Interview by Holly Aker.
For Make Do and Mend, 2011 has been a pretty good year. The Connecticut rock band was included in Alternative Press’s “100 Bands to Know in 2011,” they just finished the Man Scout Jamboree Tour with Fireworks and The Wonder Years, and they’re scheduled to play Krazy Fest this weekend.
During the Man Scout Jamboree Tour’s stop in Austin, we sat down with lead singer James Carroll to talk about what influenced the band’s latest album, End Measured Mile, how it is being signed to Paper + Plastic, and how Carroll identifies or describes the band’s genre.
How did Made Do and Mend come together as a band? How did you all meet?
James: Matt and I – the dude who plays drums in the band – are brothers, so we’ve known each other for a little bit. Our guitar player, Mike, is actually a childhood friend of ours. Our parents have been friends for like years and year. So we started playing music together when we were really, really young kids, and just sort of kept it going, and this was just an in carnation of that. We all moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and our bass player Mike is from the Boston area originally, so that’s sort of how we all came together.
What made you want to pursue music in a professional way?
James: That’s a really good question. I mean, I’ve always known since I was really, really young that I wanted to be playing music. All my idols have been dudes in touring bands, like bands that just tour nonstop, and play in punk bands, so I think that’s always just sort of been something that we’d aim for. It was never really like a cognizant, “This is what we need to be doing.” We just knew that we wanted to be playing in a band and luckily kept on building, and doors kept on opening. We are able to be in a full time, touring band, which is a complete privilege.
You were named one of Alternative Press’s “100 Bands You Need to Know in 2011.” What went through your head when you first found out you were going to be on the list?
James: I was stoked. It’s cool. AP’s kind of one of those legit things that you don’t really think about too often because I’ve been reading it since I was a kid. So to be thought of in that way and mentioned in that…our friends in Balance and Composure were on that last. The list goes on and on and on. It’s just really cool.
What or who were your inspirations while writing End Measured Mile?
James: Good question. Not so much who because I think there’s only one song on that record that’s actually about a specific person; it’s about a member of my family. The record on the whole is…my thing has always been writing really, really sad songs and really sort of angry songs. The past two years of my life, up to writing this record, have been awesome. The band’s doing really, really well. I’ve been doing really, really great. It was harder to sort of write these bummed out songs. So the record is sort of still focusing on a lot of the tough things that we deal with in life, a lot of the hurdles, but also sort of recognizing you can get through it. There’s a lot positive. There’s a lot of strength that you can find in yourself and your friends and your family to help you through these tough times. So that’s…I tried to be my focus throughout the entire record. Hopefully pulled it off.
What was the writing process like for End Measured Mile? Was that very different from Bodies of Water?
James: It was stressful. Really stressful. We knew that we wanted to record the record in 2010, but we had just been touring so much that we had scraps and pieces that we had to put together. So we realized, “Alright, if we want to get this record out for this year, we have to book recording time for this, and we gotta do it.” So in about the course of six months we wrote and recorded the entire record. So it was definitely a rushed process, but I kind of thing that that little bit of hecticness or a little bit of pressure sort of forced us to be more creative than I think we would have been usually. So I’m cool with it. I don’t know if I’d want to do it again, but I was cool with it.
The song “Ghostal” is pretty heavy. Can you tell me the meaning behind the lyrics?
James: Yeah, it’s about a member of my family who’s dealt with drug and alcohol addiction for most of their lives, and it’s been a real constant struggle in their life. I think a lot of times in anybody’s life, there’s a lot of things, especially in situations like that where there’s someone that you love who’s hurting themselves, who’s putting themselves in a bad position, and there’s so much that you want to say to them. You sort of want to shake them and be like, “What are you doing?!” But you can’t really because that’s someone else’s life. You don’t really have the right to sort of tell someone what to do, and also a lot of times it’s hard to. You’re not able to. How do you tell someone you love that they’re fucking up for all intensive purposes? So that was sort of my…I guess you call it weird passive aggressive, just trying to express how I feel about watching someone who I love hurt themselves. I’m sure it’s not as effective as actually saying to their face, “Hey, this is messed up. You should stop.” But it’s all I could really do in the given situation. That’s really interesting.
Given the fact that Bodies of Water was self-released, how was it different having Paper + Plastic release End Measured Mile?
James: When we first did Bodies of Water, it was one of those things, where we’d done like one or two tours, we were pretty much completely unknown to anyone outside of our Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York pocket. So it’s a struggle a lot of small bands face. “We would love a record label to put this out, but no record label is going to care about our tiny little band.” So we were just sort of like, “Alright, we just really want people to hear this record, and luckily a lot of people checked it out. A lot of people downloaded it, and then a label called Panic Records from Seattle actually ended up doing a physical release of it, so like CD and vinyl and all that, which is awesome. But yeah, being able to do the LP on Paper + Plastic was awesome just because having right off the get go, a physical release and awesome looking vinyl. And everything was really awesome. Paper + Plastic is a great label.
What do you call Make Do and Mend’s genre of music?
James: That’s a tough one. I’d like to call it post-hardcore, but I know there’s a lot of different lines that can be drawn there. I consider us a post-hardcore band, but I also consider Touche Amore a post hardcore band, or Defeater a post hardcore band. I’m so bad with drawing genre lines.
Can you explain the concept behind the music video for “Oak Square”?
James: The song “Oak Square” is about the struggles of balancing real life and being in a band, being in a full time touring band, paying rent, making sure that my responsibilities in the real world are being taken care of, and sort of trying to reconcile those two things, which is really, really tough sometimes. So we filmed the video actually in our apartment, where me, Matt and Mike live. We cleared out all of the furniture just in our living room, and just set up. One of our friends, his name is Rob Susi, he shot the video for us, and I’m so happy with how it came out. But yeah that’s the concept behind it: just sort of a real look into…I mean, all the visuals in the video are on our street, in our apartment, in friend’s of ours rooms, in our neighborhood. So yeah, didn’t want to do something really flash and weird, so wanted to make it as real as possible. So hopefully that’s how it came out.
I know you have a few scattered shows until late June, but what do you have planned after that?
James: We get home from this and then we play Krazy Fest in Kentucky, which is like the coolest festival of all time. It’s like all of my favorite current bands playing with all of my favorite bands ever. So we’re playing with Hot Water Music, Sam I Am, Small Brown Bike, Lifetime, Lucero is playing. It’s just the most mind-blowing festival of all time, so I’m really excited for that. Then we play two shows with Hot Water Music, who are my favorite band ever. I have a hot water tattoo right here on my leg. And then the next weekend we play a fest in Seattle called Rain Fest, which is more hardcore fest, but a band called Trial is playing. They’re from Seattle. They’re another amazing band, who’s been one of my favorites for a long time. So this summer we’re going to be doing some touring. I’m not sure if we’re going to do U.S. touring this summer, but we’re doing a U.S. tour in the fall, which I’m really, really excited about. And then we go to Australia for the first time. In terms of things we thought we’d never be able to do, that’s just added to the list, so I’m really excited about that. It should be a cool year. I’m excited.
Watch the music video for “Oak Square” by Make Do and Mend below: