Miss May I: A Report from Warped Tour Ventura

With the arrival at Seaside Park in Ventura, the first chill day on the Vans Warped Tour 2011 was at hand. After a week of blistering heat, the traveling rock show was enjoying a mild day by the beach. This included vocalist Levi Benton of Miss May I, whom we caught up with in the press area just prior to their afternoon set. Topics we covered in this interview included discussing a few of the new songs from the Monuments re-release on Rise Records, life on the Warped Tour, their cover of a Jay-Z song, and a whole lot more…

Introduce yourself, what you do in Miss May I, and what’s the most embarrassing song you have on your IPOD.
Embarrassing album – I guess – I have the whole Katy Perry album – the new one – but I like it. That’s like a secret obsession. And I’m Levi, vocalist.

How has The Warped Tour been going so far and what have been some of the highlight?
It’s been good. It’s been really hot. Playing early is probably the highlight. We thought when you go in and say, “Yeah, I’ll play late – playing early is gonna suck.” But come to find out, with playing late, everyone is all tired and worn out. We opened up the stage yesterday and it was the best crowd we’ve ever had. So playing early is the best!

How do you prepare yourself to go out and play in such extreme heat? What do you do?
I usually don’t leave the bus until we play. We’ve never had a bus before, but since there are no green rooms, I would chill on the bus in extreme air conditioning until we play. Then come back in air conditioning and then go do signings. So I try to stay out of the heat all day.

What could one expect from a live Miss May I show here at the Warped Tour?
We’ve got a bunch of crazy stuff going on. We’ve got some beach balls – we’ve got a shirt cannon – and songs that we’ve never played before. So we have a bunch of crazy stuff ready to go, just for Warped Tour!

Are these new songs?
These are past songs that we said we weren’t going to play anymore, but we started playing them again.

Tell me about your song Rust (a bonus track on the Monuments re-release) and how did Brandon Schieppati from Bleeding Through become involved with the recording?
We did our second tour ever with him. He’s like a really good friend and he’s helped us out with a lot of stuff. He’s helped us to learn how to tour and everything. And then we recorded a new album and we had to do a fun bonus song – and I was emailing him while we were doing it and I was like, “Hey, you wanna just do a track?” And it’s really funny, because we don’t cuss on the whole album or anything – the only time we cuss is when Brandon cusses on that part. I told him, “You have 15 seconds to just cuss or do whatever you want” and he sent it back and made it badass! It was pretty crazy!

Have you ever performed the song with him live before?
No. That would be awesome! I wish!

Tell me about the other new song My Hardship and what inspired it.
There was a lot of stuff that we’ve been going through – like writing and just stuff we wanted to do in the future. Those new bonus songs didn’t have any producers. In writing and playing them, there was no one telling us what to do. It was just us being crazy and doing whatever we want, which was really fun. It’s some of our favorite songs. But it was just stuff that we were going through at the moment – just touring a lot and getting ready to go do another album. This has been a career thing and it’s totally worth it.

Will the lion that appears on the first two albums be on third one as well?
Oh yeah! On the third one, we’re trying to get a logo where it will be an actual lion logo – so we don’t have to put our name on anything. It will just be a stamped logo. But we’re trying to make that like our image – that lion and everything.

Who came up with the idea for the lion?
It was my idea. I do all of the art stuff – all of our t-shirt designs and everything – I do all that.

How close are to recording a new album, and what do you think the music will be like?
Right now, we just started writing the third album as of yesterday on Warped Tour. We’re pre-producing it on Warped Tour – and then we go in the wintertime to record it – it should be out late winter hopefully. We’re just really excited – we’re working with some of the biggest producers we’ve ever worked with, so we’re trying to make it as crazy as possible.

What made you decide to cover Run This Town on Pop Goes Punk 3 and do you know if Jay-Z has heard it?
I hope he’s heard it. I know when we did Swing, Savage had heard it because there’s a video of him on Youtube getting interviewed and being asked about it, which was pretty cool. It was actually weird, because we did Swing just on our own. And for Punk Goes Pop 3, there was a list of songs that they made you pick from. And that was the one that we were like, “Hey, we really want singing on our next cover. We’ll let Ryan sing some and then we’ll mix it up a bit.’ We actually did it the same exact tempo and the same exact beat of the original song, so if you play them on top of each other, they’re exactly the same – so it’s pretty cool.

Does Ryan (Neff – Miss May I bassist) or any of you guys stay in touch with the guys from Rose Funeral?
I know he stays in touch with the drummer Dusty. I know they are from around where we are – Ohio and surrounding areas. We’re never known any of them, but I know Ryan stays in touch with the drummer though. And it’s pretty cool, because the drummer is always doing new stuff and always asking Ryan for advice and everything. The tables have turned.

How weird was that? Ryan left your band from Rose Funeral but then he came back…
It was weird. He left because we were too young to tour and we were still in high school. We didn’t want to sign a record deal yet. And he was like, “I want to tour now…” so he quit, did that – and then we got signed because we were like, “Dude, just wait till we graduate.” So we graduated and got signed while he was gone. And then the bass player we replaced him with wasn’t cut out for touring and quit. We wanted Ryan back and Ryan said “I really want to come back” – so he came back. He was only gone for like nine months – if that.

And what is the former bassist Josh doing now?
I have no idea.

So what’s up next after Warped Tour is over?
Right after Warped Tour, we’re off for a week – then we do direct support for We Came As Romans in the US. Then we go and headline Europe. And then we come back and do a headliner in the US and then we go record our third album.

Will this be your first time in Europe?
It will be our third time in Europe, but it will be out first time headlining.

Do you have any messages for your fans out here in the Los Angeles area?
There’s been a lot of kids coming up to us at the table asking us about local band advice and everything. We just keep telling them to just keep doing what you’re doing. I just turned 20 and Jerod’s still 19. We’re all really young and we’ve been doing this for a couple of years. Kids give up and put themselves down real easily. The only thing that’s going to make you not do what you want to do is if you’re putting yourself down. So don’t give up doing what you want to do.

(Interview and Warped Tour photo by Kenneth Morton)

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