Music » Interviews

(Doesn't really) Say Anything

Max Bemis, arguably emo's most troubled vocalist, can be pretty tight-lipped


Max Bemis is the face of his band. Thatll happen when you - pose for photos like this one. And when bipolar episodes - squelch tours and put you in the hospital.
  • Max Bemis is the face of his band. Thatll happen when you pose for photos like this one. And when bipolar episodes squelch tours and put you in the hospital.

I talk to Max Bemis for about 15 minutes, and all I find out about him is that he's not a morning person. Or an afternoon person.

Our interview is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. I call the number. A pleasant guy named Josh answers, and I ask for Bemis. Apparently, he's asleep, and I should call back in an hour.

When I do, Bemis sounds like he's just crawled out of bed. I ask what he did last night, and he says nothing, just stayed up late watching TV. I ask where he is, and he replies, "I think we're heading toward the East Coast."

Bemis is the lead singer of the indie emo band Say Anything. The group released its third full-length in October, a double-disc album called In Defense of the Genre. It followed 2004's ... Is a Real Boy and 2001's Baseball.

Say Anything is defined as much by Bemis as its music. Like most lead singers, he's the face of the band. Unlike most, his private life is so widely known, it approaches the status of marketing tool.

During tense recording sessions for the band's second album, Bemis had the first of his mental breakdowns. He walked the streets of New York on the assumption that everyone around him was a paid actor. He's described it as believing he was the star of The Truman Show.

When admitted to the hospital, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Soon afterward, he quit using drugs, which helped balance his emotional swings. But another breakdown reached the public after Say Anything had to postpone its tour with Saves the Day. By then, Bemis' story was well known.

"I don't mind so much," he says between moans and sighs, and at least one yawn. "I'd prefer if it was different. But that's how it goes when you're doing anything like this."

How did it become public then?

"Originally, it was because of the tour being messed up," he says, "and then it was just me being honest about it. It's helped people out, so I don't mind doing that."

The story is so much a part of Say Anything that Bemis can hardly do an interview (including this one) without hearing questions about it. Still, he says he doesn't think it's overshadowed the band's music.

"I think that when it comes to my personality, certain people see me as a certain way that I'm not," he says. "But I don't think it has any way to do with how people think of us musically."

I realize this is about as animated as Bemis is gonna get. I ask him about how he came up with the name for In Defense of the Genre. He says it just kinda came to him. I ask him about Saves the Day, his favorite band, and its new album, in an effort to draw him out.

"It was awesome," he says, "as usual."

I thank him for his time, wish him luck with the rest of the tour. Next time, I'll try him a little later. I'll assume he's a lot cooler at midnight.

Say Anything, with Thrice and The Photo Atlas
The Black Sheep,
2106 E. Platte Ave.
Saturday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m.
This all-ages show is sold out;
look for tickets ($23 at the door) at or outside the venue.

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