Max Bemis, frontman for the New York-based band Say Anything, was diagnosed three years ago as bipolar. This, he says, made absolute sense — it explained his manic episodes. In fact he attributes the lyrics of the band's 2004 debut, ... Is a Real Boy, to the disorder.
If that weren't enough, around the time that album dropped, he was also trying to survive a volatile breakup with his first love. It was an experience that, along with his diagnosis, drove him to check into to a mental hospital. When the transplanted Los Angeleno finally came up for air, with his life put back together, he hauled his band into the studio to record the followup to its much-lauded debut.
The result: In Defense of the Genre, a double-disc concept album that pretty much is the definition of autobiographical. It's so audaciously ambitious that even Bemis can't take it entirely seriously.
We chatted with him recently and only in retrospect realized our goal to get him to, um, say anything to words related to his life and career also seemed strangely like a Rorschach test. It was a complete coincidence, given his bipolarity. But Bemis didn't appear to mind, and dealt out nothing but unhesitatingly honest, revealing answers to our battery of prompts.
Pressure. But I'm proud of it.
How I prefer things to be.
Pretty irrelevant classifications.
Means as much as the term rock and roll does.
Any good album should be strung together in some way.
A subjective term.
Powerful, and you have to be selective about them.
Doesn't mean the same thing anymore.
They're varied, with various levels of loyalty and substance.
Change as you get older, and you figure out what you have.
A common thread through all humanity.
Regret, complete isolation.
A good thing, but only in healthy doses.
Probably the best singer of all time.
My pills help me get through the day. It's not so much that I'm sedated; it's so I feel like I always do.
Part of my spiritual basis, but it doesn't encompass my whole spiritual being.
Not something negative.
Beautiful weather and a lot of vacuous people.
Same deal, except the weather's not as good.
Like musicians, some of them are in it for the right reasons, some of them are in it for the wrong reasons.
Saves the Day.
My favorite band.
A useful tool, but it has its drawbacks and unnecessary subcultures.
A character I relate to very closely.
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