Q&A: The Men On Staying Loud, Being Approachable, And Not Dreading SXSW

You'd expect a band with a name as un-Googleable and as blankly resigned as The Men to be a little stand-offish, if not just completely jaded. After all, the Brooklyn-based four-piece have been at it for roughly five years, only one of which found them getting some recognition outside of New York. The record responsible for the elevated profile was last year's Leave Home, a ripping, visceral slab of deafening post-punk and thrash that found them on a whole slew of year-end lists (Home came in at No. 57 on the Voice's 2011 Pazz and Jop critic's poll). It was a record so passionate and unforgiving it was hard not to immediately love, but calling it "inviting" would be something of a stretch. So it's weird that The Men's new album, Open Your Heart (out March 6 on Sacred Bones), is borderline welcoming, a no-bullshit rock record that trades in the guttural punch of its predecessor for patches of Americana, psych and straightforward guitar pop while retaining the grit that included The Men at the front of a pack of bands reviving all things sonically pernicious in New York. Stranger still is how truly affable The Men themselves come off. "If you wanna come with us, you're welcome and embraced, but if not, that's okay too, yo," guitarist and vocalist Mark Perro told Sound of the City. We talked to Perro and fellow guitarist/vocalist Nick Chiericozzi about influences, expectations and the new record.

So, Open Your Heart. I can honestly say that I think a lot of people who liked Leave Home are going to be genuinely surprised by this record.

Nick Chiericozzi: Yeah, I mean, that's okay. But, I mean, it wasn't our intention. I don't know what to say to those people. "I'm sorry," maybe? [Laughs] We weren't trying to surprise anyone, we were trying to do our thing.

So there wasn't any kind of conscious decision to move away from a more aggressive sound and replace it with something more straightforward?

Chiericozzi: I don't think there was a conscious decision to move away, I think we had different ideas. I think we had some new ideas and some different things we were trying to accomplish and new sounds we were trying to accomplish. We weren't trying to make another Leave Home, that's for sure.

Last year, I think there were a lot of people that looked up to your band for bringing really loud, aggressive music back into the spotlight, especially in New York. So this record is in no way a reaction to being sort of pigeonholed in a way?

Chiericozzi: I don't think so. I think our only goal was to make a new record, and not repeat ourselves. I think that was the main thing. Whether it's aggressive or not didn't really come out, it didn't really come into the studio. It just happened. Those were the songs we had at the time. I think that at a certain point, when you're recording, you want to move past what you've done. And I think with this record, after Leave Home—it's not a rejection of Leave Home, it's just not wanting to repeat ourselves. Sort of like I am now. [Laughs]

Mark Perro: I mean, Leave Home was a very real, true thing. That was a real, true thing and this is a real, true thing, too. Come to see us, we're still fuckin' pretty loud, you know. We're a loud band, that hasn't changed, but you gotta move on, progress and keep nurturing some of those new ideas. And some of those new ideas, by their nature, are different. We can't cater to expectations, that's boring. And end up being disappointed in yourself as a musician. You gotta move forward.

Another New York band, Liturgy, seems to be always catching shit for purposely toying with people's concept of genre or what can be done inside that box. Do you worry that you'll face similar scrutiny?

Perro: I'm not worried. I don't want to speak for everybody, but I don't think we're worried. I mean, people can think what they're gonna think. If people are upset that it's not the exact same record as Leave Home then—not to be harsh—but sorry, see ya later. Enjoy Leave Home, it's still there. You can listen to it as much as you want, but we're doing what makes us happy, what we see as a good record. If you wanna come with us, you're welcome and embraced, but if not, that's okay too, yo. We're not trying to like, toy with people's ideas or fuck with people's expectations. We're just trying to do what's real to us. What happens from there is what happens.

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