» Levi Benton - Miss May I
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Interview conducted February 13 2018
Interview published February 27 2018

"All I wanted was a road case."

American metalcore outfit Miss May I came to Stockholm, Sweden for a concert and Metal Covenant took the opportunity to talk a little bit with frontman Levi Benton.

Tobbe: About your latest record [Shadows Inside]: With some distance to it, what do you think, personally, separates that one from your past work?

Levi: I think the big thing that really made it different for us was that we'd really spend a lot of time on this record, which at least for us, was a huge difference because we've always been on a quick schedule. But with the label change and everything we really got to change our schedule up, which is great. This record is cool 'cause we sort of focused on every single song. Since we had all that time we could really, like, appreciate each song and give it its own time. Not be just like "Oh, it's finished. It's over.". Like: on this record we would finish a song, come back to it a week later and then work on it for another week, just because.

So having the amount of time and no stress, I think, is what really made it sound different. We've never been a headlining band and we've always supported our whole lives, it feels like, and we wanted to really make a record that put us as a headliner, so that was another big thing we wanted for this record.

Tobbe: So to what extent do you guys intentionally try to fit an audience then? Like: everything a band does can't just come out naturally, you know.

Levi: Well, our thing, what we wanted to get for the audience, was we wanted to sort of give them a show this time and not just really be 5 guys playing metal. We wanted to really make songs that was like a show and that was like an emotion. I think on this record we weren't afraid to go over the top on some of the parts, 'cause some of the parts are really weird for us and were really, like, ambitious and I think back in the day we would never have done them, but this time we were like "Let's try it and actually go for some crazy stuff." and did it. We felt really rejuvenated with the new label, so we really wanted to do something crazy.

Tobbe: At an early stage, when you're, like, starting the songwriting, do you discuss within the band about which direction an album should have or what you want to accomplish with it?

Levi: We never have, like, a theme. It sort of just comes out naturally. It's really weird, I feel like when we do records it really documents where we were at in that period. I know a lot of people say that, but it really does, like for this record we were changing a lot of things as a band and it brought up a lot of stuff from the past and it was cool because this record was about just all the stuff we went through in the past.

And that's what the whole Shadows Inside description came from and that wasn't intentional; it was just when the whole record was done, we sat and listened to it and we were like "Okay. This is what it's about." and it could have been about whatever we were feeling in that time. And we don't have, like, a book of lyrics or anything. We write in the studio. We're always writing instruments online and we have, like, probably 10 songs already now. We always are writing on tour. But yeah, we pretty much finish songs in the studio though because we want that vibe of what it brings to us as a whole.

Tobbe: Have you come to the stage in your career where you always say that your new album is the greatest one you've ever done?

Levi: Aah. Yeah, I mean, everyone always says that. I don't think I've ever really said that everything's been our greatest. I know we've had some records that we've been like "This is our heaviest." or "This is our most emotional.". I think this one is our most well put together. It's like it's our perfect rec… It's like very polished. It's so complete. We had so much time; it's our baby. Like: out of all of our records there's the heavy record, the emotional record, the raw record and this one is just like it's our Rolls Royce. It's our polished baby.

Tobbe: In what way do you look at the band's progress, musically, over the years, from, like, the first record up 'til now? Because it is a journey.

Levi: Oh yeah. It's crazy to see the inspirations come and go. I think the biggest thing with that is I feel like Miss May I absorbs really a lot of bands that we tour with, because we just get inspired by them, watching them every night. And it's such a cool thing 'cause we never stop touring and we see all these bands, like: we've had records that sounded a lot like Trivium, or Five Finger Death Punch, 'cause that's who we were touring with.

We wrote a heavy record because we toured with Parkway Drive and Ghost Inside and there's always these inspirations from our friends around us and I think that's what's really changed us as musicians. And it's great, because that's infinite. It can always get better and better and we're also just pushing ourselves all the time to just be better musicians, 'cause there is a thing we learned from August Burns Red: They always go out and their main goal every night is just to be the best band in the venue that night and so, for us, I think that's unbelievable, what we always try to do is just, like, be the best band we can be. And I don't think we'll ever be satisfied, which is good. We'll always gonna keep pushing the boundaries.

Tobbe: Is it even possible to predict how a band will sound in, like, 5 or 10 years? Miss May I in this case.

Levi: Oh, I don't know, 'cause there are some stuff that we do on this record that, like, we'll play at night and I'm so satisfied and happy with some of the new songs and I'm just like "Man, I can't believe we made it this far.", but there is no way I would have ever thought we would sound like this. But I think that's great, 'cause I don't even know what we're gonna sound like in 5 years, so. I love always changing too. We've done a couple of records where we stuck to, like, a formula and, like, what Miss May I is. And it's really fun, but it's more fun for us to really just push the batteries and just see what we can do.

Tobbe: In what way do you look at heavy music's future today? Do you look at it with hesitation or do you look at it with confidence?

Levi: I'm a little hesitant and not that confident now. I'm probably the worst person to ask. It's weird because the talk about social media is such a main thing now, but we were there, like, right there at the beginning and we were a Myspace band back in the day. And to see it from Myspace and how crazy it was and then see streaming and everyone stealing stuff and then see how quickly it was taken away… And with technology getting better and better and economy is messing up everywhere, it's just like: I mean, I'm very hesitant about it, but then at the end of the day we talk about this all time because there's things we've done 5 years ago that there's no way we could do it now and it's just because it's not like it used to be. And it's never gonna be that way again.

So, I don't know. I always look back at the reason why we do it and we do it because we love to do this. We have a good time, so I think as long as we can keep doing it and have a good time and not really feel like it's a job, or feel like it's a chore, I think we're gonna keep doing it. But I feel like the day it feels like we're clocking in the work and we don't wanna do it anymore, then that's the day we'll probably… But I don't know, or if, like, people are gonna be there, because we've just seen attendances change all around the world. It's really a weird thing and it sucks because there's so many young bands that are amazing and you're just like… I don't even know how to help those bands out anymore, because metal is not what it used to be. But, at the end of the day, I love what we do whether there is 20000 people or 20 people, so. It's weird. I feel like what's gonna be left in metal is gonna be just back to the hard core.

But I feel like there's another part of me too that feels like everything comes in waves, like: there could be a way for it to come back. But right now it's the EDM world and that kind of world, but who knows? It can always change. Yeah, for us, we survived through the ups and downs so it really doesn't bother us anymore, because we've been a metal band when metal was the coolest thing in the world and we've been a metal band when nobody cared. And then we've been a metal band when it's a little bit cool and then nobody cared.

We've been a metal band the whole time and that's why we have our silly slogan for "Stay metal" and all that. I think that's why our band has been a band for 10 years, as we don't ever jump onboard with the hype and we don't jump onboard with the changing of times. 'Cause when we grew up we just were like "This is what we wanna play and that's all I wanna do." and I think we've stuck with that, 'cause there's been so many fads that we've outlived and let's just stick to what we're best at.

Tobbe: Will Miss May I ever get to stay at nice hotels, instead of sleeping in a tourliner day in/day out?

Levi: It depends where we're at. It's so weird being, like, an international band, especially, like, I feel like we're more of an international band than a lot of our friends 'cause we just never stop touring. And it really just depends where we are at. Like, some countries, a little bit like "Oh, we're in awesome hotels." and other countries, like "Man, we're in a van." and, like, another country "Oh, we're in a tour bus.". So it always changes. But in Europe, I hope so. And now talking to Europeans, it's different for European bands 'cause they wanna be, like, a U.S. band and for us, growing up, we always saw the big European festivals as big European, like, metal shows with fire and all this. And that never happens in America, so growing up, we were always just like "That's what we wanna do.".

Now we're to the point to where Europe is sort of our main home and it's awesome because that's what we always wanted. It has taken a very long time, but it has just now happened, so we're excited for the future 'cause now we're just coming back all the time and we're working on new tours and we're just like "Wow! We can keep coming to Europe and it's gonna be crazy.". And there's a potential for fire and explosions and we're like "Let's keep at it.".

Tobbe: So the dream of going bigger never ends, even if you've been around for 10 years?

Levi: I remember our first dream, and we always joke about this, was to have, like, road cases. All I wanted was a road case. Now we have 30 road cases and I'm like "Okay. Then what's our next dream?". You think of, like, the little dreams you had growing up and we just check them off. I remember our dream being like "I just wanna sleep in a nightliner one night." and now I'm like "Get me out of this nightliner. I've been in these for years. What's the next thing?". It's fun though. That's what keeps life exciting.

Tobbe: So what kind of different goals did you set up around the time for your first record, for example?

Levi: Oh, man. On our first record I just wanted to play a show far away from home and just have people just singing. That's still the craziest thing, 'cause even now it's like: we're in Stockholm and there's people buying tickets and "What? We live so far away." and it's crazy. Stuff like that is incredible. I think that was our first bucket list and we still get to check it, like, every day. It's pretty cool.

Tobbe: The band has very few lineup changes and what keeps you guys together still?

Levi: I think, and I say this in every interview, it goes back to: we just do it to still have fun. I think everyone sees it when we play. There's songs we wrote when we were 15 that we're still playing tonight and it's just like: we're just having a good time up there, goofing around, and there's a lot of people watching that. It used to be us in a basement and now there's a lot of people watching. Especially now, with technology, in any ears, and all that, I just turn up, close my eyes and we just rock out together and then that's our day. It's really cool; I love it.

Tobbe: Hypothetically, if the band had started out today, what kind of music would you have played, because of different influences?

Levi: We listen to a lot more, like, rock 'n' roll than we used to. 'Cause as kids you wanted to listen to what everyone else wasn't listening to 'cause you just wanted to be a punk ass kid, so you wanted to make sure it was weird and loud. So I think as kids we wanted to be the fastest and loudest and now being more in the rock and appreciating songs differently, I think we'd be more of, like, a rock band now. Yeah, it's weird. But it's cool, because we can sort of put that into our metal and our fans still want to beat the crap out of each other, so we still play loud and faster and stuff.

Tobbe: Will there be any kind of celebration next year for the first record's 10th anniversary? [Apologies Are For The Weak]

Levi: Aaah. Everyone has been asking us. We might work on something crazy, 'cause we've been asked a lot about it. We might do a string of headliners. But, I don't know. I would like to. You have to ask the other guys. I would vote 'yes', but we'll find out.

Tobbe: What would be the ultimate musical experience for you personally at this point in your career?

Levi: We're in this weird mindset of we just really appreciate writing a song together and I really wanna, I don't even wanna win, but just be nominated for a Grammy one time. It's all I want; it's just be nominated one time, and then I'll be happy. They give you a little medal, and if you win you get the actual thing, but I'd rather just have the little medal. It's, like, cool.

Then when my kids grow up I'll be like "I used to be cool.". Like "I used to be cool; I'm not cool anymore.". I have boxes of Miss May I crap and I'm just like "Maybe one day my kids will think this is cool.", but I'm like "Probably not…". They're gonna be "I don't care." and I'm like "But I worked so hard…".

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