I was able to track down Ryan Neff the bassist for Miss May I to ask a few questions. They have been difficult to pin down because they have been on the road so much.
Since 2007,the band members have included Levi Benton, Justin Aufdemkampe, BJ Stead, Ryan Neff, and Jerod Boyd.
I read that you guys have been together since high school. Is that right?
2007 was the initial formation. That’s when I hopped in the band as well. I hopped in in really late 2007 about a year after that started playing shows. My band from a different town in Ohio played with them. And then they stole me or I kind of bailed on my band. One way or the other, I ended up in the band.
Then we started touring in 2009. It’s been all five of the same guys ever since.
What has been the key to staying together for so long?
Growing up together is a big part of it. Four of the guys played in high school together. Three of the guys were in the same graduating class. And then when I joined the band, I really wasn’t much older than them. I’m the oldest by two years. I was only one year out of high school when I joined the band. We were all relatively the same age. We all started touring when we were so young that we grew up together. Now I’m the oldest but I’m only a whopping 26. There are guys in the band that are 22 right now.
How did you guys come up with the name Miss May I?
We don’t have a good story. It happened before I joined. I don’t know why they chose it. They don’t know why they chose it really. Sometimes they say they do. Other guys say they don’t know. It’s not really a cool story unfortunately.
Now we’re just stuck with this name that we have to explain to people that haven’t heard it before.
You’re from Troy, Ohio. Did anyone have Ms. Lindeman as a music teacher?
Yeah, Jerod had her. Jerod knows her. He was rocking the drumline.
What have been the highlights of touring this year?
2014 was in terms of the style of shows, it was a really up and down year, as far as the size of the places we would play. In America, we’re used to the club scene, where you go into the House of Blues room and say, “This place is huge.” Over in Europe, we were used to the same thing if not smaller.
All year we were fortunate to be on tour with great bands or on great festivals. We started the year off in Europe with Trivium, which was awesome for us. I got think of all of the crap we did this year. So crazy.
Then we came back to America, and kicked off the record with a bunch small bar shows. Like places we haven’t played in years. Like down to 200 capacity places, which is really cool for us because it’s up close and personal. The fans are right there with you. A really limited number of tickets. So it’s like all of the die hard fans can make it in, which is really cool. And you get to meet every single one of them. It’s totally opposite of the big shows, where you can’t meet everyone. You can literally meet every single person at a show that small.
Then we did the Mayhem Festival in America. We played gigantic crowds in America outdoors for that. Right before that we did European Festivals, like we played the main stage of Download, stuff like that, which are gigantic and completely different from what we’re used to. It was just wild. It was just a really crazy year for us, like a bunch of really different styles of shows.
(Had a small break for some navigation for the driver. Ryan said navigation is a lost art. The first time he drove to a big city, like Columbus, he had to print out MapQuest instructions, which were all completely wrong. We’ve come so far with GPS tools.)
How did you wind up choosing the fan to get the lion tattoo for the cover of the album? It looks really awesome.
The whole record was a fan based type of deal. Topics were from fans. We wanted a fan on the cover. We wanted a tattoo of that and to tie it into the first music video. So we had to find the right guy. We posted on Facebook, the almighty Facebook that connects everybody- that we were looking for somebody in the US within a reasonable distance. And we found this one guy.
Basically, they had a folder compiled for us. Levi and I just went through and judged a bunch of guys. We had to choose. We had to choose. The guy we ended up choosing was a giant dude. He was just big ol’ buff guy. He wanted it on his back too, which is a giant canvas. It made it perfect for the album cover. He ended up getting the tattoo the day before that we filmed the music video. We had a really cool cover.
Do you guys have a method to writing songs?
It has been different with every single record. I think it’s one of the big reasons we have different sounding records every time. Different producers, different writing styles. It’s cool though. It’s cool because we’re so young and now we have like four records under us. So we kind of know what lyrics we have that worked and what ways that didn’t.
“Apologies are for the Weak” was written when the guys were still in high school right before I came back to the band from touring with a different band. They were driving back and forth from high school classes to Indiana, tracking and trying to get back to school in time for morning stuff. They were doing a lot of writing at the studio and a lot of writing coming from B.J. At that time, he was out of high school, pulling all-nighters trying to get stuff done.
For “Monument,” we all lived at the studio. We wrote the entire record there.
“At Heart” we wrote most of the record in New Jersey together in a studio, once we finally got off of the road.
During “Rise of the Lion,” we rented a studio. We wrote the whole record live, took it to the studio, rewrote it a bunch of times in the studio together. It was a six or seven month process, on and off. It was a little more labor intensive and stressful than this one that we’re working on.
We’re already working towards the next one. This particular one, we’re all catching up with the newest technology. All five of us can use different systems and actually send projects to each other. We can work on songs and get most of the songs written before we get together and actually play it live. As a group, it’s our first time to put together that final song structure. So it’s different every time. We don’t really have a set method.
Do you have a favorite venue?
Oh, that’s hard. I can give you a favorite venue in every state. But it’s hard to choose. I guess if I had to choose one in America that we haven’t had anything terrible happen to us – like blow the show or a bad crowd or messed the trailer up or blown a tire. We’ve always had good luck at in Milwaukee at a venue called The Rave. Even though we did the Warped Tour in Milwaukee a few times, for some reason we’ve had great luck up there. It’s just a really good pocket for us. We have a great following up there. The Rave would be my favorite venue.
Well, who knew? Milwaukee.
What do you like to do when you’re not on tour?
I don’t like to not be on tour very much. I actually love being on tour. I would be in another band and be on tour all of the time that this band isn’t touring. I play some race car videos here and there. I practice playing songs that I enjoy and try to keep my voice worked out. It is way more exciting for me being on tour. I don’t have much to do when I’m not on tour. I really like my cat. My girlfriend and cat keep me sane when I’m not on tour. I enjoy the bar. The bar is cool.
Do you guys still get pretty excited when you see your videos?
It’s kind of the norm thing. Fast paced. It’s been really a fun trip so far. We’ve been busy and packed with that sort of stuff. We’re always working on another product, whether it’s a video, a record, merchandise, a fan meet and greet. There is always something going on. It’s almost hard to keep track of all of the things that we’ve done so far. We’ll be trying to choose songs and we’ll be like “Do you think the fans are big fans of that song.” Then someone says “Oh yeah, that video has such and such hits on YouTube.” There’s so much stuff going on all of time. It’s cool when family members ask “What are you doing? How are things going?” We can say “This.” Then play them a video. We can show them the immediate video footage of everything that is going on.
How was your experience doing the record with Terry Date?
It was cool. It was a lot different than any of the others we did for sure. We were really far from home. New Jersey was the furthest that we’ve been from home to record a record. It’s a lot different than touring when your record a record – You’re living in the same place for a little over a month minimum. We did two records in Connersville, Indiana, which was very similar to home. Cornfields in the middle of nowhere. So we had really similar upbringings.
We lived in New Jersey for the third record, which was different for us. It was right outside of New York City in the middle of winter.
When we recorded with Terry, not only were we recording with this amazing, legendary producer, we were also recording at the amazing Studio X in downtown Seattle – like a beautiful city and a historic studio that a ton of my favorite bands have recorded at. He recorded a shit ton of them at this studio. So you walk in the first day, and you’re like “This dude is in charge making this music that we deliver sound great. He was excited to do this project. It was just really cool to be working with that big of a name who is stoked about making the song.
Do you guys stay pretty healthy on the road? Sorry for sounding like a mom.
We try not to eat as bad as we did, if we can. For a long time, we were the McDonald’s three times a day kind of guys. It’s nice on your wallet but not so great on your waistline. You definitely don’t feel great afterwards. We’re trying. We’re trying to eat a little healthier. If anything, I get stupid stuff like bronchitis – dumb stuff that you catch from not taking care of yourself or doing simple stuff that makes you feel healthy. It’s definitely not easy with eating gas station food and that sort of thing. But it can be done.
Good to know. I’m glad you’re staying healthy.
The interview ended with the approach of rush hour traffic. Ryan had to get back to being the navigator. Thank you Ryan for taking the time out of your day to chat with me for a few minutes.
Beginning in January, Miss May I will be on the Frozen Flame tour. Check out their Facebook page to see when they are coming to your area. https://www.facebook.com/MissMayIMusic/app_308540029359
You can also visit their website at http://www.mmiriseofthelion.com/ for even more information.
This is my favorite Miss May I video. Enjoy!