Interview: Memphis May Fire

memphis may fire

Qmunicate’s very own metal correspondent, Tanya Gersiova, caught up with Texan-based Memphis May Fire’s Matty Mullins and chatted accents, anxiety and the reasoning behind their brand new album, Unconditional.

T: Once again you’ve come a long way from the US to play for the fans in Europe. How’s it been so far?
M: It’s been great. Every show sold out so far. We’re not playing massive clubs so numbers of shows have sold out a few months back. So it’s kind of a bummer in America when a show sells out, they build it up but at the same time it sucks for the kids that can’t get in – it’s actually a very intimate experience. And we haven’t played shows like that in a while so it’s great.

T: How are you finding Glasgow so far?
M: I wish the weather was better. But the city is awesome, I love the people here. And one thing we noticed today is… I think the girls are a lot better at doing their make-up here. I guess it’s just more popular here because every girl I was signing to was like all done up. WHOA I mean like fourteen years old and totally covered in make-up I was like that’s awesome. I know it’s a little bit crazy.

T: How about the accent? Do you understand it?
M: It’s actually not that bad. Yesterday we were in Newcastle and it’s actually harder to understand people there. But maybe they have a hard time understanding me I don’t know. Maybe it works both ways.

T: So what’s the overall difference between playing in America and Europe?
M: I mean the UK is I would say the most similar to American crowds. So it’s not a huge cultural shock when we come over here. The shows are pretty similar, just great all around really. We haven’t had a lot of poor shows recently so we‘re thankful for that. Over here it does really well, so we’re thankful to be here and glad the kids are coming out and having a good time. I think that the kids are a little bit more hungry over here for shows than they are in America because they get them so often over there. So it’s cool.

T: Do you do any tourist-ish stuff whilst travelling through all of these different countries?
M: I don’t do a lot of touristy stuff. I just like to go around and enjoy the food.

T: What kind of food is your favourite then?
M: Kebab for sure. I mean that’s not nearly as common in America. They are nowhere to be found. So over here we love it. We actually all got kebab tattoos.

T: Having been all around the world, what do you think about the venue regulations here? Is it the same everywhere or is Britain just extremely strict?
M: Yeah, the stage diving is like non-existent here; at least it is at the shows we have played so far. And crowd surfing just doesn’t happen. I think kids know they are going to get kicked out if they do it. But I mean, I wish it was a little bit more free you know? For the kids to express themselves, have fun and get wild. But at the same time we’ve seen zero injuries thus far. And that’s awesome. You know, kids like to be wild and free but at the same time the responsibility is not quite there with a lot of it. Recklessness causes injuries and that just makes it a bad experience for everybody. We like to have a good show, kids jumping up and down singing along and then go home safe and it’s great.

T: What was the least safe place that you’ve ever played at?
M: Torronto, Canada. I think for past two years somebody’s died at Warped tour in Torronto. Both years. Pretty crazy. Torronto is wild. Also, I stage dived in Israel and they stole my shoes.
T: Seriously? Just like taken them off and that was it?
M: Yeah, just like that. Pretty crazy. I think the UK is on the lesser of the crazy side but just looking  out and seeing kids smile, that’s really what it’s all about.

T: Definitely. So after your extremely successful album Challenger you’ve released a new one called Unconditional. Two years ago after Challenger was released you said your next record will be better. Do you feel like you have accomplished this?
M:Unconditional is exactly what we wanted to be from front to back. It’s hard to say that with a new record, it’s so much rushing that goes into it. And a lot of times when you are on tour playing all year long sometimes the inspiration is not there like it used to when you had so much of time on your hands. So you never really know what’s gonna come out, you just do a record and see what happens. With everything that happened with my life over the past year and a half, I had an opportunity to be openly honest about a lot of things that I know would probably strike a spark in a lot of these people’s hearts that are listening to our record. A lot of people have experienced a lot of what I’ve been through and I saw it as an opportunity to connect with our fans on a whole new level. I think we’ve gone beyond that on this record and I think it’s only in the beginning of what it’s going to do.

T: You have mentioned in previous interviews that Unconditional was supposed to have a different theme. What was the theme initially supposed to be and what made you change your mind?
M: I set out writing from all different angles, all different concepts. You know, similar to what we’ve done in the past, just more so about what it’s like to be us, be on tour all the time and our lives and the things that we experience, which is kinda polar opposite of anything a listening person can relate to. When random anxiety and depression and just awful thoughts of suicide entered my life at a really unexpected point it transformed everything in my life. It transformed the way that I thought about things, the way that I acted, how much I appreciated life in general and started to feel connected with these kids that were telling me that they are experiencing these thing on daily basis and I had no idea what they  were talking about. Being able to relate now, I feel like it’s my duty, having this opportunity to share a message, because I now understand what it’s like to feel those feelings and there’s nothing like it. It’s unexplainable and it’s awful. I just want people to know I am a person like anybody else, I’ve been through it and I’ve gotten out of it and there is hope.

T: You talk a lot about your fans. Is this personally, through internet or any other way? What’s your relationship with your fans?
M: Anytime we have the chance to go outside and spend a little time with kids we love to do that and just let them tell us their stories. After the show I usually go outside and take pictures with kids and they just open up. But a lot comes from letters. You know, people who don’t know how to say it in person give us letters and tell us what they’ve been through. It’s awful, you don’t know how to really feel that unless you’ve been through it yourself and I feel like God introduced these things into my life so I could sympathise and be compassionate. That’s exactly where I’m at.

T: Metalcore as a music genre has developed from highly political hardcore music. Unconditional touches upon variety of issues from what you’ve just been describing to more global issues. Do you feel like bands should talk more about global issues to raise awareness amongst the young people?
M: I don’t think it’s my place to tell anybody what they should write about. A year ago if somebody would have told me: “You need to write more songs about children in third world countries”, I’d be like “Whaaat. Don’t tell me what to write about. I’m gonna write about what’s in my heart.” But I’ve been fortunate enough to have my eyes opened to some issues that are going on, like Haiti and things like that. So I just had an outpour of emotions for those children and I really wanted it to be known because bringing awareness to those issues is important. As Americans, the English people or whatever we are are so fortunate and we are so blind to the poverty in the rest of the world. When I got to see that first hand and was made more aware of those situations I felt like it was my duty to write a song about it. And that’s just the beginning. We’re gonna shoot a music video for it and all profits from all the yYutube plays are gonna go straight to the organisation that I am affiliated with. Just being able to offer that is incredible.

T: That is absolutely incredible. I am also very interested in the artwork you chose for Unconditional. It’s very simple yet beautiful. Can you tell me something more about it?
M: When I started to experience anxiety, depression and things like that…you know I’ve always believed in Jesus but I’ve never had to rely on God. So many people will live their entire lives never having to rely on God. I was completely broken and I was forced to cry out “God if you are there, I need you now!”.  And I’ve never felt love so compassionate, so beautiful, and so unconditional in my entire life. I started diving into it and started to understand who Jesus is who he was when he was here on earth and really started to understand God’s unconditional love for humanity, allowing us to experience things like this so we have to reach out for him because he desires relationship with us. How is it, that we have God that created us piece by piece, who knows the number of hairs on our head and he desires an intimate relationship with each and every one of us to be constantly in conversation with him in prayer. I was so incredibly touched by that. Now, having really strengthened my relationship with God I wanted a really basic album cover that just shows God’s love for humanity. The bigger arm is obviously representing God, the smaller human arm reaching up, needing somebody, and God pulling him up. That’s what our single ‘No Ordinary Love’ is about; we portrayed that in the music video too. But we didn’t need anything crazy on the cover to show that. It’s pretty specific message.

[Tanya Gersiova]

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