US metalcore giants Miss May I are about to unleash their latest album “Shadows Inside”, a devastating and relentless set of songs that moves the band forward in their continuing evolution in sound. We catch up with vocalist Levi Benton to discuss the new songs and how the band approached the writing and recording this time around.
Steve: How’s things in the Miss May I camp besides hectic and busy at this time?
Levi: ( laughs) I’m good! The band is good, we just got to Poland and there is a lot of impatient guys at the moment waiting for this album to drop and let everyone hear it.
Steve: This is just my opinion but the new album “Shadows Inside” feels more personal, would that be a fair statement or do you see it another way?
Levi: Yeah I think it’s our most honest record. A lot of that came out from us being in the studio so long, we really got to tweak the record and perfect it. We didn’t just put the first ten songs on that we had which we usually do all the time, it’s usually like we have a month to do the record so we go in there, write ten songs, put it on the record and pay no mind to it and hear back later and think, ‘Oh we could have done that better’. For this record we came in with 37 songs and trimmed it down and wrote some more because we had nine moths off for this record, Nuclear blast gave us all the time in the world and that’s how it became so honed because I’d be like, ‘No that’s not how I’m feeling, that vocal take isn’t the best it could be’. Going back in with a vocal producer and really digging deep made it sound really good.
Steve: Yeah absolutely I agree! Did you have a theme going into this record or did you just go in and let it all out?
Levi: Yeah I think the one thing we could all agree was that these songs were about changing because we also had a lot going on behind the scenes. We changed labels, our bass player Ryan (Neff) had come out of a huge relationship and I moved to the other side of the country within the last year which for me was crazy because I’m not just down the street from the rest of the guys, I’m out here on my own with no family so it was all these changes and that’s what really came across in this record. Some of these things are really positive and that’s what we wanted to address when the record was done ,we felt that was the common denominator with all these songs.
Steve: Yeah I’m with you there and I don’t know if it’s just me but some of the songs strike me as personal and almost cathartic, for example the song “Death Know’s My Name”?
Levi: Yeah it’s real crazy with taking the time off, there was a lot of time to be in our heads. For example Ryan and I had two month to do some of the lyrics with our producer and there was a lot to think about when you sit for that long, there is a lot of crazy stuff that can come out when your sitting with someone and thinking about every word rather then trying to write something that is sounding cool or scary. With a breakdown you’re sitting there and it’s like wow those are some dark things that are coming up in my head.
Steve: For sure! It’s definitely evident on this one. So do you have any stand out tracks and sit back and think holy hell where did this come from or do you love it from start to finish?
Levi: I love the whole album. There are a few songs where I think, ‘I can’t believe we did that’, or ‘That’s so different’. I’m really excited, like you said “Death Knows My Name” or “My Destruction”, songs like that and you go, ‘Woah that’s my band doing that!’
Steve: Yep that’s it! So do you have anyone that you’d still really like to work with or have you been fortunate enough to work with everyone you’ve ever wanted to work with whether that be a producer or musician?
Levi: Yeah I think producer wise we’ve pretty much worked with our bucket list and think our best work with on this record came out of nowhere which is crazy how that works and I think band wise we’ve done our bucket list, we’ve been fortunate enough to tour with them. We’d really like to do an In Flames tour or Lamb of God, those are the last two for us that I think would be a good time.
Steve: It would be the icing on the cake as they say.
Levi: Oh it would be crazy, then after that I’d never have to answer that question again because I would have done it all! (laughs).
Steve: So besides the obvious missing your friends and family, what is the best and worst parts about touring?
Levi: I think the best part for me on tour is meeting new people, that’s my favourite thing. Meeting the fans, sharing stories, that never gets old because traveling is like the dream. Being able to travel the world and seeing all these great places that’s like, Ok I’ve been here before but meeting new people never repeats it’s self, there are just so many people and there are so many new experiences so that’s my favourite part. I’m always out just trying to meet new people just because of that, I’ve met some very amazing people out on the road. The hardest thing for us is when we are not on tour because we’ve done this for so long, this is our home so when we turn it off it makes us go a little bit crazy. That’s the hardest part when we stop (laughs).
Steve: For sure because you have to readjust yourself to home life.
Levi: Yeah and going to bed a reasonable hour, not running around! (laughs).
Steve: So while writing the new album did you have any musical influences or are you the kind of artist that likes to lock yourself away from any distractions?
Levi: Yeah I think with this record we really wanted to find the Miss May I sound and make it the best it could possibly be. Our vocal producer really didn’t do metal records, he did this record because he thought he could make the best Miss May I record and to polish up some things and really make our sound come out more. That was a big experiment for us and I think one of the only underlining influences on this record was Gojira. It’s funny because we went to see them live and we got so inspired that we ended up writing “Casualties” which ended up making the record and it sounds like Gojira and tech metal and we’re like, ‘Yes!’ We were so high after the show we were like, ‘Let’s go back and frigging write a song like this’, so I think that was the biggest influence.
Steve: So go and watch Gojira and get as much inspiration as humanly possible, I could think of worse ways to spend my nights (laughs).
Levi: Oh man for sure!
Steve: So I know this is a very old question and you’ve been asked a million times but how do you think Miss May I’s sound as evolved over the years?
Levi: I think the biggest thing for us was finding our sound and from the start I’ve been saying our influences, because they are the bands that got us where we are. That is the hardest thing for any band is to find what makes them their band because everyone has a mountain of influences but the hardest thing is making yourself not sound like your influences but rather like that’s what makes Miss May I tick. What makes people listen to a Miss May I song and they hear 10 seconds of a song, they’d know who it is. I think that is what really evolved over the years, we figured out what our sound is and with every record we try and go more in our own direction and be like this is who and what we are and now more then ever our sound is more and more like Miss May I. We go into the studio, do a musical part and be like, ‘Oh sick this doesn’t sound like anyone else!’
Steve: Yeah I hear you and see where you’re coming from. Well it’s been great speaking with you today, really appreciate your time. Good luck with the new album cycle and we really hope to see you guys this year or if not this year, maybe next year.
Levi: Absolutely it’s been far too long. Let’s make this happen, cheers!