Last August I was unexpectedly presented a last minute opportunity to interview Miss May I vocalist Levi Benton at Mayhem Festival. I jumped at the chance. When I saw that they were coming back through Atlanta on the Frozen Flame Tour with August Burns Red, I was quick to request the opportunity to follow-up with Levi to see what is new in the world of Miss May I.
As we sat down for the interview, dozens of questions were in my head, but the first one that came to mind was about how excited Levi had been about playing Knotfest when we last talked.
HHM: The last time we spoke, you were on the tail end of Mayhem Festival and getting ready to head to Knotfest. How did Knotfest turn out for you?
Levi: Knotfest was awesome! The show was insane, the crowd was a little bit bigger than Mayhem and it was just awesome. It was great to see Slipknot and there were so many legendary bands on that day. It was almost too much to handle.
HHM: Also going back to last August, you were filming a video to Hero with No Name. Seeing the video and what you guys did there and being a veteran myself, I just want to say thank you. That video meant a lot. It’s cool to me when bands recognize the sacrifices that have been and are being made on behalf of us all.
Levi: Thank you. Thank you guys (veterans) for everything.
HHM: Once again, I’m catching you at the end of your tour cycle. I think you’ve got four more shows after tonight, ending in my hometown of Philadelphia. What is your plan after this one is done?
Levi: It’s not announced yet, ummm, we might be working on some new stuff or something….
HHM: Cool, are we talking tour or new music?
Levi: I can’t say too much. We’re busy, let’s just say we’re busy.
HHM: You’re busy, got ya, we’ll go with busy (sorry, I tried to get more out of him, but no luck)
HHM: What do you do for an escape? You know, to get away from all the chaos and craziness of touring and everything that goes with it?
Levi: I love working out. Working out is get away. I even do it on tour as much as I can. The last time I was home I got obsessed with kettle bells and cross fit. I love that. I love when my hands are all bloody and I’m sweaty. It’s like I’m in my own little world where I don’t have to deal with anything or anybody. That’s probably my favorite thing.
HHM: That’s a great release for sure.
HHM: You have the spring and summer festival season coming up.
HHM: Do you have any plans for those?
Levi: We do, it’s just not announced yet
HHM: Last time, we had mentioned a tour that started with the letter “W”…
Levi: (laughs)…. I don’t know what you’re talking about
HMM: Still not budging, huh….
Levi: nope, not yet (laughs)
HHM: It seems like the current normal is for bands to make multiple tours in support of their latest album. You know, back in the 80’s and 90’s, unless you were extremely lucky, you got one chance to see your favorite bands per album, then they’d disappear until their next album. Now, you see major bands pretty much constantly on tour and coming through a couple of times between albums. Is that what is expected now?
Levi: I think you have to because no one really buys records anymore. You’re not really getting royalty checks so you have to do that just to keep food on the table and keep it going. It’s crazy. I think it’s a wild thing to watch even the bigger artists having to tour so much. Like the main stream Top 40 artists would tour once a year and now you see them doing like 3 tours a year because no one is buying records anymore. I think just to make ends meet now your have to tour a lot.
HHM: It’s got to be hard to stay on that and to keep up that pace.
Levi: It’s very hard. It’s every day. You can’t turn it off.
HHM: I read somewhere that you considered yourselves to be the same guys that you were when you were playing in a basement a few years ago. That being said; how have you guys evolved as a band? I know you are still the same people personally, but how has the band evolved?
Levi: I think, obviously we have evolved as musicians and gotten better over the years, but I think, especially on this tour with August Burns Red, we become more like brothers every day. I mean, you obviously want to kill each other from time to time because you live with them constantly.
HHM: How could you not?
Levi: For real (laughs). But seriously, it’s a cool little family and brotherhood. I think we’ve learned how to go through all the speed bumps, because there are so many speed bumps, especially as you tour as a band. We’re sort of like the Avengers. Everyone has their own way of helping out the group. I think if we didn’t have that it wouldn’t work out like it does.
HHM: So everyone has kind of found a defined role within the group.
Levi: Yes, they keep the gears rolling
HHM: I saw in your bio where you had said that no one is really making “metal” anymore. I have my own theories on that. Do you think a lot of that comes from it being so watered down because there are so many sub-genres now? It seems like every day I look…
Levi: and there’s a new one… yep
HHM: Yeah, you know, they have goat noises in the background; BAM! New sub-genre
Levi: (laughs) yeah, that’s about right. I think that is part of it. That it is a bit watered down. There are always so many hypes and fads that come through. Even metal could have been a fad. It’s like its own little thing now. For us, we want to play what we grew up listening to. It blows my mind that some bands just choose to follow a fad. I’m like; that’s not even what inspired you to become what you are. Now you are inspired by being part of a fad? What inspired us was all the old school bands and you can see it when you watch us and listen to us. Even now on this tour we have a castle and chains on the stage. That’s all stuff we liked from back then and we’re trying to do our little spin on it. I think that’s why a lot of people aren’t doing metal so much. You get paid a lot more when you follow the fad and that sometimes wins the argument of being an artist or being an artist who makes a lot of money. Honestly, we are just happy that people listen to us. We just the same dudes we have always been.
HHM: Do you think that’s what happened with the Grammy’s this year? That because you can’t take your finger and point and say “that’s metal” in today’s world; a comedy act won “Best Metal Performance”?
Levi: It does suck that that is kind of how it is now days, but I think, ummm, I’m trying to say this in a cup half full kind of way (laughs), it’s also sort of cool in a way because it makes more people open up the door more for metal. You know there’s “rap” metal and things like that now and that slowly gets people into other metal bands. I know the first heavy bands I listened to are not anything like what I listen to now. They were like 2% heavy and I was like “oh, this is pretty cool” and then it slowly opens up the door until you get to the cream of the crop, like Pantera, and then your like “wow! This is it!”
HHM: Yeah, that was me growing up and now. I am a child of the 80’s and grew up on Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Metallica and bands like that. Those were all the bands; I bought their albums, went to concerts, bought t-shirts and all that stuff. Now any bands like that are mostly reliving the past more than anything (not that that is a bad thing). That being said, my taste has had to evolve over the years if I wanted to continue to be a metal fan. Unless, of course, if I wanted to sit and listen to 80’s music for the rest of my life.
Levi: Yeah, get an 80’s Camaro and just sit in the garage teasing your hair up and jamming.
HHM: Yeah, rocking with a mullet and an 80’s concert t-shirt
Levi: (laughs) yeah man!
HHM: When we talked last, you said one of the things you really wanted was pyro
HHM: I wish I had done this; I was thinking of stopping off and picking up some sparklers and lighter and coming up here and saying here’s your pyro dude….
Levi: (laughs) aww man, just for the intro, come out and light some sparklers. One day, I am hoping. There are some places in Europe that will let you go full on pyro, even in the smaller venues, so I’m hoping one day.
HHM: I’d love to be there when you do that
HHM: Last thing; do you have any advice or words of wisdom for aspiring young bands trying to follow in your footsteps?
Levi: I would say just focus on what you are doing at the moment. Don’t get ahead of yourself. People make the mistake of thinking they can just go and get signed and tour and do all this stuff. You have to focus on being the best band you can be. You have to focus on building that local fan base and getting your state behind you. There are so many bands that think they can just start out touring and that they can be from Atlanta and go play California and have people come to their shows. Another thing I always tell people is that you have got to play, even if it’s at the same venue all the time. You have to build a fan base. I talk to bands all the time that play like once a week or a couple of times a month and wonder why nothing’s happening. I played Thursday through Monday every weekend. We’d play 15 to 20 shows a month, even if it was at the same venue and the same people were coming out. You’ve got to beat it into people’s head. You’ve got to get yourself out there. It’s weird because I can’t help with the internet stuff now. Back when we did it, it was Myspace. It changes every 6 months now. I don’t even know what the biggest trend is now. Get your name out there. The old school way of passing flyers still works.
HHM: The old word of mouth
Levi: That’s the reason why it works
HHM: That really has been the heart and soul of metal for years
HHM: Is there anything you’d like to add
Levi: This year we are touring the U.S. the most we have toured in a long time, so we are real excited to be touring here and in Canada. Just be on the lookout for some tour dates. We haven’t announced them yet, but they are coming. Stay metal!
After watching and shooting Miss May I play a great set in front of a sold out crowd in Heaven at the Masquerade, I made my way outside to see Levi standing on the sidewalk in front of the venue talking with fans, signing autographs and taking pictures. In a brief lull in the activity, I stepped over to thank Levi for the interview and the great show. It is in moments like these that you really get a sense for the person and not just the persona. After a few minutes of laughing and sharing a few private thoughts on things to come, I was extended an invitation to come back and do a third interview the next time Miss May I rolls into Atlanta. That is an offer I can’t refuse. Until then!
For More Information:
- photos: Miss May I live in Heaven at the Masquerade in Atlanta photo credit Gary Flinn
- Interview with Levi Benton from Miss May I by Gary Flinn
- Miss May I release 'Rise Of The Lion' track by track video preview
- photos: Northlane live in Heaven at the Masquerade in Atlanta photo credit Gary Flinn
- photos: Islander live in Heaven at the Masquerade photo credit Gary Flinn
- Interview with Atlanta-based modern rock band Electra Vega