Miss May I: Interview With Vocalist Levi Benton

One of the negatives levelled at a lot of artists and bands these days is that the music industry is no longer about the fans. Bands don’t really have any personal feelings for their followers… as long as they buy the merchandise, purchase the album just to make the sure the bank account keeps topped up than there is really no reason to ‘care’ about them. Well that couldn’t be further from the truth for American metalcore band Miss May I who, on the verge of the release of their fourth album Rise Of The Lion, have announced that the album is really a letter back to all the fans that have written to them over the years.

Though, lead vocalist Levi Benton is quick to point out that this simply isn’t just writing back to fans that have been praising them over the years, no this is something a lot deeper than that, this sees the band tackling subjects as deep as suicide.

“Some of the letters have revolved around things such as suicidal thoughts, being a loner, there was one that was about losing a family member that was really close to you and then when we doing the songs we begun with a heartbreak song which was fairly simple. Then there are songs written about a fan’s parents going through divorce, it’s kind of all over the place.”

Benton is quick to acknowledge that sometimes it is heartbreaking to receive letters such as these from fans. “It’s a really hard thing to respond to because they look to you for this big response that is going to be a big life-changing thing and it’s of pressure some of the time. It’s always nice to know though that they can play a three minute song on repeat thought and that can be their place to go.”

He also admits that you may hear a few new influences on this album as well. “This time around, at least vocal wise, there is a bit of a In Flames influence, that was the main ones brought in vocal wise which I think we are more comfortable with jumping right into rather than just dabbling with it like we have in the past. We’d played a couple of the new tracks live recently and it’s been cool. There is a real diversity with the songs this time and even playing live you can tell that they are different which has been really cool,” Benton explains.

Miss May I experimenting with their sound isn’t something that should come as too much of a surprise as it has been no secret over the years that Benton has a love for R ‘N’ B and rap music as well. Something that he is only too keen to explain. “I love the catchiness of it, just the fact that it gets stuck in your head. Even though I think it is a bit of a phenomenon that a lot of the songs are so repetitive yet they never seem to grow old because you are having so much a good time singing along to it, and it’s a whole different world, when a heavy band does that it gets monotonous but that never seems to happen with hip hop.”

Benton’s love of hip hop has even stretched as far as Miss May I covering the JayZ/Rihanna hit Run This Town on Punk Goes Pop 3, a fact that makes Benton laugh when it is pointed out to him. “Basically they contacted us and gave us a list of songs and we got to pick from that list. It was a song that we felt doing the clean vocals of would provide us with a obstacle that we found exciting.”

Anyone who has been following the pre-release PR of Rise Of The Lion will also know that the band have done things a little differently this time around by running a competition where they asked for a fan brave enough to step forward and have the album’s logo tattooed on their body, a move that has turned out to be a big success. “We had this competition because the album is letters to our fanbase and we wanted to sort of tie that in to the artwork, but keep the Rise Of The Lion symbol as the main focal point, so we came up with this tattoo idea but instead of digitally mocking it up or Photoshop it we thought getting a real one would be the real deal,” Benton explains. “We thought what better way to do then make a fans day, so we started the competition and got thousands of replies straight off the bat. Then it came down to this group of guys and the band got to pick the winner which was fun. We flew him out and went to the shop and got to stand around and see it from start to finish. It was cool.”

A lot has changed over the years since Miss May I were a high school band that suddenly found themselves signed to a label. The band have matured beyond sight over the last few years and the songs and the topics they explore on Rise Of The Lion are a testament to that.

Rise Of The Lion was released in Australia on the 25th April, 2014.

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Written by Dave Griffiths

Dave has worked as a music & film journalist for over 20 years now. Aside from Heavy he does radio and various podcasts as well. He is the proud owner of Metal Cat.

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