyn band that’s lately been the subject of plenty of blog entries, tweets, mentions in South By Southwest roundups and what will probably be high-ranking spots on plenty of year-end best-of lists this year, The Men have little time or patience for blogs, Twitter or buzzy reviews. In fact, they kind of think it screws with their art.
“We make music, and I think that’s enough of a message,” guitarist and vocalist Marc Perro says. “I don’t think I need to be like, ‘Hey, what’s up? I’m in Chicago and I had a pizza.’ That’s irrelevant, and that waters down music. It opens that door too wide, and you can’t separate the person from the sound. The music can’t stand alone because you have an image of a guy in front of a McDonald’s. We’d rather write a song than update our blogs.”
It would be hard to not get that hint from their official website, a Blogspot page where the online store has nothing for sale and an album announcement reads like an exercise in short-form writing: “matador 7” comes out in may. we’re starting a new full length before that happens.” You should be able to tell from the band’s releases on Sacred Bones Records, where their plain, near-identical mastheads rattle off the album’s title, the year the album was recorded, track titles and not much else.
And if you really want to get a full taste for The Men’s aversion to stuff that doesn’t matter to them (Under this category, check glossy album production, interacting with the blogosphere and promoting their music with flowery press releases) just see one of their live shows on any one of their expansive tour dates this summer. While you’ll miss out on stage lights, production and witty stage banter, you’ll be hard-pressed to care with the band’s loud-as-hell set that only aims to butter up audience members by playing their songs really damn well.
But you took this directness to mean that The Men—comprised of guitarist and vocalists Marc Perro and Nick Chiericozzi, along with recorded help from Chris Hansell, Rich Samis, Kevin Faulkner and Ben Greenberg—is a troupe of grumpy, unhappy musician guys, you’d be mistaken. Their latest collection of tracks, this year’s Open Your Heart doesn’t only see the band emoting anger and frustration with sludgy guitars and hack-inducing howls. Instead, with the help of some newfound country overtones—referenced most literally on “Country Song” and obviously in the carefree, acoustic-led “Candy”—the band is, dare we say it, happy.
Although you wouldn’t expect it from the group, Perro says this positive shift in some ways was a conscious effort that came after the press’ reaction to their 2011 LP, Leave Home, which at its most jarring moment features a raw-throated, near-speaking-in-tongues rant on “L.A.D.O.C.H.”.
“People were making violent comparisons about the record,” Perro says. “I never intended it to be that way. We were coming from the same place we were coming from with Open Your Heart but some of these guys were like, ‘Oh, these guys are gonna melt your face and rip you apart and this and that,’ I think maybe some of that had a factor where we wanted to strip the sound down and warm it up and show a different side of us.”
The difference isn’t questionable in album standout tracks like “Turn it Around” and “Open Your Heart,” bits that got their start from Perro and Chiericozzi jamming acoustically. And one of the things that brought about this newfound positivity is referenced in Open Your Heart’s country-twinged “Candy,” a track that the duo brainstormed lyrics for in Perro’s kitchen after ending their careers as professionals in Manhattan.
“We actually worked two blocks from each other in Manhattan,” Perro says. “We’d meet for lunch and get drunk and complain how horrible it was. We’d email each other constantly like, ‘I have this idea.’ The band was always our No. 1 priority, and the work was something we had to do to make some money, but we were always working on that stuff, but we made the most out of the situation being that we had to work so hard for that long. That allowed us to put out our own records for a while and let us do a few tours that we made absolutely no money on.”
And for a guy that couldn’t care less about the politics of music outside of crafting tunes, he’s got no qualms with his band’s newfound accessibility. It is, in fact, allowing him and the rest of The Men to make those songs without holding down those dreaded, time-wasting day jobs.
“We didn’t intend it to be so accessible, but I have ears,” Perro says. “I can definitely tell that it’s a lot rounder, smoother and warmer than our other records. We were consciously trying to make a warmer record, so it’s good to hear that worked. We weren’t trying to be accessible or not, we were just trying to write better songs, and I can’t complain that people are into it.”