Brooklyn punk veterans The Men don’t play by the rules
When 36-year-old Nick Chiericozzi and 35-year-old Mark Perro started playing music together over 10 years ago, they never imagined that their side-project-turned-noise-punk band, The Men, would still be together after a decade. But after seven albums, including this month’s Drift, they are—and with the same goal as always. From the post-punk inspiration of their debut album, Leave Home, to the country rock vibe of 2012’s Open Your Heart and the following year’s New Moon, the duo has never let genre dictate their sound, an ethos that’s continued onto Drift. With their latest record, the band seems to have found their stride by embracing all of their influences, fusing the New Wave feel of bands like Magazine and Suicide on tracks like “Maybe I’m Crazy,” with the experimental rock twang of Tom Petty and Lou Reed.
“Even back then, we were trying to be stripped down,” said Perro when we talked over the phone last month. “Though 10 years is a long time, and you become a much different person, we were always trying to do the same thing. Of course, we may have tried to get there in a different way, but we’ve always been trying to chase the truth.”
For the Brooklyn-based outfit, that truth has seen many iterations—as has the group itself. Over the years, The Men has included a variety of different members before landing on its current lineup of drummer Rich Samis and bassist Kevin Faulkner, alongside Chiericozzi and Perro, the only constants in an ever-evolving band. “We’ve never wanted The Men to just be this kind of band, or that kind of band, or whatever,” said Chiericozzi. Added Perro: “I see this as another step forward, not back.”
ALEXANDRA WEISS: Tell me about the new album. What inspired it?
NICK CHIERICOZZI: The same thing that’s always inspired us. With every record, we just try to make something different and chase the sound we hear when Mark and I get together.
MARK PERRO: I think Nick said it pretty well—just chasing the right sound. We’ve always been on that same continuum and the next step in that is an ever-growing process that’s always evolving. It’s the way we’ve always worked.
WEISS: How does this record compare to your previous releases?
PERRO: I think it’s our most open record in terms of the sound, and even emotionally. Typically we’ve—I don’t want to say hide—but we always use a lot of distortion, we always chase these more abstract, ethereal sounds that cloud the lyrics. But on this, there’s a lot more conscious space, a lot more emphasis on the lyrics, the vocals and the melody. It wasn’t exactly new for us, but it was a new level of exposure.
CHIERICOZZI: When Mark and I first listened to the record, we were actually surprised by how simple it was. They almost sound like childlike songs. Through the years, we’ve always had songs with so many parts and this was so simple that I found for the first time it really translated.
WEISS: A lot of what I’ve read in preparation for this album says The Men are “returning to their roots.” It paints you as going back to the post-punk sound you started with. Do you see it as that? Or just a natural evolution of where you guys have been for the past ten years?
PERRO: I think you could make that kind of an argument about the last record—that it was a return to some sort of return to our roots, though not necessarily consciously. But I see Drift as just another evolution—another sound we wanted to explore.
WEISS: Did you achieve the sound you were chasing in the beginning?
CHIERICOZZI: I think we tried. I mean, it always comes out differently than you expect, but that can be surprising and fun.
PERRO: It also wasn’t like we were specifically chasing or wanting to explore some kind of electronic sound, or some Velvet Underground sound—it was more of a removal of sound that we were trying to explore.
WEISS: Ten years is a long time for a band. What was the impetus for starting The Men originally?
PERRO: Nick and I had played in a bunch of bands together beforehand and had been in the same circle of bands even when we weren’t playing together. When we started The Men, it just became this other place to go, a more true place for us musically.
WEISS: How has the band changed over the years?
CHIERICOZZI: It’s grown and changed a lot. There have been different members, but it’s always been me and Mark. I also think, in a lot of ways, we’ve become more conscious of what we’re doing. At the beginning, there’s just lots of energy and volume. But the goal for us has always been to change the norm. I mean, you have to keep things interesting.
PERRO: I think we have a much better understanding of who we are, not only as musicians, but as people. And I think one of the reasons we’ve been able to continue for this long is the fact that we’ve both always been able to go with that flow, whether that’s actively coming up with different musical ideas, or just allowing all of our stuff to live and breathe and be. When you’re open like that, you can make things last.
WEISS: Did you both always know you wanted to be musicians? What drew you to music in the first place?
CHIERICOZZI: It was always that transformational aspect, where you could see your friends go and play onstage. It’s like, that guy was just your friend and then all of a sudden, they’re playing and people are cheering, and it’s just a good time. I wanted to imitate that. But also, just listening to music at home by myself. One of the most intimate things in my life is playing—not only with Mark and everybody, but by myself, too. I really go off on that experience.
PERRO: Yeah, I remember as a kid always being obsessed with musicians, and bands, and albums. Whatever it was, I was just obsessed—I wanted to hear everything and know everything, like there was something just pulling me towards that.
WEISS: You two have been collaborating for a long time. What’s your process like?
CHIERICOZZI: A lot of fights.
PERRO: Actually, not that much fighting at all. We’ve just always made music that is really exciting to me. And it’s easy when you make exciting music continually to keep on going, but then there’s another part of it, where we’re very open and serving this idea of something bigger than my song or your song or guitar solo. Like, ‘what is the best way we can make the best song possible?’ We’ve always tried to be true to that.
THE MEN’S LATEST ALBUM DRIFT CAME OUT ON MARCH 3RD ON SACRED BONES RECORDS.