One thing Mike V of The Everymen doesn’t do is pull his punches. That shouldn’t be surprising. The Everymen are a good, old, no nonsense, New Jersey rock and roll band. They bring a passion to their live shows that can get even a skeptical Brooklyn crowd moving and grooving along to Scott Zillitto’s saxophone.
The Everymen were busy in 2012, releasing the excellent New Jersey Hardcore on Killing Horse Records, helping to pull together a monster Sandy benefit compilation, and even putting out a 2-song Christmas single.
They don’t appear to have any plans for slowing down in 2013 as they continue to work on a follow-up to NJHC and play live, including a trip down to South By Southwest. This spring, they’ll be releasing Who Wrote These Songs? A Very Short Tribute To Jonathan Richman.
I ran some questions by Mike V as The Everymen were preparing to leave for their mini-tour of the South and trip to SXSW. Turns out he’s passionate about many of the same things I am, including rock and roll, cover songs, and his home state of New Jersey. The only way to truly appreciate Mike V’s passion is when it’s uncut and unfiltered, so strap yourselves in and let’s go…
You guys proudly identify yourselves as a New Jersey band. Even though people like to make fun of New Jersey, they seem to love it when bands are from here. New Jersey bands are almost always called “New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem,” “New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus,” “New Jersey’s Real Estate,” or “New Jersey’s The Everymen.” What do you think it is about New Jersey that gives your band its special identity?
Let me start by saying Fuck those people. They don’t know what we’re about. They don’t know how amazing this place is. So fuck em. They wanna make stupid stereotypes about places they’ve never been, they can all go fuck themselves. But they won’t go fuck themselves. What will they do? Talk shit from September to April and then spend the summer on the Jersey Shore. So fuck em.
Ok. Now that that rant is out of the way, yea I’ve always noticed that. A lot of bands identify heavily with where they’re from but I don’t think anyone reps as hard as Jersey bands. Maybe SoCal. Orange County or Long Beach or whatever but yea it’s a weird Jersey thing. Like, no one’s ever said “Nebraska’s The Faint” or “Michgan’s Alice Cooper” ya know? But that’s a great point. I think it’s a flag that we all wave high and hard because we know we get hated on so much. Like, “Yea motherfucker. We’re from New Jersey. And we’re gonna fucking tell you about it. And we’re gonna rock your fucking socks off.” Ya know? But I do think – and I’ve said this before – that the one thing that is inherent about Jersey bands is our blue collaredness. Our work ethic is unmatched. You can probably find bands better than Jersey bands. You can probably find bands sexier than Jersey bands. But you will be hard pressed to find a band who can outwork a Jersey band. I don’t know what it is about Jersey that gives us that collective identity.
When I listen to The Everymen, I think of a band like The Hold Steady. Like them, you’re unselfconsciously keeping sweaty, barroom rock alive, vibrant, and interesting. Is that kind of a philosophy for The Everymen or are you guys just making the music that feels natural to you?
Both. I’m not going to make anything but that which I know how to make. I’m a guitar player and I write songs about love and loss and fucking and heartbreak. Making love and breaking up. Waking up with a pretty girl. Being a good friend and of course driving. It’s the only way I know how to write and the guitar is my format with which to express myself. So in that regard, yea it’s just natural to me. But some of it is certainly conscious. People need to keep making rock and roll. People are always going to continue to make rock and roll. But it’s become buried a bit in the last few years. And especially in the last year or so. 2012 was the year of incredibly boring music. So many bands and artists making and so many people buying music that just doesn’t groove you or move you or simply doesn’t have much heart, I think. People make the excuse that bands are exploring the negative space in sounds, which is fine I guess. And some of those bands (Rhye specifically) are making hushed, sultry records quite well. But what happened to the music that pissed your parents off? Whatever happened to sweaty, beer soaked rock and roll show? Whatever happened to Big Muffs and guitar solos? Those things are still out there but they’re just becoming fewer and further between. Maybe I’m old now.
Maybe I’m curmudgeonly. But I know what I love and I know that I can rock their boring asses off the stage any night of the week. But Rhye rules. Check them out now.
New Jersey Hardcore was one of my favorite albums from last year, and I understand it’s a little more widely available than when it was first released, which is great. I heard influences from early garage-rock to Springsteen to Elvis Costello on that record. Who are some of your other influences? Who are you listening to now?
Shit man. That means so much that you like it. Influences. Shit. What doesn’t influence us? As long as we can see and hear and love and think and talk and imagine, everything around us is inspiration. Look around. Look at what a magical fucking place this is. Look at all the wonders that surround us all the time. So many things we just overlook. We become so fucking busy to realize how lucky we all are. You have a beer with your friends. You have people who love you. You have people you hate you. You’ve fucked a beautiful woman once or twice in your life. You’ve spent the rest of the night laying in bed with that beautiful woman. If you’re lucky, you’ve fallen in love with that woman. And if you’re really lucky she’s fallen in love with you. You’ve made accomplishments and achievements. You’ve succeeded and you’ve failed. You’ve done so many goddamn things in your life and they’ve all been right there for the taking. If you can’t find inspiration in that, man, you’re doing something fucking wrong.
As for music, man I’m always on to some different stuff. Old. New. Whatever. I have my old standbys. Bruce. Otis. Jimi. The Ronettes. Archers Of Loaf. Sonic Youth. Steely Dan. The Beatles. That shit never leaves my iPod or my turntable. But some new stuff. And some rediscovered old stuff. The aforementioned Rhye. I’m obsessed. Shintaro Sakamoto. Black Breath. 200 Years. Kurt Vile. Wings. Tom Waits. Majical Cloudz. Joyce Manor. Father John Misty. Cat’s Eyes. Belle And Sebastian. The Babys (The John Waite Babys. Not The Brooklyn Babies. No hate, I just don’t know them at all.). But also swing stuff. Big band. I was in LA recently and I picked up some bossa nova LPs at Amoeba. Adam Green & Binki Shapiro, too. Anything really. That’s what’s got me going right now.
You’ve got this Jonathan Richman tribute EP, Who Wrote These Songs? A Very Short Tribute to Jonathan Richman, coming out on Oedipus Records. How did that come about?
Because we can’t really tour full time just yet thanks to our day jobs, we have to keep putting out music ya know otherwise people will forget about us. That’s the nature of the landscape. You have to remain on the plane, ya know? Everything moves so fast so you need to keep coming up with something. So we try and make and create as much music as we can. I mean, the EMen have only been a band for what, three years, and we’re working on our 5th, 6th and 7th releases. We play tons of shows regionally and we’re starting to get out more often but we’ve never been south, we’ve never been to Texas, we’ve never been out west. So if someone out in LA or Seattle or shit even London – and we have some fans in Italy and Croatia and some other zany places – wanna get their Everymen fix on, we’re gonna give them every chance to. And if that chance isn’t live, it’s gonna be with a new recording. To be totally transparent though, it’s not because I enjoy recording. Quite the opposite. I fucking hate it. It’s torturous to me. Same with practicing. But I love creating new music. So yea. Plus I think it’s important for a band to have a solid repertoire of covers. Ya know, I love it when I go see My Morning Jacket and they cover Dolly Parton or whatever. I love it. It’s a side of music that’s really gone away a bit. You just don’t see bands playing lots of covers anymore like they used to. I think it’s fun. And having fun is the most important part of playing music, right?
As for the Richman thing, I mean he’s just one of my favorites. All time. I think there are so few songwriters in his league. The big ones. Lennon. McCartney. Elton John. Jeff Lynne. Bruce. Those are the greats. And Richman belongs in that conversation. He made me cry the other day, man. Me and my girlfriend went to see him play at the Bell House and as he usually does, he brought the house down. Everyone laughing and dancing. Moving and having a great time. Enjoying the life of wonder that he often sings about. Then he closed with “As My Mother Lay Lying” which is a song about sitting next to your mother’s bed as she dies.
Well shit man I don’t know if you knew this but while we were making New Jersey Hardcore my mom died. I got to play her the first mix of the album and she smiled. And then a few days later she was gone. So there we were, me and my girlfriend (who lost her own mom a few years back. I call our apartment the Motherless Treehouse. It’s a joke.) and a roomful of Richman fans. And after spending the past hour in complete revelry, you could hear a fucking pin drop while he played this tune. And I was crying (and I’m crying now while I write this). But it was beautiful, man. Holy shit it was beautiful. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life. And that’s the power of Richman, ya know? You experience everything with him. You pass through all of the colors of the emotional rainbow.
I think I saw a post recently where you said something about a 50-person choir on the next Everymen LP. Is that for real? Like a “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” thing? What else can you tell us about the new record?
Absolutely it’s for real. Fuck it, right? I mean, we’re going for it on this album. Why not? Why hold back? Today is always the day, man. It’s the day to do it, whatever it is. And I’ve always been very into gospel choirs. So why not have a gospel choir on our record? We had this one song on our Hello, Nice Evening. We Are The Everymen. EP that was called “Rotten Smokes.” Kurt Vile sang with me on it. So it was like a four minute rocker about being away, missing home, wishing you could grow up with your friends, rather than being stuck out on the road in a rock and roll band. So we rerecorded that. It’s called “1000 Miles” now and we turned it into this 8-minute long, Crazy Horse-esque fucking rocker. Slow. Burning. It’s great I think. And as I was walking to work, listening to some rough mixes, I just heard this beautiful gospel choir singing over top of it. So I emailed some local groups and we linked up with one. It was pretty funny though. He responded that they could easily break it down to 10-12 members. Fuck that, man. If we’re gonna get a gospel choir, we’re gonna get a motherfucking gospel choir. Bring em all. I can’t wait to record that.
Anything else about the new record? Yea man. It’s gonna blow NJHC off the fucking map.
You’ve got a short tour coming up which will take you through the south on your way to South By Southwest. Do you play that part of the country often? Where will you be playing in Austin?
No we’ve never been to most of the places we’re playing on the way down. Atlanta, Nashville, Little Rock, Austin. We’re pretty psyched. I’m more psyched for the shows leading up than the actual SXSW conference itself. It’s become such a shitshow, ya know? I think it really jumped the shark when Metallica played. It no longer became about discovery. It became about making big bands bigger. Ya know, fuck that man. But it’s gonna be fun. We’re also playing in DC and Charlotte on the way down which is great. Last tour we had amazing shows in those towns, plus the aforementioned girlfriend is from Charlotte so all of her friends come out, she’s flying down for the show and to hang with her family, so it’s like a lot of love on the road, which is the most welcome thing there is. As for SXSW we have only four shows. I wish we had more but whatever. We got what we could get. We’re gonna go down there, light the place on fire as best we can and get the fuck out. We’re driving straight home, which is gonna suck. 30 hours. But at least Rosie has a DVD player. Rosie is our van. The Everyvan. Rosalita, obviously. Rosie for short.
You’re from the Jersey Shore. I’m from the Jersey Shore. I’ve got to ask you about the amazing Sandy benefit record, Hey Sandy, We’re Still Here, you pulled together. Last time I checked, I think it was like 55 tracks or something. How did that come together? Have you done many other Sandy-related benefits since the storm?
Dude. I always joke that we haven’t been paid since Sandy. Everything’s been a benefit. But I am more than happy to do what I can. In addition to the comp, we did some t shirts. Sold a shitload of those. I wish we could do more. I mean, that’s my home, man. I live in Manhattan now but the Jersey Shore is where I’m from. I grew up on those beaches. Those are my friends and my family and that devastation touched most everyone I love in some way or another. But you know what, if this was going to happen it’s better that it happened on the Jersey Shore than anywhere else because the strength and the resiliency of those motherfuckers is unmatched. If anyone can weather this storm (figuratively and literally) it’s my brothers and sisters on the Shore. But now there’s another storm coming right? And fucking Nemo. Like, give these motherfuckers a break, ya know? They’ve had a rough enough year.
Growing up on the Shore though you expect hurricanes. It’s part of the tradeoff. Live on the ocean, get hit with a good one every year. So we’re always prepared. It’s not like when it snows in LA and everyone is paralyzed. We know what to do in the face of a storm. But shit man I’d never seen anything like that. It’s just so goddamn sad. But like I said, they’re as strong as anyone I’ve ever met and it’s gonna take a whole lot more than a storm to take the wind out of their sails. I just hope those summer folk who come down and take over our beaches actually step up this year. Get down the Shore. Spend money. Help out. You’ve taken so much from the Shore. Now’s the time to give back.
How’s your place, man? Did you guys get hit hard?That fucking thing came and landed right on top of my hometown.
My family and I did OK here, thanks. Some of my neighbors and the places I’ve known and loved my whole life didn’t fare as well, but you’re right. We’re a tough bunch. We’ll be back.
Speaking of storms, Nemo, or whatever it was called, forced the cancellation of the Tiny Giant Winter Beach Ball, which would’ve seen you guys perform at Asbury Lanes. Do you know anything about a new date, and will you be on the bill for Asbury again?
Yes sir. June 22 is the date. June 23 at Maxwell’s again and we’re trying to lock in June 21 at the Court Tavern. Hell yea we’ll be back down, man. We’re gonna light that shit up. I mean, I can’t tell you how much I love playing down the Shore in the summertime. Like I said, it’s home. So as psyched as I was to play the Winter Beach Ball, I’m even more psyched that it’s now in the summer.
Finally, just thanks for answering my questions. I look forward to seeing you guys again when you come to Maxwell’s on March 24th, and I look forward to all of your new stuff. Until then, I’ll keep spinning my copy of New Jersey Hardcore. Yes, I did manage to get one of the first few vinyl copies on release day. You gotta pre-order that stuff.
Booya! Super stoked you got one. This next one coming up we’ll get you an early copy.