Scranton punk band The Menzingers admit ‘Some of It Was True’ on 7th album
From a press release:
At this point, The Menzingers are an absolute institution. The Scranton natives’ multi-decade reputation as punk rock road warriors with an unbeatable catalog is cemented as hard truth, despite the title of their seventh album, “Some of It Was True.”
The follow-up to 2019’s well-received “Hello Exile” accomplishes the daunting task of capturing the Philadelphia-based group’s distinctive live energy in the confines of the studio, resulting in an immediate sound that’s both rich, raw, and complementary to their increasingly prismatic songwriting approach. More than 15 years in, The Menzingers – vocalists/guitarists Greg Barnett and Tom May, bassist Eric Keen, and drummer Joe Godino – are still holding their listeners square in the immediate present, and this record documents that power in thrilling fashion.
“Written over the last two and a half years in hotels, backstages, basements, and rehearsal rooms and recorded during a life-changing retreat down South, ‘Some of It Was True’ is the most realized version of what we set out to do when we started this band 17 years ago – have fun and be ourselves,” Barnett shared.
Released today digitally and on all major streaming platforms via Epitaph Records, with physical copies due out Jan. 26, 2024, “Some of It Was True” comes after the longest gap between Menzingers records to date, a gestational period brought on by the “Hello Exile”-era tour schedule’s delays after the COVID-19 tour industry shutdown.
“We weren’t really writing new music yet,” Barnett explained. “We were talking about it, but we were honestly just happy to be out and touring again.”
“We turned down any offers at that point because we needed the time to write,” May mentioned while discussing the writing and recording process, which technically started while on the road and continued in intensive fashion while the boys were back home.
“We’d go out on tour, come home, and be in the practice space writing our asses off five days a week,” Barnett recalled.
“We had to learn to trust our instincts, which is the hardest thing to do when you’ve been in a band like this for so long. You get caught in your ways! It took a while to trust ourselves, but when we did, it was an amazing feeling.”
Making the process easier, Grammy-nominated producer Brad Cook (Bon Iver, The War on Drugs, Waxahatchee) joined the band in El Paso, Texas’ legendary Sonic Ranch studios and lent his incredible ear for raw, in-the-moment sound to help them achieve the album’s in-the-room live feel.
“The Menzingers are as real as it gets,” Cook said of his time in the studio with them. “I had an absolute blast working with these guys and was moved to tears many times. They are truly dedicated to artistic growth – and to each other – in ways I found both refreshing and beautiful. I am now a lifer.”
“Brad massively changed the way we were approaching the record,” May emphasized.
“We were able to bust out a ton of songs during the last part of the recording process as a result. We’d talk about music and develop a vocabulary about how to work together, and that made us embrace chasing the feeling instead worrying about locking in things immediately.”
“We wanted to make a fun record and write songs that we wanted to play live, and that’s exactly what we did,” Barnett added.
“We’ve always said that we want every album to sound live, but we never recorded an album live before. This was the first time we committed to that idea. We wanted to sound like how our band sounds onstage.”
Lyrically, “Some of It Was True” is a showcase for how the band’s songwriting has expanded beyond their own personal experiences, drawing from what’s happening around them and the lives of those who keep this world’s lifeforce pumping.
“Not everything has to derive from your own life,” Barnett noted. “We have the creative license to look around at our friends and family and write through their perspective. Everyone’s gone through so much.”
“We started this band when we were teenagers, and we’ve been at it for a while – and we’re a punk band, which usually represents a lot of youthful energy,” May continued.
“We’re getting older now, so the last thing we wanted to do was re-do anything we’ve tried in the past.”
Case in point – the head-bobbing beat of “There’s No Place in this World for Me” clicked into place after Barnett met several fans during a European tour stop who fled from Russia in opposition to the war.
“They were the epitome of the song – they had nowhere left to go,” he remembered. “They were my main focus when it came to finishing the song, it was really inspiring.”
More broadly, the song addresses the push and pull of life on the road, and how growing older plays into that evolving dynamic: “It’s about that feeling of sitting at home and thinking, ‘How much fun would it be to be in Berlin with your friends right now?’ And you get there and think, ‘Man, I just want to be home.’ The older you get, the more you feel that way, and this song is about trying to find that balance when it comes to where you are in life.”
The opening single “Hope Is a Dangerous Little Thing” features confessional lyrics with an anthemic burn, while “Try” swaggers with a slight power pop influence, receiving an offbeat, coming-of-age music video earlier this week. Directed by Whitey McConnaughy, fans might recognize some familiar faces from the videos for “I Don’t Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore” in 2014 “America (You’re Freaking Me Out)” in 2019.
With an endearing account of how the song came together, May explained: “We wrote this song the morning after Joe’s birthday. There was something about being together with old friends that had us fired up to write a straightforward punk song that barely breathes. Towards the end of jamming, one of us went to the wrong chord and it actually worked. We went a little out there with the outro and that happy accident made it on the record. It’s already become one of our favorite songs to play together.”
Elsewhere, they reckon with pain on “Come on Heartache,” a slowed-down rocker with twangy licks. Demonstrating their rich songwriting strength, the tune personifies the feeling of heartache with vivid imagery as they confront the emotion head on, accompanied by a music video shot at the historic preservation site Lynnewood Hall in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania with cinematic shots of the band performing in various gorgeous locations across the property.
About 120 miles away, The Menzingers formed in Scranton in 2006 and relocated to Philly before making their Epitaph debut with 2012’s “On the Impossible Past,” which was voted Album of the Year by Absolute Punk and Punk News. Arriving in 2014, their fourth album “Rented World” was praised as “packed with clever songwriting” by the New York Times and “a colossal fist-pumper” by Stereogum. In 2017, their fifth LP, “After the Party,” landed on best-of-the-year lists from outlets like Clash and Noisey, with Stereogum lauding its “almost unfairly well-written punk songs.” “Hello Exile,” the quartet’s “boldest and most self-assured album” according to Pop Matters, dropped in 2019 and was stripped down and reimagined as “From Exile” a year later.
Always reflecting on the past and how they ended up where they are today, “Some of It Was True” includes the May-led “Nobody Stays,” soaring with a hard-driving edge as his bell-clear vocals dig deep into the feelings that accompany watching things – and people – disappear over time.
“We’ve lived in this city for a long time as we’ve seen people come and go,” he pointed out.
“Some people you’ll never see again – or, maybe, even know what happens to them again. Instead of yearning, we’re approaching acceptance of those changes in our lives. I miss a lot of those people, but it’s OK that they’re gone too.”
The passage of time and how things change are, of course, topics that are always on peoples’ minds, but when it comes to “Some of It Was True,” The Menzingers are kickstarting a new era in their already illustrious career by tapping into the energy that brought the band to life in the very beginning.
“This record just feels different for us,” Barnett said.
“It’s a really important one in our catalog, and a pivotal moment in our history. We have the liberty of our fans growing with us now, and after writing these lyrical songs about where we are in life, we decided to take other peoples’ stories and make something bigger out of it.”
“It brought us back to our energetic side as a band,” May concurred.
“We got to let loose, which is what drew us to the energy of being in a band in the first place. This is a live band – why shouldn’t we record live songs? As a result, we’re back to why we started this band in the first place.”