The band keeps early successes in mind with the release of a new record, “Anarchy, My Dear.”
“You always remember your first,” Say Anything songwriter and vocalist Max Bemis sings on the band’s 2004 debut, ...Is A Real Boy. He’s not referring to the records his band makes, but he might as well be. Earlier this year the Los Angeles pop-punk band released Anarchy, My Dear, a record that has them looking backwards. Say Anything plays The Voodoo Experience this Friday evening, and The Republic later that night for Spotify's 'Voodoo After Dark'.
If you were 13 years old in 2004, you downloaded and listened to Say Anything’s ...Is A Real Boy. The collection of emotion-fueled anthems put a catchy pop spin on the garage-rock noise of the ‘90s. The record spoke to a younger audience, and Bemis acknowledges it. “For so many people who were growing up at the time, they bought the record or had a friend tell them about it,” he says. “People were like, ‘Wow, this is pretty weird and out there, and I’ve never heard anything like this.’”
Post-punk guitar sounds and thick vocals characterize their debut, and the band gathered a rapid following with its release. “I think part of it’s success is that it’s our first,” Bemis says. “When you become used to an artist, or you have the preconceived notion of the band already, they put out their second or third record and you can’t help but put it in a certain context. Besides the stuff that we’d done in high school, which we don’t really consider to be official releases, this was our first record.”
It’s also the record that Bemis says he’s most proud of. “It connected with kids. In certain respects, I’ll always be the most proud of that record for that reason.” But he adds that Anarchy, My Dear is, “by far and away the best record we’ve made.”
Nearly a decade later, Say Anything worked with ...Is A Real Boy’s producer Tim O’Heir once again for the new album. Bemis admits that O’Heir’s presence took him back to that first record and provided a stark contrast to where he was then and now. “Just being around Tim evokes a lot of memories of a crazy time in my life. When we recorded ...Is a Real Boy, it was a tumultuous time,” he says. “When the band started, I was naive, innocent. I got really jaded, screwed up, and went through an extremely dark period. There were some polarizing states of mind and being.”
Bemis’s clever lyrics, a trademark of Say Anything, don’t hint at his former problems with drugs, heartache, and depression. They say it outright, and with a rush of desperate honesty. “There’s not a lot veiled in poetic bullshit,” Bemis says. “The lyrics come quickly and I don’t labor too much over them. Usually I give it a once-over, see if there’s any phrases that might fit better before I move on. There are times where it comes out exactly the way it’s going to be.”
Lyrical content has changed as Bemis has, the biggest difference between his writing then and now. Anarchy, My Dear is still a collection of sharp-edged pop rock songs, but Bemis isn’t writing about Molly Connolly anymore. The new record allows for breathing space, with less angst and a more mature songwriter behind it. “Now, I’m in this great place and I’m starting a family,” he says. “The music itself is very different, but I’d like to think that at it’s core, at my core, it’s still the same.”