Q&A: Say Anything’s Max Bemis
"No matter what, even if I take my meds and I heal myself I'll still be insane."
Forthe past two years, Max Bemis has been emo’s greatest disaster, agifted songwriter who looked like he might sabotage his career beforeit got started. A series of severe meltdowns (one of which ended withBemis recklessly running into a busy Brooklyn street) landed the22-year-old in a Texas psychiatric center in October, which delayed theJ Records re-release of Say Anything’s 2004 confessional, theatricalpunk debut …Is a Real Boy.
The candid frontman, who is now better managing his bipolar disorder, chatted with us from his parents’ house in Los Angeles.
Ed. note: What follows is bonus material from Max Bemis’ interview in Spin‘s April issue.
It’sinteresting because there are people who really own being a “groupie.”But when I think of people who are serial daters of emo band guys, Istart to wonder: is there’s that much of a difference? I don’t know ifthere is.
Yeah, because certain people are. It depends on thetype of serial-band-dater-girls. Certain girls are in this to datepeople in a band, and then certain people are only friends with peoplein bands. They have no choice. From when they were really young, theironly good friends are people in bands. It’s the same thing as havingfriends who are in bands. I feel like it’s unfair to hold it againstcertain girls who are just there because they are there — that’s justhow it has worked out in their lives.
With guys it’s the samething. You can’t hold it against you that you meet a girl at one ofyour shows. Most of my friends are in bands. I have a couple of bestfriends and really good friends from my childhood and from high school.Really, when I go out I tend to meet up with people from bands and wetalk about fucking music business and it’s pervasive. It just feelscomfortable, and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.
Solet’s recap. You were sleeping with groupies, you wrote songs aboutone-night stands and you theoretically came out of the closest, and nowyou are in love with this woman. That’s a pretty immediate switch.
Yeah. That’s what you end up going through to a certain extent. I don’tknow, this is at least what I went through. When you go through yourlife and you’re 19, 18 years into your life and you’re like, “Shit, amI going to be alone forever? Am I a son of a bitch? Am I doomed becauseof things I’ve done to never know love?” That was where I was comingfrom on this record. It was the main motivator. For all of that, I’mjust searching for humanity.
I realized that I had to gothrough all of these things. I had to realize that I couldn’t find itin drugs and I couldn’t find it in hooking up with people. It’sdefinitely not in performing or anything like that.
Twoyears ago when you would talk about all of this stuff you would neveruse the word “bi-polar.” Did you finally think, I have to admit that Ihave an illness?
Well, we weren’t that sold on what I had atthat point. But it’s really been affecting the fanbase, especially overthe past six months. We’ve canceled two tours. They felt, “Wow, thesepeople don’t give a shit about us at all.” Which isn’t the case in anyway.
I’ve never heard the full story of what happened tolead you to the mental hospital in Texas where you spent more than sixweeks. So why don’t you tell it to me.
Okay. The meds I wastaking weren’t very affective so I wasn’t getting enough sleep. So Iwas already turning into a manic state before I even stopped taking mymeds. So therefore I stopped taking my meds. Me being in a manic stateor a semi-manic state from not being medicated good enough made methink that if I stopped taking my meds that I would get better as aperson and that I would stopped being paranoid — or that, perhaps, myparanoias were truths that I need to indulge in order to see thingsclearly. In reality I was being completely accusatory to everyonearound me and I was being an asshole and scary.
It manifesteditself into me leaving and walking through the streets with no moneyand no phone. I ended up in some part of Brooklyn. I got into a littlephysical altercation with someone and I don’t even know why. I stilldon’t remember. I was just like, “This sucks, I might get myselfkilled.” I remember that was the moment when I was like, “I need to getto the hospital.” I asked someone to call my girlfriend on the phoneand then she helped me get to the hospital.
And I ended up inthe hospital there. I was in a serious manic state for a while,probably like four or five days not including the two or three daysbefore I went in where I was already starting to be completely manic.
You’ve said before people love you because you’re a “lunatic.” Do you think that people expect that from you now?
No. It was a cause for me writing this album. The whole album was ajourney of being insane, because you are searching for something youcan’t find. It’s about addiction and things like that — those areforms of insanity. I am who I am. All this stuff came from myexperience. No matter what, even if I take my meds and I heal myselfI’ll still be insane. It’s, like, an illness that I have had that I’vealways had, especially since these kids have known me. The weirdness,the quirkiness of the material and how it’s very blatant, it’s justsort of how I am as a person.
I just read this funny quote from you that said something like, “I have more records by New Found Glory than I do Bob Dylan.”
It’s true. Well, you know, that’s like a half-truth. I do like BobDylan and I’ve seen him and he’s a role model. But I would rather, inthe end, if I could never listen to either of those bands…the firsttwo records by New Found Glory made such a big difference in my life.Where Bob Dylan, maybe I heard him earlier, but it’s something Iappreciate more than I viscerally enjoy. I grew up listening to the emoand the hardcore and the pop-punk. When I go back and I listen to thatshit it still holds a greater place in my heart. I think there arebetter songwriters at this point doing what Bob Dylan’s doing. It’s notlike it holds that much of a sentimental value for me. I listened tohim, definitely. But I definitely have listened to blink-182 much morethan Bob Dylan in my life.