Published Mar 18, 2014When album four by emotional pop-punkers the Menzingers drops, the first thing a lot of the band's fans are going to notice about the record is the prevalence of big, dumb guitar riffs. On the surface, Rented World, out April 22 on Epitaph Records, might sound like the kind of conscious shift bands make when they are clamouring for a larger audience, when, in fact, the album is simply the product of a different writing and recording process, guitarist Greg Barnett tells Exclaim!
"It was mostly just trying out new guitar stuff and we wrote songs that were centered around a guitar riff, and instead of just playing an acoustic guitar and writing lyrics over it, we said, 'Let's just crank the amps up and see what we can do,'" says Barnett. "It was mainly the fact that we actually have a legitimate practice space now. The four of us used to live in a house together and we'd always practise in that basement and it sounded terrible. Then we all moved out and got a practice space in the city. The songs weren't all structured around an acoustic guitar this time. So it was a whole different process from what we normally do, and that really affected the songs."
Another change from their previous material was the band's preconceived nod to some of their favourite '90s bands, such as Weezer and the Smashing Pumpkins.
"Yeah, it definitely was something we talked about," confirms Barnett. "We love the Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer and we weren't trying to rip them off, but there are definitely things that those bands did, and the aesthetic that they had, that was just fucking awesome, and we missed it in current music. We didn't want to do whole grunge rip-off thing, but there are definitely elements of those bands that we wanted to try out."
Barnett is known for his self-depreciating lyrics, and although they can still be found on Rented World, such as on the album's lead single "In Remission," the record as a whole seems to be turning a lyrical corner for the band. And songs like "I Don't Want to Be an Asshole Anymore" and "Transient Love" point to a slightly more optimistic band.
"Honestly, I think the four of us are in a much better spot than we were a few years ago. And there is some self-deprecation on the new record, but not as much. [On the Impossible Past] was definitely a pretty dark time in all of our lives. We were just constantly broke, we couldn't pay our bills, relationships were just falling apart left and right, and that's not to say it doesn't happen now; it's still the story of all of our lives, but I feel like the four of us are just happier as people now. We're more stable in the routine of going on tour, coming home, and going on tour again.
"And it used to be so chaotic and so new; we would just go on tour and drink ourselves to death, and then come home and not have a dollar to our name, just trying to get by. That was the pattern of living for so long, so now we've just found a way to make touring in the band work. And that just helps our overall mentality and our stability."
Barnett admits that there was a lot of pressure to follow up their previous album, 2012's On the Impossible Past, which has a cult-like following and took on a life of its own, he says.
"It's crazy. That record really took off in a way that it's bigger than the songs almost. People really took a lot from that record and the goal of being a songwriter is for something like that to happen. So that was really fucking amazing. At first, yeah, there was this huge pressure. We were like, 'Man, we just hope that these new songs can connect to people the way that they did before.' That was the concern when we first started writing, even the first note it was like, 'Oh, where do we start?'
"But, as we went on, it just wasn't even a concern anymore. When you have confidence in yourself then you don't even worry about those things. We've always just done whatever we've wanted from the start, so we didn't really care in the end. The only care was that the songs would mean as much to people as they did on the last record, but we were confident that we were onto something good."
But back to those big, dumb riffs. Considering some of the ones the band included on Rented World (check out the closing riff on "Nothing Feels Good Anymore" for the best mix of later-era Green Day and nü-metal-lite heard in, well, forever), there must have been a few even stupider ones that were left unrecorded?
"Totally," laughs Barnett. "We wrote this one song that didn't make the record, but we had this riff and this first verse, and it sounded like '80s hair metal, like Van Halen. It was so corny, but it was so fun to play, so we would always start off our practices playing it and it and everyone was like, 'Goddamn it, no way, we're not doing it.'"
As previously reported, the Menzingers have a lot of touring ahead of them, including one date in Canada on June 3 at Toronto's Opera House. A full list of tour dates can be found here.
Read our full interview with Barnett here.