Interview: Miss May I

Written by Anthony Toto

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Miss May I, hailing from Troy, Ohio, demonstrate the embracive unity amongst a group of hometown friends committed to one another in taking their sound to endless heights.

In a metalcore scene where countless bands stick to a redundantly formulaic sound, Miss May I never surrendered to the conformity of their contemporaries and shunned the stereotypes amongst their competition.

Earning a recording contract from Rise Records after receiving their high school diplomas, Miss May I demonstrated a professional maturity to handle the music business from a young age.

The band is currently touring with Five Finger Death and Escape The Fate on “The Wrong Side of Heaven Tour.” The band will play at the Best Buy Theater in New York City on Saturday October 12th.

With a combative demeanor, Miss May I’s performances rattle the highest adrenaline with a full throttling explosion of reckless energy. The intensity is contagious and unfamiliar crowds welcome the group with open arms. The band takes no prisoners during every performance regardless of the headliner.

Releasing three studio albums since 2009, this group of young men is no stranger in taking gambles. Each release showcases an evolution where the band diversifies itself into new (not Nu) metal territories.

With a new studio album expected in 2014, Miss May I looks to set the bar even higher after working with renowned producer Terry Date.

In an exclusive interview with Pop-Break, Miss May I Vocalist Levi Benton discussed a variety of topics including early previews of their new album, road experiences, and their songwriting process.

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Pop-Break: How’s the touring going with Five Finger Death Punch?

Levi Benton: It’s been awesome. It’s definitely one of the biggest tours we’ve ever done in the U.S. and Canada. The crowds have been insane. It’s a whole other crowd for us. It’s just an experience for us and it’s exciting.

PB: Going off what you said, it’s been a different experience. Your band toured with a diverse amount of bands, The Devil Wears Parada and Bring Me The Horizon in the past. This year alone, opening for Killswitch Engage and Five Finger Death Punch. How has the reaction been exposing your music to a diverse amount of fans?

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LB: It’s actually really cool. It’s been sort of a trial and error because we always had different fans from all over the place. We didn’t know exactly where we wanted to play and who would necessarily take us. We always been a trial and error band doing all these tours. Nine out ten times, they worked out great for us. This tour actually out of nowhere has been one of the best tours we probably ever done. Crowd wise, merchandise wise, the reaction has just been amazing. We know we’re on the right path right now.

PB: Do you enjoy having a chameleon like effect where you could tour with so many different bands and receive positive vibes from the crowds?

LB: Oh yeah, we been really lucky to have that effect. To us, we’re trying to write what we like to write. We never wrote anything to fit in with anybody or try to go with the hype or anything. It’s crazy that we could be accepted all around the board from a thirteen-year old little girl to a forty-five year old huge drunk man at the bar. I think we’re just lucky to have that because there’s a lot of bands, similar bands to us, a lot of them don’t have the same effect. I think it’s the adrenaline within the music and our live show at the same time. I think we’re really lucky and it’s a sort of a cool accident, not really planned, but it happened.

PB: I saw your band open for Killswitch Engage and during that tour, with As I Lay Dying missing the tour and going through their issues, you guys had a great opportunity to play right before Killswitch. Those were some big shoes to fill in for As I Lay Dying. How was that experience? It seemed like your band really embraced it especially by the crowd reaction.

LB: It was pretty terrifying actually. I remember being at home and getting the news that As I Lay Dying couldn’t do the tour after that situation happened. For a second, I was like ‘it’s okay, we’ll fill a spot and we’ll be okay. We probably won’t play before Killswitch.’ Into the week before the tour came, they said, “na, it’s going to be you guys.” We sort of went to practice and were like, “okay, it’s a normal tour, we just can’t screw up, Killswitch Engage is playing after us.” It was just a lot of weight on our shoulders. I stepped into the first show and I guess playing in front of an older fanbase. From the first time, since they did react amazing, it really took all the weight off our shoulders the first five minutes of the tour. We went into it thinking, I had this whole script I was going to say and I thought this was going to be the hardest or hard headed crowd and they’re not going to enjoy anything. The first guitar note we played, people were beating the crap out of each other and were crowd surfing. I was like, “ah, we got this! It’s fine!” So yeah, all the weight was off our shoulders. It was very scary having to take As I Lay Dying’s spot. Just because, not only are they a great band but they are such huge influence of ours and really good friends of ours. We were really like, it’s not just some unknown or no named band, it’s a legend we have to fill in for and the crowd really helped us along with the way.

PB: I imagine the successful reaction from the crowd gave the band a huge confidence booster.

LB: Yeah, it was definitely a big confidence booster. It just made the set easier because I hated being scripted and having to say certain things here and there. I rather a show just be all natural and going into that, I didn’t think I was going to have any vibes off the crowd and I had to do this script. I actually scratched everything I was going to say right when we started playing. I was like “Oh, it’s just like a normal crowd wearing Killswitch shirts and we get to watch Killswitch at the end of the night. That was the only difference.

PB: I saw your band started working on a new studio album in August. Your guys are working with Terry Date and he’s produced bands like Soundgarden, Pantera, Deftones, and Incubus. How’s your relationship been so far with Terry?

LB: It’s been awesome and we love that guy. We hung out with him and it was sort of the same thing, I went into it and it was really intimidating. I was scared because I just felt like a baby. I felt like a kindergartner going into college, I was very scared. When we got there, he was a great guy, really down to earth and just wanted to hang out and have fun doing the record just like we always done. Yeah, it was great working with him. The coolest thing was when there was down time, we would to try to bug him and have him tell us cool legendary stories. ‘How did this happen or what did you do when you wrote that song?’ We were bugging him all the time about all the records he’s done but he’s a great guy and it’s definitely one of the most diverse and best records we done. I know every band says that every time they write a record. They say, “This one is the best or that one is the best.” It’s definitely the most diverse for us for sure and we went out of our way.

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PB: What kind of sounds were you trying to achieve on this album?

LB: For this record, the biggest thing we tried to do, we never really tried to do, we usually just wrote songs we liked because that’s what we always done. We were like, ‘That sounds cool, let’s put it in the record.’ This album though, after we wrote a song we really liked, we made sure by the end that nothing was the same structure or sounded the same the next time. Once we wrote that one song, we couldn’t write anything that sounded anything similar to it. We never really thought of it that way or went into a record that direction. It made it really exciting at the end because when the whole record was done, every song was completely different and completely left field. You can’t find two songs that sound the same; we never really went out of our way to do that. It was exciting for us too because we got to experiment because we were like, ‘Okay, this is the fast thrashy song, than we have the riffy song, what else is there to do?’ So we went out our way this time.

PB: How much of a role did Terry play? What were his expectations for you guys in terms of songwriting?

LB: He wanted us to be real. He wanted us to just be us. Like I said, we never wanted to go with the fads or what’s cool at the moment. He already had that mindset. So, I think another reason we mashed so well, it wasn’t like we were playing a song for the producer and he says ‘Oh, this sucks,’ or ‘We should write a song like this.’ We went in there and he was like ‘Oh, this sounds cool!’ We would track them and yeah, he just let us be us. They just sounded better along the way with the just way we tracked things and the emotion that went into it. It’s probably our most, 100 percent Miss May I record that we ever released without anyone’s input except us.

PB: Is there a title for the album yet? Do you have any official song titles?

Levi Benton: “We have some beta versions. We have some ideas but we don’t have anything locked down yet. We should have it locked down soon but nothing official yet.

PB: When do you think the album will be released?

LB: Probably around mid next year. We’re trying to take time to sit on this and make sure it’s exactly how we want it to be.

PB: On some of your lyrical content, on songs like “Hey Mister,” you touch on deep subjects. Where do you draw lyrical inspiration? Everyday struggles? Things you went through in life?

LB: Yeah, I try to make each record have a different lyrical content or vibe. On the last record, we went out of our way to make sure it was really deep but on our new record, it won’t be like that. It won’t be super deep because we don’t want to write the same record multiple times. Yeah, the last record we went out of our way to go really deep with songs like “Hey Mister.” It was really hard but it was exciting and it’s always really fun to experiment and do something different.

PB: With the Five-Finger Death Punch tour still going strong, what are the plans for the rest of this year and next year?

LB: After Five-Finger, we go back to the studio for a couple of weeks for some stuff here and there. We go back home for the rest of the year and enjoy Christmas at home. Then off to touring for 2014 right away in January doing worldwide tours and hopefully we’re back in the US for summer.

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PB: I always found it really cool that your band came out of high school and you were touring around the country and building your fanbase. In that mindset, when you were 17 or 18 building Miss May I, graduating high school, and going on the road, what kind of experience was that like being so young?

LB: It’s definitely surreal. It feels like we never really got to grow up I guess, well it’s not really not growing up, we didn’t do it normally. It’s just surreal. For us, it was weird because its stuff you hear about. We grew up watching band documentaries and DVD’s in high school. We formed an indie label and a metal band. We thought it was going to be a short-lived six months and then it would be over, which we were fine with it. The reaction and passion was there for it to go where it is now and the fans have always been there for us since the beginning. Now, we’re playing arenas on this tour and the stuff we have coming up is even bigger. Yeah, it’s just crazy and it’s definitely not something we expected to be what it was. We’re just thankful. I don’t think its hit us yet; we always say we don’t think it’s going to hit us until it’s over. Right after we graduated, we literally threw our hats, grabbed our diplomas, and five minutes later, we left for our first tour. We pretty much have been touring the past five-years nonstop. I don’t think we really had time to reflect on it. I think once its over; we’ll stop and go, “Holy crap, that was crazy!”

PB: Your band still creates interesting music videos, especially nowadays not many bands put time or effort in their music videos. Especially a video like “Masses of A Dying Breed,” do you enjoy the video process?

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LB: Yeah, videos are our favorite thing. I think that’s why, at least for Rise Records, we have the most new videos. Literally, anytime we have a week or two off, all we want to do is shoot music videos. We just love videos, its so much fun for us. For me, I always love the art aspect and creativity. Doing a video, it’s just so crazy because the story I have in my mind when we I’m writing a song, we just try to bring it to life as much as possible. We been really lucky that the directors we have lately have been able to do that. In our last video, we flipped a car over and stuff. We already have scripts for the new record and yeah, the videos get bigger and better every time. Be ready for these new ones, they are definitely going to be insane!”

PB: I would say the benefit is most of your videos accumulate more than a million views, the music video is still important in growing your fan base.

LB: Yeah, it’s crazy. We never expected that either. I feel like there’s always been a lot of talk when we do our videos. The biggest thing like you said, our stories and how crazy the videos are, I think it’s because its how crazy we are. We don’t mean too but I guess there’s so much talk and discussion about the videos that they virally blow up. Yeah, it’s weird to see that there are millions of views. I don’t know where all those people are buying our record but they’re watching their videos.

PB: Our website is a New York/New Jersey based. What are your experiences like when you play New York or New Jersey? Do you circle these shows on the calendar? Are the crowds really crazy?

LB: New York, in general, not even just the city. New York State in general has always been crazy for shows. We definitely have those cities we circle and look forward too, it’s just the cities vibe and particularly how they react. New York is one of the crazy ones up there with Texas, along with New Jersey. We haven’t played there a lot because I feel New Jersey gets overshadowed by New York all the time. When we do play New Jersey, it’s just insane especially because we don’t play it much. I like playing in small towns we only played once or twice. They really appreciate it and are really excited just to be at the show.

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PB: You mentioned playing in small towns and now you’re playing in some arenas with Five-Finger Death Punch, how surreal is that?

LB: It’s pretty surreal. I’m pretty sure I called my mom everyday on the last leg when were up in Canada playing hockey arenas. Yeah, its exactly what it looks like in all the Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses videos where they walk through the huge tunnels and the crowds cheer when you walk on stage. The greatest thing for me is that for everything we accomplished as a band, we’re not the normal pop band or normal punk band, we’re just like a thrash metal band. We had a lot of accomplishments that a lot thrash metal bands haven’t done. It’s weird, when you think of arena shows, you don’t think of metal bands, you think of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. It’s definitely crazy to do that so yeah, that’s the biggest accomplishment and biggest feeling now I felt every time we were on stage, “Holy crap, we’re a metal band and there’s an arena full to watch our band!” That’s just nuts!

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