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Max Bemis

3/2/17

One of the albums that’s really snuck up on me this year is Eisley’s I’m Only Dreaming, a record shepherded by Sherri DuPree Bemis. The band once featured three DuPree sisters, but Sherri’s stuck with it alongside other family members and new players, bringing their ambient-pop quality into a new era. I was never a huge fan though I never heard anything I disliked — and Currents had some really beautiful parts — but this one has stuck out to me for having some moments that just seem strikingly honest, raw and realized.

It’s dark, but just dark enough, it’s sweet, but just sweet enough, it’s confident and edgy. Sherri’s lyrics live in that space of just-vague-enough, bringing plenty of imagery and feeling without laying it on too thick. It’s a pleasant listen, if a rather monochromatic one, with every song striking this unique balance of strength, yearning and sensitivity. “Louder Than A Lion” has been my favorite, with “You Are Mine” and “Defeatist” as close seconds.

I’ve always had a huge soft spot for Sherri’ voice (one of the main reasons I dug the Perma record she did with husband Max Bemis). She has such a lovely soprano quality and can hit some insane notes in insane ways with a ton of power behind them, while somehow still sounding angelic. That brightness and lightness carries through the entire album, but I like how she lets herself get into more deeper and softer tones here and there, too. Listening to her, I just get lost in the sound and the way she enunciates what she’s saying, as if every phrase is a little missive from her truest soul (Bonus: listen to her on a recent episode of the Lead Singer Syndrome podcast for the story behind how Eisley came to be, and her utterly cool attitude about her sisters leaving the band and understanding how everyone’s path is different. Not to mention her life touring with small children. She’s totally inspiring!)

I’ve seen Eisley criticized by music writers for being too one-note, for not having enough of an edge to them, but I love the way Sherri’s voice carries the songs, the way the lyrics are sparse, and the way the guitars always seem to have just enough distortion to sound a little off-kilter. No matter how much it feels like it wants to rock harder, Eisley songs have always had such a beautiful, dreamlike quality to them — a reminder that’s OK to sit still, it’s OK to hang back, it’s OK to get lost in the moment, even if the world thinks you should do something greater.

“We fall backwards faster than the speed of sound
If you want to fly we’re able
If you want to flee I’m stable
I’ll stand and fight when you’re out…”
~Louder than a Lion
Eisley, I’m Only Dreaming

6/26/14

There’s a new Say Anything record out, and I listened to it, and it was good, but I didn’t really want to listen to it again. Instead I just wanted to listen to old Say anything, so this evening I’ve been rediscovering songs from records I’d only given a try once or tonight.

“…Is a Real Boy,” is a classic, no questions asked. But later albums have choice tracks that have, in many ways, evolved from there. Truly an artist, Max Bemis never shies away from “the crazy,” but rather embraces it. So with each record he’s change his focus some, tapped into new perspectives or attitudes. “Hebrews” looks outward as much as it does in. It’s incredibly passionate, and breaks and bends with frustration at every turn of a chorus to a bridge.  It’s a little chaotic, and it feels like madness in a lot of ways. Though I don’t think I’ll get too much more into it, I’m glad it retains some of that same independent, forceful rebellion that made his breakout so bold and memorable.What has always stood out more, to me, are the songs that channel the insatiable, the thirst for someone else or something for me, a theme you’ll see through it all – and as far back as 2002.

Twelve years ago, Bemis did things a lot more simplistically. What a pretty, strange little song this is. But it’s still so weird, so right with all its wrong notes, and for how brash and brazen the phrasing is. With the almost sleazy way he sounds, the way he speaks of sweat and spit, it’s a song about sex, sure, but there’s something more, in the “sugar” and the “angel” that’s coming from more than the physical attraction, from the angle that was missed.

Way to go, “About Falling” YouTube playlist, for bringing me back to this one.

“You’re looking quite sharp, sugar.

You’ve got some teeth on that stare.
You’ve got them tattered blue jeans on.
You’ve done that thing with your hair.
This bed could use a secret and these pounding hearts could keep it.
If you could, then I could, I swear.

You turned me on and I’d like to know if you were trying.
Angel we are so gone.

By tonight
The earth bursts open

By tonight
We shed this clothing
You’ll see me from the angle that you missed.
Nothing exists, but this.

You’re looking high strung, sugar. 

Why don’t you sink a little bit?
Into the sea of sweat our skin can spit.

It was good to keep me guessing because you know i hate attention,
But can we get down to it? Can we get down to it?

You turned me on and I’d like to know if you were trying.
Angel we are so gone.

By tonight
The earth bursts open
By tonight
we shed this clothing
By tonight
You’ll see me from the angle that you missed.
Nothing exists, but this.

~By Tonight
Say Anything, Menorah/Mejora


1/15/2014

Late last year I caught a fantastic acoustic show featuring Max Bemis of Say Anything along with his wife, Sherri. Their side project Perma has grown on me steadily since then – I’d given the album a few listens before the show, but watching their performance made me understand it on a deeper level, past the sonic and into the soul.

Here’s a pair of artists who have found a way to write through their relationship, sticking true to their individual sounds and drawing inspiration from each other. You can hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes, even before paying attention to what the words mean. Sherri’s voice is astounding, beautiful and bright and pure and incredibly unique. It’s in such contrast to Max’s gruff, gutteral tones that their harmonies and overlapping parts are hard to forget. Watching Sherri manipulate a mic is a show all on its own; you can see the focus coming off her fingers as she grips the head and pulls away gently, as she leans towards Max and closes her eyes.

While the recording has a full band, I think they sound best acoustic, stripped and simple from start to finish. I’m looking forward to hearing what’s next from their collaborations, but already this song has become a fast, frequent favorite of mine. It’s sweet and slow and singable, altogether heartwarming, and sometimes that’s exactly what I need to hear.

“I can’t speak, you know, I can’t speak
I’ll be your tongue, I’ll be your gums
I can’t breathe, girl, I can’t breathe
I will inflate your tiny lungs
I can’t stop, no, I can’t stop
Nailing you down, keeping you around
I won’t lie, swear, I won’t lie
I’ll be your queen, so here’s the crown

Well, you can have me and you can take me
I want to see you bright and bare

Well, you can touch me and you can have me
I want to feel you
Right there

You and I
You shine a little light on my life when I can’t believe it
You and I
You shine a little light on my life, light on my life, yeah
You and I
You put a little light in my heart and I can’t conceal it
You and I, you and I, you and I

Will you say yes? Will you cry no?
If you say so, we’ll be betrothed
Will you come near? Can’t you come here?
It’s not that easy, don’t you know
Down, I’m too deep. Girl, I can’t sleep

I’m your alarm, weak to your charms
Sing sweetly, you sing so sweetly
I’ll be your ten-part harmony


Well, you can have me and you can take me
I want to see you shed your doubts
Well, you can touch me and you can have me
There’s something special about

You and I
You shine a little light on my life when I can’t believe it
You and I
You shine a little light on my life, light on my life,
You and I
You put a little light in my heart and I can’t conceal it
You and I, you and I, you and I

So please believe
You and I, we’ll get by on the pattern of the embers in your eyes
Thin-skinned, I’m sinking in, sun bursts above and we begin
You and I, I think I’m floating, I’m gonna lose my mind just knowing
You and I, you and I

~Little Light

Perma, Two of a Crime

2/16/10

This is just weird and funny and oddly fascinating to me.

9/23/08

Wtf mate?
Apparently this was for a week in August, and then went away…but now, again, you can purchase your own Say Anything song.

Max Bemis Song Shop….what a concept. THAT is something new. How interactive is music going to get? I wonder how it would feel to hear a song written JUST about you. And not by a musician you know, who is involved in your personal life, but a total stranger or one of your favorite musicians.

Let’s see how far this goes. Not gonna lie, if I had $150 to throw around right now I’d so do it just to hear what it sounds like.

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