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Levi Benton Miss May I - Interview
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No time for the weary for metalcore band Miss May I who after having only just released "Rise Of The Lion" in 2014, are now set to return with another new album in "Deathless" which is a more aggressive and heavier record. Currently on the Vans Warped tour in the U.S., we find out where the aggression in the songs come from as we speak to vocalist Levi Benton who discusses the writing process for the album as well as some of the inspirations for the music.



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Levi: Hey Andrew how are you?

Andrew: Good thanks, how are you?

Levi: Good! Day off today from Warped (tour), it's a nice day today.

Andrew: I heard you guys ran into a bit of trouble on tour a couple of days ago.

Levi: Yeah we missed the Salt Lake City show because our bus broke down in Nebraska.

Andrew: So just the one show that you missed then?

Levi: Yeah just that show. We've had a bunch of bus trouble, we always have the worst luck with tour buses but it's all good! We only got a couple more shows left.

Andrew: All part of the touring lifestyle I guess!

Levi: Oh yeah!

Andrew: You've probably had some horror stories over the years, what's the worst thing that's ever happened to you guys on tour?

Levi: Oh my gosh! Probably our second tour ever we were fighting with some guys in Texas, this brawl with some older guys and they kicked the crap out of us and in the end as we were driving back home, our transmission blew in Nashville on the same night. So we drove from Texas to Ohio on some 20 hour drive and our transmission blew up and we took a short bus from there to home. And getting home from our second tour, it was the worst time ever.

Andrew: Oh wow a fight, did you know the guys? How did that happen?

Levi: They were just giving us crap for wearing tight pants at the time.

Andrew: OK well I know you guys are on the Warped tour at the moment so how has that been going so far?

Levi: It's been awesome! It's been our third Warped tour, we love it. It's very cool that we're pushing our new record on this tour so everything has been really great, the crowd's have been insane, it's really cool that there's a whole new generation of kids that we get to play to instead of the same ol', same ol'. We do 11 and 12 back to back so we're playing to pretty much the same kids and its nice to play to a bunch of new fans.

Andrew: OK cool, well let's talk about the new album "Deathless". We had a preview of it a couple of days ago and it sounds fantastic and one of the better songs on the album is the lead single you put out "I.H.E.", a bit of a thrashier kind of track. What does I.H.E. mean?

Levi: It stands for I Hate Everything, I Hate Everyone. We sort of got pushed to the edge for being the nice guys for such a long time, this whole record is about the last 2 years going through a bunch of crap. We've always had smiles and we're always the gullible young guys and our band just got pushed to the edge where we sort of snapped and didn't let people push us around anymore.

Andrew: That fustration of people pushing you around, where is that coming from? In what sort of way do you mean?

Levi: It's just the bigger our band gets the more people have a hand in it and we sort of started losing control, of owning our band and being in control of our band because of some of the people working on the project. We just got to a point where we were really fustrated and really bummed out [but] we've fixed it all now, our label and everyone is amazing. It's just the extra curricular that was really killing us a bit and that's what the whole record is about, the fustration of that.

Andrew: So "Deathless" obviously represents all of that as well.

Levi: Yeah the whole record. In 2 years I lost my house, our drummer got a divorce. All across the board personally and through-out the band we were just going through a bunch of stuff at one time, which is sort of cool as I didn't feel like I was the only one writing the record like this. Everyone was going through the same thing so we could write lyrics that we could all relate.

Andrew: Unfortunately negative stuff like that is not a good thing but I suppose it is a good inspiration to write music. Do you find a lot of that negative stuff is a good way to write music?

Levi: Oh yeah for sure. I've never been in a mood that I was in when writing this record and I think that's why it came out so great and how we wanted it to sound like. We've always bee a postive band, not that we're not positive anymore, but it was nice to write something different and change it up. We're also a band that doesn't want to make the same record twice so we always try to change it up and us being in this mood and this attitude was different for us, now we have to try hard to write something different.

Andrew: Well this album sounds heavier than previous stuff, certaintly heavier than the last album you did so obviously some of those fustrations came out through the heaviness of this album.

Levi: Oh yeah for sure.

Andrew: With the aggressiveness of this album, how are they playing out live? Are fans responding to it really well?

Levi: Yeah it's actually really great. It's always scary playing new songs because a lot of people don't know it or they haven't gotten around to learning it. The cool thing with "I.H.E." which is the only new song we are playing right now, is even though kids don't know it, they are still losing their minds to it. It's one of our best responsed songs which is really awesome for us because it's always really hard to play a new song and have a really good response so it sort of forecasts the future which is going to be pretty crazy. Because it works for us when we play the new song, people are losing their mind and now it's a common song for us, it's one of the craziest ones live.

Andrew: That's good to hear. And you only put out an album last year, "Rise Of The Lion" which has been a pretty consistent thing for you guys, putting out an album every 1 to 2 years. Is that something that you are motivated by, to keep going along and putting out new material all the time?

Levi: Yeah we try to keep it to 18 to 24 months. The only thing with this one is we had the Warped tour coming up and we didn't want to waste the opportunity so we had this one pushed out earlier than most of our cycles. It was just because of touring, if we released it now we wouldn't be touring and wouldn't be having as much fun and we enjoy touring non-stop. The timing of when we released it really helped, it felt a little rushed on our end, just crazy. But we didn't want to go into Warped tour with it not finished.

Andrew: Will there be any chance of you guys comng back to Australia on the tour?

Levi: We're hoping, there's talks but I never know that until I get the email where to go haha! I know there is talks about it, we're just sitting and waiting. We love Australia so we're just waiting for the call to come out there and play, everytime we've been there it's amazing so can't wait to come back.

Andrew: When was the last time you were here?

Levi: Soundwave in 2013 I think, with Metallica?

Andrew: Yeah that was 2013. How was that for you, did you enjoy it?

Levi: Oh it was awesome, one of the best tours ever, it was crazy. And before that we were out there in 2011 with Parkway Drive.

Andrew: OK cool. So do you prefer festivals or club shows?

Levi: Club shows. Festivals are fun but...actually I would say festivals. Better food, the crowds aren't as good as venues but the allround vibe is just a little cooler at festivals. Like you only have one chance to really go crazy so you give it all you got.

Andrew: I guess festivals are good for checking out bands that you wouldn't normally check out. Have you found a lot of your fans discovered you through some of the festivals that you have played?

Levi: Oh yeah for sure. We just did Mayhem last year and that was one of our biggest responses we ever had for any festival that we had ever done.

Andrew: It's kinda sad that festival is closing down now as we just heard.

Levi: Yeah I know it's crazy! Last year we did it and it broke the record for high attendance and this year it broke record for lowest attendance. So it's crazy that it pulled back after a year back to back.

Andrew: Yeah a bit unfortunate I guess. So anyway taking us back to when you first started, how did you get started with the band and how did you get into music in general as well?

Levi: Well my Mom has always been a metalhead and always into metal concerts since she was young and she's covered in tattoos and goes into the pits, she's pretty insane. She got me into this style of music but as for the other guys, it was just something for us to do. At the end of the day when the sun went down, we wanted to do something other than skateboarding. Obviously it was dark so let's just be in a band and jam and we actually jammed for about a year or 2 doing cover songs and just hanging out and then we started writing our own music, played our first show and we just kept doing it ever since. We didn't really send out press packets or anything for record labels, we just put songs up on myspace and we just blew up on myspace. It was a different time, bands don't blow up on facebook or anything. We were in a whole different world at that time and so that's how it happened. We signed a record deal while we were in high school and been touring ever since.

Andrew: OK so since that time, what do you consider to be the biggest highlight for the band?

Levi: I think the biggest thing would be playing the main stage at Download, that was probably the biggest opportunity we ever had. And it turned out really awesome, it was terrifying but it was our biggest show and it was such an honour to share a main stage with all those bands.

Andrew: And a lot of history there as well.

Levi: Yeah it was great, it was the first day, we were the first band on the main stage and we opened up the whole weekend.

Andrew: On vocals, who is your biggest influence? And also as a lyric writer as well.

Levi: It always changes. I guess as a vocalist, I like dynamic vocalists. I like "Eddie" from All Shall Perish who is now in Suicide Silence, I love Howard Jones from Killswitch Engage. From more of the hardcore stuff, I know it's funny because, doing an Australian interview, but I love Winston (McCall) from Parkway Drive, he's got the poppiest hardcore stuff which I think is really insane. I guess the lyrics it changes, not necessarily to do with metal bands but for lyrcists from metal bands, I guess I would have to say In Flames and I really like Lamb Of God's lyrics. But it can go from country to pop artists when it comes to lyrics, I think there are a lot of good lyrcists out there.

Andrew: So a lot of diversity in your taste and style then.

Levi: Oh yeah, I think that's why I like pop music so much because the lyrics are catchy and unfortunately in the pop world it takes 400 people to write a song and not just one person for the lyrics to come out awesome like that.

Andrew: Well we have one question that we always ask and which leads me from that and that is, if you could be a fly on the wall for the recording of any classic album in history, what would it be?

Levi: I think it would be cool to be a fly on the wall for Michael Jackson's "Thriller".

Andrew: Why that album?

Levi: Just because there are so many huge songs that really changed music. I think it would be cool to see everyone's reaction after them doing tracking... I always think it's a phenomenon after people write big singles and nobody knows until the audience actually hears it so I would love to hear songs that people thought were OK and then end up being one of the biggest songs in the world. Like, 'Oh that was a good take, just the title track, nothing big.' And that ends up being one of the biggest songs ever.

Andrew: Yeah it just explodes, it's interesting how that happens. But yeah, very influential person in a lot of ways. And for you, what is the meaning of life?

Levi: I think the meaning of life for me is just to be happy and contribute to the world and have a family and put your little speckle on life and change someone's life while you're at it. Even if it's 1 person or multiple people, I think if you can add to the world and having a family and change some person's life then you've done your part.

Andrew: Well I think you guys are doing that now making fans around the world happy with your music so I think that's a great thing.

Levi: Yeah we're very lucky!

Andrew: Thanks for your time today and good luck with the rest of the tour.

Levi: Awesome, thank you very much. I appreciate it man.

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on August 6th 2015