WORDS: BECTON SIMPSON

Following on from such a hugely successful record like ‘After The Party’ was always going to be tough, but being six full lengths into their career, it’s safe to say The Menzingers knew what they were doing. ‘Hello Exile’ certainly has a different vibe and style from their previous releases, something that guitarist and vocalist Greg Barnett tells us was a conscious decision. “We knew it was important to create something that would both stand out from our other albums and still fit in with what we’ve done in the past,” he explained. “It can be complicated achieving that but I’m really happy with how everything turned out. Sonically, we wanted the album to sound raw and have a live quality to it, but we were also very interested in using the studio to its greatest capacity. We went in with very little limitations.”

It was also important to them not to be too bogged down by any kind of outside pressures to top or surpass ‘After The Party’. “I think in a lot of ways it’s dangerous to let outside pressure affect a band’s songwriting,” reflected Greg. “We stuck to what we’ve always done, we blocked it out and focused on the songs. This album was a massive life consuming project, more than any other, but after the album was finished we knew we created something we can be proud of for the rest of our lives.”

“America has always freaked me out…but the current political and social climate in the United States is undoubtedly the worst I’ve experienced in my lifetime”

‘Hello Exile’ represents where the Menzingers are at this current moment in time, and where their country is, with songs such as ‘America (You’re Freaking Me Out)’ summing up how they feel about the political climate although Greg admitted: “America has always freaked me out…but the current political and social climate in the United States is undoubtedly the worst I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Wealth inequality, racism, sexism, complete inaction on climate change, never-ending wars… where do I even start…. There’s so much I wanted to include in this song, but three minutes and thirty five seconds of punk rock only allows so much.”

Punk has always had a close relationship with politics, the culture of punk rallying against the injustices of society and although Menzingers aren’t as known for their political punk in the same way that bands like Anti-Flag are, Greg still thinks it’s important to comment on social issues occasionally and use their large platform for good. “There are plenty of other disenfranchised voices that deserve to be heard more than my own,” he said humbly. “I think my true responsibility is to listen and amplify them. That being said I’ve come to realize the weight of my words, since I am to a certain extent, in the public eye. I hope my future self continues to use the platform wisely.”

Aside from the political, a lot of the tracks on ‘Hello Exile’ are deeply personal, exploring Greg’s relationship with memory which is “a recurring theme in the lyrics…my attempts to understand and reconcile those memories play out through a lot of the subject matter. Human relationships are so incredibly complex…Tom and I like writing about these complexities.”

“Its crucial to watch out for your friends, help them when they need it, and to ask for help when you need it..”

Even the title of the album itself is personal, deep and reflective, which is an accurate description of the music and content of the record. “The title of the album sums up the overall theme quite nicely,” explained Greg. “I’ve kept this Napoleon Boneparte biography on my nightstand for the better part of three years. If you’re unfamiliar, Napoleon was exiled twice, first to the island of Elba where he escaped, and then finally to the island of St. Helena where he lived until his death. Reading about his multiple exiles stayed on my subconscious mind for whatever reason, and in a way started to frame my writing.” He then went on to recall the day Trump was elected. “I was in Paris on vacation with my girlfriend at the time…We sat in a bar that night and sobbed. We were scared of the future. We didn’t want to go home, but it felt wrong to be away. It felt like exile.”

Writing for the album officially began in September 2018, with the majority of the songwriting done in January/February of 2019. “Once we got in the groove, the songs poured out,” said Greg. “We still write the same we always have, with the four of us in a room bouncing ideas off each other…We built the songs from the ground up, recording drums first, then bass, then guitars, then vocals, and finally adding any additional instrumentation.” Now that the album’s out, the band are on a pretty grueling tour schedule right through to December but that’s nothing new to Greg or the band, who embrace life on the road. “Traveling in this fashion has been one of the greatest joys of my life and I couldn’t imagine life without it,” he reflected. “Thankfully we’ve managed to maintain our sanity and friendships with each other. Protecting that delicate relationship is by far the most important lesson we’ve learned. Its crucial to watch out for your friends, help them when they need it, and to ask for help when you need it.”

Next February, The Menzingers are bringing their tour to the UK which will actually be a special anniversary tour for them as Greg explained. “It’ll be 10 years since our very first UK tour,” he said. “It’s so incredible to look back on every tour, every show, every friendship made, and remember it all so fondly. It’s a true home away from home and I can’t wait to come back.”

 

 

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