Survay Says! (Henry Menzel)

Interviews | Apr 22nd, 2014

2014 is shaping up to be an incredible year for New Jersey Ska/Pop-Punk band Survay Says! The band just released their latest record, Observations Of The Human Condition, on April 8th. In addition, they are touring like crazy this year starting with a full US tour through early June and then continuing on a month-long jaunt with Reel Big Fish through the US and Canada. Despite their very busy schedule, we were able to steal a few moments of their time to ask them some questions.

One of the biggest pieces of news for Survay Says this year was that you signed with Asbestos Records, how did that relationship come about?
In the ska world, especially in the northeast, if you play enough shows, everybody kind of runs into everybody. Asbestos makes their presence felt a lot so I’ve worked with Matt and Cody before. Having released a lot of ska and punk records, naturally, they were one of the labels in the country we were interested in working with. Luckily the timing worked out that once it was time to release the record, Matt was interested in getting involved. It’s been a great partnership thusfar.

You also successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign for the new record, how was the process and what sorts of things did you learn?
The Kickstarter campaign was something we went into with a little trepidation. We completed a crazy year of shows and knew that if we wanted to make 2014 the best it can be, we needed the best sounding record we can create. This means having to spend money; money we didn’t possess. Luckily, the following of fans we’ve managed to find made this album financially happen. We are learning now that the shipping process is hard, but worth it. I’m so happy that the fans are as excited for all of this to happen as we are. It truly feels like a team effort this way. The fans and band are coming together for one common goal. Truly beautiful in my opinion.

Let’s talk about the new record for a bit, where do the new songs begin? Does the process begin with a specific person?
The process starts with me or D.Jay coming up with arrangement ideas. We demo these rough arrangements several ways and nitpick until its to our liking. We come up with lyrics all the time; mostly at random. I’ll jot down lines I come up with in my phone or my notebook and then appropriately work them into one or several of the arrangements we have worked out. Then, if we like all of that enough, we bring it to the band and practice it. Ta da! Haha.

With the new songs, I hear a lot of great influences with a very contemporary sound. How has the overall sound of the band evolved?
I’d like to think we’ve all gotten better at playing over the past 5 years, so our sound has evolved concurrently with our ability to play music. There are parts and licks in the new tunes that’d I’d never be able to pull off years ago. The more songs D.Jay and I write, the more we can truly see what can and can’t do. When we first started, I was worried that around this time I’d be out of ideas or things to say. It’s been the complete opposite.

Everyone in the band quit their day jobs to pursue the band full-time. Was that the commitment you needed to keep going? Does this leave you on the road all of the time?
Yes. It’s the only way this all works. This is my job 24/7, be it on stage or at a show or emailing or being on the phone wheeling and dealing. And the rest of the band has their delegated jobs. The reason we’ve made it this far is because it’s been number one on our priority list. It needs to be that way to make this all work.

The band has a very hard work ethic. Where does that come from and with such a large band, how do you get everyone on the same page?
I’ve done my best to spearhead our effort to do anything we can to advance. I’m lucky to have assembled a group of friends who trust me enough to lead our band forward (after a lot of trial and error). And again, we’re lucky that we’ve managed to keep progressing everyday. If we were just spinning our wheels and feeling like we aren’t going anywhere, we may not be so quick to do all of this work. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

You had a long run with Big D last year, who are road dogs. As a band, what did you learn from them being on the road?
They are not only one of my favorite bands in the world but some of my favorite people to be around. Big D And The Kids Table treating you as colleagues gives me a crazy amount of happiness. They taught us so many things about sustaining a career in music and continue to be guiding voices in our lives. My favorite thing I learned from them is that we can truly do this music thing. We came out of that tour more determined than ever.

What were some of the unexpected music hotspots you witnessed?
Idaho! Nothing like driving into a small town in a state you’ve never been to and having 60 kids lose their minds to your set and nearly buy you completely out of merch. Can’t wait to go back to Idaho.

You have probably had the pleasure of playing with some great local bands. Who are some of the hidden gems?
SO MANY! But in the interest of keeping it short, check out May Weather (Maryland progressive ska), Crosstown Collision (Indiana ska punk), A Guy Named Guy (Boston ska & pop punk), Corporate Fandango (North Carolina ska), The Longest Monday (NY/NJ pop punk), and A Boy Named John (NJ alt. rock)

With such a big band, do certain members take on certain characteristics (firm but loving father, protective mother, bratty little brother)?
Totally, whether they like it or not. I’m kinda the boss guy (dad), Ricky is my Mr. Butlertron (Clone High reference, look it up and thank me later), D.Jay is my partner (he’s actually my brother so that’s forever our dynamic), Brent is my assistant, Jessica is the assistant to the assistant, and they don’t like it but Mike and Colin are my children; which I say in the most positive way possible. We’re a pretty tight team.

When you started the band in 2008, one of the premises you set forth was to ‘have fun.’ As the band grows and ‘band things’ happen, does that get harder?
Yes and no. Our day to day is intensive to be sure, but there’s always time for fun. We enjoy each other’s company enough to keep ourselves entertained and unless things really go wrong, playing the set is always the best part of the day. It’s honestly more fun to have things to do.

The band has been faced with a number of challenges over the years, including some medical issues. How do you continue to persevere? Is there a lot of goal setting or is it living day by day?
Survay Says! is a great group of friends. When one of us falls, we pick ’em up and keep moving. Setting goals is part of the process. We have daily goals, monthly goals and yearly goals. We’ve managed to rack up a high percentage wins in that department over the years.

I am going to put you on the spot. You can go on tour with any 3 bands. Who would you pick and why would you pick these bands?
That’s way too hard to answer. I wanna tour with everyone! Sorry if that’s a lame answer but it’s true. Haha.

Anything else you want to plug?
Come to shows, listen to our tunes, and tell some friends to do the same. Thanks for having us on ReadJunk!

Survay Says!
Survay Says! – Facebook
Survay Says! – Bandcamp

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