WORDS: Ethan Megenis-Clarke

After their world tour in support of 2019’s Hello Exile came to a grinding halt in March, Pennsylvanian punks The Menzingers regrouped virtually to reimagine those songs as elegant acoustic ballads. The resulting album, aptly titled From Exile, is more than just a straight rerecording – it features brand new lyrics, instrumentation and arrangements, framing The Menzingers’ hazy and heartfelt stories in a haunting new light. 

The band were in Australia when they made the difficult decision to cut their tour short: “We were going back and forth whether we should go back home or not. It hadn’t hit Australia too bad, but it was really starting to blow up in the States to the point our family and friends were calling us,” explains The Menzingers’ frontman and guitarist Greg Barnett when we caught up over the phone. In the end, the band were forced to cancel shows in New Zealand, Europe and California: “It’s super complicated when it’s the thing you’ve been doing for years and it just stops,” says Barnett. “You’re trying to figure out how you’re going to pay the bills. It’s been an interesting year for sure, but we’re getting through it.

You’re trying to figure out how you’re going to pay the bills. It’s been an interesting year for sure, but we’re getting through it.”

Creating From Exile kept The Menzingers busy and sane during the uncertain early months of lockdown when what started as a more straightforward acoustic album began to take on a life of its own. “It’s so good for our mental health to be able to create and write, having that taken away for the time being was kind of weird,” Barnett confesses. “We kept wanting to challenge ourselves and really, really go for it.” The result is an album that feels wholly different from anything The Menzingers have ever done before, with the context around its release lending Hello Exile’s stories of long-distance romance and cross-country drinking a melancholic intimacy. 

While The Menzingers self-produced From Exile, they linked up with Hello Exile producer Will Yip to live stream an exclusive performance from Studio 4 in October. With Yip behind the mixing desk, Studio 4 has played host to the likes of Title Fight, Turnover and Turnstile over the last few years (and that’s only bands starting with the letter ‘T’), becoming the destination for bands looking to capture their sound in its most natural, live form. “It was a pretty emotional moment for all of us where we were able to do this again,” admits Barnett of the show, “we hadn’t played in so long, even a livestream still felt like we were on stage.”

It’s so good for our mental health to be able to create and write…”

Despite the livestream being a resounding success for all involved, the cancellation of conventional shows for the foreseeable future is an especially bitter pill to swallow for The Menzingers, with their second album Chamberlain Waits celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. “We thought it would be fun to play the venues we played ten years ago on these shows,” reveals Barnett, “every album cycle has been incredible, but there’s definitely something really exciting about that time period. At that point, we all decided that this was going to be our career.” 

“Our next anniversary is On The Impossible Past in 2022, maybe we can do something then,” says Barnett, explaining with frustration that the year after next is now being discussed as a realistic time for live music to return. Despite initial worries that the events of this year might have killed off the appetite for live music altogether, the band are now more optimistic: “The more people I talk to, the more people are dying to have that part of their life back again.”

HELLO EXILE IS OUT NOW VIA EPITAPH RECORDS | https://themenzingers.com/

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