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The Truth Is, Say Anything Inspire

(Interview with Jake Turner - Taken From Black Velvet 55 - Feb 2008)

By Shari Black Velvet

Words can almost not express the sheer ingenuity of a Say Anything song. Formed by Max Bemis and Coby Linder, Say Anything is almost like a volcano. Packed full of so much energy, emotion and heat, and just waiting to erupt, the creativity the duo has managed to mastermind is second to none. Now with Alex Kent, Parker Case and Jeff and Jake Turner in the band, Say Anything has become a solid unit that is admirable both on and offstage. New album ‘In Defence Of The Genre’ is 27 tracks full of wonder that captures the thoughts of a human and transforms them into artistic, innovative brilliance. Black Velvet took time out to chat with guitarist Jake Turner and found out how he’s learned to be patient, how bandmembers go missing and how Max Bemis has his own way of making his hands work…




Above: Photo By Shari Black Velvet

Above: Mark Owen Photo By Shari Black Velvet


Black Velvet: What do you get from Say Anything’s music?
Jake Turner: The way Max writes music it can always be personal to anyone, even just a listener, you can get really, really involved in it – especially when you know Max as a person, you can really relate to a lot of the songs. Especially this new record, there are some lines of some songs that I was actually there when it happened, so it was really personal to me, even if I didn’t write the lyrics. I find the music that Max writes very interesting, very dramatic when it comes to the arrangements and stuff like that. I feel like it pushes me more as a musician and as a guitar player to expand on the way I play. I was showing Mike from The Starting Line how to play the song ‘Belt’, the first song on ‘Is A Real Boy’ and he looked at me like I was crazy. He was like ‘How do you get your fingers like that? It’s such a weird way of playing guitar’. Max has his own way of making his hands work somehow.

BV: Since Max writes the songs and does the guitar parts and then brings the songs to the band, has it always been easy to pick up?
JT: It has… There are some things that are a little harder but that’s where a challenge comes in. Max is kinda pushing our ability, and sometimes in the studio you can play stuff that you can never play live. You can go in and hit it and make it sound really clean, but to produce it live is sometimes really hard, you’ve kind of got to step it up as a musician and play the part as well as you can.

BV: What’s been your happiest moment of your time in Say Anything?
JT: There have been a lot of awesome moments but probably when Max, Coby and I flew out to the MTVu Woodies. We won an award and that was really, really awesome. It just felt so good. It was like everyone in that room was like ‘who are those dudes?’ because everyone else there had been to the MTV Music Awards and stuff like that. And to have Pete Wentz… some people look at him and say ‘oh he’s ruined music, blah blah blah’, but he is by far one of the nicest guys in a very successful band right now that we’ve met, who’s been really caring and accepting and wanting to help us out in certain ways and just promote us, this band that he loves… and him announcing our award and saying… he didn’t have to say it, it wasn’t on the thing, he was like ‘my personal favourite record of the year – Say Anything’. It was really, really awesome. That was a really, really exciting moment for me personally.

BV: What have you most improved on or learned since you’ve been in Say Anything?
JT: Patience, I guess. I used to be a very impatient person, but being in a band with people that are even more impatient than yourself you learn to be the patient one. Max and Coby are probably the most impatient people you’ll ever meet in your whole life! Being around somebody like that you have to learn to be really patient. Overall, I think my performance live is something that I've really improved on from being in prior bands until now. I feel like I can step it up and push myself to the limit with Say Anything. I’ve never really been able to do that with any other band I’ve been in.

BV: Being in close proximity of five other bandmembers, one of which is your brother, would you say any of their traits and habits have rubbed off on you since you’ve been in Say Anything?
JT: Not really. I would say if anything some of my traits have probably rubbed off on other people. I’m a very clean person and I feel like sometimes I’ll be getting after Max or getting after Coby or getting after Alex for leaving something out. I’ve picked up sayings, like California sayings. I’m from Atlanta, but from California it’s words like ‘stoked’ and ‘gnarly’ that I’ve picked up. 

BV: What are your favourite things about your fellow bandmembers?
JT: I really enjoy how everyone in the band is very involved and very into making and putting on the best show. We’re always really stoked to play, even if we’re so tired, even if we’ve had a bad day and something horrible has happened. Right before we came over here, our guitar tech, his best friend is Casey from Hawthorne Heights. He worked for Hawthorne Heights for four years. He found out the day before we had to fly, and it was a bummer. It was one of those things that when we got here it kind of changed our whole outlook and whatnot as a band. Think if one day we went to wake up Max and he didn’t wake up how crazy that would be. But as a band that’s one thing I definitely like about us, we’re all very involved. Even though once a week or so someone will run away and you’ll be like ‘oh where did Alex go?’ and find Alex ten minutes before the show and he shows up late. There are those days but still, even then we just give him a hard time and go onstage and have a great time.

BV: Does that happen a lot – someone going missing?
JT: Actually on the last tour it happened quite a lot. Usually some people will get really drunk and then they’ll be like ‘huh?’ and run away. I get along really well with everyone in the band. Everyone gets along really well. Of course being in an enclosed area for a long time you get… if someone bumps into you you get your short temper rolling but other than that, everyone really enjoys each other’s company, and we have a great crew and it’s all easy going guys.

BV: Max said that ‘In Defence Of The Genre’ is an album about ‘observations of other people’ (as well as it being about himself). What observations of your fans and the people who come to your shows do you have?
JT: When you play a song you can see people singing it like crazy. I’ve seen people cry when we’ve played ‘Walk Through Hell’ or ‘I Want To Know Your Plans’. There are definitely people that are crying in the front row, it’s kind of crazy. One guy actually recently asked his girlfriend to marry him onstage and Max played ‘I Want To Know Your Plans’ for him, and the girl started sobbing. And you realise when you watch those people how personal they make the songs that Max writes are. I would say that the fans most of the time really, really, enjoy certain aspects of the CDs and the songs. They get into them to a point where it is almost like they’re observing themselves in a sense. When you’re at a show and you see a crowd going crazy you think ‘the song obviously did it’s job’, the people are having a great time, people are singing along and feeling the song, which is why you write music. You want other people to understand where you’re coming from, make them realise that we’re the same kind of people and we all go through the same shit every day.

BV: ‘Sorry, Dudes. My Bad’ is like Max’s song and apology to you guys. He sings ‘I’m sorry that I wrecked that tour for us’. How did hearing that song make you feel?
JT: You know it’s weird, I didn’t even hear the demo of that song. I heard about the song, I heard about the lyrics, but I didn’t actually hear the demos. I heard the demos of a lot of the songs, I heard parts of a lot of the songs. The first time I heard that song I heard the music to it, I was like ‘oh yeah, it’s kinda poppy’ and I liked it. Then I finally heard the lyrics and was like ‘wow, it’s awesome’. It’s funny, even though some of those things that he talks about in the song I wasn’t actually there for, I’ve heard all those stories. Most of the lyrics are definitely towards all of us. Coby and Alex both talk in the song to him. I think Chris Conley’s part in the song is amazing because Chris is Max’s biggest idol, and the way he sings in songs is I’m sure touching to Max as well. Overall though, I found that song to be very surprising. I think it’s an amazing song. Not only that, I feel it’s a song that’s made us come closer as a band.

BV: What’s your own personal view of the other songs with guest vocalists? Do any of them stand out?
JT: One of my favourite guest vocalists on the record is Matt Skiba from Alkaline Trio. I love his part in ‘About Falling’. I think that song is really, really awesome. Another good one is Gerard. I think that sticks out… Gerard Way, My Chem. His part’s very dramatic and so Gerard Way. When Max wrote it originally Max recorded it because we didn’t know if Gerard would have enough time to do it. Gerard started calling Max up, ‘hey, I really want to do the part’ blah blah blah. We were lucky enough to have him do it next to the last day of the recording process. I think his part is awesome. Hayley from Paramore’s part is really awesome as well, ‘The Church Channel’ and even the end of the record in ‘Plea’, that part comes in and it’s so good. There are a lot of highlights on the CD. I don’t think it takes away from the songs at all. That’s definitely one thing I’ve heard. I’ve been asked before, ‘do you think having all the guest vocals takes away from Say Anything being Say Anything?’ but I don’t. I think it even adds to it. Since they were such small parts they’re still Say Anything songs. It’s kinda crazy. Most of the people that sing on the record are huge fans and wanted to sing on the record. It’s kind of overwhelming to think that all these people that I grew up listening to and Max grew up listening to, our biggest inspirations, are full on ‘hey, when do I come and sing my part?’ It’s crazy. It’s really overwhelming to think that they really wanted to sing that bad on the record.

BV: What were you doing when Max, Coby and Alex were writing the album? Did you spend time on your side project at that point?
JT: I went on Warped Tour quite a bit this Summer, just hanging out. My girlfriend was on Warped Tour this Summer. My brother and I were writing a bunch of songs for our record, but overall, I stayed busy doing stuff for Say Anything. Even though I wasn’t in the studio I was  getting our new backline together, doing a bunch of stuff for this record, getting ready to go and produce it live. While Max is in the studio, I’m the one that’s running around sorting out what we’re going to do for stage look, what we’re going to play, what amps are going to go onstage, just thinks like that. That’s something I took on this Summer. I was actually there for about two weeks of the guitars in New York City, just hanging out with Max, but other than that it was just kinda chill, a nice relaxing off-time, getting a little bit of chill out of it.
BV: How much time are you devoting to your side project, XO, now?
JT: I think we’re going to record an EP when we get back from this tour. We’re going to record an EP with Matt Malpass. He engineered the Copeland record and has done a bunch of stuff. He’s really interesting and wants to work with us. I think he’s going to be really open-minded to what we have to produce. We’re going to do seven songs and just get an EP together, something to show what’s going on. We have a month off, so why not?

BV: When did you first decide to form XO?
JT: Say Anything were going to do this Senses Fail/Saves The Day tour in the States, and that was when I started the band. I think the tour started in October and I joined the band end of July/early August. My brother and I were in another band and we broke up. My brother played drums at the time so didn’t play guitar or sing or do anything. I was the lead singer and played guitar for that band. Max called me up as I’d been friends with him. I kind of joked around with him saying ‘if you ever need a guitar player hit me up’ and he called me up and said ‘hey, come on the Saves The Day/Senses Fail tour with us’ and I said ‘absolutely, sure, that’d be great’. So I flew to New York City. Max actually got put in hospital that time, that was the time he went to Houston and spent two months there, in hospital, getting stuff togther. At that time I went home and Jeff was writing songs and playing guitar and singing, and Jeff was like ‘let’s write some songs’. We wrote 12 songs instantly and just recorded them in our house. Before we knew it we were driving down to Alabama, hanging out with the singer of Hot Rod Circuit, Andy Jackson, and on the way down there we were thinking ‘what shall we call our band?’ and flipping through my iPod. I still love Elliott Smith and was like ‘what if we call our band XO like his record?’. My brother was like ‘alright, it’s kinda cool’, didn’t really think much of it all. We got down there and got up the next day from sleeping and were like ‘I think XO is really good’. I’ve never really heard of anyone called XO. So that’s kind of how the name became and how we decided we were going to start writing music for that. It definitely is a side project. We look at Say Anything as our life, XO is more of a personal thing. Because with Say Anything we don’t get much of the writing part and everyone in the band loves writing music. Parker has his own thing. Alex has his own thing. We all like writing music ourselves. I’m not here just to get paid and play guitar. I’m here to be a part of this band. I’m here to play music. We all love music. That’s something I think some bands don’t have. A lot of bands play music to get the fame and get the money. It’s so easy to go in and write a four chord song nowadays, you have Pro Tools and a producer can make a band like that…

BV: Is there anything you want to specificially get out of XO?
JT: We are probably eventually going to do something like… it might be along the lines of The Almost. Where The Almost split off from Underoath, something like that, but if it is, it’s probably going to be on our own time. It’s going to be when Say Anything isn’t doing anything, when Say Anything has downtime. We’ve played a couple of shows. The shows went really well. People were very receptive. A lot of Say Anything fans come to the shows because they want to see what Jake and Jeff from Say Anything are doing. Especially our new stuff, it’s not really like Say Anything at all. It’s very My Bloody Valentine meets Death Cab, something like that. It’s a little slower, more mellow. Even like Jimmy Eat World, with poppiness into it.

BV: How would you compare your lyrics to Max’s?
JT: I feel like our lyrics area very direct. My brother writes a lot of lyrics and his lyrics are very straightforward. He doesn’t use metaphors like how Max goes off on a lot of that stuff. My brother’s a very simple lyricist, he doesn’t try to go too far out and make people think too much, kinda keeps it simple and straight but not too cheesy.

BV: Do you want to influence your fans in any way, other than as being a good guitarist?
JT: I love when people come up to me and say ‘your guitar playing’s awesome, do you take lessons?’ blah blah blah. No, I never took lessons, I just played. Playing and playing and playing, that’s all you’ve got to do. Even just jamming in your bedroom. To have someone inspired by us, when people come and talk to us, usually at signings or something, when they’re like ‘here’s our record, you guys are so inspiring to me and I just wrote this record because I was inspired by you guys’ that’s awesome. It makes us feel like we’ve achieved something. It’s a whole other level of achievement. Winning an award or playing a sold out show is an achievement and having a kid come up and say ‘here are my songs, would you listen to them? You guys are definitely one of my biggest influences’ is… wow, that’s crazy.

Visit www.sayanythingmusic.com for more info.


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