Music Preview: Say Anything doesn't keep emotions in check

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A lot of bands resist the label of emo, either because they think all music is emotional to some extent or because they don't want to associate themselves with a genre that may or may not be around tomorrow.

  
J Records
Say Anything members -- Parker Case, left, Jeff Turner, Coby Linder, Max Bemis, Alex Kent and Jake Turner -- are Ok with the "emo" label.

Confessional


With: Say Anything, Ben Lee.
Where: Chevrolet Amphitheatre, Station Square.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets: $27.50 to $32; 412-323-1919.

But singer-songwriter Max Bemis is fine with people applying the emo term to his band, Say Anything.

"I grew up listening to that music, and it's a big influence. The original meaning for the word is an emotional punk, and I think we are that. I think we're subversive, but we're also about personal politics and emotions. I don't have a problem with that label at all."

Say Anything, named for the John Cusack movie, is currently on tour with Dashboard Confessional, having just re-released its second album, "... Is a Real Boy," on a major label, J Records, with extra tracks. It's a concept album about the concept of making an album, with influences ranging from Queen to Fugazi to Saves the Day.

"Basically it's about the idea of trying to create a perfect piece of art, in this case, trying to write the best debut album and the artistic quest to do something with your life and art," Bemis says. "The story is about this kid who developed this super-power when he feels a strong emotion, and it caught on with people and created an overnight success and how he handled it."

Among the standouts is "Alive With the Glory of Love," an intense and oddly uplifting rocker about a relationship torn by the Holocaust.

"My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, which struck a chord with me," Bemis says. "I thought about what it would be like to be in love and be separated from the person you love, because these times are just as dire in a way. Anything can happen, in a war and terrorist attacks and cynicism and all these actors who oppose love."

While Bemis may not have experienced war-torn love, he's had his own struggles in coping with bipolar disorder. It became particularly severe during the making of "... Is a Real Boy." He writes on the Web site: "The process of playing all the instruments except for drums and singing all day turned into such an intense, draining process that I ended up wandering the streets of Brooklyn in a psychotic daze and getting thrown into the looney bin for two weeks."

At times, it kept the band from touring, but now, he says, he is feeling better. Though, he adds, "It's not anything you can really control. You just live with it and try your best."

How does it affect him creatively?

"That isn't really affected by it," he says. "The dry spells and the creative binges are something that anybody goes through. You do stop taking your medication and get a manic burst of energy and you do stay up all night writing. But those things will happen either way."


Weekend Mag editor Scott Mervis can be reached at smervis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576.


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