With Soundwave festival hitting Adelaide on the 2nd of March 2013, Barefoot's band interviewer Nicola Biagi caught up with lead singer Levi Benton of metalcore group Miss May I for a chat about the upcoming show, the album, and everything metal.
Nicola: Thanks so much for joining us today Levi. We were wondering where the name ‘Miss May I’ came from? Is it true that it is from an old game called ‘Mother May I’?
Levi: That is false. There is actually no cool story to it. We didn’t even know the game ‘Mother May I’ existed until someone told us about it. We just wanted to come up with something weird and different in the whole grind-core era and now we are pretty much stuck with it.
Nicola: How do you look after your vocal health? Especially being a ‘heavier’ vocalist - do you warm up to preserve your voice when touring?
Levi: I warm up every show about an hour or half hour before we play. Other than that I’ve always been a real quiet guy and I think that is the biggest help, just being quiet and not talking a lot. It is natural, I don’t go out of my way to be quiet it’s just how I am. I think it has really helped me and especially when on tour. It’s like every heavy vocalist you’ll ever meet; we are all weird quiet guys.
Nicola: What inspired the album art on your latest album, ‘At Heart’?
Levi: It’s really different, we’ve had really mixed reviews on it. We’ve always had this lion and we have still put the lion on the record but we have a new symbol. We wanted something that represented that we are speaking from the heart on this record. We knew if we had a lion on it, it would mean that we hadn’t done anything different, by adding the heart we are representing what’s on the record. Each song has so much heart and we are really speaking from the heart.
Nicola: Many fans have noticed that you’ve changed your band logo on the current album too. Is that change permanent and for any particular reason?
Levi: We are hoping that the change is permanent because we wanted something that was easy to draw. We all remembered when we were in school and were younger we would always draw heaps of logos. Like you’d be doing homework and be drawing them all over your book, and we just felt our old logo wasn’t easy enough to be manipulated or easy to draw. We wanted something simple for fans, even younger fans, so we decided to tone it down a little bit.
Nicola: The album ‘At Heart’ has had many different reviews from critics and fans. How do you feel about the recent criticisms over your current album?
Levi: To us it’s actually the best album. It’s some of the best reviews that we’ve ever had on any of the records. We’ve always had mixed reviews and we will always have mixed reviews. We know we won’t make everybody happy but this time it was about 90% positive and it was nice hear. For us it was also a bit of a flip of the coin recording an album – we wanted it old school, as in we wanted real instruments and nothing digital.
Nicola: A few fans have said that the album ‘At Heart’ is musically a completely different direction from the first albums. Is that direction deliberate and what inspired it?
Levi: It’s funny reading all the reviews that talk about our first album because our first album was just us as a local band. We made it when we got a record deal and we had to put that local band onto the record. I guess the different direction for this record would have to be that it’s ‘real’. On the first record I was trying to write the coolest lyrics, with the heaviest breakdowns, or trying to write the scariest lyrics and be a scary metal band, but none of it was real it was just stuff that sounded cool. This time we wanted to write something real that people can relate to. It’s about stuff that really happened to me and stuff I really went through. It was just awesome because no one’s ever done that before and we are hoping people really enjoy it.
Nicola: In Ballads of a Broken man, the lyrics say "I spit these words down your throat. You will hear what I have to say. A mouthful of hope I hope you choke” can we ask who (if anyone) this is directed at and why?
Levi: It’s kind of 2 things. The song was mainly a summary of the whole record, an album with the broken man thing. The other main reasoning is we have changed (gone through) a lot of people that we have worked with in the music business through the years, and that song is basically to all the people that did everything BUT help us.
Nicola: Do you have a favourite crowd or favourite place that you just love playing at?
Levi: My favourite would probably be Sweden. We played our first show there with Parkway Drive about 6 months ago and it was one of the craziest things I’ve ever done.
Nicola: In all the years of being in Miss May I, what is the most memorable thing that has happened to you?
Levi: When I was in junior high and I was growing up, I was listening to one of my favourite bands, The Used and they were on The Warped tour. I was going to get to meet them and I was freaking out, and we actually ended up getting close enough friends with them that they invited us up to do guest vocals and sing a song with them. We ended up singing ‘A box full of sharp objects’ with them for the rest of The Warped tour. It’s crazy, thinking about when I was 13, 14 and listening to that band they were the only band I ever had postered up in my room, and then being able to get up and do a song with them. That was definitely crazy.
Nicola: Is there any artist/musician that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Levi: I’d really like to do a collaboration with 'As I Lay Dying’. I think that would be really cool, because we are very similar bands and there’s not such a big difference that people won’t like it. The difference would be just enough so it’d be the new metalcore mixed with the old metalcore.
Nicola: Can we expect to hear any female vocalists on your up and coming tracks?
Levi: I would definitely love that, but nothing is planned.
Nicola: Having over 700,000 fans on Facebook, is impressive - what’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever done to you or the band in general?
Levi: Oh man, we’ve had a bunch of crazy stuff happen. There was one fan, I was eating an apple and I threw my apple core in the trash can. When we walked away and looked back we saw a girl reach into the trash can, get my apple core then put it in a zip-lock bag then put it in her purse and kept it. I don’t know really what happened to that, but that would definitely be the craziest thing. There are some crazy fans out there.
Nicola: Do you think that the girl might of put the apple core on Ebay?
Levi: [Laughs] It’s either that or she’s cloned me and there is a Levi clone somewhere.
Nicola: Have fans like that ever been a safety issue?
Levi: Not really, we aren’t like a boy band so we don’t really have a lot of pretty girls screaming and freaking out about us, it’s more like 30 year old, bearded metal guys that are like ‘hey good set man’.
Nicola: What have you got planned for your Soundwave set list? What we can expect to see?
Levi: I know we are playing a lot of old Miss May I but definitely a lot of the new record too. We are trying to mix it equally throughout the records but hopefully everyone enjoys it.
Nicola: You have a lot on your plate with the upcoming AP Tour and Soundwave but what else can we expect to see from you guys in the next 12 months, is there anything that you’re planning on surprising fans with?
Levi: We may or may not be recording a new music video, so keep your eyes out for that.
Nicola: Can we ask for an expected release date for that?
Levi: I have no idea, no idea. It depends, all I know is stuff’s exploding in it. I’ve seen it in the script that there are explosions. So I’ll be very disappointed if stuff doesn’t explode. [Laughs]
Nicola: Are there any artists at Soundwave that you really want to see and can’t wait to play alongside?
Levi: I know that it’s probably the typical answer, but just Metallica. You don’t get bigger than Metallica when it comes to metal bands. It’s the generic biggest metal band ever.
Nicola: There has been a bit of a change from Drop C to Drop A# in your music is there any reason for the change?
Levi: We just didn’t want it to sound like the same thing over and over and we wanted to keep it as dynamic as possible. I think there will be more changes in upcoming records.
Nicola: Do you have any crazy tour stories?
Levi: Well I’m not really a crazy guy, I’m a very chilled out guy. The only time I’ve been really crazy, I surprised myself. It was when we were on The Warped tour this year and at the venue we were at the buses were a mile away from catering. Anyway we saw like 5 or 6 golf carts they were using to shuttle us, so I caught a shuttle over to lunch and it ended up being the shuttle people eating lunch. I just wanted to leave but all the shuttles were just parked there empty and I didn’t want to walk for an hour and a half. So, I knew that you could hotwire any golf cart with a key, so I got someone’s trailer key, hot-wired it, turned it on and a bunch of other band guys saw me so ended up hot wiring and taking every single golf cart back to the buses. I got in a lot of trouble with production but it was pretty awesome.
Nicola: That’s pretty impressive that you can hotwire a golf cart.
Levi: Anyone listening, if you have a trailer key you can hot wire a golf cart. So there’s some knowledge for ya. [Laughs]
Nicola: You should definitely consider doing a youtube video on ‘How to hotwire a golfcart’ and then we could all learn from it.
Nicola: My last question today is about the reason you play. Do you play for the music or for the success?
Levi: I definitely play for the music, I think at the end of the day the success is just the cherry on top that you don’t even realise. So when we are playing a big shows it’s still for the music and if we get paid at the end of the month then it’s the cherry on top. If we don’t get paid then it doesn’t matter because we got to play in front of 10,000 fans.
Nicola: Thanks heaps for talking to us Levi, we look forward to seeing Miss May I at the Soundwave festival in Adelaide on the 2nd of March next year.