Max Bemis, the creative voice of Say Anything, is in many ways a changed man these days. And it's a metamorphosis that's reflected in the very different emotional tenor of the group's forthcoming self-titled album, which is slated for early November release.
Back in 2004, during the making of the group's debut album, ... is a Real Boy, Bemis was dealing with the discovery that he had bipolar disorder, a diagnosis that came after he suffered a breakdown that landed him in the hospital.
It was a comparatively more settled Bemis who wrote 2007's follow-up album, a double CD called In Defense of the Genre. Still, his life was anything but easy. On that album, he chronicled his breakup with his first girlfriend, while looking at the larger issue of the struggles that come with relating to other people as one grows into adulthood.
On Say Anything, Bemis has a new perspective — the result of his marriage to Sherri DuPree, singer in the group Eisley. But as the 25-year-old frontman tells it, that's not the whole story behind the new album.
"There was all this stuff I had to figure out on my own," Bemis says. "That's why I don't say this record is just about being in love with my wife, because it's a bigger thing. It's about more than that, [although] I still think my wife is the most important part of it, and the most central development.
"To me the arc of the record is anger with your situation, which is normal and natural and should be experienced, and then identifying yourself, then becoming happy with yourself, then realizing you can share it with someone else, and then having that other person further enlighten you to the things that are going on in the world," he says. "I'm not saying that Sherri herself in particular is the meaning of life, but without her I wouldn't have discovered what I at least think in my small, frail human opinion is kind of the meaning of life, and what I believe comes after and thus how I live my life. I strongly believe that love is the link to something bigger. I think that's where I reach by the end of the record."
Bemis' development on a musical level isn't as dramatic as it's been in his personal life, but Say Anything is still a notably different album from In Defense of the Genre. On that earlier CD, Bemis sought to capture more of the rocking pop sound that Say Anything creates as a full-fledged band in concerts.
Say Anything, by contrast, is much more of a studio-centric CD, where Bemis pursues more of a crafted sound by taking advantage of the sonic capabilities and instrumental options available in a studio setting.
"It's a cinematic and over-the-top and poppy record. And the songs are very much like that, even when you play them on an acoustic guitar. I think we were long due to make the kind of record that you have more fun in the studio making, having fun with sounds, experimenting and pushing boundaries."