Interview: The Menzingers

By Nicole Carter

Philadelphia band the Menzingers, are hitting the road with Lemuria, PUP, and Cayetana this summer on a must-see US tour, and a phenomenal new record in tow. Nicole Carter sat down with vocalist and guitarist Greg Barnett before their Philly show at Union Transfer to talk about taking Rented World on the road, the Philly punk scene, and being in a band with your best friends.

PT: So back in April, you guys played at Golden Tea House (a West Philadelphia punk house). How did that all come together considering you guys play much larger venues now?

Greg Barnett: We’re really close friends with everybody at [local show promoter] The Guild and the people that live there and we’ve been going to shows there for a while, and we’ve always wanted to do it, but it never really worked out. Like, someone would be out of town or that it just didn’t make sense. And then we realized that there wasn’t an official record release show for the tour, and what better place to do it than there? We were already playing Philly later and we didn’t want to do a show at a club or anything, so why not? It was awesome. It was absolutely perfect and so much fun.

PT: Did you expect it to be that crazy at all?

GB: Not at all! [laughs] Honestly, I was kind of nervous because I was the one that posted it online. Everybody was like “don’t post it the day before, post it the day of.” And I was like “nooooo, people have jobs, people probably already made plans. It’s a Tuesday!” And then I posted it and people started getting really excited about it. Like, people were driving from Jersey and upstate New York and stuff so it was great! I guess the only bummer in that kind of sense is that I hate playing shows where people can’t come. It’s like “you have to go home because someone else got here first.” It sucks. So that’s what’s cool about a place like [Union Transfer] where it’s so massive so essentially anybody that would want to come can. But it is something awesome to play a little tiny place like that and everybody falls into the drum set [laughs].

PT: Do you think you’ll ever play shows like that again?

GB: Totally! We have fun doing it. We’re a band that likes to change things up as much as possible. If we just played big venues, it would be boring, in my mind. If we just played small venues, we’d want to play big ones. So I think constantly switching it up is always good. We’ll absolutely do it again!

PT: So, Rented World’s been out for a little over a month now. I know you guys took a totally different direction with this record. It was a really pleasant surprise. Now that it’s been out for a while, how do you feel it’s been received by fans so far?

GB: It’s kind of awesome! We didn’t really know, because the only show we played in America was the Tea House, and we went to Europe and did a tour, but it was more festivals, so it wasn’t like an intimate kind of feeling where you’re like “I think the songs are going over, but I don’t know where they’re fitting.” And we started this tour two days ago and we started playing them and it was like, “holy shit!” People know these songs better than the old songs! So that’s awesome, y’know? I can’t be happier. It’s such a great feeling. It’s really cool to have people really enjoy what you do. It means the world.

PT: You did add a lot of new elements to your music, and I was reading a lot about the production of this record. Have you been bringing a lot of these new elements live? And has it crossed over into any of your older material as well?

GB: Definitely! Just the fact that we’ve all kind of turned into gearheads now! Jon Low and Miner Street, they just have so much cool and weird stuff, that now we’re like “yeah! We want that, we want that!” Pedal boards keep growing. More amps on stage and stuff, so that definitely does affect the older songs. And just even the fact of sometimes just jamming on a song longer and just changing things up. Definitely the whole process of recording at Miner Street has branched out into what we’re doing now.

PT: I’ve also read a lot about how you guys spend a lot of time together outside of typical band activities. Like, you were all even living together for a while at one point. How do you guys have such a strong band dynamic?

GB: I couldn’t even tell you! Honestly, when we come home from tour, they’re the first people I call to hang out. I hang out with all the other three of them, like five days a week for the last seven years, eight years? Our band is just based around being best friends, so why would you not want to hang out with your friends all the time? The band has become more of just “this is what we do, and then we come home and do this.” This is our life and when you’re home, you’re still in the mix of it. Like, we come home and we still just talk about things that we can do, like sit around and try to write songs. It’s this constant thing that we’re always doing. It’s our passion. It’s like our baby essentially. So we’re just always doing stuff with the band.

PT: What bands would you love to tour with that you haven’t yet?

GB: Aw, damn! For bigger bands, we’ve never toured with Alkaline Trio. I’m a huge Alkaline Trio fan. I always thought that would be really cool. I know Joe, his one big one would be Jimmy Eat World. He’s a huge Jimmy Eat World fan. That would be nuts. That would be crazy! We’ve never toured with Spraynard, which I want to tour with them. It’s crazy! Now they’re back together, so hopefully they’ll want to do a tour with us. Mostly I just want to continue to tour with my friends’ bands and bands with future friends, we call them. Bands that we like and respect and I feel like that’s what we kind of always done and hope to continue to just keep doing that.

PT: Yeah, because I noticed there always seems to be other Philly bands on the bill at your shows.

GB: Totally! And that’s because that’s what we listen to. And those are our friends. Why would we not want to go cross country with bands that we love and are our friends? This tour worked out so well because we got to go on tour with three bands that we truly love and it’s awesome! It’s such a great vibe. Everybody’s having fun. It’s gonna be really fun!

PT: What’s your favorite Philly show that you’ve played? What are your favorite places to play in Philly, past or present?

GB: Definitely the First Unitarian Church! To this day. The first time we ever played the Church with Algernon Cadwallader was probably my favorite show we’ve ever played. And that was such a crazy moment for us, like “I can’t believe we can do this! Someone let us do this!” It felt crazy! Just that that many people were there, and all my friends were there and it was just a blast. That show meant so much to me. Honestly, every Philly show from there on out has been like that, where we’ve been living here for a while now, so you just meet so many people and it’s so cool to see everybody come out and hang. It’s great!

PT: Exactly! A continuation of that, a lot of places online have claimed Philly has one of the best scenes ever. What do you think makes Philly so special?

GB: I think what makes it special, from travelling so much, is the camaraderie and that it’s just so communal. Everybody is helping each other out. The scene is so large, but it’s so small at the same time. It’s really hard to explain, I guess. You can go to a place like Chicago, where it has such an insane punk scene. People come to the shows, but the connection with the bands together isn’t like what it is here. Like here, everybody watches out for each other. Everybody helps each other out. Even with this last record, when we were writing the songs and just having our friends and bands come over being like “Cool! Let me jam on it with you!” That’s just kind of how it’s always worked. You share the songs and if you get a reaction that it’s good, it’s cool, we can try and use this with the band. And that’s something I think Philly has, that everybody’s really in it together. A lot of other scenes, it doesn’t really feel that way. I feel like that’s why a lot of people look at this scene and ask “how are all these bands popping up and popping up?” And they’re all great! I think it’s because the bar is so high and there’s no contest, really.

PT: So finishing up, what records from this year have you been really excited about? And what are you looking forward to?

GB: I think my favorite record is the new War On Drugs record, a Philly band [laughs]. Awesome! That’s the one I’ve been playing so much. The new PUP record is really really really good. I’ve heard the Cayetana record in parts and I’ve heard it at their house at a party, but I haven’t gotten to actually sit with headphones and just listen to it, so I’m really really excited about being able to do that because it’s awesome! I just want to be able to dive into the songs and everything. I’m trying to think what’s come out this year…The Lawrence Arms record, the Against Me! record. Those were great, I love those records.

PT: And aren’t Restorations putting a record out this year?

GB: That’s right! I’ve heard it in Europe! It’s great! It’s really really good. Oh man, that one is gonna be a good one. I think the last song, if I can remember right, I was just like “holy shit! What an awesome way to end a record.” So you’re in for a treat!

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