The Men

The Men
A lot of ink (and pixels) have been spilled over Brooklyn four-piece the Men. Critics and fans alike have enthusiastically embraced their transformation from a noisy, psychedelic-hardcore band into a noisy '80s punk band on their hook heavy third album Open Your Heart. Not that the band seem all that affected by the attention. "You can start to get in trouble when you start to believe what people say about you," says singer-guitarist Mark Perro. "We just try to do our thing and people think what they think."

When did you guys record
Open Your Heart? Leave Home has been out for less than a year.
We recorded it in May, right around when Leave Home came out actually. It was finished by the summertime.

When was Leave Home recorded?
In May of 2010.

So it had been in the can for a year before it came out?
Yeah. Give or take.

How did the shift in sound come about? Did you guys make a purposeful decision to embrace your influences?
I don't think it was focused or on purpose. We like all that stuff. I think we were just playing what we wanted to play. I think we were just trying to be as open to whatever ideas were going on. Whatever came out was just a product of that natural process.

There are a lot of overt hooks on the record. Were you repressing that side of your songwriting before?
I think we were trying to focus more on the melodies. Leave Home was more about the sound and the tones. This one is more about the songs and the melodies. I think we were really conscious of focusing on the melodies and trying to do something a little more song-based.

Why did you want to take it in that direction?
I think it's just a natural progression as songwriters. People want to write better songs.

How does the writing process work for in the band?
Most of it comes from Nick [Chiericozzi, singer-guitarist] and myself. We'll have some ideas, show them to each other and then jam them out to a certain degree. If anyone has ideas, we'll see that idea through. We try to be as organic and easy as possible.

The record is still really loud. How do you capture that sound on record?
We recorded on tape both times. We're not afraid to push the tape and let it get really loud and natural. When we record we try to have a blank canvas and record what's actually going on. So if we're playing loud, we want to record loud. We're just not afraid to push the levels a bit and let some natural tape distortion happen. We're not trying to contain anything.

Do you use a lot of overdubs?
On this one we did. We did a lot of layering of vocals, and guitar overdubs. There's a ton of acoustic guitars on that record. On Leave Home, there weren't really any overdubs and we did everything basically live. This one we did all the tracking live, but we spent a lot of time on layering the guitars, trying to get some good textures and sounds going and double vocal tracks and harmonies and things. This time we spent a lot of time on that, but that's not necessarily the future.

How did songs like "Country Song" and the mostly acoustic "Candy" come together?
They were just things we'd been playing for a while. We'd been toying with those sorts of ideas for a while even before Leave Home. We finally got them to a place where we felt really good about them and they were ready to be something more than just ideas. That stuff was always there, we were always into doing that sort of thing but I think we got a little bit more confident to do it.

There are a lot of instrumentals on both albums. How do you decide which tracks get lyrics?
Lyrics have always been kind of an afterthought and vocals have been kind of an afterthought. We've always been more of a musical band. A lot of times songs live for a long time before there's any vocals. I think our minds just work a little more musically. I don't think we really have a frontman. I don't think our personalities are the frontman type. We play guitars. I think it ends up that because that's just how our minds work naturally. I don't think we forsake something if we can't come up with a vocal idea and we're very comfortable with that.

Who writes the band's lyrics?
For the new record Nick and I wrote the lyrics the night before we recorded the vocals. We sat around my kitchen table with some note pads trying to come up with words until basically we ran out of time. Some of the newer songs we're writing we're kind of coming with some more independent ideas. It really depends on what's going on. Sometimes a more full idea will come; sometimes we'll really flush everything out together. It really depends on the situation.

So all of Open Your Heart's lyrics were written in one night?
We had a couple lines. And we put the rest together pretty much that night. Before that when we were playing the songs live, we were literally singing gibberish a lot of the time.

That's surprising because a song like "Candy" has a really tight idea behind it.
Some things come together really quickly and naturally and that's a good example of that. You have kind of an idea and it naturally flows from there. That came together very quickly.

Leave Home was your first widely released record. Did the response to the album help give you that confidence?
Not really, because the record was finished before Leave Home came out. We don't really take to heart the things people say whether it's positive or negative. We just try to think outside that and do what feels right to us. It's as simple as that.

To the band, Open Your Heart is a year old now. Have you moved beyond it?
Oh yeah. We've got a whole whack of songs. We're recording again this May. Once we finish the tour we're on right now we're going to take a month off and stay in New York and start working on the record. That's where the main focus is right now. It's going to be really stripped down I think. It's hard to say at this point but I think we're going to focus on clarity and space and the absence of sound. The other two records are so big and loud I think we're going to try and simplify. That's kind of the idea.

While Leave Home certainly broke the band outside of New York, Open Your Heart seems to be getting even more attention. Are you surprised?
I don't know. I wouldn't say we weren't surprised or surprised. We really try not to think about it. You can start to get in trouble when you start to believe what people say about you. It affects how you act going forward. We just try to do our thing and people think what they think. Obviously all the attention is nice and we love some of the opportunities, but we try to not let that affect how the band functions.

What opportunities are you referring to?
We're touring, we're recording, we're still functioning. That's the opportunity we wanted to achieve, to be able to keep touring, make new records and keep going. And right now that's what I'm most excited about.