MEB staffer Murjani Rawls had the chance to conduct a phone interview with bassist/clean vocalist Ryan Neff of Miss May I to get some insight on their upcoming venture to Mayhem Festival, the recording process of their new album, Rise of the Lion, the current landscape of metal and more.
MEB: How do you guys feel about playing Mayhem Fest?
Ryan: We’re stoked about Mayhem! We’ve wanted to do it for a few years. The stars finally aligned this year with the new album timing and the touring phase. We’re stoked to be a part of it. We’re big fans of the outdoor festivals and we’ve had a lot of experience. A few Warped Tours under our belt, so we feel like we’re graduating up to another big outdoor festival.
You guys just played Rock on the Range a week ago. Does Miss May I prefer outdoor festivals vs indoor shows?
I think I would have to say we prefer the outdoor festivals. They are so beneficial to your band and it’s so exciting to deal with other big bands. They also aren’t as frequent, so it’s special when you get a chance to do them. I love the venue touring, but these ones are a little more rare and exciting.
Do you feel that you connect with more fans at outdoor festivals?
I think the outdoor festivals are a huge part of our early success. Being able to do Warped Tour twice while pushing the record was a big part in pushing us through the previous albums’ cycles. I have high hopes that this is going to be a really good tour for us.
Rise of the Lion just came out two weeks ago. Can you go into how the recording process was for this album? I definitely get the sense that the band matured a lot of in the two years of touring from the AP and Warped Tours.
In each album cycle, it presents new and exciting things that we haven’t done before. With this record, we made sure we spent a lot of time on it and didn’t go into it struggling coming right off the road. Really having to force ourselves to get the record done on time, let alone have it sound the way we wanted. This time, we took two and a half weeks off from touring, which for a touring band like us is huge because touring is one of the main ways a band makes money these days. It was important for us to write the record in a group like we always have, so we took two and a half weeks in a studio in Dayton writing together. We recorded the album live, so when we entered the studio, we were ready to go. By the end of the first day, drums were set up and we were tracking the morning of the second day. It streamlined the process for us and allowed us more time in the studio to polish things.
Not one song sounds the same on the album. It seems like with a lot of albums, songs tend to mirror each other. Did you guys strive for that listening experience?
We felt like when we wrote At Heart, we were going to have a few songs that fans loved and we did, but the one thing that we felt that we struggled with was writing a full, fantastic record. We’d written records that had 4-5 good songs, but some of them may have felt repetitive or you may have heard them already on the record. We took the time to write ten unique songs.
Terry Date produced this record. He’s produced everyone from Slipknot to Deftones. How did he help shape the sound in recording Rise of the Lion?
Terry seems to have a knack for helping a band make that “breakout” record which is what we wanted. The big thing for us is that he let the band be the band. It was less about his vision of a Miss May I record and more of him taking what we wanted to do for the record and making it sound the best it could.
One song that struck a chord with me in particular is “Echoes”. There was a mention that this was a fan-based record and letters from your fans touched you guys and helped them for the record. How is the band/fan relationship instrumental?
We wanted the record to be diverse, so we made it a point to make a song that was very different. Every song on the record came from a topic from a fan in some way. Levi [Benton]’s idea was that topics came from letters from fans and the stuff that they would struggle with. The song came together with the music part being done first and us going through different melody and chorus shoots. Basically building a puzzle with it and the fans have been really receptive to “Echoes”.
How do you see the hardcore/metal landscape now, especially with the part technology plays in music?
It’s hard to lump everything into one category anymore. The internet has made everything so eclectic where there are so many variations of metal and rock. I feel that there are so many more pocket fan bases now rather than a giant mass flocking to 10-15 bands in the industry. With all the different types of metal, it breaks everything into smaller groups. The great thing is that it’s bringing back all these awesome festivals where a band like us who started on Warped Tour are now able to cross over to a Mayhem fest. A lot of new, young metal bands are going to get to work with a lot of established older bands which makes for a great experience.
Last Question: We know that we’ll be able to catch the band on Mayhem festival. Do you guys have any other plans for 2014 after the tour?
We will probably be on tour non-stop for the next year in a half. A week off or a month off here and there, but we’ll be on the road. It’s a worldwide thing for the band now. We did 9-10 months of touring last year and it’s going to be the same thing this year for us.