After three excellent releases in as many years, the Men should be finding it difficult to hide from those foolish enough to try Googling them. The ultra-prolific Brooklyn post-punk ruffians’ latest full-length leap, Open Your Heart was declared one of SPIN’s most anticipated winter albums, earning praise for paring back their once-frightening waves of guitar feedback (only a little!) in order to allow for some light, be it in the form of a surf riffs or some country twang. As it turns out, the quartet found themselves largely inspired The Greats. SPIN caught up with vocalist/guitarist Nick Chiericozzi and guitarist Mark Perro to find out more:
The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street
Touted by the, um, resilient Keith Richards as “the first grunge record,” the scrappy heart of this 1972 double LP resonated with the Men. “I think we were trying to channel the spirit of the record rather than anything musically. It’s more like an overall vibe,” Chiericozzi says. “I also think the idea of not having a record of hodgepodge songs, but rather focus on a complete piece, which Exile on Main Street exemplifies was influential.”
He might have died young and tragically, but the rough-and-tumble star who first fused rock and country made a big impact before he overdosed in a hotel room at 26 years old. “He was a kick in the ass or a shot in the arm to the bands that he joined,” Chiericozzi says. “You can see what country music can become when you hear him. He was at the forefront and an edgy guy in that kind of conservative Nashville world and I think I try to emulate that with punk music, rock’n’roll and just kind of push it and see what happens.
That this Memphis rock group’s frontman never aspired to live up to his band’s name was important to Chiericozzi, especially because Big Star’s debut record offers “no better example of pop music.” “I like Alex Chilton because he’s kind of a weird guy,” he says. “He didn’t really conform to expectations, he probably could’ve made a lot more money and sold out and become pretty famous but he always wanted to do his own thing. That’s just who he was. Basically every song on that record is the perfect song.”
Chiericozzi calls this Olympia-based punk rock band “the closest thing we’ve got to a kindred spirit” — and not just because their names are almost equally un-Googleable. “We tend to operate in a similar manner,” he explains. “I think we do our own thing in cities where there are scenes with a lot of vitality. We have a similar spirit about what we do. I don’t speak for them, but the first time we met those guys there was an instant connection.”
Both Chiericozzi and guitarist Mark Perro site the septuagenarians’ poetic lyrics as an unattainable standard for songwriting. That rumbling baritone has delivered “some of the most beautiful stuff I’ve ever read from anyone,” says Chiericozzi. “You take his words out of the song, and they’re just as impactful, if not more. And he holds up against anybody: Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, all these giants of writing.” Adds Perro, “The vibe I get from his songwriting is that it takes him a very long time to write lyrics. I don’t have the discipline to write like that. I’m more of a spontaneous writer who gets a little nervous anytime I enter into a new song. I just let it flow and I think he’s able to hone in and highlight and cut things. He has a song written even before he’s seen the guitar yet.”