Latest release: At Heart (Shock)
Band site: www.facebook.com/MissMayIMusic
After supporting Parkway Drive throughout Australia’s enormodomes last year, Ohio metalcore crew Miss May I have a new record in the can (At Heart), and will be returning to our shores next year as part of the Soundwave Festival juggernaut. Vocalist Levi Benton spoke to Loud about the creation of their new material, whether metalcore is now a dirty word, the pros and cons of breakdowns, what their former school-mates think of them being in a metal band and more.
Q: You’re headed back here in February/March for Soundwave, having made your first trek on a massive tour with Parkway Drive. That’s a pretty fair introduction to these shores.
A: Yeah, the tour with Parkway Drive was insane; definitely the biggest tour we’ve ever done. We knew it was going to be huge, because we were fans before the tour, so we saw the DVDs and everything. But to actually be there and play, and to actually have the crowd go wild was just crazy. It’s awesome to come back for Soundwave; I wish you guys weren’t so far away or we’d be there all the time.
Q: What can Soundwave punters expect from your live shows then?
A: We’re just an old school metal band with long hair, tattoos and circle pits. We just try to bring back the old school metalcore vibe, I guess. We always try to make the crowd be as much a part of the show as we are. We always like fans to be leaving and remember that they were a part of a Miss May I show, so hopefully it’s like that for Soundwave.
Q: Metalcore is a term that’s been bandied about to such an extent that it’s lost much of its lustre. When you say “old school” in that sense, are you referring to crossover bands like Integrity, or more recent acts than that?
A: Well, old school for us; we’re a younger band, so old school for us is like As I Lay Dying, early Darkest Hour, Unearth and those kinds of bands. Like the early 2000s that were just, when we were entering high school, those were the bands that were coming out. Bands aren’t coming out like that anymore; bands are just about breakdowns and keyboards right now, so we’re just trying to keep the riffs and the head-banging going I guess.
Q: Do you think metalcore has become a dirty word in recent years?
A: Yes (laughs), I do. I wish there was, I think it’s easy for a band to say, ‘yeah, we’re a metalcore band’, but that band doesn’t have one riff or anything, it’s just breakdowns for four minutes straight. That’s not what the term used to be, it’s not as strong as it used to be.
Q: A lot of deathcore bands coming through the ranks also sound like they’re just trying to out-heavy one another, or devise with the biggest breakdown, rather than focusing on actual songwriting.
A: Yeah, I guess we’re kind of over that sort of thing. You can only play something so fast, you can only play something so heavy, and after that it just all sounds the same. So when it comes to riffs and just melodic metal bands that can go on forever. There’s so many things you can make from those ideas. There’s so much more you can do instead of just playing breakdowns all day. You can only play breakdowns so many times until it just sounds like another breakdown.
Q: So you’re not a fan of breakdowns then? (laughs)
A: I am not a fan of breakdowns. I don’t even like breakdowns in our own songs (laughs). I just don’t know, I know it gets the crowd moving and everything, but for me, as a musician in a band it’s just slows them down. It’s like a construction zone on a highway; you drive in, you’re flying along with all these cars and you have to go through a construction zone and slow down. That’s what a breakdown is like for me, especially when we play it live. Like, we’re slowing it down for unnecessary (reasons). It gets the crowd going, but there’s no musicianship to breakdowns, I don’t think anyway. I think it’s really over-played.
Q: Fair enough. When making the latest album then, was it a conscious effort to steer clear of those kinds of over-done elements within heavy music?
A: Yeah, we like to sneak the breakdowns in there a little bit here and there, just because… It has to be there, it’s a crowd pleaser. It is fun, but we tried to focus on this record, and not use it just because we needed to use it, but use it when it came up. If it came up during a little jam session we’ll keep it, but we didn’t go out of our way I guess, just to make a breakdown. Going into it, we wanted to go backwards… So many bands like us are just sounding the same, and it got us thinking, ‘what’s gonna be different, that we can change?’ ‘Cause if you do an album on a computer and then do another one on a computer, they’re both just going to sound like a computer album. So we actually went back in time, and we were like, wanting this record to have real instruments and the vocals aren’t going to be through a big, fancy mic, they’re going to be done through the same mic I play with live. Like, everything is gonna be straight data input, just us playing a live show into the mics. So that’s what we did and it definitely sounded a lot different; you can tell it’s a real album. We thought people weren’t going to like that, ‘cause everyone these days is so used to hearing the digital albums and the perfect sound, and this album doesn’t have the perfect sound. It has the flaws, because it’s real. We thought we were going to get criticised for it, but it ended up that kids loved it.
Q: One thing that strikes me about a lot of heavy records these days is the over use of Auto-Tune. I more or less feel that if you can’t even remotely replicate it live, you probably shouldn’t be trying to sing clean like that.
A: Yeah, that’s something in the scene as well. For some bands, you go into the studio and you hear these crazy drums or a crazy riff, and then live, it’s like they don’t play it. And if they do, it’s tracked and the guitar player’s faking it. We were just over the whole computer thing and just wanted to be a real band. To us, that’s what a metalcore band is; it’s like, you have your metal bands, your breakdown bands, your hardcore bands and for us a metalcore band is a band that plays riffs and puts the musicianship in, and that’s just what we wanted to prove to people. But it was scary, because if you’re a 15-year-old kid that listens to metal, and you hear a record that sounds real and raw, and then you hear another album that sounds perfect, the computer has made it all sound perfect, the kid’s going to pick the perfect album. But in this instance, somehow kids agreed with us and went for the old school metal record, so I’m glad everyone’s enjoying it.
Q: Good to hear. You mentioned starting Miss May I while you were still at school. Did you ever envision that you’d still be doing the band thing a few years after finishing your studies?
A: No, we definitely didn’t think we’d get this far. We actually postponed college because we got a record deal while we were seniors. So we were all lined up to go to college and we knew what we wanted to be, that we needed to pay our dues and everything. Christmas came around and so did our record deal, so we just wanted to postpone college, and decided we’d see how this works. ‘Cause we knew some of the other bands who had record deals, especially on Rise Records, that didn’t make it. They would be around for six months and then they’d be gone. So we wanted to try it and we never thought… We’re in a band and we like our band, but we weren’t sure if a lot of other people would like our band. So it started taking off and it’s just been an uphill ride the whole time. We definitely never thought we’d be where we are today. Everyone at school just thinks we’re crazy, because we never changed. We didn’t like, not sell out, but we didn’t like move with the times; we didn’t add keyboards because it was cool, we didn’t do other things because it was cool. We just kept playing the same kind of music and it’s just really cool to get that respect from our local friends. For them to be like, ‘oh, this is the same music that you guys were playing in a garage or in a basement and now there’s just two thousand people watching you do it’. It’s crazy.
Q: What did your teachers think of your career choice?
A: They actually supported it, it was crazy. It was kind of like a phenomenon locally. Most local bands would play a show and there’d be like 80, maybe 100 kids and it’d be awesome. But then when Miss May I would play a local show and it’d be 400, 500 kids and it’d be sold out. And we played the same exact venues every weekend; so we would sell the same venue out every weekend and it was just like, ‘what the heck is happening?’ Never left our state, never left Ohio, and it was just like… But then again, it was a crazy show and there’d be like 500 kids there at the end of the night, but we never wanted to be signed, we never went out of our way to get signed. We were like, ‘oh cool, everything’s local bands’ and we were all going to go to school and that’s it. Then the record deal came, and we just went on from there. It was crazy. Now it’s gone worldwide – it’s nuts.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Stay metal – that’s our biggest slogan.
Miss May I perform at Soundwave 2013 on the following dates:
Saturday 23rd February – Brisbane- SOLD OUT
Sunday 24th February – Sydney- SOLD OUT
Friday 1st March – Melbourne- SOLD OUT
Saturday 2nd March – Adelaide- SOLD OUT
Monday 4th March – Perth- SOLD OUT
You can also catch them with Bullet For My Valentine and Cancer Bats on the following dates:
Friday, February 22- The Hi-Fi, Brisbane- Over 18s only
Wednesday, February 27- The Hi-Fi, Sydney- Licensed All Ages-