The Menzingers’ Tom May on a year of growth, punk rock socks, New Year’s blackmail, and Scranton beer and pizza
Philadelphia punk band returns to Scranton for sold-out Holiday Show tonight
On paper, The Menzingers have had one of the best years of their career, releasing an incredible album on a major label and touring the country – and the world – yet again with some of the biggest and best names in the business, but personally, they’ve experienced the kind of success in 2014 that can’t be measured in record sales and tour dates.
Just ask guitarist/vocalist Tom May. We did, in fact, and even though his life has been insanely busy leading up to their annual Holiday Show at The Leonard in downtown Scranton, which just sold out this morning, he took the time to answer that and many more questions from NEPA Scene via e-mail before it all begins. That may be because The Menzingers have never forgotten their Scranton roots, coming back home from Philadelphia at least once a year for a show that raises money for charity – this time, it’s for Arts Alive, a summer program that teaches visual and performing arts to young kids.
Or it may just be because May is a damn nice guy. Either way, he’s what he had to say about personal growth, reuniting and playing with the bands he grew up with, The Bog and Maroni’s Pizza, his favorite albums of the year, and his sinister New Year’s resolution.
TOM MAY: This was an incredible year for us as a band and personally. I feel like I’ve grown more in this short period of time than ever before. Our band has grown more than ever before. We are starting to carve out a place for ourselves in the world. We’re not getting complacent, but things are just making a bit more sense. We were on the road for a long time, but it was perfect. We are starting to be able to tour on our own and bring the bands we love with us. It’s quite a feeling of accomplishment.
NS: “Rented World” has been out for a good portion of the year now. How has it been received by audiences and your fans, and what kind of impact has it had compared to your previous albums so far?
TM: People seem to love it. The songs on that record get an incredible response live. “On the Impossible Past” was a big jump, but this record has been an even bigger jump in terms of how many people are starting to come out.
NS: Have you already been thinking about new songs at all, or are you just focused on this album at the moment?
TM: We’re always thinking about new songs. With that said, we are finally in the stages where we’ll be ready to sit down and start banging out the next record.
NS: What was your favorite album (or albums) this year?
TM: My favorite album of the year was “Hungry Ghost” by Violent Soho. One beautiful part about being a musician is that so many of my good friends put out incredible records that I genuinely get to adore. This year, Tigers Jaw, Cayetana, Modern Baseball, PUP, The Holy Mess, and The Smith Street Band all put out great records, and that is just to name a few.
NS: Is there anything specific you have to do when you’re back in Scranton, other than visit with friends and family?
TM: I always try to throw a few back at The Bog, as well as grab a hoagie or some wings, and almost always some Maroni’s pizza.
NS: How did you choose The Leonard as the location for this year’s holiday show? Is this the first concert there since it reopened to the public?
TM: It is the first concert since it has reopened. We chose it because it fits our needs the best. It’s also gorgeous in there! There is a lot of history in there. Did you know Frank Sinatra performed there? That’s so sick.
TM: Ben Walsh reached out to the guys and made it happen.
NS: Did those two bands play a role in your early years as a band at all? What are some of your favorite memories of those bands?
TM: They played a huge role. They were whom we looked up to, and still do. My favorite memory is of my first show ever. I went to go and see Brian Langan’s (of The SW!MS) old band called Wonderdog at Homebase in Wilkes-Barre. I wore these really high socks because I thought it was punk. My best friend Nick and I went. His older brother Jody took us. They’ll both be at the show. Nick is helping to coordinate. It’s crazy to think about after all of these years.
NS: There’s some new names on the bill this year, like Esta Coda. How did you choose the lineup this year?
TM: Well, The Red Barons reached out to us, as well as Esta Coda. We go a ways back with the Esta Coda boys. We chose the lineup this year basically by making a list between us and Tigers Jaw and narrowing it down to something that was practical.
NS: What will you have in store for your own set at the show? Any surprises?
TM: We’re just going to blast through “The Hits,” I suppose. It’s always funny in a pretentious way to call them “The Hits.” Really, we’ll play the songs people seem to enjoy the most; the songs that we enjoy playing the most.
There is an oldie thrown in there as well, though.
NS: What programs will this show benefit, and what does that charity mean to you and the band?
TM: It will benefit the Arts Alive program. They are some very kind people who have helped some people very close to us build confidence in themselves as young people in the arts.
NS: What is the best part about the holiday show every year for you personally?
TM: The Bog afterwards.
NS: You’re hitting the road with Taking Back Sunday next year. What are those guys like, and has their music influenced you at all?
TM: They are really nice guys. They definitely influenced us growing up.
NS: Do you have any other plans in terms of touring or recording next year?
TM: We have a loose touring schedule planned up pretty much all the way through 2015. Things change, of course, but it’s always crazy to kind of have your year planned.
NS: Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
TM: Nope. Wait. It’s a secret. OK, so it’s not a secret. I’m going to buy a bunch of domain names that are basically “PERSONSNAME.COM” that are the names of my actual friends, and then I’m going to blackmail them in hilarious ways. So it’s not really a resolution so much as a prank I want to run through the year.
NS: Do you have any goals for 2015?
TM: I want to have better posture and learn more about Chinese food. What am I, 50 years old?
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, photographer, and podcast host. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.