Max Bemis is feeling much better these days.
The Say Anything frontman is excited to be back on tour with his band, finally. “It’s great being back on stage. It’s been a long time for me and I’ve been missing it a lot,” he tells Billboard.com.
Last year, Say Anything canceled their first-ever headlining tour and pushed back the release of their debut album, “…Is a Real Boy.” Following a nervous break down in October, Bemis -– who turns 22 next week — found himself in a secure compound of a Texas clinic, where he was treated for severe bipolar disorder, a condition he has been struggling with for a while.
Last week, “…Is a Real Boy” (J Records) entered Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart at No. 17.
Released last month as a double CD, “…Is a Real Boy” is an energetic punk-rock musical full of infectious hooks, raw emotion and lyrical bite. The first disc contains 13 tracks that were originally released on Doghouse Records in 2004, the bonus disc seven original demos, entitled “…Was a Real Boy.” At the dials were producers Tim O’Heir (Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh) and Stephen Trask, who wrote and produced the songs for the rock musical “Hedwig & the Angry Inch.”
Max Bemis, who was born in New York and grew up in Los Angeles, channels much of his inner turmoil into his music. “…Is a Real Boy” chronicles the journey of “a 21-year old… self-involved, impassioned rock singer” figuring out who he really is. Needless to say, the character is named “Max.”
The singer also wrote all songs and recorded most instruments with the help of drummer Coby Linder. On tour, Say Anything becomes a six-piece band as Bemis and Linder are joined by two guitarists, a bassist and a keyboarder. “Everybody sings,” Bemis says, audibly excited. “It allows us to get in all the parts from the album. There’s a lot going on musically as well as vocally.”
Indeed, there is a lot happening on the record. “…Is a Real Boy” rips razor-sharp guitars and frantic rhythms into fully arranged emo anthems, driven by Bemis’ direct vocals that snap from shivery spoken word to exuberant “Yeahs” and “Heys.” It is a compelling manic mélange that sounds like an evening with Freddie Mercury’s Queen covering songs by the Clash, with Bright Eyes guesting.
Borrowing a phrase from one of the songs on the album, it is all about the “drama and drool.”
“Life gets more and more dramatic as you get older,” the 21-year old mastermind muses. “I talk about the highs and lows of life and frame it in an overly dramatic context. I take normal feelings and magnify them. I take normal emotions extremely seriously.” When asked about his major songwriting influences, Bemis names Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Chris Conley of Saves the Day, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Nick Cave and the band Sunny Day Real Estate.
Say Anything — named after the 1989 cult movie with John Cusack — has just finished the video to lead single “Alive With the Glory of Love,” shot in a national park outside L.A. The band is on a U.S. tour and is scheduled to perform on the 2006 Vans Warped Tour this summer.
“I’m doing much better,” Max promises Billboard.com. “I’m being much healthier and I’m taking care of myself. This is a big priority for me.”