A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I got the chance to chat with Miss May I frontman/lyricist Levi Benton about their latest album, Rise of the Lion, which was released late last April. We also got the opportunity to discuss their current tour with August Burns Red, living off of Dave Matthews’ leftovers, and applesauce.
You told AbsolutePunk.net, “All the lyrics are letters back from letters we’ve gotten from fans and haven’t been able to write back.” Was it strange to be writing lyrics from a perspective other than yours for this album?
Benton: It was very strange at first, but on the other hand it was a refreshing feeling. It felt so great to do something different and not just vent onto paper but study someone close to you and write from their point of view.
Is this album entirely for the fans, or is there any of your own perspective in the lyrics?
Benton: There are a couple songs that are for myself personally. “Lunatik” and “Refuse To Believe” just to name a couple off the top of my head.
Comparing the lyrics from At Heart to Rise of the Lion, this is without a doubt a significantly darker album. Did the tone of this album change the recording process for you at all?
Benton: This is by far the most difficult record I have ever written. I was in a very bad mental state the whole time and I was going through a lot that I could wrap my mind around on top of working on this record and trying to impress our producer Terry Date. All of those factors made the days very heavy to hold.
Any interesting stories from inside the studio?
Benton: The coolest thing happened to us at the studio. We were at a world famous studio and we took a break in recording to go on a Five Finger Death Punch tour and while we were gone, Dave Matthews came in. In the studio there is a lounge/apartment where there is a kitchen located. In the kitchen Dave had his personal chef (of course he has a personal chef) cook all of his meals. I’m saying REAL expensive ingredients, top-dollar stuff. So when we come back, we find out he never ate any of it! He would just leave the studio and have his assistants munch on it. So when we arrived there were boxes and boxes of top-dollar bad-ass snacks that were left to us! It was amazing and made the second half of the studio experience a not hungry one.
“Echoes” is probably my favorite track off of the album. What’s the fan story behind that song? Who is “the man in black [that] took you from me?”
Benton: This song is a cloak over a lot of letters we frequently receive. We have a lot of people that lose close ones and it’s so fast that they weren’t ready for it, or they sadly did it to themselves. I wanted to write a song for those individuals and out came “Echoes” with the man in black obviously being Death who can come without any notice.
Your sound has definitely changed in certain ways since Apologies Are For The Weak. How have your influences as a songwriter changed since the band’s inception?
Benton: The biggest thing to me is that I am finding deeper feelings within myself. I am not just writing about what sounds cool or the most heavy breakdown I can push out. I am actually telling my story or, for our last record, a fan’s story. I appreciate the message I can give more now than back in the past.
You’ve said before that some of your influences come from the world of R&B, such as Justin Timberlake and Usher. What effect, if any, do you think that has on you guys as a metal band?
Benton: I think the biggest thing I get from those artists is simplicity in writing. They are straight to the point and meaningful and that is what I try to do.
Do you think it makes you stand out in any way from some of your peers?
Benton: I think it does in good ways and in bad. I like to bring the catchiness of that world into these songs, but in some aspects that’s not always needed.
You’re about to go out on tour with August Burns Red. Are you pumped?
Benton: So pumped! We have toured with almost every metalcore juggernaut out there and they are one of the last ones to go out with. I can’t wait to watch them shred and just get to know those guys. We have looked up to them for a long time!
What’s your favorite brand of applesauce?
Check out the song “Hero With No Name”