Hellhound Music Interview with Levi from Miss May I

By on December 20, 2011


HHM – How are you guys enjoying this tour so far?

Levi  – Yeah…it’s been great! It’s our first headliner, well not our first, it’s our second headliner but first like, huge one for us. So, it’s been crazy. I mean, there’s been a lot walk outs for each band on this tour. But that’s okay. That’s why we did this tour with Pierce the Veil. We’re stronger on the East Coast and they’re stronger on the West Coast. So no matter what the whole tour would just about sell out. Almost every show so far has sold out. We were just both hoping to gain some fans from each other. We sold out our biggest venue Fillmore in New York. We were really excited about that. That’s the first place we ever played outside of Ohio. We drove all the way to New York for one show to open up for The Devil Wears Prada and A Day To Remember. Now we sold it out headlining 2 years later. So crazy! It meant a lot to us because it was the first place we ever played that was huge.

HHM – It’s crazy how popular you guys got right out of the gate with “Apologies Are For The Weak”, did you guys expect that kind of attention right from the start?

Levi  – No No, we never even played outside of Ohio until we cut a record deal. We got a record while were in High School through MySpace. It was weird. We were all ready for college and everything….we got a MySpace message “Hey Rise Records wants to sign”. Once they sent it, word got out and we have a bunch of different labels talking to us. We were just like, “Holy Crap.” “We’ve got like, ACTs like next week. It was wild. We’re just happy to be where we’re at. There are bands that are better than us, all these really good Metal bands that are still in vans toughing it out. We normally do the August Burns Red thing and take vans all the time by choice. This tour we took a bus, once it gets a little north is gonna hit all that snow and we don’t want to be driving in that. We’d rather be driving in a tank. We feel very fortunate to have that choice though. When we go out with Whitechapel, we’ll be back in a van again. Maybe 2 vans, cause of crew and all but we’ll definitely be in a van.

HHM – Outside of Josh leaving and Ryan coming back, you guys have stayed a pretty steady line up, which is kind of out of the norm for the industry these days. How do you guys think you’ve been able to manage that?

Levi – This is all of ours first band except for Ryan. It’s my first band, Jerod’s first band, Justin’s first and BJ’s first band. Ryan was in a bunch of other bands locally. He’s the oldest out of all us too. That’s how we got him. We stole him from another band. But then he left to tour because he was older than all us and we were still in high school. That was the only reason he left, just to tour. We basically got Josh, the record deal stuff happened but then Josh wasn’t really cut out for touring. The Ryan was like “hey I wanna come back” we were like “Yeah, we didn’t want you to leave in the first place.” We all just stay together because it’s our first band. We’re all best friends. We jammed all through High School. We didn’t have any other friends cause that’s all we did was play music. Now we’re just best friends traveling the world doing crazy stuff.

HHM – I don’t think I realized you were THAT young of a band. It’s crazy

Levi – We started jamming like …sophomore year. We jammed a few years in high school, played local shows on the weekends, downtown or a couple hours away. Then MySpace hit and we got big. I remember going to school, talking to other kid and being like “hey, you remember that band you guys like…..well, we’re signed to their record label” They were like “No you’re not.” “Yeah….you just wait….you’ll see”

HHM – You guys are like a Cinderella band

Levi – It’s cool cause today we have friends that joined the Navy and they’re based around here (Norfolk, VA) and they’ve never gotten to see us play like this. We’ve got a bus, a ton of lights, all these guys that work for us…They’ve seen us play in a basement for like 30 people. Nothing ever like this. I’m like, “dude, there’s a thousand people out there.” It’s still weird to those though. We did a tour in Australia few tours ago. It was an Arena tour with Parkway Drive. Every night we’d look at each other “what the hell is happening to us, this is insane!” Our parents watch us, see other kids singing to our stuff and they’re amazed. It’s wild. It’s always weird cause kids will come up to us “Hey, how do we get recognized and get signed?” and it’s weird because they don’t wanna hear our story cause they’re gonna get pissed off. They’re like “Did you tour a lot? We wanna send press packets to labels” At the time, we didn’t even wanna get signed. We were just jamming.

HHM – Are you the type of band that has your record pretty much completely written when you enter the studio?

Levi – Our first two albums weren’t like that because we toured non-stop. Ever since we graduated we’ve been touring. This new album we actually started writing on Warped Tour so we got a head start. The guitar players got all into Pro-tools so now we can do it on the road in the bus. Which is nice, so we don’t have to be like “hey, we have ten days to write a record ” anymore. Our first record was our EP demo, our second record; we had ten days to write it. We went right from the road into the studio and started recording it.

HHM – Have you begun writing your next record?

Levi – We started writing on warped tour, so we actually got a head start this time. It’s still like, two minutes here, two minutes there. It’s not totally complete. We just never have time. It blows my mind when bands we tour with say “We’re gonna take a couple months off to write our record.” “then we go back on tour.” I’m like “Dude, we tour every day.” We love it though, we don’t ever want to go home. So far, we have about 9-10 songs or ideas of songs. We want to get it to about a 12 or 13 song album. We’re working with Machine, so we’re really, really excited. He’s the first big metal guy that we’ve worked with. 

HHM – Who did you work with Monument?

Levi – Joey Sturgis. He did our first two. He was cool, he got us out there but our whole image for the next record we wanna…I know for our age we’re in the scene but, we wanna be a Metal band. So everything for the new album, all the artwork, our promos the publicist, everything is going to towards that. We wanna tour with Lamb of God, we wanna do real Metal tours. It doesn’t seem like there’s Metal bands that our age anymore. All the bands like As I Lay Dying, All That Remains, there needs to be bands like that still coming out. We want to carry that torch. Today was cool, there weren’t a whole lot of people moving around but there were like 500 big burly Metal guys just head banging. That’s all I want. I don’t care if anyone is moshing, I just want people to watch and like it. That’s it. We don’t want to be a fad that goes in and out. We grew up listening As I Lay Dying, Killswitch and all that, we’re like, “let’s just play that music, it’s what we know.” We don’t need the keyboards with the dubstep breakdown stuff. Nope we want the no sleeves, long hair just like their DVDs.

HHM – It seemed like a slight departure from your sound on the first record, was that intentional?

Levi – Yeah, we wanted to show our maturity. We never got to write an album. We wanted to be able to write a record from start to finish. The first one was just songs that we had and thought they were cool. We got signed and all those songs we already had got put on the cd.  Monument was a lot more by the book metal-core. Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Breakdown. We wanted it to be an actual album. We wanted it to be available to everyone. Not just like all blast beats and heavy stuff. Kids loved and stuff. The new ones gonna be a lot like the first album but more mature. I’m actually happy that people notice a difference. Some people say they like the first record better, some people say they like the second record better. If everyone said they liked the second record then we’d feel bad, cause we wouldn’t want to write that same record again. We don’t want to have all of our records sound the same.

HHM – There’s a lot of bands out there that seem to keep writing the same record over and over.  But if it’s selling they’re gonna keep doing it. To me, there’s gotta be progression or what’s the point?

Levi – I feel like fans lose interest if it’s the same record over and over. “Oh, their new cd’s coming out, I’m looking forward to what they’re doing” But then you listen to record and it’s the same 11 songs all over again. I’m getting bored.

HHM – Metal is kind of a tough genre to stay metal but still be progressive and have all the hooks to stay sorta catchy.

Levi – That’s why we’re going to Machine. He does a lot of more Mainstream stuff. The last metal band that went to Machine, because he’s hooky was Lamb Of God. They did Sacrament, which was their biggest album. They had the idea that we have. He only does four albums a year. We went out to dinner with him and we were all nervous and stuff…. He told us “I wanna pick you guys, but I need to know what you want to do, where you’re coming from” We told him, “You don’t do albums like us. You’re not a metal guy. You write catchy stuff.”  We wanted him to take the stuff we already and make it catchier.

HHM – I’m still kind of impressed that you guys wrote a record in 10 days. It would seem to be so difficult for the fact that every song would want to end up sounding the same. You being in the same frame of mind while you’re writing it. It would seem to almost turn out cookie cutter.

Levi – That’s why I’m happy it caught the way it did. I’m glad it didn’t catch as much as we thought so it gives us more motivation on this record. We’re more set up for it now. We’re able to write a lot while we’re tour to make this a much better record.

HHM – Anything you would have liked to have gone back and changed?

Levi – Oh yeah totally. Like I said we never had any time to write those albums. I listen to that stuff and think to myself “This would have sounded cool here or that’s kind of boring” “this is too fast…” There’s always stuff we’d like to go back and change. I’m hoping though this new record is the one that we’re 100% satisfied with. I’m stoked on this new one.

HHM – What is your writing process like? Who tends to initiate new songs?

Levi – Justin and BJ usually start it off. They usually have a bunch of riffs, we have like a riff bank. Then Jerod will come in and write some drums. Then the songs get to me and Ryan so we can write some vocals on it once the music is completely done. We don’t write like everyone else. It’s not like I have this pile of lyrics already written and try to make them fit a song. They’re usually written to the actual song. I like to write lyrics once I get the feel of the song. We write songs backwards I guess from most bands. That’s how we’ve always done it. Sometimes I’ll get them to change the song up a little to make vocals sound better, but I very rarely do that. I’m like the last step so those songs are pretty much done when they get to me anyways. We normally just tough it out.
HHM – Do you guys have another tour booked No Guts No Glory is over?

Levi – After this tour, we have Whitechapel and Parkway Drive in Europe and a couple huge tours. No more scene tours after this. We had a discussion with management about playing scene tours because the kids don’t like to hang around for us maybe cause they’re scared I guess. We’re going out on strictly Metal tours for a while.

HHM – Any news you are able to share with us and your fans?

Levi – We’re working on the new album… We’ve got a new symbol we’ve been working on which we’re really excited about. We’ve been building up the Lion thing. There are lions on everything. We wanted to build it into our symbol. We’re hoping people will see the Lion and be like “Oh yeah, it’s Miss May I” There’s still some rough drafts going back and forth but I can’t wait til it’s finished and everyone can see it. It’s gonna be so cool, on stage there won’t be a Miss May I backdrop, it’ll just be the Lion. The big climax will definitely be us coming out with this third album.

HHM – What do you think a release date is looking like for all this?

Levi  – Probably…well hopefully June-ish maybe. We’re really looking forward to playing new songs for everyone once we drop the album.

Miss May I is:
Levi Benton – vocals/lyrics
Justin Aufdemkampe – guitar
BJ Stead – guitar
Ryan Neff – bass/vocals
Jerod Boyd – drums

For More Information:


Author: DaveHHM

Dave Luttrull: Owner/Editor in Chief of Hellhound Music. Star Wars nerd, Gamer, Destiny homer, blogger, writer and lover of all things music.