This Is The Story Of Maxim Mental, Max Bemis’ Experimentally Candid New Project

“”For us to be able to learn that being as kind to ourselves as we are to those we look up to is a part of that as well, is so important”

Max Bemis recently released ‘‘Make Team Presents Maxim Mental in Maximalism’, the debut album from his new project Maxim Mental. 

After closing the book on Say Anything back in 2019, Maxim Mental is the first chance that Max has had to express himself musically, and the result is some of the most unrelenting and raw material of his career. Talking candidly about family, love, sex, addiction and the world around us, it is a head-mangling collection of songs designed to make the mind whirl and the skin tingle. It’s unique, unconventional and unashamedly human. 

To find out a bit about it all, we sat down with Max to talk through the last couple of years and how it has affected his relationship with music…

Where do you feel as though this project really started? 
“I think that the last couple of years and the circumstances we have existed in have been a key part of bringing many things in this project out. There are a lot of things that are happening right now, but there are always things happening, but personally, I have always dealt with the idea of having too much empathy. I think that many people who are considered angry, punk, or rebels often deal with empathy. That was the whole thing with Say Anything. Trying to champion empathy in punk and talk about how the person that you are rebelling against may be feeling whilst also sticking with the idea that we have to burn it all down with some self-compassion. But Maxim Mental comes into things as being less about the burning down of things and more of self-compassion.”

 You’re also in a position where you aren’t forced to approach music to deal with those feelings, but when it feels right, it’s just something you have always done, isn’t it?
“Yeah, totally. I think there are moments when everybody feels that way. But when it came to feeling that way about the whole of what I have done, some people keep on going with music, specifically, just because of the financial gain or the identity around it. For me, it always felt like this weird game to not have my identity wrapped up in my art, but also to see what I would be like if I did have everything I am wrapped up in it. It was the joke of the whole thing that you either got or didn’t. But being in the middle of that was the thing that so often would push me away from wanting to be in front of the mic. There was too much going on and too much to care about, so I had to find a way to not care about it again.”

Before, you wrapped things up in a wider character or a wider vision with Say Anything, but in this project, there is no mask to wear or costume to put on…
“There was this sense of grandeur to things for sure, and it all starts to become feeling real even when it wasn’t. I think that’s something that affects anybody associated with mental health stuff. Either your worst fear or your greatest hope is coming true, and you have to really disembody it. Out of context, it must have been a really weird thing for people to look at and try and understand, but if you’re a fan and have followed it throughout, you understand why different things are connected and why they are connected. I will always be like that when it comes to music in some way because I have a hard time being completely stoic in everything I do. Maxim Mental is something I could have written in a diary when I was 15, though, but still that little bit cheeky.”

And it’s not just from the emotional side. It’s the musical side as well. Creating weird alt-pop music that you probably wouldn’t have been able to make in the past. But now, anything is on the table…
“It’s almost like a less cool Beck to me. He was grabbing at everything and anything he could see around him and becoming an icon to a generation of people who then set about emulating what he was creating. But I don’t feel like there is any emulating on this record. This sound came out of a hodge podge of cutting myself away from the world. I live in Texas, bang in the middle of Middle America life. I have lived five different lives out here in the 12 years I have lived here, compared to when I was in LA. You get to see the inner workings of how it feels to not be always in the middle of the media, but also the darker stuff that comes with modern normal living. It has been a means of talking about my and Sherie’s relationship rather than anything else in the world, and the way it has come out is because of that focus. I feel like I have found peace because of the record. That’s to say that we don’t fight or that we don’t have dark times of our own, but this has helped us to get through them.”

There’s definitely a point, though, where you must see how people relate to the things you are going through, even if they are so heavy that you can only think about your own experiences…
“It takes me by surprise every time. Whenever someone says that they can see themselves in something I write, it’s enough that working through these things is worth it. And it’s those moments that do make me miss performing as well. I look forward to integrating more with people who love my music in the future, just because I think there is something to being able to interact and interface healthily about these things and life. Perhaps COVID, as terrible as it has been, has allowed people to have boundaries in ways they didn’t in the past. But being able to have a more cathartic meditative thing with the people that care is something that I may not always need but is important to exist within the world.”

This period has helped in that sense and in the sense of owning where you are in life and what you are going through and not letting anybody tell you that your experiences or challenges are invalid…
“I feel like that’s where my whole superhero fixation comes from. It’s the same thing that why people turn to religion or turn to bands. Ian MacKaye is somebody that people absolutely fucking love. Why? Because he’s a superhero. For us to be able to see that same love within ourselves and learn that being as kind to ourselves as we are to those we look up to is a part of that as well, is so important. Superman is just a normal guy, too, a nervous guy who is shy and afraid to talk to the girl he likes. You have to be okay with the worst-case scenario of things and that they will stay this way forever, but you also have to just keep on keeping on. It’s a fucking exercise every day where you keep going, and you will be rewarded.”

And for you and this project, or just creating music as a whole, it’s a case of thinking of what the next thing is. And that prospect is exciting once more…
“It’s just that I had convinced myself that I didn’t like wasting away hours in the studio working on something. Because I do, I love it. I’m doing it now as we speak. This is just fucking fun. This is a hobby that I get to do for a living, and that hobby is making people’s lives easier or more understood. I’m pumping myself up as I’m trying to pump other people up, and I have learnt that specifically from doing Maxim Mental. My mom gave me a bit of advice once when she said to stop seeing making music as work. It cannot be obvious when you’re in the middle of it, but you have to keep it as your hobby. I really needed to indulge in that end of it and remember that more and more within this project than in the past. Before, it used to feel really traumatic, especially around the end of Say Anything. Not it feels like loads of the things that made me feel that way have mellowed out now, and it’s back to how it should feel. This has been a very joyous record to make, and I often shouted, ‘why can’t this always feel this way?’. Because that’s the way it should be.”

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