An Interview with The Menzingers: Making The Impossible Possible

Fresh off of their latest studio effort, Rented World, Philadelphia’s shining stars The Menzingers are about to embark on a full U.S. tour this summer. Since their formation in 2006, this passionate quartet has gained a devoted following over the years for their vibrant live performances and heart-wrenching punk anthems. As a follow-up from their highly praised full-length, On The Impossible Past, Rented World offers an explosive sense of musical intensity that truly provides fans with one of their most personal albums to date.

I was recently able to talk to guitarist/vocalist Greg Barnett about their upcoming tour, along with their overall reception of the new record.

It’s been less than a month since you guys put out Rented World. As a band consensus, are you guys generally happy with the initial reaction and feedback you have received from the record so far?

Of course man, it’s been fucking amazing so far. People seem to really like it and they are latching onto it. It was pretty exciting too because we went over to Europe right after the record came out, so it was just freshly out. We were playing these festivals and all of a sudden people are singing along. Sometimes even more to the older songs, which was pretty wild. So yeah man, it’s great. We can’t ask for anything more.

Have you guys played any U.S. shows after Rented World came out? Or did playing the new songs in Europe help gear you guys up for your upcoming tour?

Yeah, we haven’t done any shows in the States. We did a record release show in Philadelphia. It was just a small show. That was the only show that we played the new songs at live since the album’s been out. This tour that is coming is going to be the first time we are doing a lot of the songs.

What are you looking forward to the most about your upcoming U.S. tour in support of Rented World?

Umm… Honestly, it’s just loaded with a bunch of great bands. And you know, we are playing a lot of places that are bigger than we normally play, which is pretty wild and pretty exciting to do. Specifically the New York City show. By far it’s our biggest New York City show ever, so that’s kind of scary and exciting. I am sure my entire family will be at that one, which will make it even more nerve-wracking. We’ve never done a tour in this type of capacity. It’s exciting to be able to kind of make big places feel intimate and small.

Along with playing songs off of the new record, are you guys going to be incorporating a lot of crowd favorites from the rest of your musical catalog into your set on this tour?

It’s going to be a mix and match of everything. Even though it’s new, I think it would be boring to play specifically all new songs, you know? I don’t know, we always like to mix it up.

So, when did you guys first start writing the songs for Rented World?

We always write. One of the singles, “In Remission,” that’s the first song we wrote for the record. And honestly, we kind of wrote it pretty quick after [On The] Impossible Past came out. It was maybe like, six months after that song came in, I would say. That was beginning.

So like, probably a year after On The Impossible Past, that’s when we really started to be like, “All right, let’s start thinking about this. Let’s start doing this.” It was just in between tours whenever we would have time. We would get to the practice space and try to figure it out.

Aside from the fact that “In Remission” was the first song you wrote for the new record, was there any other reason in particular that made you want to release this song as your first single? Or did it just feel right?

It just felt right, you know? It was the first song that we wrote. I felt like it summed a lot of themes on the record. The people at Epitaph, the label, thought it was a good, strong choice, and it kind of made sense. I think it definitely worked out as well.

Rented World is a record that musically sounds like it holds true the emotional intensity of On The Impossible Past and steps it up to the next level. Would you say that there were a lot more emotional themes that hit right home to fans on a heart-to-heart level on this release?

Yeah, I think so for sure. I think that this record is much different than our previous records in a sense that… I’d say it’s probably the most personal record we’ve ever written. But, it’s not in the sense of our previous records. For us, it’s definitely the most personal, especially because Tom [May, guitarist/vocalist] and me write the lyrics. But for me, this is the most personal album that I have ever written or helped write, and I definitely think that people would take away something from it in that sense.

Would you care to elaborate on some of the personal aspects of the record that stood out to you in particular? Have you ever had any songs that were so personal to you that you never thought would ever see the light of day on a record?

Honestly, the closer track, “When You Died,” that’s the song I never thought would ever see the light of day. I’ve had that song for about three or four years now. That’s had like, 10 to 15 verses. It’s been written in every key imaginable. That was kind of like that baby, you know? I never wanted to share it. The one day I did, and everybody was really pumped on it.

It just kind of came together really well. I just threw a mic up in the corner of the room late one night and just did it live, and that was it. I think that’s exactly what the song needed, you know? I don’t really think it was the kind of song that should be over thought. It should be really bare-boned. That’s one that I didn’t really know if I wanted to share that one.

What was the writing and recording process like for this album as opposed to when you guys released On The Impossible Past?

You know, it was kind of mixture of everything, really. There was a lot more focus and there was a lot more attention and small details than ever before. We were really conscious of every little thing this time around. There was nothing that was like, “Oh, what are you playing? I’m not really sure. We’ll figure it out when we’re in the studio.” It was like, “All right, here comes a part. Everybody stop what you’re doing and let’s hear what every single person is doing,” and, “Does that really need to be there?” or, “Should it be changed?” There was a lot more attention to detail on this record than any other one.

It’s much more like a musically-driven album than any of our other ones, where the last couple might have been just more based on storytelling aspects. I feel like this is more of a mixture of storytelling-based lyrics with, you know, just us playing musically at our best, I think.

At that time, did you feel like you were under any pressure to top your previous release, On The Impossible Past?

I mean, yes and no. There was more of a personal pressure that you wanted to just know that what you’re doing now is a step up from what you’ve done in the past. But we try to not let it really get to us just because you could get bogged down so easily with that kind of thinking, and it could be kind of negative at times, you know?

So we didn’t really let the pressure get to us too much. But, you know, there’s always that thing in the back of your head being like, “Is this the best song that we’ve ever written?” So there is a healthy internal competition I think between us with our record, and I feel like we succeed in that.

A month before Rented World’s official release date, the record leaked on the internet. How do you feel about the fact that people were able to get their hands on the record so early? Have you also dealt with that in the past with previous releases as well?

You know, it was the same thing that happened with On The Impossible Past. That leaked a couple of weeks early too, so it’s a really difficult thing to say because, you know, we’ve been planning for this for the last two years or so. For me personally, I was really excited that people could finally hear the songs, because we’ve had them for so long. I want to share them. And it’s rad to hear people saying that they like them and that they are stoked on the record.

So, I think it’s just the mixture of everything. I guess I was kind of bummed that it leaked, but it really wasn’t the end of the world, you know? People are either going to buy it or not, so what the hell is the difference? Albums leak all of the time. At the end of the day, I want people to be able to hear and listen to the music that we make, so I wouldn’t get angry at the people for doing that. It just seems kind of silly.

Now that you guys have your big tour coming up and you’ve received a lot of great feedback and a lot of support from the fans and everyone who loved the record, what are your plans after your U.S. tour?

Yeah, we’re going to be going over to Europe. That’s what we’re going to be doing in October. That’s about three weeks right before Fest [an annual punk rock festival that takes place in Gainesville, Florida], and then we will do Fest.

We got some stuff in the works. Can’t fully announce it yet, but we’re going to busy. We’re always busy, you know? We love being on tour. We love playing. So we just kind of want to keep doing it as much as possible. So we’ll always be around.

The Menzingers will be playing at Webster Hall in Manhattan on May 30 and at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on May 31. Their new album, Rented World, is available now through Epitaph. For information, go to