When last we heard from the Everymen, the New Jersey band was kindly taking us on a walking tour of its home state’s musical legacy. But in the nearly seven months since the release of its debut LP, New Jersey Hardcore, the seven-piece has spent a lot of time away from home. They’ve been out on the road, up and down the East Coast and across the Southwest. They’ve been playing shows anywhere there are ears to listen and people to smack upside the head. They’ve been “spreading the gospel,” as frontman Mike V puts it. And you can get a pretty good glimpse into that life with the video for the band”s “Boss Johnny & the Get Lucky”, which BYT is excited to premiere below.
When not out doing the Lord’s work, the Everymen has been crafting its sophomore full-length, but as Mike V tell us, that’s endeavor he’s approaching with the patience of a seasoned vet. While it may be a while before we hear the new record, this Tuesday Oedipus Records will release Who Wrote These Songs? A Very Short Tribute To Jonathan Richman, a covers EP dedicated to the former Modern Lover and forever cult favorite. We checked in with Mike V to learn more about all this new music, as well as how everything’s been since we spoke last July. We also asked about the new video, but after you watch it, take the time to read the interview – then run out and form a band.
The Everymen visit DC this Saturday to play a benefit at Beats for local nonprofit Back on My Feet presented by Monument Music and Arts . If you’re in New York, you have your pick of a number of upcoming shows: May 4th at Cake Shop, May 16 at Shea Stadium, Maxwell’s on May 31, Piano’s on June 28, and opening for Death at Le Poisson Rogue on July 1st.
What’s the story behind the video?
It’s just us having fun, ya know? I mean, I have all of these big, grand ideas in my head, and one day, when we can afford to make $10,000 videos, those ideas will become something real. But in the meantime we have to jam econo, as it were. Luckily, we have a film and video editor in our band, so this video was done wholly on the free. I just wanted to make something that represented us. We’re fun. We have a blast together, and people have a blast when they hang out with us, and I think that comes through in our records, but I wanted that video. That video that when people finished watching it, they thought, “Damn. I wanna hang out with those guys.” I think we achieved that. Maybe not. Who knows? But it was mostly filmed on tour: Just getting bored in the van, fucking around, ya know. Being idiots. I mean, I wish you could see some of the other stuff we filmed. There is so much good action on there. So much funny, silly, ridiculous shit. Just silliness. But that’s us, man. We’re a silly bunch of fucks.
As we can see,the Everymen have been road warriors for the past year. What’s the worst part about traveling in a van with seven people?
Sleeping. A lot of us are big, big dudes. I mean, myself, Tom, Jake and Scott are all well over 6′ 3″ and far in excess of 200 pounds. And big dudes snore. That’s the nature of the shit, ya know? So, when we’re on the road, not making much money, it’s close quarters. We’re often sharing a single hotel room between the seven of us. There is inevitably a chorus of snoring. I mean, we shake the fucking walls when we sleep. Everyone’s wearing earplugs. It’s rough.
As a side note: God fucking bless Catherine for being such a trooper, man. I don’t know many females who’d go through what she does. The snoring, the farting, the dick jokes. All with a smile on her face.
I gotta be honest though: Other than [the snoring], I’d have to say nothing. Knock on wood, but thus far it has been an absolute joy spending time with all of these idiots. I mean, you have the usual BS ya know. Not sleeping enough, not eating well, long and torturous drives. But, beyond that, I really enjoy our time in the van. You have to or else you won’t last a week in a rock and roll band.
What can you tell us about LP2? What direction are you taking the Everymen?
I don’t really put much thought into directions. We just let the band and the music we create together be our Ouija Board. I don’t ever want to think, “Oh but that’s not an Everymen song.” If we wrote it, it’s an Everymen song, whether it’s bee-boppy or bleep-bloopy or riff-fucking-tastic. Whatever comes from our hearts is the music that we make, so I don’t really try and focus too much on this, that, or the other thing. Now, there are some songs that we’ll write that won’t exactly fit in with the scheme of the overall record, but we’ll find uses for those down the road on EPs, singles, or whatever. Because I strongly believe in the album as a unit and I strongly believe that everything has to have its place.
I will say that we have definitely grown in leaps and bounds as a band and as a unit. We’ve grown up. We’re hitting maturity, ya know? Our balls are getting a little fuzzy, so to speak. New Jersey Hardcore wasn’t really as fully realized as I would have liked it to be, but when we made that record, I was just so anxious to get it under our belts. This one, we’re just taking our time. We’re working at a very leisurely pace and it’s coming along phenomenally. I mean, the thing sounds huge. NJHC was guitars, drums, sax and voices. This album has drums, guitars, sax, trumpet, keys, organs, gospel choirs, singalongs, jokey songs, super sad songs, super happy songs. It’s even got a Black Sabbath-y intro jam. So it’s just… well, you’ll see.
Was it hard convincing your bandmates to spring for a gospel choir?
Financially? Luckily, we’re at a point where the band almost supports itself. Sometimes I have to dig into my own pockets, but on the whole, the band is a self-sustaining animal. Now we’re not making any money. We all still have day jobs, but the Everymen has gotten to a point where it’s come to cost us very little personally. That’s a point that I’m pretty damn proud of.
Or do you mean like just convincing them? Cause I kind of didn’t even ask them. [Laughs] It was one of those things in an email that said, “Oh and by the way I hired a 50 member gospel choir to sing on our next record.” There’s been no dissent, so I can only assume everyone is on board.
Have you guys been trying out the new songs live?
Oh yeah, we’ve been playing a few of them for a while now. “Another Thing To Lose” is a barn burner that features some dueling solos and Catherine blowing the fucking roof off of whatever club we happen to be playing in. “Fingers Crossed” is our version of a Ronettes song. “A Girl Named Lou Pt 2” is a Springsteen-ian rocker much in the style of “Born To Run.”
What else? “Spain.” I think that’s my favorite song to play. It’s this jam I wrote when I was living overseas. I had heard this story about a murder in Spain somewhere. Barcelona, I think. This young actor was murdered in the foyer of some old dilapidated building in kind of a gnarly area and there was this big controversy about it because I guess the city had torn the building down before the investigation was complete and it was this whole big thing. And I remember writing this tune, thinking about this metaphor, and about how sometimes shit that’s just so far beyond your control can come around and just completely destroy everything for you, ya know? What the fuck did that building ever do to deserve that? To be torn down? To be destroyed. He was just hanging out there, minding his own business. And this guy goes and gets murdered in there and somebody decided that the building needed to be destroyed. So I wrote the tune from the perspective of the building. And he was in love with the sidewalk. She held his life in place, ya know? But he shielded her from the rain. And now he’s gone. It’s pretty emo. But I dig it. And it was one of my ma’s favorite song.
What inspired the Jonathan Richman tribute EP?
The man himself. I just have always felt that Richman is criminally underrated. I really believe that he deserves to be spoken of in the same context as Elton John, Lennon and McCartney, Jeff Lynne, Bruce, and those kinds of cats. I mean, his songs. Phew. Damn, they blow my mind. They’re so powerful in their simplicity ya know? He’s got that thing, that light, whatever it is, that just beams out of him and surrounds him. I just think he’s great.
Dig this story, man: The girlfriend and I went to see him a few months back and, as always, he delivered nothing short of an inspiring set. Everyone moving, dancing, singing along. “This is a concert, you know. As much as we appreciate the respectful silence while we play, we’d much prefer the opposite,” he told the crowd. So he just slays this set. The hits. Deep cuts. He just destroys. And then as he finishes, the crowd calls rapturously for an encore. Richman abides. He comes out and he plays “As My Mother Lay Lying”, which is about sitting by your mother’s side as she goes from here to the next, whatever the next is. And as has been well documented on BYT, while we were making NJHC, my mom died. I got to play her a mix of the record and she smiled and then soon after she was gone. So it was me, my girlfriend – who herself lost a mom to fucking cancer – and a bunch of enthralled Richman fans. And you could hear your fucking heartbeat it was so quiet, man. Silence. I was crying. The girlfriend was crying. Lots of motherfuckers were crying. Now, don’t forget that this is after an hour or so of complete exaltation. And it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. That’s the power of Richman.
The band has been part of some stellar line-ups. What show has meant the most to you?
Oh gosh. Well, opening for King Khan And The Shrines was special. Now, let me preface this with the fact that I’m not a terribly spiritual dude. I don’t know what’s out there. I don’t know what to expect. I don’t think it’s our place to question. But that show was shortly after my ma died. She died in March and that shit was in July. And it was an absolutely perfect summer day. And we were the first of three on the bill, so my excitement at playing the 1,200 capacity House Of Vans was slightly tempered by the fact that I’ve seen the first band at that place play for 50 people while 1150 sat outside drinking. I’d just hoped people would feel our gospel and come hang out with us while we played, ya know? So we’re hanging, getting ready to rock and all of a sudden this beautiful day turns into a motherfucking ominous son of a bitch. A fucking tempest, man. Holy shit, did it get ugly. So, about ten minutes before we start, someone comes on the loudspeaker and says, “Everyone needs to come inside for the duration of this storm. We are closing the outside area.” 1200 people. Packed to the gills. It was sweaty as fuck and the crowd generally dug us. About five minutes after we finish our set, the storm passes and they let everyone outside again. It was by some miracle that they were all in there watching. And I went over to talk to my dad after our set and the first thing he said was, “Mom made all these people come inside.”
You’re opening for Death this summer. Why is it important for fans of rock and punk to get a glimpse of some guys who’ve been dormant for about 30 years?
Because they’re great. They write great songs and they play great music. No other reason. I think you can dress up a band or an album in all the stories you’d like, but in the end, if the band isn’t great and the record isn’t great, it’s just a farce. I think this is a major problem with a lot of bands today. They focus on so many other key points except their music. And don’t get me wrong, all of these things are important, but a lot of it now is vibe and look and style and the story. But not songs. And the vibe has always been important, and the look and the style and the story are all pretty integral to the mystique of a band, but if you focus on those elements rather than the songs, you’re missing the entire point. So while the story of Death is just fascinating, it’s their songs that are the best and most beautiful part. Don’t forget it.
What’s your opinion of recent articles chastising “neutered” indie rock? The argument is that the surge of non-offensive, easygoing harmonies over fake drums and layered synths has been fostered largely by the proliferation of music blogs that praise a bedroom Casio orchestra as much- if not more so – than a sweaty, visceral rock experience. It’s passive music enjoyed passively with skim latte and an Excel spreadsheet. What are you going to do to save Rock and Roll?
We’re going to do our part, because that’s all we can do. We’re going to continue to write and play and record and tour and spread the gospel that we believe is the ultimate truth in music: That while there can be so many iterations of rock and pop music, there is still no better thing in the world than a man (or woman) and his guitar, singing till his throat is sore, bleeding all over his guitar, sweating and pulsing and loving and giving everything that he is to what he believes in. That’s rock and roll.
As for the “indie rock” thing, I mean what is “indie rock” anymore even? Does it even exist? I don’t think so, in a lot of ways. But a lot of that bedroom bullshit it just that: bullshit. There is just so much wrong with it. But don’t confuse this for a hatred of all things quiet, electronic, non-offensive et al. For example Woman by Rhye is likely to be my #1 record of 2013. I love The xx. I think Hundred Waters are great. But those bands have conviction. Those bands can play.
You see so many of these lauded bands who have probably only played 25 shows together, yet somehow sell out Bowery Ballroom. And they get to Bowery Ballroom and they suck. They don’t know how to play to those kinds of crowds. They don’t know how to put on a show. And it’s no fault of their own. It takes years to figure that shit out. So it’s always just a let down, ya know?
But again: What is “indie rock?” I recently heard someone refer to Phoenix as an “indie rock” band. Sorry, dude, but “indie rock” bands don’t headline Madison Square Garden. And absolutely no hate on Phoenix. I dig that band. I’m always coming back to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. I think that album is outstanding. But, you know what I mean? It’s just such a nebulous term that lacks any type of conviction and I think that’s a microcosm of the entire scene right now. There is very little conviction. And I guess conviction could be interchanged with balls. No conviction equals no balls. No balls equals neutered, right? But this isn’t an indictment of current music in general. There are so many great bands out there who are doing it for all the right reasons and doing it damn well, but it just seems like they’re fewer and further between than ever.
New Jersey has it’s fair share of bands both influenced by a folk hero like Springsteen but it’s as fertile a place as any for metal. I remember being regaled with tales of the Birch Hill, which was shuttered in 2003. I saw local acts like E Town Concrete sell out the Starland. Tons of punks came through Asbury Lanes, setting up amps and throwing beer in the middle of the lanes as opposed to next to the. What fosters this aggressive scene, and has it influenced what The Everymen have become?
Birch Hill! Shit, I haven’t heard that name in a long time. The aggressiveness, I think, is just inherent to Jersey. That’s in our blood, ya know? It’s a very coastal thing, but also a very Northeastern thing. Look at the markets surrounding us: Philly, NYC, Boston, DC, Pittsburgh. You know those are all hard cities with hard people and a lot of that filters down into the surrounding areas. Heavy music has always been a staple of the Jersey scene and it always will be. Some of it is the “little brother syndrome” that we all carry around. Some of it comes from a lifetime defending ourselves against Jersey bashing. How could it not have influenced us? Everything is influential. I grew up going to shows at Starland and Birch Hill and The Lanes and, most importantly, in basements and pool halls and VFWs and wherever they’d let us have shows. And most of those shows were heavy, violent music. No, we’re not a terribly aggressive band, but we bring it live. By the time we’re done, there’s no mistaking that a rock and roll show just happened. It’s sweaty, it’s visceral and most importantly it’s fun. If anything, that’s what shines through most from them to us. The show. The energy.