We can't help but be fans of The Men. And it's not just the name that has us hooked.
With a new album on the way, a recent European tour under their belt, and a U.S. tour right around the corner, the Brooklyn-based rock band is making quite an impact. And with a new album, Open Your Heart, dropping this week, there's no telling how far these guys will go.
Recently, we sat down with two members of the band -- Nick Chiericozzi, 30, and Mark Perro, 29 -- to chat about the band's beginnings, their new album, and what exactly went wrong when people confused them with the other band called MEN.
OUT: So how did you guys meet?
Mark: We met in college...We all went to Fordham University. We didn't really meet until toward the end of college, though, and we didn't really start hanging out together until about two years after we left college. I mean, we weren't in a band together until 2007... some four years later.
When you started up in 2007, did you ever think you'd become this successful?
Nick: Yes, we were in it for the money.
Mark: Not at all. It wasn't really even thought about, because it wasn't even remotely a possibility. We were only playing with our friends' bands, and we were only playing for our friends. We weren't in a world where any sort of success--and I wouldn't even say that we're successful now--was even in the equation. So I don't think the idea of success had any effect, any impact, any influence on what we were doing at all.
Nick: Being successful for us meant something different. Being successful was just making a record. For example, I never even thought that we'd be doing interviews.
Mark: Success was having a show, or having a recording of some kind. Having someone other than our friends listening to our music. That was success.
Did you have an artistic vision when you were starting out? Any plans for what kind of music you wanted to make?
Mark: I don't think there was anything specific. We all have a lot that influences us, and we all have a lot to say... but I don't think there's a specific unified concept that we're trying to do. We're definitely trying to do something...Maybe we just can't verbalize what it is.
There's been talk that you're going to do a show with MEN.
Nick: We've talked about it amongst ourselves. There was a conflict at a previous MEN show, and there's been some confusion about it on websites and in publications. I think the conflict happened because a few people mixed up our band and J.D. Samson's band.
Mark: So we threw the idea of doing a show together out there--sort of as a peace offering--but J.D. hasn't gotten back to us yet.
What sort of conflict?
Nick: There was an incident at a MEN show where some people thought they were seeing our show, and it wasn't our show.
Mark: And they acted like assholes.
Nick: And they really did some kind of insensitive things, which we heard about secondhand, which led to us talking to J.D. about it. She actually wrote us first, because she was upset about what happened.
What sort of things were the concert-goers being insensitive about?
Nick: There were some slurs being thrown around by some guys...
Mark: I think it was at a lesbian couple.
Nick: The people who wanted to see us were drunk--and again, we weren't there, so we don't know what happened for sure.
Mark: But we do know that they were very vocal about being displeased not only with attending the wrong concert, but also with the environment they were in...which is obviously something that we're not happy with. That's not something that we want to be associated with at all.
Nick: But we've thrown the idea out there to do a show together with MEN. Aside from trying to smooth over this incident, it would be cool to play together as two bands with similar names.
Your next album is coming out March 6. Tell us about it.
Nick: The album is a little bit different than what we've done before, in terms of sound. It took a little bit longer to make, in terms of overdub. We added guitars to the mix, and some harmonies that we hadn't really done before.
Mark: But we finished mastering it about nine months ago.
Nick: We look forward to getting it out. We've been playing tons of shows since then. We've gotten to see parts of the world, and we've been to Europe twice. We just got back from there, actually.
Where in Europe did you go?
Nick: Ten, 11, 12 countries? Scandinavia, Greece, Portugal, France, the U.K. We just got back Friday. We're still a little loopy from jet lag.
Mark: The last week and a half we've actually all been pretty sick.
Sorry to hear that.
Mark: It's fine. For the most part, we did a pretty good job of staying healthy and staying positive while we were there.
Nick: I think any tour has its ups and downs...everyone's partying while on tour, and then when you get back you have to slow down a bit. Like, I definitely need to cut back on beer right now.
Mark: Yeah, after three or four weeks of drinking heavily, my body just starts to reject beer.
Nick: It's really easy to become an alcoholic in our environment, because you're hanging out at 5, and everyone has beer...and you start sipping it, and next thing you know...
So aside from trying out different harmonies, what other things did you do differently with this upcoming album, compared to your last effort, Leave Home?
Mark: We used some acoustic instruments, which we hadn't used before. We used this instrument called the harmonium, which is an acoustic Indian instrument... kind of like an Indian piano/accordion combination. We used a 12-string guitar, and 6-string guitars. Most of the album was written on an acoustic guitar. Everything else is all electric. But it's all a different sound. We used a lot of layering to build the tracks.
A few music bloggers have called parts of this new album more pop-friendly, especially the title track and "Candy." Were you conscious of that when you were making the album?
Nick: I don't think it was a conscious thing. I mean, we try to let a lot of our influences seep in, and we listen to a lot of pop music. We just have a lot of songs to draw from, a lot of variety.
Mark: I think there was maybe more experimenting with this album. There were a lot more influences on noise or sound, and I think we were really just trying to write songs that were simple and stripped-down. I think that naturally lends itself to pop...especially because we were listening to a lot more melodic things at the time, and we were playing acoustic guitar on the album. So a pop sound was a natural result of all that. There definitely wasn't an attempt to do some sort of pop-crossover thing, though. But we definitely embrace pop music and like pop music. We're not the kind of band that goes, "Oh wait a minute, we can't write a song like this, because that's not what we sound like."
Nick: Yeah, we try not to build those barriers as a band, because you limit yourself if you do that.