The Brooklynites seem to relish such confusion and anonymity, while actively encouraging an image that couldn’t be more different from the aforementioned acts: they’re DIY, and they’re proud of their outsider status. Their predilection for hardcore and punk music stimulated their formation in late 2007, with the DIY influences of their youth dominating the group’s attitude and aesthetic over the ensuing years. They released a bunch of home-made cassette recordings before self-releasing their debut LP, Immaculada, in 2010. This was followed barely six months later by their sophomore – and first ‘real’ label album – Leave Home, released on New York tastemakers Sacred Bones Records (Zola Jesus, Moon Duo).
Their third album came in January this year: the epic noise-and-melody clusterfuck, Open Your Heart. It’s a bruising, no-nonsense affair that has raised their international profile considerably through universally-positive reviews from the bastions of hipster culture; despite being several years late to the party, Pitchfork wasted no time in claiming the band as their own. It’s surprising, then, to hear singer and guitarist Mark Perro refer to the album with an apparently nonchalant air. “Open Your Heart is like three records old for us,” he explains down the line. “We still love the record, but we’ve been that busy since then with other recordings and touring that it seems like a million years ago. We recorded a new album about ten months ago, and we’re also going into the studio to record some more stuff before we head out for Australia.”
Perro founded the group with fellow vocalist and guitarist Nick Chiericozzi, who shares his commitment to industrious recording and touring schedules. When we speak, the band are on what they define as a ‘holiday’ – partly due to a desire to stay fresh, but exacerbated by a visit from Hurricane Sandy. “It’s a bit of a weird time for us at the moment,” Perro says. “It’s probably the first time we’ve ever had a break, and that’s because we set ourselves the goal of taking some time off and some time out. For the last couple of months I’ve had to keep reminding myself to relax, because it’s just not workable if you keep pushing yourself as hard as possible. I mean, we’ve been to Europe four times in the past year – and don’t get me wrong, because I love playing over there – but it’s a lot on the body. We’ve decided to reevaluate our methods for the next year, because otherwise we’ll end up immortalised and dead,” he laughs.
Sandy hit New York a week before the band were due to play their first shows since their break. It forced them to re-prioritise and plan for the days ahead, with one eye on physical survival, and one trained firmly on keeping their Canadian tour dreams alive. “I should stress we were all totally fine in the part of Brooklyn I live in. If anything, we had a pretty great time trying to make the most of the restrictions,” Perro laughs. “We might not have had much power or water, but that meant we could hang out inside with our friends and drink a bunch of whiskey, and laugh a bunch, too!
“Our biggest issue,” he continues, “was that there was a gas shortage in New York at the time, and we had shows booked up in Canada. I knew we had half a tank of gas in the van, which was just enough to get us out of the city a few days after the storm. Then the van broke down outside of Buffalo [upstate New York], but we made it north of the border in the end. Still alive – a little dumber, but still alive.”
With such a relentless work ethic, Australian audiences should count themselves lucky to be experiencing The Men at their freshest in years. But still, Perro insists that despite a period of relative rest throughout the months preceding their first antipodean jaunt, the four-piece remain as hungry and intense as when they played their first shows. “I think you’ve gotta keep wanting it and appreciating it,” he says. “I think about certain people – a group like The Band, for example. Just think about how much they toured and put into it, for themselves and for their fans… it’s something else, it really is. That kind of example helps us to stay positive, and it helps that we’ve also been given the opportunity to travel and meet new people all the time.
“It is also really important to know when to step back from the band,” he says. “Sometimes you just need to take a walk around the block and scream down an alley, and then go and have a few drinks with some people. But the main thing is that we never lose sight of how lucky we are. We get that.”
BY BENJAMIN COOPER