After a hectic few years, Miss May I have settled down to record their third full-length record with producer Machine at his studio, the Machine Shop. Known for their chaotic, pit-inducing riffs and soaring melodies, the metalcore band seem primed for evolution on their upcoming release. Although vocalist Levi Benton assures they’re still prepared to bring the heavy, earlier this week he filled AP in on the band’s sonic—and lyrical—shifts.
Your last few records were recorded with Joey Sturgis and now you’re recording with Machine, who has done records for Lamb Of God and Cobra Starship. What was behind the decision to go with a new producer?
We wanted a new sound, and [Machine’s] not really a metal guy; he’s more of a pop producer. That’s why we wanted to go with him. He had more of that catchy feel. We were already metal guys, and that’s what Joey [Sturgis] was; he would tell us already-metal things. But we wanted a pop guy to tell us how to be a poppy metal band—we already knew our metal. It’s worked out great. We’ve definitely changed a lot of sounds and tried a lot of new stuff. We didn’t want to write the same album three times—we felt our first two albums were too similar to each other.
How is the recording process different this time around?
It’s nice to get someone else’s opinion and actually sit back and listen to the songs and realize, “Oh, this actually isn’t that good.” A lot of the stuff on the last CD I know I wasn’t proud of, because we had to just throw them on there. We were touring non-stop, so we just wrote when we could and then put it on the CD. This time, we actually recorded the whole album and sat back and rearranged songs. We got to be a band and write an album together.
During pre-production, we would sit in this huge room and everything is mic’d up and we have headphones on—it’s literally how, like, Rage Against The Machine does it—and we just jammed. We pre-[produced] the album for about two weeks just writing songs and putting them together. When the guys got done with songs, I’d go pre-pro vocals—so we’ve actually already recorded the whole album. As of about a week and a half ago, we started doing guitar tracks and finishing drums and I started vocals [yesterday].
How many songs did you guys record this time around?
Twelve. There were 14 songs, but two of them didn’t make the cut.
Lyrically, what are you trying to examine this time?
This sounds stupid, but I tried not to be so artistic and deep as before. [Fans will] go, “Oh, what’s this about? What’s that about?” and I realized I try too hard to be that frontman who’s like, “Oh, man, he’s so deep. His lyrics are so good.” This time, we broke them down so that everyone could relate to them. There are a lot of metal bands that try way too hard to be so deep and different with weird words and metaphors, but halfway through the songs you don’t even know what they’re talking about. I wanted it to be like, “Oh, everyone’s been through this.”
So you’ve pre-produced the whole album and now have about half the record in its final steps. How do you think everything sounds?
It’s crazy. It’s really cool, because Machine is really old school, which we like. We just want to do an old-school CD. We’re running through full guitar heads, a lot of pedals and live cabs mic’d up. On our last two albums, you’d just hook [the guitar] up to a computer, type in some numbers, grab a picture of a head you like and bam. But this is the real thing. Same with the drums—they’re recorded live, you’re not hearing the drums recorded and then sampled. You’re hearing our actual drums and what they actually sound like. It’s really cool, because it’s going to be a much rawer album. You’re going to hear where we make mistakes. It’s real stuff, not computers playing. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a good live band, and there are so many bands that are completely robotic. If we can do it live, we can play it just as good for the CD, you know?
How did the writing process go this time around since you said you did a lot of it in-studio? Do you have any favorite songs?
Oh yeah. It’s actually been really cool. We went out of our way about halfway through the record when we had a bunch of heavy songs and were like, “Okay, this is Miss May I,” but then we wrote more than half the CD looking at it like singles. Before, we’d go, “Oh yeah, we need a single,” and we’d go write one single and that was that. Now, there’s more than half the CD that’s singles. I think it’s going to catch a lot of kids’ ears.
[The album’s sound is] almost completely split between the old Miss May I and the new Miss May I. We didn’t want to be that band that completely changed from one record. It’s good for both fans.
How would you describe the “old Miss May I” sound versus the “new Miss May I” sound?
It’s more creative and dynamic. We didn’t worry about structure. On our second album [2010’s Monument], we were so focused on being “mature” and structured that we felt like all our songs ended up sounding the same, as opposed to our first CD [2009’s Apologies Are For The Weak]. With [Apologies], it was like, “Oh, this part sounds good and this part sounds good,” and we’d just play it and didn’t worry about structure. That’s how this one is, but times 100. We know our instruments, we’ve been on tour, we’ve been cultured around the world and we feel way more open-minded. There are no boundaries—there’s a lot of unexpected stuff on the new album.
What do you feel everyone should be looking forward to most on this record?
To me, the sound quality is unreal. This is the first album I’m really proud of front to back—there’s no song I want to skip over. We don’t sound like a robot anymore—we sound like a metal band actually thrashing. I’m really excited for all these kids to hear it. It’s going to [give people] a whole new look on us. alt