It’s not too often we are blessed with the opportunity to see our favorite musicians collaborate with one another on such spontaneous occasions. However, there is one dynamic duo within the pop punk and emo community who not only aims to please their devoted audiences, but they also feed off each other’s friendship and positivity to create blissful arrangements like no other. Two Tongues is a serene entity that was formed by Say Anything’s Max Bemis and Saves The Day’s Chris Conley back in 2008. While this act is revered by their respective fanbase, Two Tongues is a supergroup that is completely under the radar, considering that they’ve only released one studio album, Two Tongues (2009), and have yet to tour full-time.
While both Conley and Bemis remain active with their professional commitments to Saves The Day and Say Anything, the two made the time within the last year to write new material for their second studio effort, Two. In comparison to the band’s electrifying debut, Conley and Bemis crafted together a risky release that channels their love for rock ‘n’ roll, while embracing the spontaneity of their friendship in a creative environment.
Leading up to Two’s official release, both Conley and Bemis were originally set to bring these songs to life with a supporting tour this fall. Unfortunately, Two Tongues had to cancel their small run of shows due to unforeseen circumstances. Despite the tour’s cancellation, both Conley and Bemis are hopeful to make up the dates in the future and revisit a new touring opportunity soon enough.
Recently, I had the pleasure and privilege to catch up with both Max Bemis and Chris Conley to discuss the reception of their sophomore effort, Two, and the creative process that occurred when two great minds vibe alike. Both Bemis and Conley also shared with me some of their latest musical endeavors in store for the new year ahead.
Recently, Two Tongues put out their second studio album, Two. From your perspective, how has the reception been so far?
Max Bemis: It’s been great. You know, actually, I am huge fan of the record, because I got to work with Chris on it. But, I am always a little down on everything that I do (laughs). It’s a mixture of weird inner-confidence knowing that it’s the best possible thing that I could have done, and knowing that people are going to connect to it in some way.
For this one [Two], everyone’s been really into it, and I think it was a risky record to make, and that’s why I am really [happy] that people are really digging it. It’s dirty, and dark, and we took risks at many levels while making it.
Chris Conley: The reception has been great. I’m really excited to hear our voices together again, and I think that we like the change of sound. It’s always good to have some fresh tunes. So we couldn’t be any happier.
I still never forget where I was when I first heard about Two Tongues back in 2009. Since then, I’ve been looking forward to hearing a new Two Tongues album for quite some time. When you first announced official details for Two, did you expect any lingering pressures to arise leading up to its release?
MB: You know, not really. There’s an inward-pressure of competitiveness that’s innate in all art, which is just try to do badass shit (laughs). That’s the only real pressure I feel, and that’s mostly from myself. I can’t say that I don’t want to make people feel happy with it too, but part of that is also making Chris happy, and us doing things in the studio, doing things to make each other psyched. I think art is a process that’s about you, and it’s also about the endure.
I didn’t feel any sort of mounting anxiety of, “Oh, we have to follow-up that last record.” Especially because even though it’s a popular project, it’s sort of under the radar in certain ways because we’ve never toured, and we’ve never really made it a full-time band. But it’s very important to us, and to a lot people, so I think that took away some of the pressure, being the fact that it’s not our livelihood and it’s not our main thing.
Considering that Two is the first Two Tongues record in six years, I know you’ve both matured as people and as musicians since then. What was the writing process like for Two this time around?
MB: Yeah, the first record had a narrative and a theme, and literally told a story chronologically. So did this one, and we wanted to do the opposite of the last record. Whereas the first record was about falling in love, this one is about falling out of love, with a friend, with a relationship, with God… with anything. It’s not necessarily about things that have happened in our lives… some of it is, but it’s basically sort of the yings and the yangs of the two records.
CC: Well, we were the most excited just to make a new record. It’s really hard to find the time—we’re both so busy with our other bands. So, we were just psyched about that. The process of writing is usually the same, I think for me. For every song, I kind of start with a little whisper of a melody or a guitar riff in my head. I sing them into a voice memo recorder so I don’t forget it, and then play the riff on guitar. I had a lot of fun working on my half of the songs for this record last year, and Max wrote his songs I believe over the course of last year as well.
When it came time to get together and actually make the album, it was just as easy as making the first record. We just sat in a room together and showed each other the songs, and got very, very excited, and we started working straight away. Within two weeks, we almost had a whole record tracked without vocals. So, it was a really exciting experience. Just showing each other new ideas when we were in Texas was really special. We were so excited that we just got out the guitars and started recording straight away.
What did you enjoy the most about creating this record with each other overall?
MB: I think it’s really the existential feeling of being in a real band. Not to impugn on anyone who has been in a band with me, like [drummer] Coby Linder, or [Say Anything bassist] Garron DuPree, or Reed Murray, and all of the guys who play with us live, but Say Anything functions as my will (laughs). It’s not a band in the traditional sense in that way, and it’s the same way with Saves The Day, but to a lesser extent. So with me and Chris, it’s a 50/50 thing. We both have a lot of power, but we’re also equally powerless, so that’s a really cool thing.
You get that experience that you got when you read about cool bands (laughs), and your favorite bands like The Stones and The Beatles, and the ups and downs of what it’s like to have equal creative power in a band, which me and Chris have never really experienced because we have equal power. Two Tongues kind of results in all of these highs, and rocky times even, but you work through it, especially when you have a strong friendship like me and Chris. It made the process of recording kind of surreal and kind of magical, and that was definitely my favorite part of that.
With that chemistry in mind, are there any specific songs on the record that you both can identify with as your own?
MB: You know… in the end, no. I mean, you can go and trace the trajectory back of, “Who write the first riff?” or, “Who wrote the first lyric?” But there isn’t one song where we didn’t co-write they lyrics, and both played different, weird instrumental parts that the other person hadn’t written. We helped produced it together—Chris recorded it, and it would be there the whole way making my input. I think there aren’t really any songs that are just Chris, or just me. Without Chris involved in any of the songs I don’t think they be what they are.
CC: Well, I think that’s in the spirit of Two Tongues—like, when I write my songs, they have this sort of Chris Conley signature, and then same with Max’s songs. They feel very much like Max’s songs. But what I think is special is that we specifically finished the songs together lyrically and constructively, so at the end of the day each song very much feels like a Two Tongues song. It would then be hard to determine, “Where did this idea get started?” or, “Who came up with it first?”
For me, I like the entire album as a whole, and I definitely have certain songs that change as my favorite as I listen to it. But overall, I just really like the album as a full work. I also think that it acts in conjunction with the first album because this record acts as a prequel in terms of the context of the lyrics. That was really fun. I do almost look at the first Two Tongues records as a complete work—Two Tongues being one record as it pulls itself into the next.
As opposed to writing a record with a full band in the mix, was Two an album where it was only the two of you working on it?
MB: No, it was just me and Chris. There was very little manipulation or digital stuff, besides using Pro Tools, obviously. Most of it was just organic stuff that happened in the room. Same with vocals, a lot of it was done really live, and we were way into it (laughs).
CC: It was definitely a natural flow. We just wrote our halves of the songs on our own, and when we got to jam together and when we were bringing these ideas to life, it was just completely effortless. We both very much appreciate one another’s artistry, so it was definitely spontaneous and fun even though we came prepared.
We definitely did enjoy just being in the studio one on one, and I think that was really unique. The first album was very much like that as well, but we just had two of our friends playing bass and drums, but on this one, it was just two buds in a garage with two microphones, and a couple of guitars. It was a really interesting and cool experience I think for the both of us.
I can imagine so. Now unfortunately, your upcoming tour was cancelled right around the time when Two was set to be released. When the time comes for Two Tongues to revisit the opportunity to play, how do you think these songs will translate in a live setting?
MB: I think they’re going to rock (laughs). I think… especially this last record, but even the first one, it’s all big guitar rock, you know? Like me and Chris get to let ‘er rip with our love of bands like Aerosmith and hardcore bands. Definitely a big thing for Two Tongues was the ’90s and, you know, the better bands of those were really great live. They were just loud, and looked cool, and sloppy, and grungy, and wonderful, so I would hope that it’s going to be that. It’s definitely a vibey band with a lot of loud parts, whereas Say Anything is a little more theatrical and intricate, I guess. Same with Saves The Day—they are just very intricate musically. I think that Two Tongues will be more like a little kick in the nads so to speak (laughs). Not to put down our musicality on Two Tongues, but I definitely feel like it’s always been about emoting.
CC: I think that they’re going to be so awesome. I am so looking forward to playing these songs as loud as we possibly could. I think they’re going to have a lot of power on them because it’s going to be a really exclusive show. It’s almost a blessing that we have more time to prepare for a really insane road trip. I think the shows are going to have tons of energy, we’ll be on fire.
While there isn’t a specific timeframe indicating when these shows will be made up, do you hope for Two Tongues to possibly tour within the next year?
MB: I would love to. That would be my intention, but I don’t want to promise with everyone, and not be able to follow through. All I know is that it’s going to happen eventually (laughs). We have to. I’ve got some stuff on the horizon, but I am sure we’ll make it happen eventually at some point.
CC: Oh, absolutely. I think at this point, we were just waiting for the right time for it, you know? I mean, I’ll look forward to making more music, touring, and time hanging out with Max. Two Tongues is a really important and very special project for me. It’s just a temporary… break, but we will be back in no time.
Excellent! I am totally looking forward to it when the time comes. Two Tongues aside, what else are you looking forward to the most about the new year ahead?
MB: I’ve been writing the new Perma record with my wife [Sherri DuPree-Bemis], that’s our band that we play in together. And I’ve actually started working on the next Say Anything record. We’re just writing it, I am really proud of it so far… both of those things. I doubt that they’re going to be soon into the year, or even during next year. But they’ll definitely be worked on (laughs) during the course of this year, and probably one of those will come out.
CC: We’re really psyched to make another new Saves The Day record. We’ve got like, about 70 ideas that we are working on right now, so I am pumped on that. I also have another project, a band called NARX! which is spelt in all caps, N-A-R-X, with an exclamation point. That’s going to be a punk band with two of my buddies, Geoff [Rickly] from Thursday and Danny Bowien, who is like a rockstar chef. So, I am writing the NARX! album and the Saves The Day album kind of at the same time, and I am also thinking about some solo music.
So at the moment, another sort of blessing in disguise with the Tongues tour getting postponed, is now that I have a ton of time to lose myself in the studio. I’m really psyched on all of the new material that’s going to come up to the surface.
Due to unforeseen circumstances Two Tongues had to cancel their forthcoming tour that was originally scheduled to take place this month. Refunds are available at the point of purchase. Two Tongues’ brand new studio effort, Two, is out now on Equal Vision Records. For more information, go to twotonguesband.com.