20 years is a major milestone in any career, but in the music industry it's an eternity. Combine that with the fact that the three members of MxPx aren't even 40-years old yet and it's nearly unheard for a band to have existed for so long at such a young age. To celebrate their two decades together, the Bremerton-based trio is playing half a dozen shows on the West Coast, including a kickoff date at El Corazon on Saturday, May 26th, which will also raise money for local charity Thrive Through Cancer. We chatted with singer-bassist Mike Herrera about the band's longevity as well as their latest record, Plans Within Plans, which is their first on their own label, and their first since guitarist Tom Wisniewski and drummer Yuri Ruley stopped touring full-time. Here's what Herrera told us:
Does that mean you were you in the studio by yourself more than you would have been for records past? Absolutely. Our previous album we recorded in Seattle, and I didn't produce it -- Aaron Sprinkle did -- and I pretty much just did my parts. I had done the pre-work of the songwriting and demoed just about every song on that record, but with Plans Within Plans there was no hanging out on the couch. It was always record, record, record.
Despite not operating as a full-time band any longer, at least in the traditional sense, this album is your best-reviewed record in years and seems to find you guys sounding renewed. Where do you think that new energy came from? I agree with you completely that there is a renewed energy to it and I think that's attributed to the fact that it isn't just [Tom and Yuri] that have been away, but I've been doing another band, Tumbledown. The more I do that isn't really the same genre as MxPx, the more I build up renewed interest and enthusiasm and ideas. I actually enjoyed doing it. It didn't feel like work. That's partly why it takes some bands so long to put out another record -- you need to build up those experiences in order to make that better record.
Do you have a favorite song on the album? My favorite song is "Screw Loose." I wanted that one to sound a little different from the rest of the record. There's varying degrees of mental instability among all of us. At times you feel crazy, at times you feel normal and calm, and at times you get so enraged that you can't control yourself. I don't think any of us don't know how that feels. People know MxPx as being a little more pop-punk, but we've always had those songs on our records. I just decided to put it up front a little bit so people would actually notice it.
Since you play more gigs these days with the MxPx All-Stars, is it hard to get back into the rhythm of playing live with Tom and Yuri again? Or is it like riding a bike? Yes and no. It's easy-ish, but at the same time, I think I'm always trying to push the guys to take it one step further because I'm out there playing these songs so I'm pretty polished on most of them. But Tom and Yuri come back really strong.
Plans Within Plans marks your 20th year as a band. What's the secret to that kind of longevity? I think it was just because we were too busy thinking about what we were doing to think about quitting. We never took breaks. Before this last couple of years when we've been not touring full-time, we have literally never taken breaks. It was a few weeks here and there to readjust and come home but we were always on the road. We didn't really think about the future too much. And when it was a fight, that's just what bands do. A lot of our favorite bands had contentious relationships within their band. We were mild compared to what you see with The Who or The Rolling Stones.
But I would think that working so much would actually be the reason most bands break up, since you have to be around each other in close quarters non-stop. Because we started so young, it's taken us so much longer to get those normal priorities that most people get right out of college. We never went to college. We've been in perpetual rock & roll university. We're late on some of the things that normal adults get serious about. We were making enough money to pay bills, so why would we give up our favorite job? At some point, it just became unbearable to be gone that much. You can't sustain that for a whole life. You end up looking like Keith Richards.
Is there one moment from the last 20 years together that really stands out as a major highlight? One thing I wish I had done more is really take a moment to breathe and take it all in. I have these flashes and photos in my mind of amazing moments. For instance, playing Chiba Marine Stadium in Tokyo -- a huge, huge arena, completely full in the stands, completely full on the floor and we were playing the main stage. And we had no business doing that! That kind of thing sticks in my mind. I've always had that sense of, "I don't really deserve to be here." Sometimes I feel like I deserve to be where I'm at, but it's never when I'm playing a stadium. I just wish I had taken a longer snapshot.