Menzingers frontman Greg Barnett talks touring and the time between

Barnett, second from right, and his Menzingers’ mates roll into Brooklyn Bowl on September 9.
Photo: Charles Wrzesniewski
Annie Zaleski

Punk-pop troupe The Menzingers recently wrapped recording a new album, After the Party, with noted producer Will Yip (Title Fight, Balance and Composure). Although guitarist/vocalist Greg Barnett stresses the album is “not going to come out for a bit,” the Philly band recently teased the record with a stellar new single, “Lookers.”

Barnett talked to the Weekly while enjoying a day off in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the band’s original hometown. “I just had lunch with my mom,” he says. “So it’s a little bit of normalcy, I guess.”

You’re touring with Bayside, and you guys are longtime pals. What does it mean to finally be able to go on a full-scale tour with them? It’s been so great. It’s so much fun when you can go into a tour and you’re already buds beforehand, and every day you get to hang out as friends. We’ve never done a full, long tour with them before, and it’s been awesome.

Have you learned anything watching them every night as a band? They write incredible songs, and they write a great setlist. Production notes is what we’re always fascinated by. They have a pretty complicated lighting rig, and it’s just cool to watch bands do those kind of things and work production around their music. We’re definitely learning a lot from that, and their crew are all very knowledgeable.

You recently took a huge chunk of time off to write and record After the Party. What was the weirdest things about not being on the road and having that blocked-out creative time? It was mind-blowing. It was crazy for us, because we’ve never, ever done that. We’ve always written our records in between albums, or in between tours. We’d be home for two weeks, and then we would write it for a bit.

It was almost like a day job. We would just write six days a week. We learned a lot about ourselves. We’ve been doing it for 10 years, but we’ve never devoted that much time to actually writing. And it’s crazy, because we’ll spend all this time traveling around and playing the songs, but we’ve never spent that much time actually crafting the songs. That was a really eye-opening, exciting thing for us, where we just started experimenting with sounds and trying to be better players and better songwriters.

We had five weeks to make the record. I think two and a half weeks was the longest [in the past], so we had so much time to be able to try new things. It definitely shows.

How, specifically, did the extra time influence the songs? I think a lot of bands that tour a lot fall into the habit where touring is all they know, so they just end up writing about touring. It’s not really my thing. Most normal people don’t live in a van and drive around the country, so it’s hard to relate to that kind of lifestyle. So it was nice just being home. You’re not in a different city every day. You’re waking up, and you’re going through the same things every day.

It’s like you reconnect with your real life. Absolutely. It’s really cool. I mean, I love touring more than anything; it’s one of my favorite parts about being in a band. It’s just the way the music industry goes now—you just have to be on the road this much to be a professional musician.

We just got really lucky, where we’re getting to the point where we don’t have to be on tour all the time to make a living, which is awesome. It would be cool to be able to shift our mind-set where we could just be creating and writing as much as we are touring, so we could just be releasing music even more than we have in the past.

Why was producer Will Yip the right guy for the job? Obviously, his c.v. is ridiculously impressive. We had a whole list of people we were talking about. And then at the end of the day when it came down to it, we were like, “No one is more excited than Will for the project.” He’s been a fan of the band for a while, and we’ve met him in passing. I wouldn’t say we were close, but we knew him and we would say hi. We called around to our friends who recorded with him, and they’re like, “Promise you, you could not make a bad decision going with him. It will be the best thing you guys could possibly do.”

And they were absolutely right. Just having somebody that cares about the project so much was all we really wanted. We wanted somebody who believed in it as much as we did, and he really did. I don’t think he slept for five weeks; it was insane. He’d be sending things at 4 a.m. He’s a machine. He really saw our vision and what we wanted from the record, and it really amplified that. I’m so incredibly proud to have him part of the team, because he killed it. It was awesome.

He’s really elevated the sound of so many modern bands. Back in the day, there were all the notable producers. But because you can do everything basically at home or on your bus, sometimes production has gone by the wayside. He’s like a throwback, it sounds like. That’s it, 100 percent. People can record incredible records in their basement; they can record it on nothing. His strength is what most people that we’ve worked with don’t have, how good of a producer he actually is. He was able to hear things and shape the songs. We would go in and show him a song, and he has an incredible ear for being able to hear something and being like, “Hey, how about we put the bridge a little bit earlier? How about we extend this chorus, we’ll double it ...” Simple things like that transform the song. “Let’s move the key up, we’ll move it down.” You know? “Let’s use this guitar.”

First single “Lookers” does feel more streamlined and deliberate. On that song, there’s a lot of harmonies going on, and it just really strengthened the whole thing. Adding acoustic guitar during the verses of that. Then the intro was just me in the room, live. We set up some ambient mics and I just belted it out in one take. I love the intro, because it’s not perfect. It’s kind of flawed, but I don’t know, I like music like that.

Besides “Lookers,” are you playing any other new songs on the tour? We’re playing one other new song right now called “Thick as Thieves.” That’s a fun one to play.

This tour also has Sorority Noise on it. I like that the bill is so balanced between you guys and Bayside, and Sorority Noise is sort of coming up in your footsteps too. It’s a very well-matched bill. It’s really cool, too, because they live in Philly. I don’t think they’re originally from here but they’re living in Philly now. We didn’t know them, [but] we had bunch of mutual friends, so now we’re just best buds. It’s been cool to watch them play, and they crush it.

Since you’re in Scranton, what’s the best thing about being able to visit home? We’re all getting to spend a little bit of time with our families. Our crews are not from Scranton, so it’s always fun to be able to take them out to the restaurants that we grew up going to. We’re going to go bowling tonight.

I don’t know if you ever watched The Office, but they go to a bowling alley bar called Poor Richard’s Pub a lot. It’s the actual bar. [We’re like], “Yeah, let’s go bowling, we’ll go to Poor Richard’s Pub.” And they’re like, “Wait, from the TV show?” “Yeah. Yeah. That’s where we grew up going bowling.” I probably had my 10th birthday party there. (laughs) So we’re going to go hang out there.

The Menzingers opening for Bayside, with Sorority Noise. September 9, 7 p.m., $22, all-ages. Brooklyn Bowl, 702-862-2695..

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