By Nicole VilleneuvePennsylvania's the Menzingers have been operating on a cycle of great expectations and fulfilling them since before breakthrough album Chamberlain Waits was released in 2010. And on their new full-length, much-anticipated Epitaph debut On The Impossible Past, they exceed expectations once again. Kicking off with "Good Things," a song that starts small and explodes (not unlike another standout, "Ava House"), it's a track about a touring act's road weariness, but in the context of the album's 13 tracks, it's a steady unravelling as a band of great, young American storytellers. Anthemic is a word that easily gets overused when talking about pop-punk, but it'd be a disservice to the Menzingers to not mention their knack for the grandiose. "Gates" is a masterful (and very Clash-like) pop song that successfully expands their musical scope, while "The Obituaries" and "Nice Things" get dirty enough in the choruses to satisfy the stage divers once more. On the Impossible Past's ambitions may be bigger than its punk britches, which is good, because it shouldn't go overlooked.
Where are you guys currently? Vocalist/guitarist Greg Barnett: We're actually home; we just got off the tour with Rise Against. We're hanging out before we go to Australia in two weeks.
I'm sure the arena tour is a little bit of a different beast for you guys. Yeah, it's so different from anything we're used to or have ever done. We're not the kind of band that have the stage voices that go out like, "okay, Chicago, are you ready!" We still operate like we're playing in front of 50 people in a basement. Then you look out and there are 5,000 people in an arena. We just play as many songs as possible and don't talk, basically.
You guys have had a big few years over the last little while. From the outside it seems like you guys haven't stopped. Absolutely. I think we've been on this routine of tour for a month, come home for a week, go out for another month, come home for two weeks. It's been like that pretty steadily. I think we're all kind of used to it and comfortable. It feels weird to come home sometimes because you're so used to being out.
Watching you guys blow up a bit after Chamberlain Waits, it's maybe hard to say if this success is something you guys had planned, but does this at all resemble a vision you had for the band at all? Sure, I mean, I don't know if I could say I actually saw it to this level, but it's definitely what we always wanted and hoped we would achieve. Things are definitely going on the right path.
Has there been any high or low point that especially stands out over the past two years? Signing to Epitaph was definitely a surreal experience. Getting phone calls from Brett Gurewitz and flying out to L.A. to meet him, and things like that were weird. Honestly, just the first time that we did a European tour. Getting on a plane, leaving the continent to play music that we wrote in our basement and doing some big European festivals with big bands ― it's just insane. We're all from a really, really small town in Pennsylvania that no one has ever heard of [Scranton], besides a TV show, The Office. It's just funny to be able to do something this big, and not take any of it for granted, and remember where we're from.
I assume you tour enough not to worry about day jobs now. Yeah, this is essentially our jobs, which is funny to say. We're going to be filing taxes and I guess I'm going to be writing "musician" this year. That's definitely something I never thought would ever happen. That's another one of those cool turning points, which is nuts. But I guess that kind of happened after Chamberlain Waits.; we weren't making any money, but we were touring so much. Now it's more financially stable. And when I say, "stable" I do mean it in the loosest way possible [laughs].
Did you receive any backlash from the punk community on the success you're experiencing? You know how easily people will throw the sell-out word around. You know what, no. I think Against Me! were sort of the scapegoats for that. Everybody kind of just took it out on them, then after that, it was like, "you know, everybody has to try to make it somehow." One band get it really harsh, then other bands start to do well and it's like, ultimately, no one's making money. Everybody's been really supportive of everything we've done. We've tried to make the smartest decisions possible and turn down a lot of things that aren't what we agree with. (Epitaph)