The Menzingers stop at Roxian Theatre in support of ‘Hello Exile’
The Menzingers are well known within punk rock circles, having landed multiple albums, including their 2017 release, “After The Party,” on best album lists from such outlets as “Noisey,” “Clash” and “Kerrang!”
But in the mainstream rock world, the Menzingers, despite being among the very best punk-centric bands of the past dozen years, remain anything but a household name as the band tours behind their recently released sixth studio album, “Hello Exile.”
The tour stops at the Roxian Theatre in McKees Rocks Nov. 30.
But singer/guitarist Greg Barnett isn’t complaining that the band’s popularity within the punk genre has yet to translate into mainstream recognition or major popularity.
“We talk about this all the time. And honestly, we feel like we are in the absolute best position ever because we’ve watched so many of our friends’ bands skyrocket to fame like overnight. You know what, they burn out so quickly, where we’ve just had this slow, steady growth our entire career,” he said in a recent phone interview. “The people who come to the shows, they come year after year after year. That’s really hard to do, and I feel like we’ve managed to build something really organic that is kind of rare compared to other bands. I wouldn’t trade overnight success for what we’ve built in the band for anything. It just feels like we have a longevity and a career that isn’t going to burn out or fade away.”
So rather than fretting about being one of rock’s most overlooked bands, the members of Menzingers — Barnett, Tom May (vocals, guitar), Eric Keen (bass) and Joe Godino (drums) — have simply pushed forward, trying to make the best music they can.
Right where they want to be
The result is “Hello Exile,” an album on which Barnett said The Menzingers are becoming the band they’ve always wanted to be.
“I think what we achieved now is that it’s almost feels like we’re writing, we have the ability to write music exactly like how we wanted it,” Barnett said. “I think in the past, there was a lot of like we need to prove a lot to, as we were climbing up, it was like to whoever it may be, the tastemakers of the world. We kind of didn’t consider any of that or even think about it (in making “Hello Exile”). Like we need a single on the album and we need this or that. Let’s just write exactly what we want to write and the beauty of that is that’s what makes the record so special to me is that it really just sounds like us.”
If “Hello Exile” sounds more like Barnett’s concept of The Menzingers, it represents a bit of a shift in the sound the band established over the course of five previous albums. The kind of hard-charging, highly catchy and already more creative-than-your-average punk tunes that populated early albums like 2010’s “Chamberlain Waits” and 2012’s “On The Impossible Past” (and prompted raves from punk websites) still show up on the new album.
But now, in addition to caffeinated punk tunes like “Strangers Forever” and “Strain Your Memory,” “Hello Exile” embraces other influences. The songs “Portland,” “Strawberry Mansion” and “London Drugs” evoke the gritty rock of Gaslight Anthem. “Anna” balances a poppier melody with plenty of punch. “Last To Know” slows the tempo while flexing plenty of heft. There’s also a muscular ballad in “I Can’t Stop Drinking.”
“It definitely has more of other (styles) we love, like classic rock,” Barnett said of “Hello Exile.” “We love Tom Petty. We love Bruce Springsteen. That’s kind of where I’m getting at, too, of being the band we always wanted to be.”
Meeting the band’s ambitions for “Hello Exile” meant putting in more time and work during the writing and recording than on any Menzingers album.
“We kind of set out for ‘After The Party’ that we wanted it to be a fun, bar record you could throw on at a party,” Barnett said. “But for ‘Hello Exile,’ we were definitely really not trying to go that route again. So it was a lot more serious. It was a lot more heavily focused, I guess you’d say. ”
The Menzingers are starting to feature the “Hello Exile” songs in their shows on tour this fall. With six albums, it’s getting challenging to play everything the group’s audience wants.
“That’s the tricky part because I think there are a lot of songs that fans expect to hear every night. We can only play so many,” Barnett said. “So to be able to do the deep cuts and newer songs and things like that, and still be able to play the songs that everybody wants to hear can be challenging. But I think we found a cool way on this tour to kind of get a mix of everything going.”