Coming from any other indie band, an album title like Tomorrow’s Hits might sound snarky. But The Men are completely sincere on their upcoming record (their fifth in just as many years), putting muscular hooks and dancehall energy front and center. Seriously, “Another Night” would sound just as great at a sock hop as it would in a dive bar. To dig deep into their latest offering, Consequence of Sound caught up with slide guitarist Kevin Faulkner to discuss the band’s ever-evolving sound, his stint in the Marines Corp, and why he loves driving the tour van.
You came to The Men a little bit later than some of the other guys, right?
Well, I’ve been playing with the band since 2011. I was playing with them before Leave Home came out.
So you’ve been with them for most of their albums.
I shot the photo for the cover of Leave Home, and then they came over to edit photos with me, and saw my slide. So I started jamming with them, and a little after that we recorded Open Your Heart.
I had already known [drummer] Rich [Samis] for like ten years or something, and I knew [ex-bassist/vocalist] Chris [Hansell] because he used to come see one of my old bands play, but that was the first night I met Nick and Mark and that was in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at a place called Lulu’s.
So you got to commemorate your first meeting on film. That’s pretty cool.
Some of the live pictures on the inside of that record were [from] that same night too. I shot the show, and we walked outside afterwards.
Does the rest of the band still keep in touch with Chris at all? Or is it a little weird with him having left?
No, no, it’s cool. He works at Sacred Bones now, so we see him all the time. There’s no bad blood or anything.
Does he play bass in any other bands?
He plays in a band called Warthog. And I want to say he does a noise project. I think he’s still doing it. I’m not sure if he still is, but I think it’s called Foreplay.
Besides the change in personnel, there’s obviously been a shift in The Men’s sound with each record. You probably get asked this a lot, but is that a conscious choice, to move from punk and hardcore towards something more accessible?
No. No way. It’s just whatever we come up with. There were songs for [Tomorrow’s Hits] that were a little harder or a little more punk. They just didn’t make the cut.
Do you sing anything on the record?
Yeah, I do some of the background vocals.
I saw you guys at Lincoln Hall this year right after New Moon came out, and I could of sworn you sang lead on something.
The only thing I sing is a cover that we have worked out, but we didn’t play on that tour. Maybe we’ll play it next year.
What cover is that?
It’s a Grateful Dead song. [For] this last tour, the set that we ended on was pretty heavy and pretty fast, so we were covering The Stooges and stuff.
At the Lincoln Hall show you opened with…actually, I’m not sure what to call it. It opens Side Two of Leave Home. It’s just parentheses. How do you guys refer to that song at practice?
You guys opened with that, with Mark Perro playing the intro on an old organ instead of a guitar. But I think it broke a couple of songs in.
Oh shit, that show! I thought you meant this one we just played in Chicago. That was crazy because we had an extra keyboard just in case his Wurlitzer broke in the middle of it. He went to go get the keyboard, and then he couldn’t find the power cord for it. I think he had to get the keys from me, and go back out to the van. Yeah that was weird, because we just played as a four-piece without him.
It was still a cool show.
I think we ended up winning that crowd over, but that could’ve been pretty terrible.
Without the Wurlitzer, I’m guessing you guys had to scrap some of the New Moon songs in the set.
Yeah. But we played all kinds of songs off of Tomorrow’s Hits. It was already done. It’s been done since last November.
You guys are insanely productive compared to other bands. Is there any secret to it, or do you just write a shitload of songs?
I mean, that’s it, really. Whenever we’re inspired, we just kind of crank them out. Nick writes songs, Mark writes songs, Ben writes songs, and all they really gotta to do is write a handful of songs that are pretty cool. And then when we all work on them, they get even better. Before you know it, you have another album. [Laughs.]
No, which is good because I think we can finally catch up. When Open Your Heart came out, we played a show at Webster Hall in New York, and we had just finished New Moon a week before. We had just gotten back to the city from being upstate, and the entire set was New Moon songs. It was kind of split between people being like “Whoa, that’s cool” and other people like “What the Hell? I wanna hear their other stuff, they’re playing these country Crazy Horse songs or whatever.” So that was kind of funny. But now, I think we’ll be playing the songs that just came out.
Who came up with the title for Tomorrow’s Hits?
I think Nick, because on the back of New Moon, he wrote up a thing about… I don’t know if you’ve read it…
Are you talking about the liner notes, where he describes you all standing in the cabin recording “I Saw Her Face” live?
Yeah, and then right at the end of it…it’s kind of like a little poemy thing that’s like “What’s next? Tomorrows hits.” There was kind of a hint in there, in the liner notes of New Moon. I don’t know if that was intentional, to say the next record is gonna be called Tomorrow’s Hits, or if we got it afterwards [and said] “It’s right there. Let’s call it that.” I do know that by the time we were doing press for New Moon, and it leaked somehow that we already had a new record, everyone was asking about it. So we were like “Oh, well there’s some hints in the liner notes.” But I don’t think anyone figured it out.
Can you see some of these songs actually becoming hits?
That’s a good question. I am maybe not the best one to ask. I’m so biased, but I think some of the songs are so fucking good. “Pearly Gates”…
I could totally see “Another Night” being a hit.
I was upstate with my girlfriend the other day, and “Another Night” came on, and she was like “This song gives me chills. When it comes on, I get goosebumps.” When we were in the studio recording, I was like “Jesus Christ this song is so fucking good.” And it’s so much fun to play on. Listening to it now, I’m still like “I dig these songs.” So hopefully. You never know.
Who are playing the horns on “Another Night”?
They’re guys that Ben went to school with. He went to school for jazz guitar, so that’s how he met them. Patrick Breiner on sax and Carter Yasutake on trumpet.
Are they going on tour with you guys behind the album?
No, but when we did our record release for New Moon at the Bowery Ballroom last year, Carter was busy, but Patrick came and he brought another guy that played trumpet. They played on “Comm”, “Pearly Gates”, “Another Night”, “Night Landing”. And then we played a festival at the South Street Seaport [last] summer, and covered Iggy and the Stooges. So we like to keep them around for sure.
“Night Landing” would sound great with some horns on it.
It was wild. We rehearsed it with Patrick, and he had to find a guy to play trumpet, then just get together with him separately to teach it. It was like “Stay on A for a long time. Then it goes to E for a minute, then back to an A. And when it gets to the jammy parts, just go crazy”. And he was really just going wild.
Did you guys do Stooges songs that already used saxophone? “Fun House” or “1970”?
We played “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, but I don’t think that song has sax on it.
Going back to the new record, who designed the album art? Was the sign something you found or something you built?
Rich and I both did the artwork, and we had that sign made, then I shot it on Polaroid. But we couldn’t get the colors right. So my friend Alexander Berelli came in and shot that cover. The insert for the record is gonna have a big poster of a collage that Rich and I did. We stayed up way, way too late one night at his house, and just made this massive collage. It’s some of my photos, a couple of the other guys’ photos, a bunch of Polaroids, and a bunch of weird stuff that Rich had lying around.
I read on Pitchfork that you guys watch Uncle Buck a lot on your tour bus. Is that true?
[Laughs.] Yeah, well we don’t have the van any more. It kind of died after the last U.S. tour. But yeah, we had a little TV with a VCR in it, and there’s all kind of ridiculous movies that get played. It depends on the tour, I think. After each tour, everything gets switched out. I know once Mark had every Wrestlemania after ‘95 or something like that. I drive the whole time, so I just get to hear it. Half the time, I don’t know what the Hell they’re watching.
Do they make you drive, or do you just enjoy it?
I like to drive. If I’m sitting in the back, I’m just bored as shit. I’d rather just read, and I can’t read when the TV’s on and the music’s blasting, so if I’m sitting in the front, I can control the radio, and the rest can just relax in the back. I started driving because when I first started, I didn’t play in every song. I’d just play slide on a handful of songs in the set, then just kind of hang out and shoot photos. I was like “I don’t play all night long, so I’ll just drive.” And I kind of just stayed in that role, which is fine because I don’t drink or anything like that. So after the show, if those guys are getting drunk, we can just load the van and get the fuck out of there.
Do you feel like you have to babysit them if they’ve drank too much?
No, no, no. [Laughs.] No way. We’re all pretty responsible and pretty old, so…
Are you reading anything right now?
I just started reading this book…its called Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam, and it’s just this huge collection of letters that guys sent home from Vietnam during the war. It’s pretty crazy. I was in the Marine Corps when I was younger, so I’m always into that military kind of stuff.
Were you deployed overseas, or stationed in the US?
I was stationed in Hawaii, and did a couple of deployments to Okinawa, Australia, and Korea. I did my four years. I got back to New York in August of 2001, right under the gun. And I got recalled and reactivated once for just for a day so they could get all my new info, and that was it.
Which do you like more? Being in the Marines or playing in a rock band?
[Laughs.] It’s funny. There are definite similarities. I went into the Marines when I was 17. And when I got out, I was like “I don’t want to do anything that anyone tells me to do ever again.” I didn’t cut my hair for a few years. My hair was long as hell, and I grew a huge beard because I didn’t have to shave. I miss my friends or whatever, but I have a new, super tight-knit group of dudes that I travel around and play music with. So it’s similar in that way. Definitely, this is better.
Did you get to play music at all when you were in the Marines?
Yeah. When I was stationed in Hawaii, I brought my bass with me from New York, and I would just sit in the back of the squad bay and just mess around. When I got back from Okinawa—the first deployment—I met some guys out in town, and had a couple of weird bands. I would get off work, and then walk to the front gate of the base. Those guys would pick me up, and we’d go jam for a while. We played a bunch of shows. It was pretty damn weird, but it was cool. That was like 1998 and 1999, which was not the best time for punk and hardcore.
So you guys played punk and hardcore in a military environment?
No, the guys who I was playing with weren’t in the Marines. The one guy who sang is still my best friend. He lives in California, but I see him all the time. He was a kid. He was like 16 or something when I met those guys. We’d go into town and play shows in Kailua or the North Shore or in Honolulu. But that scene was so wack. It was so funny because it was so removed from anything. I guess the internet was around, but I didn’t have a computer. It wasn’t as easy to find good music as it is now. So it was weird, like really bad punk bands and these hardcore dudes who loved Slipknot because it was the only kind of heavy stuff they could get. It was really funny.
Did you have to cover any Slipknot songs?
[Laughs.] No, no, no. It’s not cool to say this to someone, but I was like “What you’re listening to is not cool, man.” [Laughs.] “Listen to this stuff. This is better.”