Max Bemis of Say Anything is feeling great. So all those rumors about his health can be tossed out the window. Bemis, who suffers from bipolar disorder, is simply tired of the focus always being about his health. The music is what he wants it all to be about, and feeling as healthy as ever, it looks like everything is headed in that direction. With the re-release of the album …Is a Real Boy on major label J Records out on shelves (including a bonus disc titled, …Was a Real Boy, that features seven new tracks), Bemis hopes more and more people are now able to discover the album that put him in the spotlight.
“Both us (the band) and J Records agreed the record could be appreciated by more people than those who had heard it at the time,” explains Bemis.
…Is a Real Boy was originally released by indie powerhouse Doghouse with immediate hype and buzz as the album was in many ways a breakthrough- a structure and arrangement that resembled that of a rock opera. Bemis fostered the idea by simply looking back on his youth. “I’ve always been a fan of cinema and when I was a young, young kid, musicals,” says Bemis. “I thought that the format was conducive to the type of music I write and the story I was trying to tell about finding one’s self.”
As Bemis states, …Is a Real Boy incorporates the theme of self-discovery and to a lighter extent, an irritated outcry against the type of world and society we live in today. “I would say there is a lot of anger in my music towards injustice and hypocrisy, but it’s not a completed dismissal of everything I know,” explains Bemis. “It’s about there being obstacles in the way of you being able to appreciate life to it’s fullest and the journey you take to defeat them.” After the album was released, the majority of the critics lauded Say Anything. The positive response to the album caught Bemis off guard. “I hoped it would be (a success), and I was surprised to see things unfold exactly as I wanted them to,” he says. But with the album packed with tons of sincerity and honesty from Bemis, listeners instantly connected with his words and music and clever approach to wrapping it all together.
“Personal experience and that of those around me” (is where Bemis draws his inspiration from), he says. “A lot of …Is a Real Boy is about objectification of self and watching those you love being objectified and different reactions to both of those things. I have experienced a lot of people in this day and age who don’t appreciate themselves including at one point, myself.”
With Bemis not appreciating himself, this led to some tribulations for the young man. During the recording process of the album, Bemis was under so much stress that he stumbled upon a nervous breakdown that ultimately led to his ongoing battle with bipolar disorder. This forced Say Anything to cancel several shows and tours, and things went from looking up, to looking very bleak. After awhile, Bemis finally understood how serious his problem was and that things needed to change. “I literally started to hallucinate and the paranoia resulting from this drove away the people that mattered most to me in the world,” says Bemis. “That was when I realized I had to do something about it.”
And he did. Bemis got the help he needed and began to learn how to deal with his setback. “It (his struggles to deal with his health) was just learning to cope with my disorder, accepting that I had to be on medication indefinitely despite sacrificing the manic element that comes with not taking it, and discovering that sobriety suits me far better than smoking weed constantly,” explains Bemis. On proper medication and taking it, Bemis finally feels he is on the right track. “I am on medication for bipolar disorder and I feel stable, but it doesn’t overpower my personality,” he says.
During the entire period of time Say Anything was canceling shows and tours while Bemis wasn’t healthy, the message boards and gossip powered websites were having a field day writing about what was wrong with Bemis, who refused to let the rumors get to him. “I tended to not read the bullshit that was written,” he says. “I also did my best to be pretty open about the truth of what happened to me so that people didn’t really have room to speculate.” After all is said and done, Bemis is taking the approach that he can take a lot of positives from these situations he encountered. “I’ve faced my inner demons and fears that surfaced when I thought everyone and everything was out to get me,” explains Bemis. “I even accepted that I was going to die right then and there. Going through this type of an experience makes you much stronger and prepared for life’s little hardships.”
Through all of the health issues, Bemis and Say Anything still had to carry out as a band and decided to take the step from indie to major and eventually signed with J Records. “More people can find our record and we have the money to stay on the road longer and carry out a lot of the ideas we have,” explains Bemis. “There are also a lot more people involved, being that it’s a huge company, but they totally respect us and most of the time let us do our thing.”
With …Is a Real Boy now re-released and …Was a Real Boy included, Bemis was able to tell another side of his story that strongly focuses on sexuality. “Basically, on the record, the character is withdrawn and his sexuality is repressed by his paranoia and depression,” explains Bemis. “He is alone and scared. On the bonus disc, he rediscovers his desire and it burns within him, leading him in every direction until finally he realizes what he wants again.”
These songs were originally supposed to be a part of an AIDS charity album that never surfaced. “The record explores sexuality, and AIDS is sexually transmitted,” says Bemis. “The record is about dark, dirty, untrusting sex. I wrote about it to basically cleanse myself of this stage in my own life and thought that it might serve to expose these feelings to people and have them examine why they do this to themselves which is appropriately tied to fighting promiscuity and unprotected sex.” So with Bemis finally feeling better, the focus of Say Anything is hopefully shifting back to the music, where Max wanted it be all along. With …Is a Real Boy being such a breath of fresh air release, there is no telling what Bemis will come up with next;
“I hope that our next record will be more inspiring and uplifting,” he says. “I want to be the Joshua Tree with balls on laughing gas.”